Livestock guardian dogs have been used for thousands of years by farmers and ranchers to protect sheep, goats, poultry and other animals. And with more and more guardian dogs being introduced as an environmentally-friendly way to protect livestock against predators, you may encounter them if you are hiking or biking through the farmland or ranch land where they work.
But what should you do if you run into a guardian dog when they are on the job?
If you come across these dogs actively protecting a flock you may just be surprised by how they behave. That’s what happened to YouTuber The Frugal Professor when he and a friend were out mountain biking in Herber, Utah. They were surprised by a pair of Great Pyrenees Sheep Dogs when they got too close to a flock of sheep in their path.
The guardian dogs didn’t like that one bit and told them so. Fortunately, the closest cyclist had already dismounted his bike, which is one of the correct things to do in such encounters. However, the two men were not certain of what they should do next as the large dog continued to bark and block their movement.
So what should you do? The video below, produced by the Swiss Alps tourism board, gives some practical tips on how to safely interact with livestock guardian dogs.
Their first tip is to stay calm. A guardian dog is likely to bark loudly as they are trained to sound the alarm. They will be alert around humans but shouldn’t be aggressive.
Back off if the dog is not relenting and refusing you passage. Try instead to pass a safe distance away from the flock. If you can’t pick another route, try to pass through without disturbing the animals.
Cyclists should dismount their bike.
Although the guardian dogs are likely non-aggressive around people, this may not be the case if there is a strange dog present. As the Swiss Alps video says, it is not advisable to not bring dogs of your own through an area with guardian dogs. But if you do, have your dogs on leash and give any flock a wide berth and keep a safe distance away from the guardian dogs.
Just remember the guardian dogs are doing what they have been trained to do and you are entering their territory. So be prepared and use common sense!