LGD’s – Life in the Elements


If you’re new to the Livestock Guardian Dog, or LGD scene, you’re probably thinking it pretty harsh to leave a dog outside all the time, especially on those bone-chilling nights where temps dip into the single digits & below. You might be thinking “I am freezing!! They will get cold too, right?” 

Always having house dogs growing up, we both felt leaving the dogs outside in such severe weather was some form of doggie abuse or neglect. It made us feel terrible at first despite everything we read – boy did we read a lot! 

Actually, you might be surprised to learn LGD’s are much tougher than you think! With colder weather upon us, despite it being a little bit warmer of winter than normal, it seemed appropriate to post about how our LGD’s weather – well – the weather!! 

Dogs, no matter the breed, have been bred for thousands of years in various environments for specific reasons. These Livestock Guardian Dogs are no different. It is what gives them their instincts to smell, deter & fight predators, all while being the most gentle creature with helpless newborn livestock. The same goes for their natural ability to live happily “at one with the goat” i.e. in a field or meadow with livestock. They are happy as clams to be outside all the time, in all seasons and weather. They are really just an extension of your livestock herd, but they bark instead of bleat! 

Depending on your agricultural circumstances, your situation might vary or be totally different with your LGD’s.  Most of our experiences in raising them has been through trial and error, and speaking to seasoned LGD owners/breeders. Our dogs have a ton of human interaction & are fed twice daily. Ours have been outdoor dogs since the day they were born. The following points are just a few of the things we have figured out & what works for ours. 

Fatten those puppies up! Literally. We give our dogs extra kibbles at meal time to bulk them up once the weather starts getting to freezing temps at night, for us in Montana this is usually around October. They do not get quite as round as our Nigerian Dwarfs (I don’t think anything can bulk as good as them) but they do gain somewhere around 5 more pounds in the winter. Don’t worry, in the spring we cut them back to normal amounts & they get their beach bodies back! 

Dog bed? Dog house? Just a warm blanket out of the snow? Nope, nope & nope! Our dogs have taken a hard pass at any dog house, dog bed, dog anything ever offered to them. Snow? What about snow? Their thick winter fur provides ample warmth & insulation from the snow & bone-chilling cold. The dogs actually lay right out in the snow most of the time & they even eat it half the time instead of using their heated water bowl! I guess they just enjoy plain snow cones. 

Our LGDs snuggle up with the goats in our herd every night. They have access to our horse stalls with hay & bedding, a barn full of hay, & also the goat houses with the wood shavings. They have plenty of warm spots to curl up & lots of snuggle buddies! As long as the LGDs have a place out of the elements to warm up and stay dry, they are good to go! Leftover hay and wood shavings have been our LGDs preffered choice of bedding. The goats in our herd love our LDGs and have accepted them as one of the crew! 

Be sure to keep an eye on the inner layer of hair touching the dogs’ skin, it should always be warm & dry…think of this as their base layer and the outer hair as their jacket. If their base layer is working as it should, keeping the skin warm & insulated, snowfall will land on their backs & not really melt. If the base layer is getting wet & the dog is showing symptoms of illness, & internal temp is too cool,  we would bring our dogs inside the kidding barn with heat lamps & consult our veterinarian immediately.

Aside from newborn pups, we don’t worry too much about our LGDs being in the elements, as long as we give them just a few creature comforts. They actually prefer the elements and will love you for allowing them to channel their inner wild side! 

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