Sheep guard dogs have a job to do – Please leave them in the field

Everyone loves dogs. But some dogs aren’t pets.

Idaho sheep ranchers use special dog breeds to protect their flocks from predators. These are livestock guardian dogs that have been bred to fend off coyotes, wolves, bears and mountain lions from killing sheep.

The dogs are a non-lethal method of protecting sheep – it’s a long-standing best practice used widely by sheep ranchers in Idaho and across the West.

World-wide, livestock guardian dogs have been used to ward off predators for over 2,000 years.

“Coyotes and wolves are the No. 1 cause of mortality in our herds,” explains John Noh, a Kimberly-based sheep rancher. “The white dogs, Great Pyrenees, Akbash, they have shown, it’s been proven that they decrease predation that we have in our herds and keep our livestock safe.”

“Without the dogs, the coyotes would have a heyday with our sheep and drag off our livestock one by one, wolves, bears, lions,” said Cory Peavey, a sheep rancher with the Flat Top Sheep Company in Carey. “Livestock guard dogs and sheep have been going hand in hand for many, many generations. There’s good reason for that.”

In recent times, a number of guard dogs have been picked up by people on BLM or National Forest lands, thinking the dogs were pets that were lost or abandoned.

But in fact, the dogs were not lost. They were out in the field, protecting the sheep.

Most people have good intentions. They’re dog lovers and want to make sure the dogs are OK. But in the last year in Idaho, several guard dogs have been stolen, transported out of state, and presumably sold for cash.

Under Idaho law, it’s a felony to remove livestock guard dogs from the range.

See full story about livestock guardian dogs on “Life on the Range,” an award-winning public education project sponsored by the Idaho Rangeland Resources Commission, a RRI partner agency.