Over thousands of years, dog breeds like the Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd have been chosen to protect livestock by warding off wolves, leopards and other predators. The practice originated in Europe and Asia, but it’s increasingly used in parts of the world where large carnivores are making a comeback. Dogs help farmers look after their flocks and provide an alternative to controlling predators without having to fall back on methods which are entirely lethal, like shooting or poisoning wild animals. Conservationists have hoped that using guard dogs can reduce the number of predators killed in defence of livestock.
But research shows that domestic dogs can kill and disturb wildlife too. Our pets can compete with wild animals for food and transmit diseases to them. Dogs used as livestock guardians are trained to be obedient and attentive to duty, but what do they get up to beyond the watchful eyes of humans?
In a new review paper, published with colleagues at Nottingham Trent University, we found that man’s best friend, when employed to guard livestock, might not be so friendly to wildlife as conservationists once hoped. MORE
Header image: Livestock guarding breeds blend in with flocks to confront potential predators. Credit: Andy Fitzsimon, CC BY-SA.