Livestock Guardian Dogs at Medicine Creek Farm
Livestock guardian dogs are full time shepherds. They know what is normal and typical activity on the farm and are suspicious of change and anything being out of place. They know when something is wrong with a sheep and will be nervous and sometimes refuse to eat until I find the problem. They are typically awake at night and sleep most of the day.
Lena is the leader of the guard dogs. Polly and Shadow are submissive to her, but she’s incredibly submissive to me. She grew up with Ziva but they now have a bit of a rivalry, and Lena prefers that Ziva stays outside the sheep paddock... which is fine because Ziva was never bonded to livestock as a puppy so she prefers to be around people more (and does her job by roaming and marking territory). Lena is incredibly bonded to her sheep, but is more socialized to people than Polly or Shadow, which means she is not afraid to ask me for a belly rub and she is very obedient to what I ask of her. She is still incredibly reluctant to interact with anyone new though, and she is more comfortable with women than men! If you want to befriend her it takes time and a very quiet, gentle energy.
When a threat is present, Lena does her job by running toward it to the edge of the paddock to bark aggressively while Shadow rounds the sheep up into a tight flock in the center of the paddock. They have worked out this arrangement on their own with no training. When coyote pressure was high at the end of March, she occasionally jumped the paddock fence to chase off predators with Polly, and it must have felt pretty important at the time because she was too scared of the electric fence to jump back in. That was also when Polly was incredibly tired during the day and I could barely convince her to get up to eat. Lena instinctively knows her job and is a brave and loyal shepherd.