Can A Pit Bull Act As A Livestock Protection Dog?

Any true professional with experience and working knowledge of Livestock Guarding Dogs (LGDs) will bluntly tell you (if you so inquire) that raising the “perfect livestock guardian dog” hinges more on early socialization and training than any inherent genetic attributes. Which brings us to the thread of this discussion; can a Pit bull be used as a livestock protecting dog (in other words can you imagine a Pit bull lovingly looking after sheep?).To answer this sufficiently one has to consider what a livestock guardian dog is, what it does, and how it became the champion at what it does.

Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) are a select group of dog breeds that have been bred over several generations to accentuate the most desirable traits best suited for the activity of protection. These dogs are expected to watch over the livestock quite often unattended by the shepherd; in other words they were bred to be independent which explains their apparent aloofness to human overtures in comparison to the other breeds.

This all tends to suggest that those dog breeds which have been bred over several generations (in some cases spanning thousand of years) for selective traits best suited to the protection of livestock should naturally exhibit such qualities. Unfortunately this is not the case! Remember earlier I mentioned that the true Pros found in this field maintain that timely socialization and optimized training play a far greater role in the development of a good protector dog than genetics; well it is true! This is not to say that genetics plays no part whatsoever, because the fact remains it most certainly does!

Breed Inherent Behavior

Most purebred breeds of dog typically exhibit stereotypical behavior inherent to that particular breed for the simple fact those characteristics have been accentuated over time through selective breeding. Gundogs for instance are inherently inclined to retrieve because they’ve been bred to accentuate such a trait (practical application of this trait is: retrieval of hunted game). This genetic inheritance also explains why certain dog breeds (Labrador, Golden Retriever, to name but a few) find the game of “fetch” so engaging. However, were you to attempt the game of “fetch” with a canine from one of the livestock guardian dog breeds you would in all likelihood be very disappointed! The dog would probably stare at you with an expression that says “what’s up with this moron” before indignantly sauntering off to more productive activities.

It shouldn’t be unreasonable to presume that a gundog would be naturally tolerant and unafraid of the sound of gunshot but to make such an assumption would be quite incorrect! If such a dog were not introduced to the sound of gunfire as a puppy (within the critical period of learning and before the onset of fear) then that dog would thereafter forever perceive the sound of gunfire as something to avoid; in other words the dog will be gun shy. This is a classic example of nurture at play; behavior being influenced by external factors such as socialization and training rather than genetics. In the same vein, a livestock guardian dog from so-called excellent stock that has never been introduced or socialized with livestock whilst a puppy (within the critical period of learning), cannot, nor will it ever be, able to properly perform livestock protection duties. Why? Because its puppy brain never developed the necessary neuronal connections.

The Pit Bull And The Sheep

Thus the question of which livestock guardian dog breed makes the best shepherd protection dog is moot if the influence of nurture (socialization and training) is not factored in! Which brings us full circle to that nagging question of whether a Pit Bull can actually make the cut as a livestock protection dog?

Keep in mind that there are two important factors at play here: nature (genetics) and nurture (socialization/training). So if a Pit Bull pup is raised with sheep early on (from 4-16 weeks of age) it is conceivable that it could perform the role as protector. The early association with sheep will ensure that the Pit Bull regards sheep as its primary companions. However that Pit Bull still has to overcome one major hurdle…the role of its genetic heritage!

Pit Bulls are a dog breed that were originally bred and developed to fight. In other words they possess an innate aggressive streak as a result of multiple-generation selective trait breeding encouraging and accentuating such characteristics. (I know I’m going to get a lot of flak for this from Pit Bull owners and fans but the fact remains folks… Pit Bulls were originally bred for fighting!)

Verdict: A Pit Bull could, in the face of timely socialization, act as a livestock guardian dog but the legacy of its heritage would greatly increase the probability of such a protector attacking the animals it was entrusted to take care of!

Article on pitbull written by Kayye Nynne

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There Are 10 Responses So Far. »

  1. I think if a pit bull was raised to see the sheep as his “pack” he would never attack them later in life, even when unattended.

    My biggest concern would be based on what kind of predators they are defending against, and how the pit bull would go about the defense. Allow me to explain…

    I’ve watched a group of pyrenes frighten a bear away from a flock of sheep. The way they did it is the smart way — they grouped together, kept their distance, and made a lot of noise. If a pitbull was the guardian, I would be concerned that the PB would actually ATTACK the bear. And unless there are several dogs helping him, and he waits for their help before attacking (pack hunting instict), there’s a REAL good chance the PB would lose the fight. At best, he’s going to get injured badly.

    Now, PB vs. coyote or wolf? The make a lot of noise tactic is still a wiser move, but at least the PB would have a chance of winning that fight.

    But I don’t think you’d have to worry about a pit bull attacking the sheep if the PB was raised with them, and sees them as his pack.

  2. Pit bulls have commonly been used as farm/ranch dogs and family dog as well as fighting dogs in the past and they excel in more tasks than any other breed. The only issue that I can see with a pitbull being a guard dog/livestock protector is that they were bread to LOVE people and they do not like being separated from their owners.
    Pitbulls (modern ones) were breed to fight other dogs not any other animals (unless the individual dog was trained for it)

  3. People should read this.

  4. Dear Sir/Madams

    Now, I want to buy a pitt bull about 2 months.

    Can you help me ??

    Your sincerelly

    Pham Thanh Ha

  5. Great article and great comments! Pit Bulls seem like they are VERY trainable Dogs. And they definitely LOVE their humans! If you want one, please adopt one. There are too many wonderful dogs (especially Pits) that get put down.

  6. great article IMO. people think they know what a pitbull is but they think fat blue mutt. I have yet to see a litter of +65 pound APBT’s.
    maybe a good livestock protection dog will pop up once in a while, but don’t expect a gamebred dog not to do what its meant to do, holding and shaking; They got too much preydrive for that job . Like you said it’s in the genes.


  7. Actually Pit Bulls were not originally bred for fighting. They were hunting dogs, later when they wanted to fight them they bred mastiff and or bulldog to make them bulkier or larger. True old school pitbulls are sleek and agile. New breed pits are over muscled and bulky and dont posses the agility of the original. Pitbull didnt have terrier originally but was added to make it more viscious and gamey. Terrier is kinda bad to have in a guard breed because the trait of ratting or chasing and killing small animals. that means small cats, chickens, etc. That said my pitbull guards our sheep/goats/chickens/house and us.But he was intraduced straight from the beggining to all the animals and people. he loves people and is a lover boy but he does have protective insticts. even at 3 months old a big dog lunged at my wife and even though he was scared of the other dog ran in front of my wife and was gonna sacrafice his well being to protect her. That adult large dog was like WTF and backed off and ran off. Its all how u raise the animal.

  8. I have owned a doberman, bulterrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and now I own a female rednose pitbull.
    This girls is dying to please her family. At 75 lbs of pure muscle, her agility is incredible. Anything that comes to our property she attacks with a blunt a deadly force, but will stop at bears and just bark. She knows her strength and how far she can go.
    She hated cats and killed a few which wondered into our property, but when my daughter brought a kitten from somewhere all it took for me was to show her that attacking this kitten is absolutely big NO and I showed her that I meant it. In 5 min she accepted her new friend and they now sleep together.
    I’m very positive that I could “tell” her not to attack any of the livestock as well.
    Would I trust her and leave her alone with some goats, kids, ewes etc? No.
    The reason is that she was never trained to be a livestock guardian.
    I am also thinking to mate her with a pure bred LSG Anatolian and take a few pups for a true LSG training from earliest age.
    This way my female would remain a yard guardian while her 2 sons would be on the field guarding their charges from coyote, wolf and bear.
    This breeding would certainly refresh their genetic pool and bring some great points from both of these majestic breeds.
    Anyone here thinks this as a good idea or not so good? I would love to continue a discussion on this old thread.

  9. Pit bulls were bred to please their owners, in whatever the owner asked of them. Because of their strength and high pain tolerance, they were used for fighting. But do you not remember the war dogs? They included pit bulls, because the breed is not afraid. Staunch, stalwart, brave, wanting only to please. Train a pit bull to guard and protect livestock, and he will do it, if only for a few hours at your feet. Train a pit bull to detect bombs or drugs, track down criminals, protect children, assist the infirm and disabled. They will do it. All for the love and praise of their humans. If they will fight to the death in a pit to please their owner, what WON’T they do for us?

  10. There is no pure bred dog… but to say that a pitbull was not bred for fighting is silly .. By nature of the argument Brando disproves what he is saying …Whatever dog he is speaking of would not be called a pit bull if it was not used in the pit…The dog he speaks of was not a pit bull until it was mixed with the terrier and maybe mastiff , it may have simply been a bulldog .. but the name ” American Pit Bull Terrier ” pertains to the present pit dog that was bred to fight…. Dogs seem to be individuals and some pit bulls might make a guardian dog , many will not… I once had a collie that was the toughest dog I have ever seen , never once losing a fight even with my neighbors pit bull… My Dad said he had never seen anything like Thunder ( my Collie ) but I am positive that most collies would not be anything like him… loved all people and would not let another dog anywhere near our yard….strange but true.

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