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Dogs Who Serve and Protect…the Sheep!

photos by Tamra Monahan

Working Dogs

A n n i e , a n A n a t o l i a n S h e p h e r d , l i v e s w i t h h e r h e r d o f g o a t s a s t h e i r p r o t e c t o r.

The advantage of having a dog that does not interact with humans, including the rancher, is that they won’t be tempted to leave the sheep and seek food from people they encounter, such as utility and oil rig workers. The disadvantage is the inability to help the dogs if they’re in trouble. Eric says that his feral guard dogs are on their own in terms of care, which makes him uneasy. If they get sick and need his attention, he usually can’t get close enough to give it.

small parcel of land near Fort Collins, Colorado. When they lived in Fort Collins, predators were not much of a threat, and James and Lora felt that they could protect their goats. When they moved to the country, however, their powers of protection were no match against coyotes who hovered dangerously close to their goats in the pasture.

“There’s a fine line for these dogs between ignoring people and being comfortable with them because sometimes I need to get close to help them with things like porcupine quills or broken legs or if they’ve been in a fight,” he says. “I want the dogs to be independent, but comfortable with me. I want them to come and greet me, then go back to the sheep.”

Night after night, they heard their goats bleat in fear as coyotes yipped and howled around the fence, and the couple realized they needed help fending off predators that were intent on killing their livelihood. They searched for a trained livestock guard dog and found Annie, a huge 130-pound Anatolian Shepherd with gigantic paws, a powerful bite, and a heart of gold. When Annie reported for duty, the coyotes stayed away and the goats calmed down.

James Haught and Lora Wittenberg encountered a different set of problems raising award-winning dairy goats on a

“Before we got Annie, the coyotes were coming up to the fence every night. The first night she was on the job, she

started howling like a wolf, and they immediately stopped,” Lora says. “Most of her protection comes through intimidation. If necessary, she will attack the coyotes, but so far they haven’t tried to get in the pen. They’re smart and they stay away because they know she’s here.” From the first day, Annie loved the goats, but they weren’t too sure about having a large dog in their midst. Goats naturally see dogs as predators, yet Annie quickly made friends with them by getting down in a submissive posture, crawling on her belly toward the goats, and gently licking them. Now, Annie stays with the herd all the time. In fact, she gets nervous and cries when she’s not with her goat buddies. Lora says although Annie likes playing with their other dog, she’s happier with the goats. For Annie, life is hanging with her herd and, making sure they’re happy.

The American Dog Magazine | Fall 2011    79  

Profile for The American Dog Magazine