Updated: Jun 22
Yes, the dogs need time off. Even those of us who love our jobs do.
Giving your LGD a place to retreat is just wise. If he’s tired, scared, or grumpy and has his own quiet corner to go he isn’t faced with feeling adversarial with his livestock when he needs space.
For me, here at the ranch, giving the dogs these options is pretty easy because the livestock most of the dogs guard are bigger than the dogs so if I give them dog “houses” and block off part of the opening the house can belong to the dogs.
In pastures where the dogs guard sheep the barns are spacious and the pastures big. Some of those fields also have houses in them. I don’t know if the dogs have claimed those spaces or if they just use a corner of a big barn but whatever they are doing seems to be working for both the dogs and the livestock.
However, change is in the air. Over time I have come to appreciate how much the dogs enjoy a high place to watch the livestock from. My neighbors built a dog house/platform for their Maremmas loosely patterned after a housing situation I described to them. They built the house nearly a year ago. It is in view of areas on the ranch that I routinely spend time.
I have watched their two dogs spend hour after hour up on the platform portion of their “house,” regardless of the weather. They LOVE it. So, I would suggest you consider building a platform for your dogs in the barn where their livestock sleep. In my opinion what would be ideal is a 4’ x 8’ platform at the back of the barn, against the wall, 4’ off the ground, with a ramp at each end, and a 2” x 6” edge across the front. Bed this platform with straw. NEVER feed the dogs there!
My neighbors have donkeys, pigs, and have borrowed sheep from me from time to time. Though it would be physically possible for the sheep and the pigs to walk up the ramps in this case they have never done that. The ramps are steep and slick – they are framed plywood. This surface poses no problem to the pads of the dogs’ feet.
If, for whatever reason, giving your dogs a platform doesn’t appeal to you these are some perimeters necessary for an appropriate LGD house: It needs to be spacious. If, by chance, a sheep or so chose to go inside it needs to be able to get out past the possibly unhappy rightful owner of the house.