Toys & Bones & LGDs
Updated: May 28
Toys and bones may mean something different to the owner than they do to the dog. Most owners give toys and bones to their dogs to make them happy because they care about them, they are trying to improve the quality of life for the dog. To an LGD the toys and bones can represent a new responsibility and can increase the stress level in the dog. Here's why:
LGDs were bred to guard resources. Resources are anything the dog values. Sometimes that works out well for the owner, such as when the dog cares about livestock, but what the dog wants to guard is up to the dog.
If you give an LGD something he can eat in a few minutes that may not be a problem. In the case of pairs they should both get a treat. But if you give an LGD something that will be around awhile he may feel the need to guard it from his partner, and from the livestock. Many dogs will also guard the ground the resource is on. I had a dog that seemed to have a 30' invisible perimeter around things she cared about. If her partner, or an unsuspecting donkey, walked anywhere near where her toy was she'd charge and it wasn't pretty. From an owner's view this behavior might seem odd and out of proportion. To livestock it must make no sense at all. They may become skittish and untrusting of the dog. Skittish animals are more fun to chase, and so it goes. But to the dog it makes perfect sense.
There are people that think LGDs lead rough lives but the truth is, given the right living situation LGDs lead rich, full lives. LGDs work at night; if you watch them in the daytime they can appear lazy and bored but that is not the case - they worked all night! Even in the daytime, even if they seem to be sleeping, they are still on guard. Their olfactory and auditory senses are always on alert.
If you are tempted to give your LGDs toys and bones stop and see it from their view. I give such things to a dog confined for some reason from his partner and livestock, but even then I need to be cautious because the dog may later guard the stall he was in when I gave him the resource.
Just something to think about.