LGD’s and Storms

Your LGD and storms


Many of us have Livestock Guardian dogs. They are like most any other dog. They have senses they use for hearing, smelling, and feeling. These same senses alert them to danger or fearful things.


Many dogs including Livestock Guardian Dogs ‘LGD’s’ can be fearful of thunderstorms and lightening. I can’t blame them. The loud boom of thunder sometimes scares me. The flashes of lightening can also be very scary.


We often teach our dogs to be afraid of these things as we cuddle and hold them during a storm. We don’t realize that dogs learn from praise. As we cuddle and hold them while they are afraid they soon learn that being afraid is a way to gain attention and that being afraid is good. It is best to help your dog overcome their fear of the storms in ways other than holding and cuddling them. For example, give them a warm, dry place to shelter out of the storm, and perhaps a toy or bone or other ‘high-value’ item to distract them. Some people also find thundershirts very effective.  Another possibility is to contain the dog and his / her charges to a barn or stall until the storm has passed or fireworks have ceased.


Another thing is that dogs pick up on our feelings and if we are afraid of the storms the dog will sense this and their fear will intensify. Dogs rely on a strong leader and we must be that leader for them. They need to feel secure. Speak firmly and reassuringly, letting the dog know that nothing is out of the ordinary.


Fireworks are another thing that your LGD may be afraid of. Again they are loud and often have flashing bright lights. One thing you may wish to try on holidays like the forth of July and New Years Eve is to ensure that your dog gets plenty of exercise that day. He will have less energy to put into his fear of the fireworks.


Dogs can over come their fears but their owners must learn to think like a dog and realize that dogs think differently than we do.


In the USDA publication, Livestock Guarding Dogs – Protecting Sheep From Predators, they offer this advice:


Certain conditions may cause even effective guard dogs to leave the sheep or otherwise temporarily interrupt their guarding behaviors. Intense rain storms or continual rain for one or more days has resulted in dogs leaving the sheep and returning to the ranch. This problem may be less likely to occur in pasture where a dog may retreat to a shelter during prolonged rains. In a range operation where no shelter is provided, a dog may leave the sheep in search of a dry place.


We have observed a small percentage of dogs abandon the sheep because of thunder and other loud noises such as gun shots. Some noise-shy dogs will become familiar with these sounds over time, but others may continue to leave the sheep despite their experience with frightening noises.


In light of this, you may want to ensure that all fencing is secure and that fencing checks are performed promptly after the storm has passed in the event that the LGD has escaped or attempted to escape.


Debbie Cassidy