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Livestock Guard Dogs Feeding – Livestock guardian dog (LGD) breeds and food, this is a really touchy subject.  And for this reason, I’ve been putting off writing this article for a long time.  There is just too much opposing science and too many differing (all well-argued) opinions to know for sure who’s right on this one.  But, here goes…

Livestock Guard Dogs Feeding

What should you feed your livestock guardian dog breed?  Livestock guardian dog breeds should be fed high quality commercial food or a carefully balanced raw food diet. Be aware that LGDs have historically lived on marginal diets, and modern-day owners need to take care not to overfeed their dogs as this leads to shortened lifespans and numerous health problems. 

Whether you’ve got a large Great Pyrenees or a smaller (but, yes, still large) Sarplaninac, livestock guardian dogs of all origins were traditionally bred to live on marginal diets.  Yes, they are large dog breeds, and for that fact alone, they will require a lot of food, but you don’t want to overfeed these dogs.

Livestock Guard dogs Feeding

Feeding routines are important. Feed the pup near the livestock (not at your house) preferably at the same time every day. Secure the pup’s food so it can eat in peace, without competition from the livestock. Allowing livestock to eat the dog’s food creates unnecessary conflict that can escalate as the dog grows in size.

What to Feed Livestock Guard Dogs: Commercial or Raw Food

The very general basis of raw food diets is that wolves eat raw food diets, and because dogs are closely related to wolves (and originally developed from wolves or a wolf-life ancestor), an optimal diet for them should also be one of raw foods.

Others have argued that domesticated dogs actually have a digestive system that’s different enough from that of wolves that we can’t assume they should be eating the same diet.  Dogs digestive systems are tailored toward a more varied diet, they say.

Many livestock guardian dog owners swear by raw food diets.  The Hoof and Fang Spanish Mastiff breeders worked with their vet to develop a raw food diet for their dogs.  They have an excellent “Raw Food Cheat Sheet” I highly recommended if you’re interested in this approach.  You can check it out at their website here.  They also provide a list of helpful websites and books if you’re interested in learning more about raw food diets.

When it comes to commercial dog food, you get what you pay for.  And yes, that truly is unfortunate because high quality dog food can be pricey.

Negri hypothesized the culprit causing these fights may have been a cheap brand of food.  She recommended the girls be given a high-quality food.  The client followed through and the fighting stopped pretty much immediately.  The girls’ weren’t getting the nutrition they needed out of the cheaper food, and so they were aggressive around the food bowl, trying to digest as much as possible to get the nutrients their bodies were starved for. With the more expensive food, they were getting what they needed and didn’t need to fight for resources.

Livestock Guard Dogs Feeding – How Often To Feed

I recommend feeding adults twice a day and puppies three times a day, although I’ve seen some sources that say four times for puppies up to three months.  I think your best bet is to check with both your dog’s breeder (if he’s not a rescue) and your vet.

I do not recommend free feeding if you can avoid it.  Some ranchers have so many livestock guardian dogs that feeding them twice a day is a major undertaking, so they free feed with food available all the time.  If you are in this position, you need to really keep an eye on your dogs’ weights to make sure that none of them are gaining too much weight.

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How Much To Feed LGD’s?

The amount you feed your dog will depend on your dog’s weight and how active she is.  You can use the recommendation given on your dog food bag and double check with your vet.

Keep in mind that dogs in the latter half of pregnancy and lactating dogs will need more food.  Sick and older dogs often have different food requirements.  Be sure to check with your vet to get it right.

Livestock Guard Dogs Feeding