Our LGD (Livestock guarding dogs)

Let me first introduce myself. I am Louise Liebenberg, I was raised in South Africa and studied psychology there until I was 22. My husband and I run a flock of about 1100 sheep here in the Netherlands. This is a large flock for Dutch standards. We have a local, rare breed of sheep with which we do specialised prescription grazing for various nature organizations. Many years back, we had a lot of trouble with dogs attacking our ewes. After a lot of research we decided to try a LGD and specifically the Sarplaninac. We felt that this breed was still close to the original guardian dogs without having been bred just for shows...

Our first dog was a Sarplaninac bitch, called Chantal.
This was the greatest LGD any beginner could ask for. We got her when she was already nearly 8 years old and had never seen a sheep before. She was resettled due to a serious illness of her previous owners. After settling in she never looked back. It was as though she had always been raised amongst life stock. She was the most faithful and excellent guardian dog anyone could ask for. She was always prepared to protect me and the flock. The sheep trusted her and knew that they were safe near to her. Unfortunately Holland is just too small and overcrowded to have this type of dog consistently free in nature reserves. Our Chantal treated every strange dog (also the poodle on the leash) near to the flock as a potential wolf and that meant “leave fast or suffer the consequences”! The times are too numerous to mention how often she frightened other dogs to run away. People soon realised that it was better to avoid our flock due to our dog. The incidence of dogs attacking our sheep declined. She was my personal guardian. One day while out shepherding a man attacked me. The border collies in the commotion jumped up and started to gather the sheep. Chantal was with me on the leash, she jumped up and bite the man who then decided to run away. This man had been stalking me for a few days and Chantal was always aware of his whereabouts.
She eventually died at 16 years of age.
She eventually died at 16 years of age.
After she died, we looked around for another LGD and tried various rescue dogs, a Maremma and another Sarplaninac. Neither of these dogs were guarding the sheep.
After a while we found a litter of puppies, a Central Asian Ovcharka pup. His parents came from Turkmenistan. A beautiful dog we called Koira. He was 12 weeks old when he came to us. We raised him in our family and amongst the sheep. He was not very reliable with the sheep. As for guarding he was also not predictable sometimes he would guard well and other times he would not react at all. His huge size and strength made him an imposing dog. He stayed 9 years on our farm but after the 30th dead sheep and goat we decided to have him put asleep. We just could not trust him. He would not kill the animals but would just chew on them.
Our next choice was still the Sarplaninac. We definitely wanted a registered bitch from parents that are with correct hips. There are just too many dogs with hip dysphlasia. We bought a bitch pup in France from a breeder that registers her dogs and hip tests them.
Our Alaska was 10 weeks old when we collected her. We would have preferred having her at 7 weeks to be able to optimise the socialization with the sheep.
Alaska is now in the 17-month puberty stage. She is doing very well and just developing her instinct to guard selectively and not just bark at anything. She is quite small for the breed but nevertheless very devoted to us and the sheep, chickens and horses. She is developing well. During the day she and her mate Beli are together in a large fenced field with our horses. The dogs go with me to the sheep whenever I am working with them. I feel that both dogs are still too young just to trust them alone with the sheep and certainly I don’t want them to learn that they can chase and “play” with the sheep. The horses are just too big for this.
The dogs go with me to the sheep whenever I am working with them. I feel that both dogs are still too young just to trust them alone with the sheep and certainly I don’t want them to learn that they can chase and “play” with the sheep. The horses are just too big for this. The dogs can patrol around the horses fields all day and spend quality time with me and the sheep.
My husband, I and our 2 children have decided to stop farming here in the Netherlands. We have applied for a visa to immigrate to Canada (Alberta) in 2008. We intend to go sheep farming there as well. However, the LGD will have to confront with more predators then just dogs and foxes once we are there. This urged us to look for a male Sarplaninac to make a team with Alaska. We did not really want a slate grey dog as Alaska is, but we were looking for a white Sarplaninac, registered and hip tested parents and preferably raised with life stock… This was like looking for the proverbial “needle in the haystack”!
After a long search we found a young male, 5 months old that fitted our description and to top things even more he was raised amongst the sheep. We drove to the Czech Republic to collect him.
We feel that the Sarplaninac is an excellent guardian dog. In our travels around the world we have seen too many LGD sleeping on the porch. The Sarplaninac are independent and rely on their instincts, not always easy to handle and definitely not eager listeners.

If you are interested in reading and seeing some photos of our farm have a look at our website, there is an ENGLISH button.
Kind regards
Louise Liebenberg and Eric Verstappen
Karlingerweg 9
5406 VR Uden