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The Best Livestock Guardian Dog Winter Care that is Not Abuse

What about the best livestock guardian dog Winter care that is not abuse? Aren’t all dogs the same when it comes to the cold?

No, they are not. Livestock Guardian Dog Winter care is way different than a regular dog.

Even so, year after year, I see and hear people who claim to be animal rights or pet rights activists going after dog owners who have their dogs outside in extreme cold. Have you seen those, too?

And within reason, they are right. Not ALL dogs should be outdoors during the winter with no shelter or warmth. With that said, I can’t help but think of my own dogs.

I have a Beagle named Sage and a Great Pyrenees named Si. The beagle lives in the house and the Great Pyrenees lives outdoors. And I mean it when I say both of these dogs own their territories very well.

Sage Beagle wouldn’t survive outside. But Si does survive. In fact, we’ve tried to let him come into our home before a big storm but he would not budge. He refused to leave his outdoor world. It would be abuse for him if we made him come in. So, we don’t. We just make sure he’s nice and warm outside when we check livestock later.

I’ll talk more about the characteristics of Livestock Guardian Dogs like Si in just a little bit. Just know that when you see posts about dog owners getting turned in that not ALL dogs apply to this. But they don’t specify so you wonder if your dog would be the target of a complaint.

In this post, I will:

– Share the best livestock guardian dog Winter care you can find.
– Offer you all the important necessities your dog needs to thrive during the cold Winter.
– Give you some hope and help you remember that your livestock guardian dog thrives in this weather.

It’s going to be ok. This post will ease your mind and you’ll feel better about your livestock guardian dog living outdoors. Let’s check it out.

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Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. However, I do have a 4 year degree in Animal Science & Industry from a University, a Master’s degree in Agricultural Education & over a decade of experience raising goats. I believe it’s my duty to share those experiences with other goat producers. I work very closely with my own veterinarian whom I trust and seek advice from on the regular. Both of us are human beings – Not Super Heros. Read more here…

The Best Livestock Guardian Dog Winter Care that is Not Abuse

Livestock Guardian Dogs are Different

While livestock guardian dogs are working dogs, they hold ownership to their humans as well. My dog greets me when I come outside and stays with me a lot while I’m doing my checks. He definitely acts like a pet to me but still knows his role. Let’s talk about how LGD’s are different.

Here are the most common breeds of guardians most livestock producers own:

– Great Pyrenees,
– Maremma,
– Akbash,
– Kuvasz,
– Caucasian Ovcharka,
– Anatolian Shepherd.

These dogs can stay warm because of the extremely cold countries they originated from. Because of these, they have dense, water repellent and fuzzy coats.

Some breeds even have a double coat. The long outer coat sheds water and the shorter undercoat provides warmth. My dog is Great Pyrenees, Maremma and Anatolian Shepherd, so he definitely is the right mix for a perfect winter coat that works for keeping him warm.

Other Characteristics of a Good LGD

This is why a good livestock guardian dog (LGD) will never come into your home on a cold night. It’s because you’ve trained them well and they know their role and are loyal to it.

You see, LGD’s know they are expected to keep watch over the animals. They are protective and attentive towards them and trustworthy to the animals and you. They take great pride in their position.

My dog Si has his routine. At night, he’s awake keeping predators away while we sleep. Sometimes he barks more nights than others and lately it has been less. I wonder if the coyotes know he’s there and just choose not to mess with him after 6 years.

Then, in the morning, Si is up and walking the entire perimeter of our property. It’s amazing how well these dogs can hear and see. Sometimes, I’ll see him on one end of the property take off running to the other end, like he heard something.

The rest of the day, Si naps or hangs out with us. And he’s our doorbell when anyone drives into our driveway. In return, we take care of him the best he will let us. He doesn’t ask for much but there are some necessities he does need – Especially in Winter. Let’s start with water to keep him hydrated.

Fresh Water

During the Winter, dogs work harder because the predators seem to be more active. Because of this, their nutrition and water intake needs to be top notch and available to them.

If you’re concerned about frozen water, you can easily pick up a heated dog bowl that is top rated and very inexpensive. It’s definitely worth the investment for your dog to have access to water all the time.

Water is the most important nutrient we all need. Your dog needs it working out in the conditions of Winter. This should be the top priority. Even more than food, which we will discus next.

Dog Food & Nutrition

You need to always be checking your dog’s body condition during cold Winter weather. Do this by placing your thumb along the spine and extending your fingers downward towards the ribs. Do you feel the ribs? You should be able to feel a little rib without deep spaces in between.

All-in-all, your dog will eat more when it’s cold and they are burning more calories. I mean, think about ourselves. Do you feel hungrier after a full days work? Or a good workout? I sure do!

Your dog is no different. So, working out in the winter, roaming around through the snow keeping you and your animals safe is hard work! Therefore, your dog requires a high quality food with higher energy and fat.

Special note: I know some livestock breeders who run multiple dogs and don’t feed them dog food. I can understand. They aren’t working as hard and taking more breaks because there are more of them to do the job. In my case where I only have one dog working, he does need more calories. So, I do feed my dog a healthy dog food plus he eats whatever rodent he can find, too.

We feed Si a good quality and accessible high fat and protein dog food for outdoor dogs every day. His food is kept inside of the lean-to next to the Winter livestock pens. That is where he has calls home.


Ok, let’s talk about the main reason for this post in the first place. The topic of shelter.

I’m here today as the mom of a working dog to confess to you: My working dog stays outside always. It’s not always my chose, but ultimately it’s his decision. He weighs over 200 pounds and I am a mere 150. I’ve tried to drag him inside the house but he wasn’t having any of it.

So, later on as I’m checking my social media and see, “If I see your dog outside in this weather, I’m turning you in,” my mama bear survival mode kicks in and I have to defend my livestock guardian dog. I’ve had to do this so many times. I have felt like not enough people understand LDG’s and their needs. Therefore, I’ll be writing more about this topic in the future.

With that said, I do go out into the cold to check on all of the livestock and Si. I find him curled up next to his livestock pens inside his lean-to. Looking very cozy. Sometimes even the chickens will snuggle with him, which is adorable. A lean-to is just a shelter and ours is open faced to the east, so it gets the first sunlight and blocks the snow from blowing in. He stays pretty cozy in there.

Sometimes I even find him laying out next to big round bales of hay that we feed the livestock. This puts him front and center of all the pens and he can see everyone safely tucked into their sheds. The bale simply acts as a windbreak. And that’s what they really require – Just a place out of the wind.

That’s also why you will see a LGD often laying outside in the snow on a cold calm night with no wind. The snow doesn’t bother them! Remember – Their coats are water resistant and double coated. And with that said, we should make sure that skin and hair is ultimately taken care of.

Skin & Hair

Your dog’s skin and hair is the one thing that keeps it the most warm. However, the Winter cold can still be hard on the most delicate skin. The main place you want to check is the bottom and inside of the paws.

Paw nails are also important to care for. Some extra nail length can be helpful to the dogs for traction on icy surfaces. Also, watch the nails of double dewclaws, which can either be broken off or grown into the food if not trimmed regularly.

Snag some Great Nail Trimmers Here

Honestly, I’ve never had to trim my LGD’s paw nails. This is a good thing because he would likely try to run away from me or be very difficult to hold down. He actually keeps pretty good care of his nails on his own.

Finally, the dog’s coat care is so important coming into Winter. A dog with a healthy, brushed out coat of hair can be its saving grace. This is because the dog’s winter coat can trap warmth produced by the body. Also, did you know that in extreme cold, tiny muscles help to raise each hair to create even more warmth? But this only works in a healthy coat.

Grab a great dog brush here

If your dog’s coat is full of burrs or matted, the hairs are essentially flattened and pulled together, which exposes skin and make keeping warm more difficult. Each day, you should check your dog’s hair coat, skin and paws for any signs that it’s natural abilities are not keeping it warm and cozy in the elements.

The Best Livestock Guardian Dog Winter Care that is Not Abuse

The Last Thing You Want

We Ruralites deal with enough. The last thing we want is someone turning us in for abuse. It’s important that we share with concerned people about how we practice livestock guardian dog winter care by giving our dogs what they need.

This post about livestock guardian dog winter care stemmed from my experience of past winters. I’ve explained how my dog refuses with passion to come inside and so I’ve yielded to his wishes by giving him four main things he needs to endure a tough winter. Please know where your dog comes from. This gives me piece of mind knowing that my dog has generations of genetic strength for cold.

Coat & skin care, good nutrition, water and shelter (note that shelter is last) are the four main things you can give your livestock guardian dog as it chooses to stay out. Livestock Guardian dogs are amazing animals. They are smart animals who know exactly what they were put on this Earth to do. The least we can do is to give them praise for keeping us and the livestock safe as well as the necessities for keeping them healthy and warm all Winter long.