Playing with puppies isn’t a bad way to start a workday.
It might appear that Bill Costanzo, Texas A&M AgriLife Research livestock guardian dog specialist, is doing just that each day at the office. However, Costanzo is actually preparing puppies for futures protecting livestock– all while researching the factors that might contribute to that success.
The AgriLife Research Center in San Angelo is conducting a study on what types of bonding pen experiences produce a better livestock guardian dog, or LGD. Bonding pens are fenced pastures where dogs bond with the species of their future charges.
The current class of dogs are Moe, Larry, Curly, Thor, Goliath and Hulk. The puppies will spend approximately three months in the bonding pen process in San Angelo. Each bonding pen is an acre in size and, once the bonding process is complete, the dogs will graduate to much larger pastures where they will guard flocks or herds. They will continue to have their behavior monitored until they are approximately 18 months old.
Dogs as predator deterrents
These dogs serve as deterrents to predators such as coyotes, eagles, feral hogs and mountain lions– anything threatening goats, sheep and their young.
The class of six puppies are in four bonding pens at the AgriLife Research and Extension Center in San Angelo. The dogs are all male and come from two different litters of livestock guardian dogs with proven genetics. Three puppies are Maremma guardian dogs. The other trio is what’s known as a Texas LGD mix of Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd and Great Pyrenees bloodlines.
The puppies are exposed to both sheep and goats since their future duties could involve protecting both types of animals.
Most likely the puppies will guard the flocks and herds belonging to AgriLife Research upon graduation. The plan is for two to remain in San Angelo, two will work in Menard at the Martin Research Ranch, and two will be at the Sonora Station. The siblings that were in bonding pens together will remain in pairs working together to quantify the impact of bonding with another guardian dog.
Through the application of science-based knowledge, AgriLife Extension creates high-quality, relevant continuing education that encourages lasting and effective change.