Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Julie K. Young


Julie K. Young


Daniel R. MacNulty


Lise M. Aubry


Zhao Ma


Douglas Jackson-Smith


Livestock guardian dogs – or “LGDs” – are commonly used by domestic sheep ranchers and reduce the need for killing wild carnivores to protect livestock. LGDs are mostly used in the United States to reduce the number of livestock killed by coyotes, but whether they can prevent killing by larger carnivores like wolves and grizzly bears is unclear. It is important to identify which behavioral traits and LGD breeds work best for guarding livestock so that ranchers can protect their stock and environmentalists can enjoy a greater number of wild animals on the landscape. This study investigated the effectiveness of different LGD breeds in the Western U.S. to help determine how best to use LGDs. I investigated (1) which LGD breed works best for each predator, (2) if LGD breeds behave differently, (3) how carnivores respond when LGDs and sheep move through their home ranges, and (4) whether having good LGDs makes ranchers more accepting of predators. I compared common U.S. breeds of LGD with three exotic breeds used primarily in other countries with wolves and grizzly bears. From 2013 – 2016 data was collected on sheep that were killed and what killed them, how different LGD breeds behaved, what carnivore species were present near sheep grazing with LGDs, and ranchers’ attitudes towards LGDs and large carnivores throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. Results of the study show that all three of the exotic breeds of LGD are better at protecting sheep from certain predators than LGD breeds commonly used in the U.S. There are also some breed differences in LGD behavior that may help ranchers make better decisions about which LGD breed is best for them. Sheep grazing with LGDs seemed to drive-off wolves, but they also attracted smaller carnivores. Also, ranchers’ attitudes about LGDs are generally very positive, but they don’t affect attitudes about wolves and grizzly bears. Below, I discuss these and other findings in terms of both ecology and wildlife management.