Dogs in sheep’s clothing

The pickup truck is making its way over a bumpy meadow towards the sheep enclosure. Three large livestock guardian dogs - that look very much like sheep themselves – have already seen us and are watching us attentively from behind the fence. They know the vehicle and they know their shepherd, that’s why they are not raising the alarm. As we get out and walk towards the herd, they wag their tails and stay relaxed.

We are visiting the shepherd Kucznik in Brandenburg, west of Berlin. Kucznik does not only own a couple of livestock guardian dogs, he is also chairman of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Herdenschutzhunde e.V. (the association “working group livestock guardian dogs”). IFAW has been supporting the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Herdenschutzhunde for quite a while, but today we are delivering something special: high-quality dry food for the guardian dogs.

 

This dog food was donated to IFAW by the ALMORE FUND EUROPE, the Italian pet food manufacturer Almo Nature’s solidarity fund. IFAW is distributing the food amongst the shepherds of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Herdenschutzhunde. So far shepherds and owners of livestock guardian dogs have received two deliveries with a total of 8,500 kilograms of dog food – until the end of June 2015 20,000 kilograms will have been distributed.  

 

The livestock guardian dogs live in the herd of sheep, they protect the sheep from possible wolf attacks. The large dogs – as, for example, the Pyrenees mountain dog – are impressive, formidable animals. They seem just about right for keeping a wolf away from the sheep. If a wolf (or another predator such as a fox or a raccoon dog) or a stray dog should come close to the herd, the guardian dogs would start to bark loudly, confront the intruder and drive him away. Experience has shown that it works.     

Back on the meadow: three dogs are scrambling around the food bowls excitedly, their lunch is being served. The sheep are curiously watching from the background. A grown livestock guardian dog will eat about one kilogram of food per day which makes him quite a costly companion for the shepherd. But the dogs provide for good protection for sheep in an area which also wolves call their home. Thus the donation of dog food is indeed a very welcome aid for the shepherds.    

One thing is clear: as a shepherd, Kucznik is not a friend of wolves, but he respects them as a natural part of our ecosystem. He and “his” Arbeitsgemeinschaft Herdenschutzhunde are trying to find solutions for the challenges that arise from the presence of wolves. This effort of theirs is something that IFAW wants to support.

The shepherds with their sheep are an important part of our cultural assets and they contribute essentially to the landscape and nature conservancy as well as to biodiversity. After more than 100 years, the wolves belong into our ecosystem once more. Both – the wolf and the ecosystem - have to be preserved and protected.  

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