Examining Proximity and Fine-Scale Movements to Assess Livestock Guarding Dog Effectiveness

  • September 17, 2017
  • by C. O’Flaherty

Abstract: Human-wildlife conflict continues to increase exponentially as the global human population increases. This is especially prevalent in Namibia where cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are targeted by farmers due to predation on their livestock. As livestock farming is a main source of income in the area, all farm animals lost are economically important to the farmers. Therefore, Non- Governmental Organisations have started to breed and train livestock guarding dogs with apparently great success. To date, the factors affecting the behaviour and effectiveness of individual dogs has not been studied. One factor thought to influence effectiveness is the proximity a dog keeps to the herd it is guarding. Therefore, this project formally examined the proximity measurements between livestock guarding dogs and a mixed livestock herd at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Otjiwarongo, Namibia with the aim of testing for differences between individual dogs and exploring factors associated with such differences.

Five operational dogs were tracked daily for a period of three to seven days and their position relative to the head goat within a mixed herd of goats and sheep recorded. GPS co-ordinates were recorded every five minutes using Garmin 4.0 GPS units. A habitat visibility study was also undertaken to measure habitat thickness throughout the herd’s range. Associations between recorded dog performance, proximity and habitat type were tested. A significant difference in the proximity measurements between the lead goat and the individual dogs was identified F(4,1911)=57.21, p<0.0001. Furthermore, significant differences were also found in the proximity measurements when tested within habitat type (F(3,13)=3.50, p=0.047), across the time of day (F(8,30)=3.86, p=0.003) and at maximum temperatures (F(1,1895)=4.64, p=0.031). Further studies should be undertaken in order to examine the variation in behavioural patterns between dogs and their comparative success and longevity in the guarding role. Furthermore, the study area should be increased.

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