Letter: Help with Livestock Dogs Viewed as Pets by the County


We moved to the American Redoubt, prompted by Gods providence and the knowledge we learned from your organization. Our ranch and homestead is rural, and we raise cattle/sheep/hogs/etc, but our most important livestock are our livestock guardian dogs.

We are surrounded on all sides by national forest and you can imagine what this means in regards to predators. Our dogs are the most integral and loved part of the ranch and what we do. They are well behaved, not aggressive and patrol our property how it comes naturally to them.


Recently we’ve ran into some issues with our neighbors (closest one living a mile away). On what was once a prolific ranching road, we are now the only ranchers/homesteaders on the road, despite the rural and out of city limits location. Our dogs have on occasion run alongside the road and across the road, as there is a coyote den on both sides of our driveway. These are on national forest land. This particular neighbor(s) has called the sheriff multiple times, even after often provoking the dogs by honking so that they’ll come to the road.

The sheriff has visited us several times and wrote us a citation for ‘dogs at large’. The folks complaining are willing to go to court apparently, however we have yet to navigate this process any further than the citation so that is yet to be seen. Historically livestock guardian dogs are classified as livestock, not pets. In an adjacent county, they acknowledge working dogs in their county ordinance. Our county has no classification or code for working dogs. We are on open range forestland and our dogs patrol our property through the natural geography and game trails.

Asking for Guidance

This is all to say, we could use some insight/guidance/etc on ways we could advocate for our dogs as predator control/working/livestock animals rather than pets that are ‘at large’. We’ve researched the law extensively and there are no specific ordinances in our state or our county, for or against working dogs that we know of, it’s a very gray area. At this point we are supposed go to court to contest the citation. The sheriffs deputy that came last night threatened that the courts can order the dogs put down for running at large (on our driveway, by the [county] road). But nowhere in the state code or statues does it say this, only that a fine will be assessed.

Please let me know if this is something you’d at all be able to give us guidance on. I really appreciate your help. – L.M.


  1. I have been in somewhat the same situation, however we are not as rural as you are. We are outside the city limits but there are very few large farms or open land around us. We actually have a small subdivision with a small buffer that adjoins are property. We have had every local agency called out to our small farm. We have raised pigs, cows, sheep and chickens. We decided to join the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. They advise and assist small farmers or consumers in their rights to farm and all that entails. We have had the sheriff’s dept out here because our LGD’s were barking. Because of the FTCLDF we know our rights and have been able to educate those from the county that have been called out to our property. The small fee to join is well worth it. https://www.farmtoconsumer.org/ We haven’t had an issue with the one particular neighbor that is the only one complaining in over a year (knock on wood)since we have quoted the law in our state and county that allows us to farm freely. I hope you can get some good legal advice.

  2. I do understand your plight from urban mindset moving further into rural. Been through similar. Historically, as this same kind of thing was approached, and even now, fencing does make good neighbors. It resolved this fully for me.

  3. Reference the livestock dogs:
    First- you should speak with the Sheriff about the problem . Do it in person. Find out what his guidance to his Depities are on the subject. Remember speak to the Sheriff…not anyone else.
    Have you spoke to the neighbors to reconcile the problem? Do it in person not over the phone.
    If these steps are not satisfactory for you get an attorney. The most respected and just lawyer in your area…. I am sure there is at least one.
    Good luck!
    Glyn, Retired Deputy in Florida

    1. This is the best advice so far.
      You might have something to take an appendix out in your med kit, but I’d leave that to a surgeon.
      If the Sheriff can’t mediate the problem, you need a lawyer and will need to settle this once and for all instead of a continual quarrel which is now about dogs, but usually things escalate.

  4. Livestock dogs:
    The simple solution is to keep your dogs on your property. They might be your best friend, but not everyone likes dogs. So, be considerate of your neighbors and keep your dogs off of their property. It works for me.

    1. Can I hear an ‘Amen!’ I’m a rural guy. Life in the country won’t experience peace until dog owners keep their dogs on their own property and keep them from barking. And until city dwellers stay huddled in their cities.

      On a related note. I have good friends who moved out of the country and retired in Florida. They live a typical 55+ private park (lots of rules which are FAIRLY and CONSISTENTLY enforced). Go ahead and say what you want about HOAs and adult communities but they can make a statement that we rural folks can not. ‘There is virtually nothing that a neighbor can do to adversely affect the peace and enjoyment of my property.’

      1. This one is simple. Keep your dogs on your own property. Do not let them into the common areas. You may have a right to use the common areas, but that use is not exclusive, by definition, and it is just plain rude to allow your dogs to roam free in those places. In Montana, at least, it is illegal to let livestock, of any kind, run at large, so this is not an issue of classification. And, yes, it is legal to kill an animal at large if it cannot by be captured by “reasonable effort”. So, if you love your dogs, keep them contained.

          1. Amen!

            My Neighbors keep their dogs on their property, we even made a small path they can cut across so they can get to the lake close to us.

            Your property is your property. Be considerate to your Neighbors.

            God bless,

  5. Check you laws. I had a neighbor complin to the local sheriff about my livedtock guard dog barking in the middle of the night, eveb though it was becuase his dog was coming onto my property in the front where the livestock guard dog cannot get too. When i talked to the sheriff and latter my neighbor i was sure to reference the same dog nusiance laws and point out there is an exception for livestock guard and herding dogs used for farm/ ranching operations. They are classified along the same lines as livestock and are protexted as such. I then showed my game camera video and still images of his dog on my property. Needless to say his attitude changed very quickly and the sheriff and I are now good friends.

  6. Home depot sells a wireless dog fence that will keep your dogs on your property. I have used them for years and for probably less than the cost of the fine, you can install the perimeter wire and put collars on the dogs. They quickly adapt and the shock they receive is not severe. I shocked my hand to make sure that they were no being tortured. The wire does not have to buried and can be run through bushes or along existing fences.

  7. IMHO, M. Mahoney’s suggestion is spot on – not everyone likes dogs, and even those that do like dogs may not like your dogs running free outside of your property. I’m far away from woods and fields, currently living in a relatively high-density bedroom community close to a major metro area, but I think that the same rules apply. When I complain (only once) to a neighbor in person about his dogs barking or pooping in my yard, I don’t care whether they’re “just doing their job” or finding a cure for cancer – they’re disturbing my peace and quiet and their owner needs to do what it takes to keep them quiet – my second call is to Animal Services and they deal effectively with the situation – as it sounds like your local law enforcement organization is doing. Fence the dogs, or limit them somehow.

  8. A good livestock dog will stay with the livestock to guard against a threat – not wander to find a potential threat. Get the right breed for the job, train properly and fence the livestock.

  9. I’ve never heard a police officer state that a dog could be legally put down just for roaming off the owners property.
    Sounds like your neighbors may have inordinate influence with local law enforcement. Maybe they(the neighbors) don’t like CA transplants.

  10. I live in a rural area with a lot of coyotes and dogs. I walk the back roads and have to carry a weapon not because of the coyotes but because of the dogs. I have been attacked and threatened by the dogs. One very large Rottweiler came at me at full speed and I took my expandable batton out of my pocket and slung it open and the noise and action made the dog turn tail. Lucky for me. Another timme before I carried the batton a particularly aggressive dog braced me in the road and I had picked up two rocks as he approached and could only act as though I was going to throw them to deter him. But he persisted and it was a standoff until two other dogs encouraged by the excitement I suppose joined the fun. They both seemed more domesticated but where acting like dogs and they began to circle me so I was forced to use one of the rocks hitting one of the dogs on the head. The two late comers decided to slink off but the first one persisted and donw to one rock I had to back off for a couple hundred yards before the dog stopped following me.

    This is how other people can see your dogs. They may be great dogs but to strangers they may appear threatening. I like dogs and don’t want to hurt them and I encourage owners to keep their dogs under control so I don’t have to.

  11. It may seem unrelated, but I think makes a point. Friends of mine moved to rural Virginia. After their cats and chickens were repeatedly killed by collared hounds on their own property, they threatened to start shooting the dogs, only to find out it’s a long time, legally protected practice that these dogs do this, under some kind of “training” statutes. The local deputy sympathized, but said there was nothing they could or would do about it. The point is, keep your dogs on your property. People don’t see your dogs like you do.

    1. Butch, chickens are considered livestock in Va. There are statutes covering poultry killing dogs, I’d be visiting the Sheriff and asking him to identify tne statutes protecting tne ‘training’ of stock killing dogs! The Deputy is not sympathetic… he’s covering for someone!

  12. If you truly love your animals, you should do what is necessary to keep them and others safe. Consider a professional dog trainer. Get to know your neighbors. Be polite. Remember, you are the new folks. You may have to adapt. I’ve noticed many good comments from others here. This is a small problem that can be fixed quickly with some effort on your part. Blend in to your new surroundings and try not to draw negative attention. Do the right thing and all should be well. Hope this helps.

  13. Just my 2 cents. We have neighbors with big white sheep dog. He is a sweet dog but likes my dogs food really well. Im not loving feeding him as he eats a lot. Keep your pooches at home. Good neighbors matter.

  14. A.Y.
    Can only imagine the feeling of unnerve you may be experiencing right now, preparing to go to court and defend your position. It seems there is “gray area” in every dispute.

    Not sure if this is a serious enough matter or if you have the time to research but I found this link advertised on Survival Blog. It is “How to Win in Court.” It may help you with a perspective in court. Basically the URL is those words plus .com, (howtowinincourt). May not be the offer of help you were looking for but I found the information on the site informative (although I did not purchase anything).

    I’m not sure what is worse, having the Sheriff at your door over a “dog” (sure the Sheriff enjoys “dog” calls – sarcasm) or having your neighbors tell you that they will just shoot your dog if they see him on their property. That’s the vibe around our neck of the woods. People can get pretty attached to their dogs and fairly well invested (it is amazing how much dogs may cost an owner these days). However, in the end, it may help to consider that a dog is just a dog and despite being your property, they are not worth starting a war over.

    I do hope you find an amicable solution as working dogs can be essential to raising livestock. They can be incredible assets in rural life and personally I am grateful for God’s creation of a loyal, protective dog. I do agree with other comments on here that most people will never see your dogs as you do (kind of applies to children as well). :]
    PEACE to you!

  15. How your dogs act around you and your animals is not necessarily how they will act around other people and their animals. If the neighbors kids are out playing and making high pitched sounds like small prey animals; is it worth the chance of a dog bite? The average settlement in a dog bite case, for one bite, is over $30,000 (dogbitelaw.com). If your dog bites a kid in the face (remember, many kids are right at face height with a dog) that is a six figure injury due to multiple procedures and specialists involved in scar diminishment and tissue expansion. In addition, while your dogs are out roaming they could be shot, poisoned, run over, attacked by a wild animal or someone’s loose pit bulls. It’s just NOT worth the risk. Secure your dogs is the only proper answer.

  16. You use the terms working and guardian back and forth so I really don’t know which you are referring to.

    A working dog weather it is a heeler for cattle, a collie for sheep, a Labrador for hunting can also be companions and usually travel and live with the owners, in other words are both tools and pets.

    A guardian animal are almost always for sheep protection. Weather a dog like a great Pyrenees or a lama or a donkey, live alone with the flock. The good dogs are usually birthed with the livestock and NEVER are shown human affection. You treat them like a sheep, feed them with the sheep and they sleep with the sheep. They protect the flock by being a BIG dog, getting between any predator and the flock and barking a lot. I ran 100 ewes at one time (which swelled to 250 during lambing) and never needed more than 1 dog, and I believe that’s the ratio that is recommended, 1 dog per flock.

    When I sold the flock it came with the dog, If you have a real guardian they think they are a sheep not a dog, it wasn’t a pet, it was a tool.

    What you are describing in your post sounds like you have 3 guardian dogs that you have domesticated and turned into pets, and you wrongly think that this pet of yours has a job to do which is to roam around and suppress your predators.

    Now I’m guessing your selfish neighbors want to take their dog for a walk on the public road and enjoy the area and your THREE big slobbery barking dogs are molesting their walk. Hmmm I wonder who has the problem?

    The only good news here is that you can save your time and money trying to teach your pet to be a guardian again, once you make a dog a pet, he wont ever want to be a sheep.

    So unless you want some practical person like me shooting your pets, do the responsible thing and fence them up. The down side is now YOU have to listen them bark and OOOOOOH how they love to bark, poor you.

    1. Montana Rancher brings up a good point and makes an important distinction. I have rancher relatives who have both “working” and “guard” dogs. Also, one of our neighbors has a donkey as a guard and I have seen it be surprisingly effective at deterring large predators.

      However, keep in mind anyone who feels threatened by a dog just might have to shoot it. I for one do not trust any dog (even my own). I cringe when people make statements like “my dog won’t bite” or “he wouldn’t harm a fly.” Beware, when someone says that to you (especially if you have children).

      I was bit by a neighbor’s dog and would have shot it had I the chance but instead celebrated when it was finally put down after biting 5!!! additional people. Dogs bite other domesticated dogs and they can certainly bite any human that they consider a threat or are injured themselves, even its owner. It doesn’t matter how well trained or domesticated they are-dogs bite!

      The barking issue is another subject. I am thankful that we have neighbors who are quick to stop their dog’s barking but I also know that dogs bark for good reason!

      It may be that your neighbors are truly afraid of your dogs and not necessarily trying to make trouble. You could take your position from that standpoint by acknowledging a legitimate fear.

    2. This Rancher’s perspective is very much how I’m seeing the situation described too. If you don’t even know the neighbor except through the complaint then you didn’t know their point of view. Maybe a trapper, that now needs to relocate their traps. Or quite different possibility a ding-a-ling that feeds wild game and now has hurt feelings that they aren’t seeing as many. You should find out your neighbors perspective. I gotta believe that could inform your path forward.


  17. A few things come to mind when reading your letter….Do the neighbors have proof (pictures or video) showing the dogs off your property? If they do not you can just as easily claim that the neighbors are coming to your property and provoking your livestock guardian dogs. If it were me, I’d set up a game camera along the road/property line and see if you can get them on camera provoking your livestock guardian dogs. You did not mention what breed of dog you have, if it is indeed a true Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) then I would always refer to it as your “Livestock Guardian Dog” and take in printed off information on what exactly a Livestock Guardian Dog is and what it does. Some breeds like to stay close with the livestock (you mentioned you have sheep) and others like to patrol their “territory.” I’m not sure what state you are in but I believe some states have laws excluding LGD, working farm dogs and hunting dogs from typical mainstream dog laws. I believe Colorado is one such state. Also since you have LGD’s and live close to Federal land I would invest in several caution signs for LGDs and post them. These are specific signs warning people that you have working LGDs on your property and to proceed with caution. In your letter you also mentioned that there was a coyote den across the road that your LGD’s go to. I would destroy that den and do away with the coyotes so that the dogs are not enticed to leave your property. Like CD mentioned in their comment post, I’d also contact Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund. They do amazing work helping to protect farmers and ranchers.

    1. Anonymous, this is great advice! I wonder if the neighbors could come to an agreement over destroying the “coyote den” as it sounds like it is not on this dog owner’s property. One less “coyote den” is a good thing.

      Also wanted to second that “Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund” is a must for ranchers/artisans/small farmers etc. in our current litigious world.

      1. One caveat on coyotes. As stewards practicing good ecology knowing whether or not the coyotes are over-populated is crucial. Coyotes kill a lot of rodent species and they are important to the ecology. Wolves are another story but still complex. Apologize for offering superficial input that is ill-informed on your local environment. I do hope you find sufficient feedback on here to confidently move forward.

  18. I have 2 dogs in my rural acreage, and they are strictly of the “family pet” classification. While they do “guard” the chickens and pigs against potential predators (mostly by barking and sniffing), I do not confuse them with working dogs. Hence, they are confined by a wireless electric fence through there collars. There had been a time of 2 where the “fence” has malfunctioned, and they have wandered to the neighbors property. I have great relations with my neighbors, who have always simply called me or sent the dogs back on their way home. I suspect this is largely because I (1) return the favor with his dogs and (2) make the effort to control my animals. If I did not make any such effort, I suspect my neighbors response would be (understandably) different.

    I am among those who are probably too attached to my dogs, and I consider them family. That said, many folks, esp in a rural environment, don’t see them that way, and WILL shoot them if they become a nuisance. At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to ensure our dogs are confined to our property.

  19. The key to getting advise is you have to tell the truth in your statements and to yourself. The truth is not how you feel. Facts are the only way to uphold freedom for everyone and taking responsibility for those facts. You have to ask yourself if you are looking for the truth and the quickest resolution or you want to be validated for how you feel people can help you push your agenda in spite of the facts. (the neighbors honk as they drive by to “call” the dogs to run out into the road?) Doesn’t seem logical. Seems to me the love of the truth is the issue then taking responsibility for it. Something changed when you moved there and don’t think it is the neighbors.

  20. I have dogs as well and we had them fenced in a 2 acre area (on a 30 acre property) and they only left that space if one of our family took them walking. Anyway, put up decent fencing and your problem will be largely solved. Dogs are probably one of the top five causes of nuisance problems or even more serious issues with rural neighbors. It’s your responsibility to keep them contained and trained.

  21. Ok nothing about California. Closest neighbor a mile away. Dogs chasing predators on both sides of the road. Nothing about neighbors walking their dogs. Surrounded by NFS land, including across the road. Sounds like the dogs are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Further neighbors driving down road honking horn (trying to attract the dogs’ attention). Neighbor sounds like a dog-hating jerk. Sheriff’s deputy may be on the take from neighbor who seems to have undue influence in this situation. Talk to the Sheriff, the elected public official, not the employee.

    Folks stop reading something into this story that is not there and was not stated.

  22. How folks treat dogs is a pretty good indication of how they treat “neighbors”.

    Currently have two dogs recuperating.

    One in recuperation is a pup that had began roaming too freely, thus was hooked up. Some neighboring roaming dogs came into the yard where it was hooked up and ripped it’s right eyeball out of the socket. It is ok, possibly losing the eye, after a fairly hefty vet bill.

    The next day the roaming dogs were back. My son just home for the holidays, knew nothing of what was going on, shot a shotgun over them when they were on the property barking at our old dog and they left.

    The old dog now in recuperation had always stayed in the yard until we got the pup. He then began roaming with the pup, then with the other roaming dogs.

    “Charlie”, the old dog, went missing early the day after my son had scared off the roaming dogs. Charlie is now recuperating in the basement wounded by heavy shotgun shot from the rear.

    Folks around here had had enough, me included. I treated the roaming dogs to some heavy shot from behind at about 100 yards the day after my old dog was shot. Three days later they have not been back.

    A proposed sequence of escalation..

    If my dog is killing your livestock, or putting you in fear on your own place, kill it and let me know so I don’t waste time looking for it.

    If your dogs are poaching my cats food they will get bird shot from a non-lethal range as a warning. Second warning is heavier shot from closer range. Third strike is strike three, shoot, shovel, and shut up.

    Pretty sure the old dog “charlie” was a victim of a stage two escalation. Hold no ill will against whomever sent him the non-fatal message to stay home. He is stove up but will recover. The roaming dog scenario had to be stopped.

    That said, if my dog which faithfully protects my place, and your neighboring piece of real estate, merely crosses your real estate boundary and you feel need to shoot it dead merely because you spotted it on “your” property, by your works you shall be known.

    If the pup had never been allowed to roam, conceivably none of this would have happened. Stuff happens. Could not know the pup would roam til it did. How folks respond to what happens makes a difference. All seems settled now. Three days with no issues.

    Truly Blessed with good neighbors who honor all life and know how to take care of stuff as it happens!

    That creed is SOP in Southwest, MO. But recently, likely as as everywhere else, foreigners are taking a toll on common sense solutions that are proven to work?

  23. I live in the country on 45/ac of unfenced land. City people bring their unwanted animals, many brutalized by their owners, out to the country and dump them off on lonely stretches of road. These animals will “find” any house or barn for protection and survival.

    I had 5 small house dogs when I moved to the country, all of which were abandoned in the suburbs. I now have additional 6 large outdoor dogs which were dumped by people; 2 of which are 110+/pd working dogs. The dogs only bark when something, usually a predator after my small livestock, tries to get thru the fencing, and it is usually at night. I also have 4 cats which were shot by people.

    I spent over $1500 on fencing and hot wires on just 3/ac to protect these animals from the cruelty of people. The fences keep the animals protected and the hot wires keep the human savages out.

  24. Dear “Survival Blog Contributor” who wrote the Original Post,

    Please respond to these few questions.

    1. Breed, age, and sexes of the dogs?
    2. How many dogs?
    3. Are they true “herd dogs?” Meaning, do they identify with their herd? Were they raised in the herd, or where? Do they tend to stay really close inside or around the herd 95% of the time?
    4. Are you able to call their names and have them obey you and return to you immediately?
    5. How many acres is your farm? If you were to fence your entire perimeter how many linear feet of fencing would be required? (Hint: 20 acres in a perfect square requires 1/2 mile of fencing, 40 acres requires 1 mile of fencing, 160 acres requires 4 miles.)
    6. What kind of outreach have you done to all your neighbors to make friends with them?
    7. How much of your perimeter is field fenced? (Barbed wire doesn’t count, only dog-resistant “field fence”)

  25. ‘Good fences make for good neighbours’, ‘robert frost’

    I had this problem with my neighbours, my dogs roamed he complained, I built a good fence but the damage was done, he was a nutcase and ended up burning my house down. Once you start down an escalation path it’s often too late. I moved to a more rural area where my neighbours ride horses, keep cattle and go hunting. If I was you I would move, there is no solution for insane people.

    In fairness real rural people live by the three s’s. They shoot, shovel, and shut the heck up. If there is a problem dog, it disappears and the owners think it ran off it doesn’t create problems, if you go and tell them you just shot their best friend and they deserved it, things go downhill fast.

  26. Your neighbor is a nice guy! Any dogs on my property, that is not my dogs, is target practice. I would expect the same of my neighbors. In fact they would be doing me a favor! What good is a dog if they are not at home?

  27. The reality is you shoot them in the guts, they run home and, sorry if you don’t have control of your pets that is probably what is going to happen.

    No shovel and shut up is required


  28. Shooting anything in the guts is not a good thing to do. Sir, you are a man of poor character. Shoot to kill or give up your gun. Shoveling and shutting up causes no friction with the neighbours, it leaves them with hope their dog is still alive. Having a dog die in your arms makes a man hard and a neighbour angry.

    With regard to your neighbours forgive them their tresspasses and hope they forgive you yours. I might have read a book that said something like that.

    If they are already angry, and it’s getting worse, sell up and leave.

    1. Sciolist,
      They are excellent predator control from your personal firsthand experience of using them this way? Or because you’ve heard it said?
      I ask because I’ve never met anyone who actually has used donkeys to control predators and had a testimony of the donkey actually seeking to protect a herd of sheep by fighting off predators.
      If you have actual done this successfully, I’d be interested in the story.


  29. Many years ago I lived on 50 acres north of San Antonio in the Hill Country. Had a dozen Barbados sheep that I started having issues with predators. One night about 10 PM had a black lab and another dog of similar size show up on my back deck. I caught them and they had tags with phone numbers from a home about 2 miles away. I called and the lady that owned them showed up in her Mercedes that evening to take them home. I warned her that some of us in the area had been losing stock recently (yes there were coyotes in the area as well) and if her dogs kept getting out someone was likely to shoot her dogs (I did not say that I would).

    Fast forward a few months. Came home from work around 6 PM and there were the two dogs again. I called the same lady to tell her dogs were at my place again. She immediately broke down sobbing and asked if she could at least come get their ‘bodies’. I told her that I had not shot them but she needed to hurry which she did and I never saw them again.

    Fast forward some more. Predation of sheep continued until all were killed. Ran into my neighbor about a mile away where I had got my sheep and he told me he had been having similar issues. He found out his own dogs were killing his own stock. He solved the problem by shooting all of his dogs. The story was that once they got used to killing they could not be trained out of it.

    The point is that folks that run stock and dogs know that if they get outside their own property they become ‘fair’ game in the eyes of many ranchers and farmers, not much different than coyotes, etc. While a larger rancher next door to our current ranch runs Pyrenees to protect their sheep and goats they never cross over the fence. They are well trained and do a great job of protecting their stock. Good fences also make good neighbors.

    Properly trained guard dogs are great; untrained, not so much (at least not around smaller livestock). We are friends with these A&M professors that just completed a long study on their interactions with predators. I may suggest to all that you may want to give it a read: https://sanangelo.tamu.edu/livestock-guardian-dogs/

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