We couldn’t get along without our guardian dogs. Not watchdogs and not herders, guardian dogs watch over the other animals and protect them from predators. The Smokies still have many animals that threaten livestock, including coyotes, bobcats, wild dogs, mountain lions, and bears. Guardian dogs are alert against them all. They stay with their flocks in all weather and work in pairs, with one dog going out to confront the predator and one staying close to the flock in case the predators circle back. Awake all night patrolling the property, during the day they also keep an eye out for buzzards and hawks because their European ancestors were bred to guard against eagles.
To keep our livestock safe and the property free of dangerous predators, we have eight big guardian dogs. Most of them are Great Pyrenees, the gentle giants. Guardians need no training; thanks to thousands of years of breeding, they instinctively know how to protect their flocks. When our five younger dogs were still puppies, at the age of five months they took on a pack of coyotes all by themselves. These huge and valiant guardian dogs are unfailingly fierce with predators, willing even to tackle a bear, yet they’re gentle and affectionate with people. Remarkably kind and laid back, their favorite occupation during the daytime is keeping our guests company, most especially young children. It’s common here to see a three or four year old child “walking” one of the guardians, reaching up to hold its collar, and the big dog taking baby steps to keep pace with his young friend.