Cinco Deseos Ranch

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Est. 2009 - Brenda M. Negri  ​

The Way of The Pack:

Understanding and Living With Livestock Guardian Dogs

Hey Brenda, It's been a year now that we have had Gus. He is just great him and Ben are living on the other side of Unionville. Yes Nevada.. Gus is a fantastic dog. Although is is not herding sheep he is out either chasing rabbits or hiking the high country. They bought a place out there with a small cabin and acreage. It is really nice. I thought you might like to know what they were up to. Gus is beautiful I can't thank you enough for letting us get him. He has helped the whole family. He is so smart some of the things he does amazes me. Anyway I thought I would let you know he is loved and well taken care of. Thanks again, Joanne C.

Hi Brenda, I have watched your YouTube videos and I am very impressed with your knowledge and expertise with guardian dogs. Tracy M.

It is truly a delight to see the goings on of your ranch. Such a top class outfit. Thank you for caring about the development of such fine livestock guardians.  LouAnn H.

Our puppies are doing great.  I am so happy with all four.  The mastiffs took the education of the new pups very seriously.  My old dog has also been going out now that it is cooler.  We get glimpses of them in different locations always circling the herd as they browse.  The fawn colored pup (Sage) goes with the grey brindle (Pepper) in the lead.  In the AM they are in front scouting and running perimeter.  The pinto pup (Jasmine) and the red brindle (Ginger) flank the herd and meander around as they head out for the day.  Old Anatolian (Tia) brings up the rear.  In the PM Pepper and Sage are the last to come in, usually they are patrolling in the remote locations of the pasture.  They are on a 280 +/- acre pasture that we typically see a lot of coyote activity, lots of brush with some open meadow areas in the more flat terrain.  Closer to the house than the first pasture they went on.
I have noticed differences between my two sets of pups but I am not sure if it is the breed or the influence of the dog pack.  The Mastiffs are much more playful, even now,  they can’t resist a dog toy (anything that squeaks) or hose/sprinkler, go bounding off with their goodies.  With me they still act like puppies.  My X girls are much more serious, seemed to mature faster.  They also didn’t seem to have the growing pains the mastiffs did.  At times Ginger and Pepper had trouble coordinating feet and were growing so fast, my last pups have always been much more graceful.  Both pups hit 60# last week but are the same height as the Mastiffs.
Nothing and I mean nothing two legged or four comes near my goats.  The other day my husband said he was going to call to get Mastiff authorization to put salt in the field.  They also figured out how to corner the wild turkeys into the fence and kill them.  Then there is feathers as far as you can see, sometimes they bring me a wing or foot.  Been trying to get rid of them for years.  The goats have also learned to run to the dogs if they get startled.  Ginger is usually in charge of the herd while Pepper with pups in tow confront whatever has the goats upset.  Funny all the dynamics that go on out there.  If I tried to explain all this to someone who didn’t have these dogs, they would think I am crazy.
Thank you so much for our beautiful dogs,  we enjoy them every day. R - California

Last year,  after the girls chased off some coyotes, I  noticed Pia laying in front of the house,  barking. I went out to see what she was barking at. Nothing there so I  just ignored her. This went on for a few days and  I just assumed she was a barker and needed to hear  her voice.  
Later that week, the coyotes came back while my girls were napping, before I put them in with the goats.  Pitch black outside,  as we live in the country.  I  got my flashlight and let them out. Zaca went to the goats,  as that is her chosen job and I expected Pia to run into the darkness towards our fence line as she always did before.  This night she took off barking towards the front of the house.  My first thought was that the coyotes had breached our fence and were on the property, even though the howling from the coyotes was coming from the valley behind the house.  I  ran to the front,  where Pia was and found her roaring at the stone wall across the road from us. I  realized her barks were echoing,  making it seem like there were multiple dogs. The coyotes were immediately silent.
The next day,  I called the breeder who I adopted them from and asked if she had seen this behavior in the other dogs of her pack or if she had trained them to do this. She assured me that her dogs figured out how to do the same thing. I  was glad that I wasn't just anthropomorphizing her behavior.  She still does it,  at night, but only when it seems that the coyotes aren't paying attention.  She's also taught Zaca and together,  their echoing roars have awakened my neighbors,  half mile away.  Thankfully,  they understand that my girls are just doing their job. CA

I will start by saying Brenda is great to work with she is very professional and truly cares about her LGDs. She has always been available for any questions and support. She states behind her word and is a great resource. Her website is addicting along with the dogs she is raising.
I have 3 Pyrenean Mastiffs each one is different but they compliment each other. We absolutely adore them. They are full of personality and extremely smart. Each day is an experience. They are puppies and learning to be with sheep and doing well. Helps to have they play and exercise before they are in with the sheep or to give them a bone as they are learning . The sheep have always been with them and go right to them.
We also bring them in the house for a couple of hours in the evening and they do great. Potty training was a breeze and the easiest I have ever worked with any dog. Right now I have 12 week old puppy he had one mistake and now stands by the door to be let out.
The other day a UPS man came and my older one of  Bobo's sisters was barking at him and stood next to me while he was talking to me and he offered her a biscuit and she would not take it from him. I was very proud of her because she is a food hound LOL
They have become a very important part of our life and a joy to be around we have them to be around our ranch and part of the family not just a LGD for the sheep. They are gentle and kind with their family but intimidating to others due to their size and bark
Everyone that sees them ask alot of questions about them and are quite the attraction. Please feel free to contact us with love to talk about our dogs!  
I will always have one of Brenda's Dogs she is the greatest !  Tama Green

Hi Brenda:
Cody & Grace continue to impress me while training.  Tonight I tried something new with the chickens.  Well, it was accidental, but made sense.  One of the goats got in the chicken coop/pen while I was tucking the chickens in for the night.  No big deal, no food for them to scarf up.  A lightbulb went off in my head.  The pups are already bonded with the goats, and maybe with a goat in the coop/pen, they'd get the idea that the chickens belonged in the circle of charges as well.  I let Cody in without a leash and he walked around, sniffing, checking out the chickens that decided to roost in a corner.  The chickens didn't come unglued and Cody just went on around the perimeter inside the pen, checking everything out.  Up until tonight I'd been keeping the pups on a leash and controlling how close they came to the chickens, pulling back when I thought they were a bit too close, keeping exposure to a minimum.  I remember you tellling me to trust the pups, so I did tonight.  It was a short session, but successful.  Baby steps!  Grace didn't come in as she was being sentinel to the goats while Cody was in with me.
Some neighbors dropped by tonight when they saw me out putting up my new livestock guardian dog signs.  I introduced them to Cody and Grace and they did quite well for a cold call.  After saying hello, they went on about their business.
I just finished saying goodnight to the pups, with a nice long grooming session.  They love to be brushed, all over.  We have this dang spear grass this time of year and the barbs can get imbedded and cause a pretty nasty sore/infection, so I'm a bit obsessed with making sure I get them all out.
Can't believe I've only had them 2  1/2 wks.
Take care, J in TX

Hello Brenda,

Have been reading your website RE: LGDs and training. It's quite refreshing to find someone willing to training LGDs via interaction and handling. I am a novice LGD owner but, have owned and trained many breeds of dogs through out my life.....mostly working and sporting breeds. A few years back I had a LGD enter my life unexpectedly. When Denmark abruptly banned the Tornjak, a close friend that had been rescuing them from Croatia and had started a breeding program was faced with disposing of a litter or putting them down. I flew to Copenhagen and "rescued" one of the pups. I was thrust into the world of LGDs! As I began training my Tornjak it quickly became apparent these dogs were not to be trained in traditional ways, rather they have a strong desire to learn coupled with a strong desire to be part of a team effort. Though I have no livestock, I began working with my Tornjak with this tactic and it was amazing and simple to work with this dog. Has this interaction/hands on training dampened his "guardian" nature? Not at all IMO. As a team he's extremely tuned into what I do and works closely in conjunction with what I do. I've made a point of using firearms around him and he knows what they can do. WE have mountain lions that will kill deer within 300 feet of the house in summer months. I've had him at kill sites and he knows. It's interesting to watch him on our walks in the forest, he'll walk the tall grass in a flank position as guard. At the same time I've watched him discover new born deer fawns in the grass and completely avoid them. I guess in short, I've found the LGD temperments fascinating. Very fast natural learners, they want to be part of a team, they can be gentle and loyal companions and formidable foes to anyone/anything not welcome. We do live out in the country, the forest of N AZ, and I've got to say, having a Tornjak in my life has been fun and enlightening......Thor has taught me many lessons. I'm not living the livestock/ranch lifestyle but, many of your words and advise to new and prospective owners of LGDs are very well said and thought out. Excellent advise.

Best regards
Steve Dudley
Williams, AZ

Brenda, please consider this a ‘pre-reference’ for you and your Spanish Mastiffs.  I hope to be purchasing two from your next litter of Abelgas bloodlines which I must agree with you, are the best!  To anyone shopping for Spanish Mastiffs as you probably know by now, there are two other Spanish Mastiff breeders that I know of in the USA besides Brenda Negri.  One is literally a filthy puppy mill in NC who raises dogs in deplorable conditions.  I have seen photos of this woman’s SM’s and they are underfed, glassy eyed, dull coated and look sad and sick.  This woman is known by local authorities as a 'dog hoarder' and has been reported to officials for her deplorable conditions her dogs and stock live in. The other breeder in WI claims her dogs guard show goats.  What is puzzling to me is that she only seems to talk about dog shows she takes her dogs to and kiddie petting zoos.  Her focus seems to be entirely on conformation.  The breeder in Wisconsin’s pups are born inside a bedroom in her house, and I am never able to find current photos of them in any livestock.  Although she claims to be the 'only' breeder of 'working' Spanish Mastiffs in America, anyone with eyes in their head can see Brenda's are the real working Spanish Mastiffs.

I even checked out some of the people who are selling ‘Spanish Mastiff crosses’ and in all cases found they were not selling anything close to what they claimed they were.  I was never offered photos or actual proof of any Spanish Mastiff in the cross, and what was claimed to be a ‘Spanish Mastiff’ looked like anything but.  

In my opinion, Brenda is the only REAL breeder of working Spanish Mastiffs in this country at this time.  I have spent hours online checking the others out on forums and find them lacking in pertinent information and honest answers.  Brenda is an open book, and does not hide anything.  Once I came upon Brenda’s website and dogs, it did not take me long to make up my mind who I’ll be trusting to buy good dogs from to put on our sheep and goat operation.  IMHO she is incomparable to the rest.  Her dogs are superior stock and her successful track record speaks for itself.

Blake and Sandy C., CA.

Hi Brenda,

I have read several of your articles and comments on important LGD issues.  You are perhaps the only one who does not condemn people for attempting to raise sibling puppies.  I am therefore writing you for reassurance that we might be OK with our choice to raise 2 littermates - females - that are 1/4 Karakachan and 3/4 Great Pyrenees.  Their dam is a superb guardian dog, and they were with her for the first 11 1/2 weeks of their lives.  They have been with us just one week and already many people who visit or inquire are foreseeing terrible problems for us down the road.  The pups play nicely with each other and show sweet affection to the group of sheep we have placed them with.  Our plan is to spay them - does this make a difference, i.e. help reduce the risk of rivalry/fighting?

I look forward for any further advice you might be able to share with us, and thank you respectfully for your time.

God Bless,


Dear Brenda,
I have read your blog this afternoon and wish you succes with writing further and finishing your new book.
I will miss your posts
Although I’m not a owner of LGD Dogs I’m curious about the book and it will be on my booklist.
Also in the Netherlands you see different breeds ( LGD ) on the street but I’ll believe they have a purpose and you must not willing to hold them as only a pet.
The latest years you see many Kangal/Akbash dogs also in the city many times a special kind of people or culture has these dogs.
They are so strong and many are dog/human is not wise and fair to hold these big working breeds in a little house with no field or playground with some stock.
Most owners are young males and they have no qlue what they hold on the leash !
Good luck also with your future breeding plan.
All goods and I stay tuned,

Lisa Ann Moad
Jun 26th, 6:05am
I've been diligently reading all your pages on the website to gain enough info to decide whether a Spanish Mastiff is for our family. I just wanted to thank you for all the honest info you have supplied, it refreshing to see a breeder that loves their breed and not just selling dogs.

Brenda: although you've cut back on breeding LGDs hands down you are the best LGD expert in this country and the only person I read for factual and experienced based advice and training tips. Of course you've spawned a small cottage industry of imitators but that is about all they will ever be. The depth of your understanding and perception of these working breeds is in my opinion, untouched by others. I eagerly await your book. Please hurry up! Sincerely, Tom D.

I bought 4 LGD's from Brenda, three different litters, and picked them all up on 8-31-2013.  Best thing I ever did.  They were alerting in the first week and are next to the goats, who they took to right away.  They have alerted on a coyote already, though wily coyote was not truly intimidated until I added my voice, but the pups were thrilled that he ran.  I have horses, goats, sheep and chickens but they have taken everything in stride.
I have three Spanish Mastiffs and one Pyrenean Mastiff.  One male, three females and my PM is a character with tons of personality, but the SM's are awesome to work with and with a great personality.  They are my favorites, and I had only started with the PM, and the SM's were cancellations that I jumped on.  More than one is my first choice.  Coming from Brenda they already have the exposure to the pack and livestock in a meaningful way.  Two keep each other company and reduce your workload, and more importantly they support each other and the play experience they have makes them better defenders.  I see this every day as mine grow and they all have there different approaches and they play fight like they are in boot camp.  Their voices have gotten deeper and more menacing as they grow.  They are however social to people, good with my small rescue dogs.  The little ones want to steal the pups food and the pups just follow them and lick them.   I LOVE THEM, and Brenda, of course, as well.  It is a great package.  Kaaren Rickard, AZ

Tim Hede:
May 6, 2018 at 1:59 am

If you really want to know the in and outs of lgds look up brenda negri on YouTube. She also has a book coming out, ” the way of the pack”. The idea of leaving the dog with the stock, and having limited human contact is old dated material. Her explaination is clear and cut, the old ways, the Shepard was with the flock alot more than modern producers. The Shepard’s lived a nomadic way if life, often living and camping with the sheep, so the dogs were around both men and animal.the video will enlighten and hopefully educate.

One rainy and foggy morning,  I went out to the goat's shed to bring the girls in for breakfast.  They usually head to the house and wait for me. This morning,  as I was checking the goats,  I heard the girls alert barking at the far end of our property. I pulled the hood up on my sweatshirt  over  my head and walked towards the barking. There were four guys in hoodies walking the trout stream looking for a place to fish. After encountering the girls,  they moved on. I was walking towards the girls to bring them home when Pia started barking and running towards me. I thought,  let's see where this goes. Zaca wasn't nearby,  I thought.  When I turned around Zaca was charging me. They didn't recognize me with my face covered.  I had just enough time to pull the hood down and call their names.  They immediately stopped and looked really disappointed that they didn't get to tackle me. I praised them and got them home for breakfast.  They are a formidable team and how they work together is amazing.  I  never trained them to do this. I believe this is part of their DNA. Guarding and protection is their job and I'm blessed to have them. Chuck A

Dear Brenda: I plan on giving your book to several farming friends for Christmas! Keep up the great work. Miss your Sheep! articles but recognize you're focused on the book. Get it done soon! Stay cool out there and hope the fires are not coming close to your ranch. Sincerely, Frank W.

I just wanted to thank you for sharing the videos. Extremely extremely educational. I really like the Pyrenean mastiff breed, but I travel too much for a dog I also have looked at the karakachan from Bulgaria. My third third favorite is the polish Tatra sheepdog. I found your videos the most insightful of anything I have ever watched. Thank you. Tom

Okay Brenda, I just have to take a moment to plug you and your dogs. Beñat is just amazing to us. The last few days, he just hangs out next to our hay barn by the goats. It's awesome to just observe him. He just "instinctively" took knowing what his job is and we love it. He makes his perimeter patrols and occasionally you hear him barking at something, to which we just look at to see if we can identify what he's got in his eye and offer a "good boy Beñat." Honestly, he is just delightful. So much fun and I love seeing how excited he is when I get home from work. It feels good to be loved already by this amazing young man.  Spanish Mastiff Litter "A" MNF, California

Wonderful to see dogs do what they are bred to do... someone sent me the link showing guardian dogs... and featuring your care and intelligent planning for using dogs appropriately.

I had seen a documentary about using the Anatolians with herds in Africa where predation by Cheetahs was bringing conservationists into conflict with ranchers.  The Anatolians provided the buffer which allowed the co-existence of the Cheetah and the ranchers.  I always hoped that ranchers in Montana and the other ranching areas would use these wonderful breeds.

My daughter was married to a dairy farmer in Texas.  As a wedding gift, he gave her a goat herd for her to make cheese.  They went on their honeymoon and the predation from coyotes almost wiped them out.  They were able to get a Grand Pryr... Rocky and her herd grew and prospered...  Her husband bred Scottish Terriers.... to handle the mice in the feed and barns.  I had a female from Sasha's last litter.

After having gun dogs, in my aging, I researched carefully and settled on the Cairn Terrier and had several and have worked with rescuing them.  It's been a joy to put Earth Dog titles on my Scottie and on two of my Cairns... one Cairn refused the tunnels but focused on keeping the  yard free of squirrels.  To watch them do what they were bred to do is such joy.

I wish you every success and blessing on utilizing what these dogs were bred to do.  Thank you for your diligence and work.

Joanna McGinn in Las Vegas, NV

Thank you for taking the time to construct such an informative website concerning livestock guardian dogs.  I found that the site answered numerous question that I had concerning LGD's.  Kudos to you.

Joe L. Guidry

Thanks for speaking out against the fad breeding of LGDs and against those who cross non-LGD breeds on LGDs. It has become pandemic where I live and I see LGD mutts showing up in rescues and shelters all the time. Your articles are great and I'm anxiously awaiting your LGD book. SAM in ID

Brenda thanks for your heartfelt, "shoot from the hip" advice. Your blunt yet caring and honest assessment of our situation has guided us in making a choice not to get an LGD, but instead, as you directed us, work on our own shepherding skills, be more attentive to what is going on around us on our small acreage, and do some serious fence building. I'm glad I contacted you and didn't go with the Facebook LGD crowd that was egging us on to buy an LGD. Your way makes more more common and practical sense. I eagerly look forward to devouring your book. You've got me thinking now on a level that I hadn't before, with my entire farming venture. We salute you. Thanks again. Bob and Carol.

Jill Bunewith Vessella
Jun 28th, 1:00pm
I literally stumbled across your wonderful website last night and found a knowledge and honest breeder of working dogs. I found your attitude refreshing. I was not looking for a LGD, but if I was I know where I'd go. Keep up the good work.

Can't wait for your book to be done. The other LGD books in print are just about breed histories and contain nothing on how to train, understand, etc. so your book will be a first. I had a friend who went to one of the Texas A&M "LGD seminars." She said she about bit her tongue off and had to contain herself from yelling at the presenters. A lot of misguided info from newbie "experts." Oh, but they have degrees! :D Keep up the great work. A fan in TX

Brenda please chalk me up as another "won over fan" of your serious yet compassionate training methods. Took some weaning but I'm off all the LGD groups at last. Get that book done as soon as you can please! Trish L. S.

Barbara Leone: You are so very right! I am a newbie as far as livestock goes. When I was searching for an LGD I was so scared after hearing so many horror stories about them. I almost didn't get one! I heard so much of "let them bond to the stock and dont touch or interact with them". Those comments would make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I used to train my dogs for competition obedience. My best dogs were ones I had the strongest bond with and those were the ones that were also socialized extensively. I saw the documentary with you and your dogs and what you said about the importance of having a well socialized LGD and how some of your fiercest protectors were the ones who slept on your couch! That resonated with me. I was so glad I found that video. Thank you! I can now proudly say that I own an awesome LGD who is a fierce protector of my children, home, livestock and farm! I can take him outside of the property and he is content with strangers. Put him back on my property and he becomes the invaluable protector whom I love. It just amazes me to see what lengths he would go through to protect us and the livestock. Truly grateful I am and lucky to have him. I am ever so glad that I didn't listen to all the "bad advice" out there to just place the dog with the stock and leave them alone with a self feeder. OMG!!! The word needs to get out and thank you for being an advocate for it. This was a great read and so true. Bottom line is, investing time in your animals whether it be livestock, LGDs or whatever is your best defense against recognizing illness, correcting incorrect behaviors and just being part of the team and constantly assessing your property and animals. I had no idea ranching could be done remotely. Why bother doing it at all? Well, off my soapbox but just wanted to say Thank You again for being a voice for these dogs who are in the hands of people who just don't "get it".

Thank you!  :D    He is a big boy!  and photogenic - we had fun with him yesterday!  Feel free to use any of them (photos) - he is such an awesome guy and you do an amazing job staying true to what you do and protecting the breed.  Can’t believe how many
people I deal with that have breeder horror stories and unhealthy dogs.  :( Amy

Came to your site from You Tube movies I saw of your dogs. Really enjoyed hearing what you had to say. Refreshing to hear an intelligent person discuss LGDs for a change. It is obvious you love your dogs very much. Best to you and count me in for a copy of your book. Cheryl T.

Dear Brenda,

I recently came to your website from seeing a 'You Tube' video of you talking about your love for the Livestock Guardian Dog Breeds. 
I too adore LGD but have never been in a position to have more than the one that I have.  In time I hope to be in a position to share space with more LGD, but in the meantime I owe my life to my Portuguese Mastiff. 
I met BooBoo in early 2013 when I was living in Spain.  He'd had a pretty tough start to life and although I wasn't in a position to get a dog I made a 'citizen's arrest' when I saw the state of him, and took him from the pig farm where he had been chained up since a puppy.  He'd never been walked and had not been socialised.  Back then, despite having had animals all my life I was not confident in knowing how to help him to live a happy balanced life.  Anyway since then I have been on a journey of self discovery, canine understanding (I have employed many trainers but I have also immersed myself into study and learning) I too adore Turid Rugaas, she too is a great inspiration to me. 
Today I work with dogs and their guardians to help the two find balance within their relationship and I owe the greatest teachings to BooBoo because a dog tells us everything we need to know about our own energy.
I'm really looking forward to reading your book 'The Way of the Pack' good wishes, ease and grace with the writing of it. 
I wanted to write to you to say that I am moved and inspired by your good energy to raise awareness about these magnificent dogs.  I wish you success and joy on your path and I appreciate what you are doing enormously.  If I ever find myself in your part of the world I will drop you an email because I would love to meet you in person to shake your hand and to see you with you dogs.
I'm based in the South East of the UK, but I'm hoping to move to Australia to be with my boyfriend.  He is currently in the UK with me.  Obviously much of me moving will  depend on BooBoo, we may have to wait a while.  I've attached some photos of my very special, noble, brave, wise and wonderful dog.
In addition I wonder if you have ever worked with the Portuguese Mastiff? 
Lately, (the last year and a half) I have found myself working with many more LGD cross breeds and pure breeds.  The UK has arrangements with many rescues in Europe, such as Romania, Bulgaria etc to re-home dogs that have a pretty bleak existence in those countries.  Well meaning people adopt these dogs coming in to the UK and then find that the dogs need help/work because their needs are not being met.  It is tricky because many people have the right intentions but they don't give these dogs what they need to live balanced lives.  I have helped a fair few livestock guardian dogs and their humans and it brings me the most joy to work with these breeds.  
I send you love, light and healing prayers. God bless

ZsaZsa and BooBoo x

I just want to say that you are doing a great job educating ranchers and farmers in how to develop the best relationship with their guardian dogs. These dogs do perform better when they are socialized as puppies....I no longer raise sheep but was very much taken with your wisdom and knowledge. Some people simply refuse to train or understand dogs...I truly believe that sheep growers are very lucky to have you. You made a very good point in your video that each ranch has its own set of challenges , and it is very important to select the appropriate breed for the job. When I was out west i could not help but see the difference between the wide open range and our smaller fences acres in New England  I look forward to reading your book. AY

Wish everyone was as kind to these dogs as you are. Sickening to see those people using and promoting stupid "yokes." Keep up the great work, can't wait for your book. Sue Petersen