The best dog to own if you keep sheep and chickens is one bred specifically as a livestock guardian. That's not a herding dog per se but a working dog whose primary function is to protect his herd or flock. Although livestock guardian dogs do their jobs very well, many of them don't make suitable family pets, although they may tolerate people. Their hearts belong to their flocks.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
Livestock guardian dog breeds share many common traits, including a similar appearance. Most are independent by nature, large and white -- their coats mimic the fleece of sheep. Many of these breeds are relatively rare, so expect to wait a while and pay a fair amount for a prime specimen. When searching for a livestock guardian puppy, look for one raised with sheep.
Perhaps the most common of the livestock guarding dogs in the United States, the Great Pyrenees' nature revolves around protecting his flocks and his people's property. At maturity, male Great Pyrs stand between 27 and 32 inches high at the shoulder and weigh about 100 pounds, with females slightly smaller, at 25 to 27 inches, and weigh approximately 85 pounds healthy. The breed's thick, double coat is weather resistant -- these dogs were bred to brave the elements.
Hailing from Italy, the pure white Maremma sheepdog has little, if any, instinct to chase and hunt smaller animals. That's an ideal quality in a livestock guardian dog. While herding breeds instinctively move sheep, some might go after chickens and other poultry. Male Maremmas weigh between 75 and 100 pounds, standing about 27 inches tall. Female Maremmas weigh between 66 and 88 pounds, averaging about 26 inches in height. The Maremma Sheepdog Club of America emphasizes that this canine is not a pet; he should always have a guarding job to do.
Developed in Turkey, the white Akbash descends from sighthounds and mastiffs. The full-grown male Akbash stands between 28 and 31 inches at the shoulder, the female 27 to 29 inches. Males weigh between 90 to 130 pounds, females between 75 and 100 pounds. A male's head is much larger than that of the female. This double-coated breed might have a long or medium coarse top coat, with a softer undercoat. They are livestock protectors, pure and simple. As the international breed club website states, these aren't dogs to retrieve Frisbees or do well in obedience training, but they can turn out to be good companions as well as guardians.
Descended from the great guarding dogs of Tibet, the Kuvasz breed developed in Hungary, where for centuries the dogs protected aristocrats' estates. Strongly resembling the Great Pyrenees, the Kuvasz is slightly smaller in height but usually weighs more. The white Kuvasz sports heavily pigmented skin, with the breed standard stating, "The more slate gray or black pigmentation the better." Temperamentally, the Kuvasz is more likely to show aggression to strangers and other canines than the Great Pyr. Besides protecting chickens and sheep, he'll guard any family pets.