Saturday, June 25, 2016

LGD Puppy Two

I did venture off to look at a pup and I did bring a pup home. 

I was not seeking out a pup specifically to have a partner for Wren, but I did want to add another pup this summer because we need to get two or three additional dogs started.  With the loss of two dogs this past year we’re already seeing predator pressure on the lambs.  By the time these babies are mature enough to be an asset to the others, a couple of those dogs will be slowing down due to age.  We’re also running a risk if something were to happen to any of the current dogs, which would leave us in a lurch for sure.  

This pup had a non traditional start in that he came from a kennel of working dogs but was not raised with sheep.  The dogs in this kennel are slated for work with cattle.  This litter of pups were raised in a kennel area with people and kids regularly interacting with the litter.  Not the ideal start one would look for in a LGD pup slated for sheep work but suffice it to say,  there were a few reasons I chose to try such a pup regardless of this.   

I have been researching and hoping to find dogs known to work tightly to the flock.  One of our previous dogs worked this way and she was a Maremma.  My hope was to find another like her but that isn’t happening soon enough.  This pup is a Great Pyrenees x Pyrenean Mastiff - the mastiff type being known for working tighter to the flock and being less hyper reactive than some types are.  

The other attraction is that the parents of this litter were purchased and brought up from Montana, a state I have some fond connections to, plus a small bit of familiarity with the type of working dog ranchers there are pursuing.  

The litter was 8.5 weeks when I saw them.  Given the young age there is still a bit of time to strongly influence an attachment to sheep.  

With Wren, the breeder made the choice of which pups went where on a first come, first served type basis, which is fine with me.  With this pup it happened that I had a choice amongst the litter.   I have no unique puppy testing criteria up my sleeve as I think picking a pup is partly your intuitive sense, partly your educated choice and partly a crap shoot and the stronger your intuitive sense weighs in, the better to listen to it.  I’m often drawn to a particular pup right away, and if so, I heed that closely.  

I was leaning toward a male, although sex was not a determining factor.  I had requested photos of the parents and the pups and asked the breeders opinion.  One of the first pups I met was confident enough but not wanting to hang with us over much.  When picked up he just hung out in my arms, no panic.  When held in my arms and turned on his back, he went with that, no real concern, no struggle, but yet not limp like he had given up.  Overall he felt calm, maybe almost lazy even, and after years with these dogs I have come to the conclusion that calm is a trait that cannot be overstated in lgd pups.  These are dogs who will spend their lives with sheep and hence influence the ewes in a flock, and to a degree, the other members of a pack.  Calmness goes a long way to keeping stock settled.  A bit timid of people is also a trait I would not be afraid of and there was one pup who leaned that way although not to any great degree.  I haven't tested it out but wonder if an lgd pup who is a bit timid around people may well establish a tighter connection to his charges and be less challenging in other areas.  But timid is a fine line trait, as too much will not be ideal either.   

I came very close to buying two pups but sat on my hands (and my wallet), thinking it wiser to see how it goes with getting a bond to sheep, and to see how this cross turns out for us.  A single pup it was then.  

Crow came home with me on Tuesday.  His start is a stark contrast to Wren’s but I am hopeful he won’t take long to catch up.  I’ll dissect his first day here in the next post. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Catching Lambs With Cajun

Using Cajun to catch animals isn’t something we practice on a regular basis.  It’s more like a trick he and I learned as we went along and we only do so on the rare occasion it’s needed.  The only reason we even started to try was because he started attempting it on his own.  Initially I tried to correct him for it, thinking it was a bad habit to let your dog take animals off their feet, which it is if they’re doing so with ill intention.  Then a wise and very well experienced stock dogging friend commented that, if used appropriately as a skill, it wasn’t a bad habit, it was useful one.  Cajun has slipped a few other tricks into our working life and caused me to see dogs, and what each one brought to the table, in a different way.  

Cajun focuses on lambs in a way that could go bad quickly if allowed to.  That focus also lends itself to why he’s so readily catches them.  Any lambs we’d be catching are large, spy ones I’m not able to catch on my own.  If I’m using Cajun to catch an animal, it means we’re out on pasture, otherwise we’d just move the animal into an alleyway or pen and handle it there.  When out on pasture we’re in big spaces and there are other sheep around.  Lots of other sheep around.  
I’ll indicate that we’re going after one particular animal and not gathering all of them by saying ‘this one’ and because I’ll be focused on the animal, he’ll get the message.  It doesn’t take much for a dog to physically catch up to a lamb, when he does he’ll flip them off their feet and hold the lamb to the ground with his mouth, usually on the lambs neck.  It does look worrisome - hence my initial shock and correction for him doing so - but he isn’t biting the lamb, he’s just pinning it down.  I’m (hopefully) catching up to said lamb and dog right away and when I do, he must let go and let me have it.  Because catching raises his adrenaline, he must lie down and soften again before we proceed to anything else.  

He will try the same tactic with adult ewes but of course have a much more difficult time because of their size so it’s not an appropriate or safe skill.  More often than not if we’re trying to catch a single ewe, he’ll block and cover it until it’s within reach of my crook.  If we can’t manage that because the ewe is too panicked and just runs madly through the others, well then we don’t catch her.  She wins, we go home.  I’m actually pretty lousy at catching adult ewes with a leg crook so I'm very glad we don't need to do so very often.  I can hook them but I have a hard time holding on given my light weight to their heavier weight plus momentum from trying to escape.  Allen is very adept at it though, he just needs the animal within his reach and he’ll have it.  Hmph, come to think of it, he and Cajun are rather alike in some ways.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Solo Photo

A solo photo times two :-) And I'll share Cajun and catching lambs in the next post.  Meanwhile I'm off on another road trip to look at another pup.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

To Move Them Or Not

The grass where the ewes are is getting thin so a few days ago I left the gate open to the next paddock expecting the ewes to find it and wander across with lambs in tow.  Any other time I leave a gate wide open they would have found it all too soon.  This time, after a day and a half, only a portion of the ewes had made their way over and some of them left their lambs behind.  I was tempted to leave the laggers except keeping the ewes spread out meant more risk and getting them back together would make things lighter on the guardian dogs.  There are several foxes around who are giving us trouble and they’re still able to steal the youngest, baby lambs.  

On the second evening of no movement progress, I headed out with Cajun to move the rest.  It was a couple hours of moving sheep, finding sets and heading them in the same direction, giving them reason to go but ample time, until we had a loosely gathered group.

Cajun is seven and has been with me since a pup.  We’ve done a lot of work together, he and I.  There was a time that I cursed Cajun almost continually and I cried many a tear over our lack of training progress compared to others.  Oh what a treat he is now that we are both chalk full of bumps, bruises and experiences.

So much patience with lambs, holding and covering at the gate to get the last bunch through, and yet when needed he was all in to catch the odd one for me.  He loves to catch lambs or single ewes.  I remember feeling panicked and yelling at him the first few times he busted away after lambs and caught them.  I was aghast really.  I know Kelpies better now and I know the skill set of this guy is probably more rare than it is common.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Wren is 10, going on 11 weeks old and she is a Great Pyrenees x Akbash.  Previous dogs Willow, Glory, Reva and Oakley are this cross.  Pippa and Lilly are Great Pyr x Akbash x Maremma.  The others are Maremma, Anatolian Shepherd, and Anatolian x Maremma. 

She is very comfortable with where she is now, although she and the lambs do not venture too far from the building.  Each time out to watch her I am questioning whether to leave her with the lambs or switch her to adult sheep already.  There are signs that she is definitely playing with the lambs.  My previous pups all started with quiet adult sheep rather than young lambs.  But those pups also had a littermate, so it is tough to know what the difference really was.  Now that I’m trying this approach with Wren and orphan lambs though, I’m favouring the first approach, however, I am curious if a switch up will influence the bond she has with sheep.  I do like how comfortable she is with them and that she is always with them.  

The upside with orphan lambs without adult sheep to show them otherwise, is they don’t venture too far but hang around the area they are familiar with.  This suits a small puppy who also doesn’t yet venture too far; they can roam about but are always with lambs.  Together the lambs and pups will slowly explore the area.  Adult sheep will leave to go graze and not care if the pup is along with them or not.  I suppose you could fence them in a small spot and move them everyday, pup included.  

At this stage it’s still a bit of a toss up, but I’m going to keep her with the lambs for now and risk some bullying behaviour on her part when I'm not there to intervene, but hopefully get a nice, strong commitment to staying with sheep.  

By the way, I do enjoy and appreciate the questions and comments.  Feel free to ask away if you want to know more about the process or what I am observing.