LGD Woes

When it comes to animals there are times that I really just want a clear answer. That I’m tired of guessing what might be going on. That I’m not sure my faith in them turning out alright will hold out.

I still have the five guardian pups and raising them is proving to be a challenge right now.

I was keeping the pups together with the rams. They can’t get into much trouble with rams and the pups are of a size that I’m comfortable with them being with rams. Things were going well.

When we seperated the ram lambs from the flock they went in with the rams too, plus I added six bottle raised lambs to the group for ease of care and feeding everybody in one place. Amongst those lambs are three bummers, that is, lambs that are not thriving at all and I have questioned if letting them live is a kind thing to do.

Well, three pups have started to harass these bummer lambs and when pups are together one problem can triple in a hurry.  

What I wonder about though, is if the dogs sense something odd with these lambs and if they are playing out what nature has in mind anyway. I have not seen the pups harass healthy lambs but then bummer lambs are easier to harass because they are easy to catch and give up readily. And, no doubt, the bummer lambs smell different enough to a dogs nose.

Yesterday we sorted all lambs from the ewes and have the lambs in a paddock near the yard. I tried moving three of the pups over there, curious to see if they bothered these healthy, robust lambs.  But that backfired, as there is a lamb in this group who as a youngster had a skin or immunity problem. He lost his ears and he is not re-growing a proper fleece but instead is continuing to go bald. So something is amiss with this little guy. Sure enough, the pups picked that lamb out and I caught them harassing him this morning.

So I sorted dogs out again and sent two pups out to pasture to be with the flock because there are no lambs there now. Two pups are with the dogging sheep (no lambs there either) and one pup is still with the rams and bummer lambs but this fellow is maintaining his good character for now.

It’s noteworthy that of the five pups, the three that are harassing lambs are the three that did not spend as much time on pasture with the flock of ewes with lambs when they were real young pups. The two that did spend time with ewes and lambs as youngsters are not the ones I catch harassing lambs. So what’s up with that?

Then there is the theory that pups should not be with lambs at all until of a mature working age and maybe there is merit to that.

One female pup spent the summer months with the yearling sheep I use for stock dogging. Included with this group at the time were the six bottle lambs. She is one of the pups harassing lambs, but she is also the one pup I cannot convince to stay anywhere away from the lambs. If I put her elsewhere she ends up back where ever the lambs are. I have witnessed her harass bummer lambs and corrected her, and I have watched her curl up next to them and sleep. And why is she so determined to be with them?  Which way is she leaning? Is she a good guardian in the making or is she not worth the trouble?

I really do need to sell these characters but yet how do I go about selling them when I feel doubt about who they are and what they might turn into. Do I offer them as farm dogs instead of guardian dogs? Do I wait and see what happens? Is everyone going to question their ability based on their color? Isn’t that what I’m doing?

Added to my whirlwind of thoughts on these rascally pups is the question of their makeup. I know Lady and Diesel mated (Maremma and Anatolian Shepherd). What I don’t know is if any other dog mated with Lady. These pups are black with white markings and while Anatolians can be black in color this little spur in their story has me perplexed and feeling doubtful. When they behave poorly it diminishes my faith that we’re all doing okay and it will work out.

Comments

  1. I haven't had alot of pup experience but we know we gave our first pup too much freedom with the lambs and he killed some, maimed some and it was a big mess. We didn't lamb the next year and then had a new pup with him the year after. With the new pup, she was 1yr old when we started lambing and the first dog was 2. We supervised their every move for the first month of lambing (we don't pull our ram so we lamb for quite a while) and then allowed them all access after that and they were wonderful. even the first dog became reliable after his re-indroduction to the babies. I think his age, plus all the supervision he got when we lambed again fixed the problem. My theory on yours is that they shouldn't be around those lambs (until the lambs get quite a bit older) without supervision yet. Also, I think you are on to something with the bummers. With our first dog, that first year, he harassed the bummers most of the time but I also think the bummers would be easier to catch 'cause they always tried to sleep with the guardian and never held a grudge for getting hurt by them. Our second dog has turned out outstanding because of all the supervision at the beginning. (and the first dog has benefited from it too) She was working reliably around the new born lambs when she was just over a year old.

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  2. Thanks Jenny, you have given me some hope. I have sorted the pups out and placed the troublemakers where they don't have access to lambs. It seems to be only the bummer lambs that the pups harass. They do not bother the older, robust lambs.
    The pair of pups I raised a year and half ago are working very well, and they worked around lambs successfully at a year and bit too. I think there being only two of them (versus five) helped!
    I follow your farm tails blog by the way. Togo is a lovely boy and Alaska is a very striking girl.

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