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.