2021 Sarika x Milan Litter - 12-18 Wks
So much has happened here at the ranch! It has been tough for me to keep up with writing puppy blogs. The LGD training manual that I wrote, with all its many edits, took priority with my opportunities for writing for much longer than I thought it would. That project still isn't truly finished, as it is being prepared to send to Amazon for publishing, but I finally have time to tell you what has been going on here with the pups!
The video at the end of the blog is a collection of cell phone videos taken by me over a six week period. My video software gave me lots of trouble when I created this video; I could not get YouTube to up-load the video with transitions in place between the videos. Please forgive the quality of this video!
The video begins with me talking with Kathy about the newest transition for the pups. She was at home and having kind of a rough day, so I described my puppy plans to her to cheer her up. The pups moved into the big field full time at 13 weeks of age. By that point, they were too large to slip through the holes in the fencing, and they were (and had been all along) wise enough to handle the complexities the field presents. Casey, my husband's border collie, enters this field frequently on her own. She is a mixed blessing, but she does add an element to the training of the pups that I appreciate. Meadow and Benson continue to be great puppy mentors. Their presence in this big field full-time gives me some peace of mind. The pups live in this field with three adult sheep, and share a fence line with a group of mini cows. There is a pair of adult Maremmas living with the cows. On the far left of the field several other adult Maremmas are in sight, or share a fence line, with the pups, so lots of mentoring is going on.
At 16 weeks of age the pups were ready for their PennHIP exams. Below is a very short video clip that typifies the care my dogs receive at this veterinary clinic. I am blessed! I took the pups in, three at a time, over three days. Dr Rogers allowed me to stay with my pups, from start to finish; again, I am blessed.
All the pups scored in the breeding quality range as per the MSCA Code of Ethics. I particularly like that I am producing breeding quality pups that go out there are working dogs only! All working dogs need great hips, not just dogs who have use as breeding dogs in their future.
This is foxtail season here at the ranch. We mow and vacuum all our fields in an effort to keep my dogs safe, but I also do major grooming at this time of year. I clip (at least) the feet and underside of every dog here; right now that is twenty eight dogs. I am busy! It is a race against time as the foxtail heads mature. The puppies had their feet shaved at the vet clinic. Here at home, with the help of my trainers Mckenna and Emma, we clipped the puppies. We placed each pup up on my grooming table. The girls steadied the pups for me as I clipped behind their ears, under their chins and all the way back to their tails. This will help me to keep foxtails from sticking in the fur of the pups. The pups were fed lots of cookies! Every pup handled this process super well. For a couple of pups, we broke it into two clipping sessions, rather than push at them when they had had enough.
The puppies now look like leggy teenagers! They aren't quite as photogenic now, possibly, because of my grooming, but they are safer. That is what matters to me.
To orient you to the ranch a bit, with regard to where the pups are standing in this photo: I am standing on our main driveway. Behind me is our house. To the right of me is our long, gravel driveway. To the left of me is the main cedar barn and fields that you have seen in the photography and videos. Because my husband is a veterinarian, and buys drugs frequently, the UPS truck barrels by this spot almost daily. Because I support Chewy.com so well by buying dog food, the Fed-X truck comes here frequently, as well as does any vehicular traffic to and from the ranch. The pups have been exposed to the noise and movement of ranch equipment from the beginning, but in this field they see a lot more in terms of noise, activity, and movement on the ranch in general. They also are where the UPS and Fed-X drivers can touch them. The drivers play with my puppies a lot! I appreciate this!
At 17 wks of age I gave the pups a huge field that I have never used with pups of this age before, mostly because it usually has about thirty mini donkeys in it. It happened to be empty, so I thought I'd present the pups with what I thought would be a minimal challenge. This large field has no trees or hills in it, so there isn't much to hide behind or to break the sight line of. The hill in the distance is densely treed, and has mules and a horse living on it. Also, the predator activity on this hillside is considerable.
When the girls and I put the pups in the field, the pups played as is typical for them; they ran everywhere, all over the field. This litter of pups is unusual with regard to the speed that they travel as they investigate new things - they just launch themselves at new challenges! Well, they spent about half an hour in this field, and then they really took a good look at where they had landed and became a little intimidated. We were headed into evening, and I didn't want to worry about them being frightened by the heightened activity level of the night, so I gave them Meadow, and then Benson. Things were find for about fifteen minutes, and then I noticed the big dogs repeatedly knock over and pin one of the pups. The pup was confused by this, and didn't seem frightened, but this sort of thing gets a mentor dog fired from his job, so out went Meadow and Benson.
I didn't have anywhere else to put the pups, due to foxtail control, so they spent the night on their own in the big field. They seemed fine in the morning, but this isn't how I wanted to leave things, so I gave them three sheep (their familiar sheep) and two cows. The cows were new to the pups. Bliss was accomplished!
I stay with the pups now when they eat because of the presence of the livestock, and that the pups sometimes harass each other. This is typical of their age and is appropriate language for them to have with each other as they learn how to set their own individual boundaries in guarding the resource of their dinner. Mostly I stay near them and watch them as they work it out with each other. Small squabbles are fine. Continued pressure from a particular pup at a particular pup is not, so if this begins to happen I interrupt the argument and encourage the pups to go find a different bowl.
Often, me just walking towards them will end the fight, but if not I have been known to insert the plastic feed scoop between the faces of the arguing pups, and then walk through that space myself. Before the pups moved to this field I could leave food in front of them all through the night, using a narrow gate opening that the sheep couldn't squeeze through. Now, the pups have a limited amount of time to eat. It takes a few days for pups to figure out this new routine.
One of the things that is new to them is that the presence of the food in the bowls means I will not cuddle with them and engage them, other than to encourage them to go to a bowl and eat. When they begin to get more solid with this new situation I will begin to add the cue "go eat" as they have their faces in their bowls. It will take some time for them to fully understand all this, and have the behavior of eating "on cue," but this is where it starts. They are doing great.
This little pen opens into the large field the sheep and cows are in. I can close the gate and leave the food with the pups if I want to, because I can close the gate the keep the livestock out, but I will probably seldom do that because of the missed training opportunity that would be, and the chance I would be taking that a certain pup might be tough on another certain pup. When one specific pup is repeatedly targeted he can begin to see himself as a victim, and carry himself as a victim. That will increase the likelihood that the pup will be targeted more often, and by more than just the first pup who picked on him. Sometimes this happens within a litter at a much earlier age than this litter is now, and sometimes it never happens. I can make sure it is "never" by doing my job, and staying to support the pups.
****Inappropriate resource guarding is both learned and preventable!!!!****
OK, I had better head outside for more dog grooming and chores in general. I hope you enjoy the video below, and catching up on what the pups have been up to.