Updated: Feb 3
It is always such a challenge to meet my blog writing goals with the pups in sharing what is going on in their lives with the hopeful prospective owners and the actual training time with the pups. I will err to the pups, so I am behind once again!
Anyone who thinks there isn't much going on with pups in this age range has not been here! The puppy pasture has such an assortment of challenging obstacles in it. There are things to climb on, wobble on, ramps, texture challenges, a low water trough with (yes) water in it, just an inch or so, things that make noise, and on and on. And there is me! As I work among the pups, I make lots of noise. The necessary task of poop cleaning becomes an adventure of movement and crashes as I wack the muck bucket. The pups happily follow me around, intrigued by the quick movement of my poop rake. They are so helpful! I know the job could be completed more quickly if I didn't stop to engage the pups, but it is important for them to learn that a human is a working partner and that my expedient movement is nothing to be concerned about. In fact, it becomes a bit contagious as we move around having our own little party.
The current puppy pasture borders one of the barnyard thoroughfares, so these pups watch me fly by in my Kubota many times a day. I go fast, and I go slow, I stop and chat, I speed away and entice them to follow me. My husband drives by in the tractor a lot and plays the same games with them. Often, it is impossible to stay on task as we drive by because these babies put on quite a show at this point. They growl, bark, romp, and are just generally entertaining and distracting. They see the Fed-X trunk often. Several of the regular drivers follow the progress of the pups and the rhythm of the ranch, so I can often talk them into interacting with the puppies. The huge UPS truck is here almost daily, delivering drugs for my husband's veterinary practice. Those drivers are easy! They all love the white dogs and their pups.
The pups had their first veterinary exam on Tuesday. All were pronounced well and healthy. I love my veterinarian! It is wonderful that she will come here to examine these young pups. They will all go to her, at her clinic, when they are four months old for their hip certifications, but at this age, a trip like that would be hard on them. This is better.
In the video above, Dr. Rogers and her family play with the pups. Notice her stethoscope. She had just finished the health exams for the pups.
My 4-H girls, Mckenna and Emma, spent several hours with me this week. They fitted the pups with harnesses and introduced them to the grooming table, all with snacks and cuddles involved. Not one pup thought that was a worry, so two at a time, we put the harnesses back on and gave the pups liberty inside the cedar barn. Because of how we structured the experience, the pups often found themselves alone, which is a novel circumstance, and they were wearing a pesky harness. Add to this, at least a couple of the pups are headed into their first "fear" period, which is more accurately said as a sensitive period. We were very careful to read the pups and keep the lessons within their range of comfort and curiosity.
This is not a pup who feels safe. Notice the white shown in his upper eye. That is the first clue. His body is also tight, which you may not be able to know by looking at the photo. Here's the story:
We do our best to provide the pups with challenges and not to over face them. A week ago, this pup was careening around the barn in happy abandon, but not today; three things have changed. One is that he is wearing a harness. The second difference is that he is mostly alone. But the biggest difference and one that we did not know was true, is that he is just headed into his first fear period. This is the first we have seen of this in any of the pups to this point. To us, it means that training goals need to be adjusted and extra care taken in the handling of the pups. When we are working with a pup, and he becomes worried, or even just still right before we think he may become worried, we place a steady hand on the pup and stay with him. Usually, the pup will think for a bit and then move on to continue to explore. We also often use the clicker in such a circumstance. But when Mckenna placed a hand on this pup, he tipped over and stayed there. In canine language, that is a universal "please don't hurt me" message. Mckenna stayed with this baby while I immediately brought one of his brothers out. The pup jumped up, and off they went. If he had remained still, we would have returned the frightened pup to the stall, and I would have stayed with him until he was confident again, but allowing him to think his way through his dilemma is a better choice, training-wise, if the pup can handle it because it helps to build the pup's confidence. In the photo below, one of the pups in the background is our worried pup, no longer worried because he has a partner.
I love to have the girls manage the pups because it allows me to go into the science geek space in my head and just study the pups. This is my tenth litter, and yet I learn so much from each litter of pups every single day. My privilege, indeed.
And, as if all this life wasn't rich enough to provoke the growth of puppy brains, my hair sheep have been very accommodating lately. The pups have three ewes and a collection of lambs living next door. The ewes were raised with litters of pups, so they are not put off by the level of activity of the pups. I feed the ewes right up against the fence so that the pups can settle in with them, and the pups get a good look at the lambs getting the zoomies several times a day. I invested in a few Nubian goats recently, so the pups will get a look at them soon.
The pups are continually mentored by adult dogs. From their puppy field, there are fifteen adult dogs in view. Soon the pups will be introduced to many of them up close, but right now, they receive a lot of value from the adult dogs around them as they learn nighttime guarding behavior and what smells to worry about. My dogs alert to mountain lions, bears, coyotes, elk, and deer.
I hope you enjoyed the montage of photos and short videos that I put together for you.