Updated: Feb 3
When I allow the pups to be in the same field as their sheep, I do so with great care and management. The metal house that they love to play in, and crawl under, now has a gate panel in the doorway that allows small creatures in, but not the adult sheep. The expression of the pups was priceless as they watched the lambs run in and out of their beloved barn! I also placed a gate panel at their end of the covered aisle outside of the puppy stall. I make sure that the pups can retreat from the new situation and go back to the safety of the stall.
The pups spent about three hours, mostly avoiding the sheep. I saw a couple of the pups travel through the small flock to the back of the pasture to take care of business and then head back to the aisle. The pups didn't appear to be frightened of the sheep, but they chose to watch from behind the safety of the gate panel. I spent the morning with the farrier. After he left, I brought Sarika back in with the pups. She had been staying near their back fence, clearly showing stress at being locked away from the new situation, but the barriers I created to keep the ewes out of safe places would have prevented her entry as well. I knew that would frustrate her, so we had a morning compromise.
Sarika has not lived with sheep since we did this blending with her 2019 litter. She enjoyed being near the sheep, and her pups took note of that. The character of the field changed before my eyes as a trail of now brave pups followed Sarika. I opened the barrier to the puppy stall, hoping that Sarika would keep the ewes out of the stall. At this point in the early introduction of pups and sheep, a flurry of sheep and momma dog inside their stall would be detrimental to my purpose.
At the end of the day, I returned the sheep to their field new to the pups. I will continue this process until Sarika finally agrees to let me keep her pups. Typically, the moms are ready to leave their pups and go back to work full time when the puppies are six weeks old, so my barriers don't cause the moms problems, but my Sarika girl loves her pups. She spends most of her days at work but wants her pups back at night. She is a lovely mentor to them, so the sheep management situation is my only challenge with it.