Follow Blush's Litter (2)- Move to Field 1 - 5 wks 6/13/19
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
When the pups were 5 weeks old we moved them from the cedar barn to a stall and small field that I can see from the house and monitor easily. I have two cameras in that stall and one outside that shows me the entire field, even at night, so when I begin to introduce sheep to the pups I can keep a close eye on how those relationships are going. The field attaches to my main mini donkey field. The pups see a lot from this spot on the ranch! I also brought Blush’s partner, Yeti, to work in this field so that when she wanted to take breaks from the pups she could go and play with Yeti or work the field.
Initially I give the pups half of the new stall, and then more of the stall in the daytime. I have a covered alley just outside the stall door. I put wire mesh fencing across the doorway so that the pups can see the big new world. When they seem eager to watch what goes on outside I give them about six feet of the alley, and then the full length of the alley. At this age they very quickly decide to go away from where they sleep to take care of business so caring for them requires less laundry!
I often give the pups crates to sleep in at this point but for this litter it was just too warm for that. Instead I gave them a huge fan and a mist system along the top of the covered alley. They loved it! I still mopped the floor in the stall every day, and changed the bedding frequently. Almost as soon as I moved the pups I began supplementing their diet with Esbilac puppy milk replacement formula. At six weeks of age the pups were eating a thin gruel of puppy formula, Esbilac Stage 2, and puppy chow. I feed Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Chow to all dogs here under six months of age. I soak the puppy chow and then use my blender to make things really easy to lap up.
The pups were changing right before my eyes; they became more independent every day. Blush decided she was finished with motherhood when the pups were six weeks old so at that point I was able to begin their careful introduction to sheep. I brought Blush for visits, as well as several other more mature Maremmas willing to mentor pups.
Once Blush went back to work I was able to bring my pair of bottle baby young ewes in to get to know the pups. At first I fed the sheep tasty alfalfa right up against the fencing of the alley so that the pups could get a good look at them and retreat if they wanted to.
When the pups were old enough to be comfortable out in the field in general I fenced the sheep in one of the corner of the field. I always allow my pups to interact with livestock at their own pace. The photo above was taken just an hour or so after the sheep moved to this small corner.
When the pups were six weeks old, and we were finally able to convince them to eat chicken from our fingers, clicker training began. I love this part!!!!!
At this point I was leaving the sheep loose in the field with the pups during the day and putting them back in their corner at night. I use fence panels to keep the sheep out of the puppy barn area, for several reasons. I want the pups to have a clean place to sleep. I want to be able to leave dry food out for the pups. And I don’t want the pups to cornered by the sheep, or think they are, even by accident. If puppies are hurt by livestock at this age they remember it! This can show up later in behaviors such as resource guarding and a generally adversarial attitude towards sheep.
By the time the pups were eight weeks old they knew how to conduct themselves confidently and affectionately with their sweet sheep and had wonderful manners around young and old alike. That’s a lot to learn in a little over three weeks!
Clicker 1st session 15 mins
Clicker 2 b 6 mins
Clicker 4 8 mins
Stay tuned – follow the litter to the next big change!