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LGDs Cash & Sasha Learn About Cows! - How to Use Siblings To Train Each Other

Worried pups, Cash & Sasha are near their first cow.

In my career with LGDs, I have worked with sibling pairs a lot. This started when I was breeding Maremmas because I had a lot of sibling dogs to work with, but I have continued this practice with other dogs of similar age because it works! The pups feel more confident with each other as backup than they would if I asked them to work as single dogs. Pups of similar ages are ready for the same level of responsibility. In working with pairs of dogs of dissimilar ages, I often have to tailor my training requests to the younger dog's abilities, which can frustrate, or bore, the more capable, older dog. There are a lot of ways to do something well. This way works for me.


Litter mate syndrome, anyone?


This isn't real! In training over 300 Maremmas, almost all of them as pairs, I can tell you that I have never encountered such a thing, nor have I heard any professional behavioral scientist believe it, and behavior is never a syndrome. Moving on.


Getting started


At the time this photo was taken, Cash and Sasha had been with me for a couple of weeks. They had early livestock exposure, then took a break in the middle, and now are with me. I have been moving them around the ranch, using mentor dogs, and changing real estate to build their confidence and to get to know them. The cow in the photo is Scrunchy, one of my tried and true puppy trainer animals. She tolerates pups well, won't hurt them, and will NOT be chased. She simply doesn't believe in moving off! So, a bouncy pup will quickly lose interest in her and go in search of other adventures. This works really well for me.


The pups lived next to Scruncy for a few days. Then, with seven-month-old Nyssa's support, they spent a few daylight hours with Scrunchy. They were bold enough to be near her but careful not to be her focus. Great job, pups! But look at how cautious the pups are being. If I had said "Boo!" they would have jumped 20 feet. Frightened animals don't learn well, or at least they won't learn what I want to teach them in this early time with the cow, so I am very careful to do all that I can to help them feel invincible and safe; this includes allowing them to work with another dog.


The video below shows the pups in their second day with Scrunchy.



The next step


Notice how freely they are moving. At this stage in their training, they could handle a little more of something going wrong, if I needed them to. Because this is true, I can add the next step of complexity. With Nyssa along for additional support, I moved the pups into this new field with two cows during the day for a few days, always returning them to the familiar safety of their area in the barn at night.


This video shows the pups, on their own without Nyssa, after having spent their first full night in this bigger field with the two cows. For their safety, I added my experienced mentor Tanzy to the mix.



What a difference a day makes!


This video was taken on day #2 with the cows. I was on my way up the driveway with the trash can, and I noticed all three dogs coming toward me, the pups fully confident. Such a pretty sight!



Wrapping it up


In training LGDs, I carefully and systematically increase the level of responsibility that I ask of the dogs. If they become frightened, I moved too fast - asked for too much too soon. In that case, I back up until the dogs are ready for more. My goal is to raise LGDs that think they can do any job, on any part of my ranch, with any dog I partner them with. This works beautifully for me!



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