Updated: Jul 21
The Shelby pups, so named because their owner's name is "Shelby," came to me to be evaluated regarding what sort of home would be appropriate for each pup given their blend of companion and guardian genetic base. There were ten puppies. They arrived to me at six six-weeks-of-of age, because that is when their dam chose to wean them. They were so very young, but because they came as the entire litter, they seemed to transition easily.
The dam of the pups is a Newfoundland/Leonberger cross. The sire is an Anatolian/Komondor cross, so half companion dog breeding and half working LGD breeding in this litter. I expected to see a blend of behaviors, and I expected more than one pup to show me guardian behaviors; that isn't what happened.
After only four days, it became clear that Miss Juniper was wired differently than her siblings. At eight days into it, I now feel I see a blend in her, but she also has definite LGD traits. I'll share what I see through the videos below.
The video above was recorded when the pups had been with me for three days. Prior to that, I had seen subtle differences in Juniper's behavior but had not recorded it, so I couldn't study it later. Looking at videos after the fact is very helpful in really assessing what is true for the pups.
On this day, I purposefully did not attach the end of the fence panel you see in front of the camera to the actual fence because I wanted to give the pups a chance to experience a barrier challenge. The only pup that took advantage of this was Juniper; she ended up behind it because she was working the edges. She then actively solicited the attention of the two cows, which they gave her. I had my eye on her because I anticipated that she might end up frightened by the cows; if she jumped back, she would be held in proximity by the fence panel. No frightened pups allowed! She invited the cows to interact with her by putting her chest on the ground in a play bow. She was submissive to them but not as deferential as a Maremma pup would have been.
I then watched her to see if she would be frustrated or confused by the fence panel. Nope. She calmly worked the edge of that until she popped out the other side. The other pups in the litter would not have made her choices, her relationship to real estate is LGD-specific.
This video was recorded the next day. Juniper left the group and gazed with an apparent interest in my pony, followed by working the perimeter a bit. A Maremma pup for this age would have worked more perimeter. Juniper's guarding style will be different than a Maremmas' is; I am still learning what that will be like.
This video was recorded the next day. Early in the clicker session, Juniper left the group and approached the goats. Her approach to them was improved in comparison to her greeting of the cows. Juniper was part of my chicken treat-eating group of the night before, so she knew what Kathy had, yet she went to the goats instead.
About ten minutes later, Juniper thoroughly investigated my puppy-trainer sheep.
A little bit later, as we ended our training session, Juniper again chose to spend time with the cows. You'll also see another pup show curiosity about the cows, but this pretty clearly wasn't guardian behavior. On the other hand, at Kathy's feet, Juniper was trying to figure out how to go under the gate to get a closer look at the cows.
Wrapping it up
In general, this litter is very different than a litter of Maremma pups. They are needy around me; clearly, I am more central to their lives than I am to an LGD pup. I see this in Juniper as well, which leads me to feel she is a blend of LGD and companion dog behavior. We'll see how that works out for her. These pups are more vocal than Maremma pups as well as more physically developed at this age. These pups are fast and handy; Maremma pups of this age are like loose parts, lanky and a bit clumsy.
I would like to continue to learn from Juniper, so have purchased a male Maremma pup. This pup is almost the same age as Juniper. I will raise them together here for at least several months so that I can learn from both pups. I will continue to write about our journey, so stay tuned.
Follow-up - the end of the story
My beautiful Juniper showed clear LGD tendencies for about two weeks - and then she got over it! But, the damage was done. I fell in love with this dog, and here she stays. She lives in a pasture with her Maremma buddy when she isn't in the house, or barnyard, with me. River is the only dog big enough, and willing, to play with her! She will live easily with any livestock but does not purposefully interact with them. She patrols the fields she lives in, but I think she just does it to entertain herself. This dog is unlike any dog I have ever lived with. She fascinates me!