Bella, Yuta, and Yamir did not spend their early months learning about livestock. All of these young dogs are Russian imports from the same breeder, who did expose the puppies to goats during their first weeks. When they reached the US in June of 2019 Madridsky Dvor Yunona (Bella), one female went to her new home where she became a family guardian and pet. Madridsky Dvor Yamir and Madridsky Dvor Yuta, Bella’s litter sister, went to California as breeding prospects, where they spent the next 4 months in a kennel atmosphere.
In September 2019, Bella arrived here after her owner realized existing health issues made it impossible to keep her. In October, Yamir, and Yuta arrived as failed breeding prospects. All three were full of energy, and like the majority of Spanish Mastiffs, all were very sweet and willing to learn. Initially, as with all our new dogs and puppies, all three were kept with us almost constantly. That means indoors when we’re indoors, out doing chores with us, learning basic leash manners, and commands, and even trips into town to the feed store. This is an important aspect of training as it socializes the dog, gives them various experiences to draw on as working adults, and gives the dog a sense of belonging as well as an education regarding normal day to day routines. This all contributes to the dogs first ideas about threat assessment. We do this with each dog for as long as we feel the dog needs. Our plan was to introduce the new teenagers individually, and at their own pace. However, Tiles de Abelgas (Cabo) had other ideas, and one morning, after their first few days here, he took it upon himself to open the gate to the yard the three were turned out into every morning to have breakfast. He took them around the property himself, introducing them to the senior dogs, turkeys and chickens first, then over to the sheep, where most of the pack live, and finally, over to meet the Nigerian Dwarf goats.
After recovering the reins of authority, it was decided that Cabo’s actions were in fact a possible indicator that the three were ready to progress in their training.
As I watched all three over the next few weeks, I was so impressed with the willingness to learn, and the sensitivity of all three. Rarely did I have to correct more than twice, and those times were usually due to the excitement of the moment. All three displayed the ability to transition from attentive, nurturing guardians, to fierce protectors when needed. As they grew and became more physically fit, I noticed a definite improvement in both structure and movement.
In January, lambing season began. At this point, I had to make a decision regarding whether it was safe to leave the teenagers with the flock unsupervised. While they had made fabulous progress, I knew it was a lot to ask of such young dogs with so little training, so in the interest of protecting them and the sheep from failure, I moved Bella and Yamir to the goats with Josin. Yuta stayed with the rest of the pack in the sheep pastures. Initially, she spent most of the time loose in the pastures under my supervision, and always under the watchful eyes of Cabo and Marcia. At night I would bring her in. After going through half our lambing, and observing her submissive behavior with the new mothers and their lambs, I decided to let her fly solo overnight with the rest of the pack. Yuta performed beautifully, and never looked back. Because it was clear that she was not going to be a breeding prospect, we decided that when the right home came along, and she was old enough to spay, we would place Yuta. She now resides at Sarah Keiser’s Wild Oat Hollow with Hoof and Fangs Basko, one of our Dorito litter pups from 2017, where both guard Sarah’s livestock, property, and family.
Bella and Yamir continued their education with Josin, until February when the two intact males had three altercations in as many days. At the time, I thought it was because one of our other females was cycling and it would blow over, unfortunately the cause was more serious, Josin was suffering from a neurological disorder, that didn’t become apparent until later when we began seeing changes in his gait. I think this may have been the reason for Yamir’s aggression as we have tested him with other males here and it hasn’t repeated itself. Josin has since become a house dog where he can relax and enjoy his retirement. This left Bella and Yamir as the sole guardians of our does right at kidding time. Bella and Yamir had been off tether, with the pregnant does for several weeks with no issues, but Josin had always been there supervising. I still wasn’t all that comfortable with the idea of leaving two 13 month old teenagers on their own with does who scream during labor and delivery, and then suddenly drop tiny, squirming aliens onto the ground covered in what looks and smells like a snack. Kevin boarded up the jump gate, and Bella and Yamir were able to observe from the other side of the fence. They weren’t happy, but again, I didn’t want them to fail. I’ve posted two videos of our first Nigerian doe to give birth this year and Bella and Yamir’s reactions. I found it interesting that Pigeon, the Nigerian doe in the video, actually chose this area closer to the dogs to give birth. This is her third year here. The previous two years she chose to go into an enclosed area to kid. I was also impressed with both Bella and Yamir’s abilities to contain themselves, although on this day the award goes to Bella for her poise under pressure. Watch the body language going on….while I stand by my decision to close off the jump gate, Yamir, especially is very excited…I’m impressed with the progress these young dogs have made in such a short period of time. This would not have been possible without great bloodlines. Thank you Natasha Prudnik for breeding these sensitive, fierce, wonderful dogs, and thank you Laura Underwood, for trusting me with them.