A Tale of Three Teenagers

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.

Cabo letting Kevin and Owen take over the new kids walkabout
Yuta and Basko
Bella and Yamir’s first kidding….
Bella and Yamir welcome Pigeons new kids to Earth.

The Benefits of Being Small

You can fit into places the teenagers can’t, as Dixie demonstrates in this video. Happy Sunday🙂

Dixie playing keep away

I keep telling them….

They could get out with the pack and livestock earlier if they’d quit messing around and eat🙄 Opie is the only one who listens.

Dixie and Harley stomping each other while Opie goes for the food…


Some videos of Hillbillies in their natural habitat…

Playing with Auntie Faith
Rylie watching over Demi the Kune Kune and a few of her fans…
Hanging out with some sheep…
A little bit of everyone, but mostly Jed harassing Tomas

Ymir and Bella are really growing up fast!

And what a couple of beauties they are! These almost yearling pups have been on their own guarding our pregnant does for the past two months and are doing a spectacular job. I’m really looking forward to kidding in March, even if we are having some very interesting weather fluctuations (these photos were taken one day after the video!) Thank you Natasha Prudnik and Laura Underwood for two fabulous young dogs❤️

The Hillbillies are a week old!

Posts like this…what more can you want?

I’m so very proud of Juno! I’m also proud of her owner. She started Juno in the house and went on to take her with her at chore time, when she took her goats on walks in the woods, and generally made her place in the dynamic very clear. This isn’t the first story about what a great protector or nurturer one of our puppies has grown into; I have others and maybe I’ll even get around to posting them some day.  This is what a combination of good working bloodlines and time spent with your dog will get you. As her breeder….this right here pretty much made my week❤️


Sheep drama, and Cabo….the laidback one.

We had a very interesting start to our morning today. Full of sheep drama, and worried dogs. At about 1:30 I went out to check on everyone….all was quiet. I went back in, banked the fire and went to sleep. At 5:30 I woke up to the sound of multiple new lambs crying. I threw on some sweats and some shoes and walked outside. The first thing I saw was two ewes wrestling and head butting each other. Then 3 very newborn lambs mulling around crying, Cabo trying to break up the ewes, and Marcia standing between the fighting ewes and the lambs. Both looked at me as if to say “a little help over here!”

Apparently the two ewes had lambed right next to each other at about the same time. The older ewe had a pair of twins, and knew which two were hers. However, the other ewe, a first time mama at some point after cleaning her baby became confused and was butting her lamb, while trying to steal one of the other lambs. After segregating the new mama and her lamb, she figured it out….and all was peaceful. Cabo and Marcia were very relieved, and Besi went back to sleep, because she’s Besi.

Here’s a video of Cabo demonstrating his chill personality during another labor and delivery….

This video doesn’t exist

And one of Cabo telling Marcia in not so chill terms to get away from his ewe and her lambs….they do have their favorites!

What we’ve been doing for the last hour….

I promised video and photos of Marcia, when I had a chance to watch one of our ewes lamb. It happened at dusk so the quality isn’t great. Notice Cabo and Besi are staying back with me….they’re old hands and know how I feel about invading the ewes space.