This first video is just Yamir and Bella waiting for the gate to open so the new sheep on the other side can come through,…..something Bella and I have been working on with Yamir. Today, we exchanged Bella, who has been helping me teach Yamir proper sheep etiquette since weaning her puppies a few months ago, for Harley. The idea is to observe Yamir’s behavior without my close supervision, or fear of reprisal from Bella. This video is basically just Bella reminding Yamir who the boss is as they wait for the gate to open.
This second video is of Yamir and Harley modeling correct behavior when welcoming a few new sheep. Notice they are NOT welcoming them, they’re keeping their distance and almost seem to be ignoring the sheep. These are new sheep, who have only been exposed to herding dogs in the past and panic when they see dogs approaching. This can result in injured sheep and dogs, plus we wouldn’t want them running through our awesome, super secure fencing along the back of this pen……
While bonding between livestock and their guardian dogs is important, the shepherd/dog bond is all too often ignored here in the US. How can you build a bond and communicate what you want to your dogs if you don’t spend time working with them? The only dogs who are put in a pen next to the sheep are my 4 week old puppies and their mothers. By 6 weeks of age they are going out with mom and me into a pasture with sheep and other pack members for the day…I’m digressing….
Anyway, 18 month old Harley was born here and has been raised in a pack environment surrounded by sheep, while 2 1/2 year old Yamir spent his first several months in a kennel, with no exposure to livestock or even open spaces. Yamir is a big dog with a big personality and while he has been great with older sheep and goats who are used to dogs, (and surprisingly, poultry) he has had to learn to reign himself in with new livestock…this is his first experience completely on his own without me or Bella there to correct him. While it is hot, most of his panting is due to excitement. I swear he had test anxiety! However, he really did exactly what I was hoping for. These new ewes don’t have the opportunity for distance on a small pasture or pen, so it’s important for the dogs to understand the concept of giving them the space they need to acclimate, and eventually become familiar with their new surroundings. Yamir and Harley did a great job, but Bella will be going back in just to keep an eye on things for awhile.
Just be warned, for some reasons, the questions were edited out so it sounds a little like I’m just arbitrarily jumping fromThanks so much to Sean and Bulldog Social Club for taking an interest in the breed.
The Stars are now 6 weeks old and have graduated from their puppy pen. They are now spending their days with mom, some of the other pack members and the sheep. This is a very important learning experience for them, as they learn to live in a larger space, and to interact with other pack members and of course, the livestock. I really believe these weeks spent with other pack members, livestock, poultry, and children on a regular basis is why our puppies are so confident and ready to learn when they arrive at their new homes. Because they’re way too young to spend nights out, of course they do still go back to their pen in the evening at feeding time. Here are some still photos and videos along with their 6 week individual photos, enjoy!
Cabo and Bakira’s litter is 8 weeks old today. I can’t believe they’ll be leaving for their new homes in just two more weeks. Just in time for Bella and Cabo’s litter to arrive around February 13th. No pups are available unless today’s ultrasound indicates more than 12 puppies(I really hope not!!😳). However, Tomas recently achieved a really excellent PennHip rating, so I will likely have a Tomas x Nellie litter later this year. Anyway….here are some photos, and a short, after breakfast video of the pups and Bakira and their buddy Owen the Corgi getting ready to head out with our ewes and lambs.
Lambs can be pretty obnoxious. Especially when the lamb is a single with no other lambs to play with. The obvious answer is to pick on one of the dogs. In this first video, our two week old ram lamb decided to pick on Tomas. Tomas, who is normally a very patient soul, forgot himself for a minute and played back. This is not acceptable, and Bella who stepped into the role of dominant female and protector of puppies and lambs in Marcias absence, gave Tomas a gentle reminder.
Apparently, Tomas learned his lesson well and later that afternoon, decided to pass it on to 5 month old Dixie, who did a fabulous job of tolerating and moving away from the little monster lamb….she really didn’t deserve the reprimand he gave her at all, as her behavior was perfect. Tomas, obviously learned a lesson from Bella’s reprimand, now he just needs to be a little more judicious in handing out discipline.
I posted these two videos, and will actually be posting more for educational purposes. It’s easier to understand body language and behaviors when you can see them. Finally, here is a video of Harley and the same lamb. Harley seems to be very affectionate towards the lamb and many people will allow this behavior. I do not…with a puppy this age it is way too easy for this to escalate into more dangerous behaviors. I stopped the video to correct Harley before this could go any further. This is also why we cannot always depend on mentor dogs for training, and why puppies this age still need training and supervision.
This morning we woke up to find a new member of the flock. I didn’t have a breeding date for this ewe and didn’t expect her to lamb for another week because she just didn’t look that far along yet. It turned out she was just carrying a single. Besi, was dozing near the fence line, and Rylie and Nellie were in the puppy pen with Dixie, Opie and Harley. This left Bella and Tomas in charge, as Faith and Yamir are with goats and Cabo and Marcia are in lockdown on opposite sides of the property while Marcia is cycling. Bella is 15 months old and Tomas is only 13 months, they did an amazing job! See for yourselves….notice the calming signals these two young dogs are sending to this new mama and baby? This is not something I train into my dogs, and it shouldn’t take two years to get there. These dogs were never left in pens next to the stock, they were started indoors and introduced to our routines, taught basic obedience, and taken out and socialized. This is an instinct that comes from centuries of selective breeding. It cannot be destroyed by bringing your puppy indoors, and bonding with it. Training and socializing will not ruin it. To the contrary, it will make a better guardian. We as breeders must preserve and promote these traits always by continuing to take temperament and instinct into consideration. Thank you Natasha Prudnik and Luis Martin Lopez for producing such fabulous dogs❤️
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.