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.