I'll be bringing home one or two bummer lambs in the next day or so. Any
suggestions on introducing it (them) to the dogs to maximize the dogs'
guardian instincts? There's lots of livestock around us, but these are
firsts for the dogs.
Thanks in advance!
PS Beau especially cannot stand having "strange" animals on our property.
When we bring new animals home we make sure to introduce them to the dogs
as soon as we get out of the car--it's the first thing we do. If it is a
small animal (a baby of some sort) we hold it and lean down so the dogs can
sniff it all over. I usually pet the animal and keep telling the dogs,
"Gentle," and talking quietly to the animal and the dogs the whole time.
It gives them the idea that this animal is MINE. If they start to get too
excited or snap or anything, I immediately pull the animal out of reach and
rebuke them sharply. When they settle down, I lean down with the animal
and start over.
When Jacob was younger, I sometimes took 15-20 minutes at
this. Now, it takes just a few minutes and he's usually adopting the
animal within a minute or less. The other dogs follow his lead. I usually
know when Jacob has taken ownership when he starts to warn the other dogs
off by growling at them. He seems to be telling them that this animal is
HIS and they better behave and not take liberties.
Most of the time, baby animals are not difficult (except poultry--that
takes a little more effort). The important thing is to give the dogs
plenty of opportunity to bond with them without giving them any
opportunities to injure them, either accidentally or on purpose. The first
few encounters are really important, and the dogs need to realize that they
are your partners in caring for this animal, and not that the animal is a
competitor for your attention.
Since your dogs have not really been exposed to livestock much, it may take
several sessions of introduction to start them thinking in the right
direction. I wouldn't give them any opportunities to be with the lambs
alone until you are sure they've got the idea. Be sure to include them in
caring for the sheep as much as possible, though, especially at feeding
time. Don't be afraid to whack them good if they try to take any nips and
don't ever allow them to chase or harass the lambs, even if it just looks
like dog play. If you have to, you can take them into the lamb pen for
short periods every day and make them lie down next to the babies, as close
as you can get them. Eventually, the excitement will wear off and they
will get the idea that they must be quiet and controlled around the sheep.
Given the genetic background of your dogs, I don't think you'll have much
Most herding wisdom tells you not to discourage your dogs from moving the
stock around, and to avoid this by confining the dogs, not by rebuking
them. However, that is usually aimed at dogs that are solely herding dogs
(ie. border collies). With a dog that is both guardian and herder, it is
important that they never get in the habit of moving the stock unless there
is a reason to do so. If they view the stock only as something to move,
they will never really bond with them as a guardian. I try to prevent the
issue by not putting them in situations where they might be tempted to move
the animals around until they are settled enough in our routine that they
know what is expected--after that we rarely have a problem. However,
should the situation happen in spite of precautions, I don't hesitate to
tell the dogs "NO" very emphatically. So far, it has not curbed their
ability or desire to herd when the need presents itself. Our current pup,
Molly, has had a strong desire to intimidate and move the animals since she
was tiny. I never allowed her to bark and run at the goats, and sometimes
had to whack her rear and make her leave the pen when she wouldn't comply.
In spite of this, she was herding the babies to the bucket feeders at
feeding time before she was four months old--but ONLY when she was told.
Most importantly, she also settled down enough to bond with the goats, and
now cleans them up and "babies" them just like her dad does. Somehow, I
think these multi-purpose workers have the ability to differentiate in a
way that perhaps the single purpose dogs cannot. Of course, you may
discourage them from herding permanently if you end up having to rebuke
them too often, so it is important to avoid the situation if at all
Hope that gives you some helpful ideas.
March 17, 2000
We just had twin kids yesterday. We had a little buck and a doe. They are
so cute. We are expecting two does to kid probably next month and 3 litters
of puppies next month as well. It is a busy month and year for us.
Now to the question of introducing dogs to lambs. Have the lambs in a
separate pen where the dogs can get used to the lambs and the lambs to the
dogs. This should help with their guardian instincts.
We happened to have twin orphan goats in the house when we brought in our
male Pyr puppy. He took to guarding them in a hurry. He came off a sheep
farm. So the transition (sp) for him wasn't that hard.
I hope that this helps.
Thanks everyone for your excellent suggestions and comments about the
lambs. I'll keep you posted on our progress!
"Be sure the lambs are vaccinated for overeating disease."
Technically, it's called enterotoxemia, and the vaccine is the toxoid for
enterotoxemia type C and D. You can also get it in a preparation that
includes tetanus (a good idea) that is called CDT. It should be available
at any feed store that has supplies for goats or sheep.
Well, Caesar and Brutus the lambs are here (they were born on the Ides of
March); the dogs are acting very differently. Beau is VERY excited, too
excited, I think. Dovey keeps looking at them and skirts around. She
sniffed them but seems unsure about it all. Perhaps Beau is giving her a
message I'm not reading (like, "they're MINE!"?). So we followed Sandra's
advice and are keeping it controlled and hopefully Beau will settle down.
He's licked them alot around the ears and bottom. But too excited. I'll
no doubt be asking for more advice over the next day or two-
MARCH 18, 2000
Beau's behavior sounds very promising. It's normal for him to be really
excited at this stage--it's all new to him and he's pretty young. It
sounds like you're handling it just right. If you get a chance, it might
be helpful to give Dovey a chance to bond with them when Beau isn't around.
We did that for Ellen when the new baby goats started to arrive and got
her hooked. She was so determined after that, Jacob finally grudgingly let
her participate in caring for them. We had the same experience with Lucy
last year. Molly was pushy enough that she didn't need any help. With
the more submissive dogs though, once the alpha dog has intimidated them,
it may take 10 or 15 minutes of encouragement in the alpha dog's absence to
overcome their hesitancy.
Dotty's dogs are Beau and Dovey. Beau is by my Traveler, and Dovey is by Sandra's Jacob. Jacob and Traveler are littermates.
Sandra's Lucy is Beau's littermate. Sandra's Ellen is Dovey's littermate.
Yes, Beau is so excited but it's getting better today. He keeps looking at
me like, "What took you so long to get these for me?!" He wants to lick
them all the time. We have them in an add-on to the house for now and
everytime Beau heard them bleat or get up last night he started whining and
came to wake me up. Right now he's lying in front of them while they sleep.
I think he has those protective instincts!
We did let Dovey have some time alone with them last night and she was
tail-wagging and sniffing too. She also did the "let's play" posture and
barked at them. I think you're right about her hesitancy being related to
Beau being top dog.
Thanks again for the advice,
September 4, 2000
I gather that ES have a very strong tendency to
adopt livestock into their "pack", and a strong protective instinct for
their pack to match. Thus livestock become something to protect rather
than something to just tolerate or worse "prey" (like the possum). Is
This certainly describes what we have experienced with our dogs.
Unfortunately, poultry isn't as readily adopted as other stock (I'm not
sure why) and for us it has taken some concentrated effort to accomplish
that. Maybe with other dogs it would be easier, but I don't know. It
seems as though most dogs view poultry as prey. The ES (or at least some
ES) and similar dogs (some collies for example) are more likely to be able
to change their perspective on this, while dogs without that guardian
instinct will simply learn to leave the hens alone and could care less
about them beyond guarding the territory where they are.
Saying that the stock becomes something more than just a thing to be tol
erated describes it well. Elaine mentioned the story about Jacob and the
mouse--the funny thing about that was his attitude. He acted like that
mouse was his baby, wagging his tail and nosing it and looking for all the
world like he was smiling at the thing! He acted like he really liked
it. In contrast, rodents out in the field don't get such royal
treatment. One gulp about does it.
We purchased a calf a few years ago that arrived at the farm very sick.
Jacob immediately recognized that something was wrong and set himself to
guard that baby. He was never far away from it for the three days that it
lived, cleaning it up (ever seen a dog try to clean up a scouring calf?
Yuck!), guarding it from the other dogs, etc. When the calf died, he
became very depressed and literally drooped. It took him several days to
become reconciled to the fact that the calf was dead so that we could
dispose of it. This kind of behavior is unmistakeably guardian instinct at
work! It is as if the stock literally become part of the dog's family and
there is often an obvious emotional attachment.
I have only tried it with baby birds. It may be possible with a mature
flock, but it would probably be a lot more difficult. Theoretically, once
the babies are part of the pack, they will remain so even when they grow
up. The "nurturing" attitude of the dogs definitely changes when the
stock/poultry are no longer babies and there is more of a dominance
attitude, just like there would be for a puppy in the pack who grows up.
This dominance attitude must be channelled to ensure the safety of the
stock, since a dominance struggle can easily injure small stock, especially
poultry. All this to say that there is still often a need to enforce the
"leave it alone" rule, even when the poultry is accepted as pack.