Thursday, February 09, 2017
Central Asian Arrivals
But these pups are a little different than any of the livestock guardian dogs we’ve had in the past. We’ve used multiple breeds, and had dogs that were white, tan, red, and brown, but never black and white. The only black and white dogs our sheep have ever experienced are herding dogs.
The job of a herding dog is to move the sheep around, so the sheep move away from herding dogs. But the job of a guardian dog is to stay with the sheep and keep them protected.
When our sheep flock met the CAO pups, they immediately moved away from them as they would in response to a herding dog. It wasn’t just the color, but the size of the pups – the same size as herding dogs.
The pups are siblings, a tri-colored male named Omar and a female named Taji. Even at only a few months old, it is apparent that they both have strong but different guardian traits.
Taji is a communicator, able to “read” how others are responding. She looked at the sheep from a distance, then put her nose to the ground as if investigating something interesting, and moseyed her way closer to the sheep. Her careful approach ensured the sheep didn’t flee, and when the sheep started to back away, Taji sat down on the ground looking away from them. It was a clever ploy, and it worked. Several of the sheep gradually made their way closer to investigate as she maintained her submissive posture.
Omar, on the other hand, has the soul of a warrior, and when he detects any change in his world, he boldly charges forward to investigate. His posture is always head-up, tail-up. That’s how he tried to introduce himself to the sheep, which of course didn’t work. He used the same attitude with the burros, and after investigation, the burros decided to let him live, although one burro was tempted to take him out. (These introductions were all supervised by humans and other guardians, so it wasn’t as though a strange dog had simply appeared among the flock.)
While the pups are given supervised time out with the flock every day (despite a winter of record snowfall), most of their time is spent in the yard or large outdoor kennel. We feed hay along the fences so that the pups and sheep spend plenty of time face-to-face time, with the fences separating them. That way, the sheep can watch the pups, and do nose-to-nose exploration from their safe locations.