Boris and Petra became fast friends. I wish I could say the same for the goats. You see, our goats had never lived with dogs before. Suddenly, I’ve thrown these little furry creatures into their territory. Right away I realized that was a mistake.
A dominant doe rammed Boris as hard as she could, warning the fluffy furball he was not welcome. Boris shook it off, but his feelings were definitely hurt. He was confused as to why his “family” didn’t accept him. Luckily, Uncle Huppy was there to help and loved having new playmates at the barn.
I quickly realized, I needed to keep the puppies away from the older does for their own safety. Luckily, the younger goats were much kinder to their new guardians, allowing them to be around the very animals they were learning to protect. With livestock guardian dogs it’s best for them to grow up around the animals they will eventually guard. In our case, it was goats and chickens… more on the chickens later.
The puppies were so easy at this age. They were gentle and respectful of all the other species. Livestock guardian dogs are meant to have no prey drive, while also being very territorial. Of course, at their young ages, the pups were far from protectors. In order to keep them safe from the nearby predators, mainly coyotes, we kept them locked up in the barn. They were only allowed out while I was present.
The dynamic duo grew like weeds. My little “lions” were gaining in size and in confidence. They each started to develop unique personalities. This is when the fun really began. The puppies were bigger and needed more freedom. I’ve never kept dogs outside, so, the unsupervised part terrified me. Would they get out of the fence? Would someone steal them? Would they get hurt? I adored them and I was full of worry.
Well, nothing prepared me for what was to come… mud dogs!
They were huge puppies who got to live outside. It was party time for this duo. They didn’t care about the goats or chickens, instead they just wanted to roll in mud all day long. As a dog groomer, this made me want to pull my hair out! But then I reminded myself, these giant puppies are dogs and this was fun to them! It was the last time Boris ever showed his white coat.
I made sure we had excellent perimeter fencing and even lined it with an invisible fence for extra security, in order to teach the pups to respect the fence. When I couldn’t find Boris, I would just look for clay areas where he was camouflaged. They were always having a blast, but when would they start to guard?
Around 5 months of age is when things changed. They finally cared about the animals more than mud! They cared so much, they “played” with a chicken until it died. I remember being SO upset with them and shocked. How could my livestock guardians hurt what they are protecting? It must have been a fluke. Nope, it happened two more times. Feeling defeated and sad again, I locked the chickens up for their safety.
I even complained to other farmers and their breeders about my “killer” puppies. They all reminded me Boris and Petra were still puppies and that it’s hard to resist a squawking toy running away from you. I knew I had to be patient and keep them a safe distance from the chickens, for now. When they weren’t playing with Uncle Huppy, they needed to be “working”…. or so I thought. I put them with the goats more often. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t.
Episode III coming soon! More about Karakachans, here.