Two weeks ago I wrote about how we’d started Elliot’s “hen training“. Well it’s still going on, we’re taking things slowly because while Elliot is a natural livestock guardian and he’s great around the sheep, we weren’t sure how he’d behave around the hens. Being a rescue dog it’s possible he’s had to scavenge small animals including birds during his early months on the streets. Rushing the hen training just wouldn’t be the right thing to do in his case. And anyway, building his “hen friendly neural pathways” takes time. We also wanted the hens to get used to Elliot as these things work both ways. If Elliot and the hens are to get along, they both need to be used to each other’s presence.
It’s four weeks into the training, ten minutes a day of bringing him into the orchard, throwing corn down for the hens and bringing them a tiny bit closer each time.
This week the hens are about one meter away from Elliot which is good progress. The atmosphere remains calm and relaxed. Elliot continues to show the right kind of interest, not fixating, just looking. He’s showing all the right signs of being a good hen friend, but we’re going to keep going with the training until we can have the hens running right up and around him while he remains calm and relaxed. The hens must always be higher status than Elliot, even if they’re in his space, Elliot must respect them.
Now that the sheep have accepted Elliot and he can join us off-lead in amongst them, we have turned our attention to teaching him how to be around our hens. The hens wander around freely in the orchard and up until now Elliot’s not been allowed into the orchard because of this. The orchard is the hens’ domain but we’d like to be able to extend Elliot’s freedom and allow him into the orchard too, so it’s important he learns how to behave around the hens. As with the sheep training, George (our other rescue Anatolian) will be the main teacher, we’ll just be there to guide him.
So, a couple of weeks ago or so, we began “Operation Hen Training”. The training itself is simple but has to be repeated every day and preferably with Elliot in a relaxed mood. With this in mind we thought a good time to do it would be directly after his mid-morning walk.
The idea is we take Elliot into the orchard, lie him down in the “relax” position and then bring the hens in, not too close, but not too far. Both the hens and Elliot will need to be aware of each other’s presence but not be spooked by it.
Elliot isn’t allowed to look at the hens, not at first. After a bit he’s allowed to look, but not fixate. If he fixates, we distract him.
We repeat this for a few minutes every day and bit by bit we bring the hens in a little closer. Eventually we’d like to have the hens running all around Elliot and both hens and Elliot calm in each other’s presence.
A small side note, we’ve had to approach the hen training cautiously because during Elliot’s first weeks with us, Clippy (top hen), accidentally found herself in Elliot’s play paddock. We were throwing a ball for Elliot and he was running after it when out of the blue, Clippy popped out from under a hedge. Elliot thought a hen much more fun than a tennis ball and ran after her at full pelt and Clippy ended up between his jaws. Fortunately we managed to dive in and rescue her and the story ended well.
However, Clippy remained wary of Elliot and whenever she spotted him walking past she sounded the alarm (very loud squawking).
We’ve not forgotten the incident and nor has Clippy or Elliot, but we’re hoping that with the right approach we can still go ahead and get Elliot to the point where he behaves respectfully around the hens.
So for the last two weeks or so we’ve been going into the orchard every day along with George. Adrian puts Elliot into his relaxed position and watches his body language and where he looks. I scatter corn nearby and the hens come in and peck away at the corn, all the while with Elliot lying just a few meters away.
On the first day we did this, Clippy was very cautious and stayed much further away than the other hens. When we got up to go, the sight of Elliot standing up was too much for her and she squawked for all she was worth.
On the second day Clippy decided Elliot was less of threat and the call of the corn was too strong. She followed the other hens in, and although she kept her distance, she didn’t sound the alarm and everything remained calm.
The chicks are the bravest, they come in quite close albeit under the watchful eye of their mum. The chicks haven’t learnt about danger yet so we’re keeping our eye on them too. There is a lot at stake so we’re taking the hen training slowly and carefully.
We’ve been repeating this daily and each day we’ve been able to bring the hens in a tiny bit closer.
It’s slower progress than the sheep training, but we’re confident we’ll get there. So far Elliot has been calm and not shown the wrong kind of interest in the hens. And the hens have been learning that Elliot isn’t a threat.
We’ll write another blog post with a progress update soon.
I had a brilliant day today, this morning I was allowed off lead in amongst the sheep for the first time! It was great to be able to walk down the hill with my pals free and easy without the lead getting in the way. The sheep were walking to the wooden house in the field because it was hot. The sheep don’t like the heat. I don’t mind the heat because I come from a place called Turkey.
This afternoon I was let off my lead again so I spent some time with the boss sheep Selene who I like a lot. Selene was the first sheep to lick my face last week when I was in training. I feel happy around Selene, she reminds me of my mum. You can see Selene in the main picture of this story.
Tues 19th July
Today was a hot day again and felt like that place I used to live called Turkey. In Turkey they don’t have long grass. I like long grass, I like running through it, it’s one of my favourite things. Today we went over to the sheep who were in their wooden house. I didn’t get to say hello because they wouldn’t come out so I hung around with George. My girl human went to fiddle with some fencing. On the way back I did some zoomies and then I sat on a hill. I like sitting and watching, it’s another one of my favourite things.
Wed 20th July
One of the sheep who is called Shelby needed some help today. My girl human didn’t pay me much attention so I sat and watched. She led Shelby into a pen. Shelby’s nose was covered with flies. My girl human got a bottle of white spray and sprayed it all over Shelby’s nose. When she came out the pen I wanted to lick her but I wasn’t allowed. I didn’t mind, that white spray smelled funny.
Later on, myself and my whole pack went back into the field. I love going out with my whole pack, it’s one of my favourite things. George and I sniffed some smells in the grass while the boy human pulled out tall, spiky plants with purple flowers on top. My girl human put Shelby into a pen again and stuck a needle into her bottom, yikes!
Then we walked back and the sheep followed us, I love walking with the sheep, it reminds me of who I am, a Turkish shepherd dog. Walking with the sheep is one of my other favourite things.
Thurs 21st July
Today I followed the girl human around the fields while she opened and closed some gates. I got bored so I did some zoomies around the sheep. I was flying around in circles when my girl human called my name. Before I could decide whether I wanted to go back, my legs started to run towards her. I don’t know how that happened but I got a biscuit so I didn’t mind. Then we went into a different field so I could finish my zoomies but I didn’t want to run anymore so we went back to the first field to look at the sheep again. I didn’t know what to do so I pretended to be a sheep. Then we went back to the house.
Friday 22nd July
This morning on the walk it felt cool and fresh. George told me he likes the cool weather, he doesn’t like the heat even though he’s from a sunny place called Greece. George ran off as soon we’d done our “sits” and “downs”. I stayed with my girl human until we got to the sheep. Then I sat down down and scratched an itch. After that I sniffed around in the grass while my girl human went to check on Shelby. I could see from where I was that Shelby’s nose was better, my eyes can see very far. Then we went into a field with trees in it and long grass and I felt a zoomie coming on so off I went. Doing zoomies is another one of my favourite things.
Saturday 23rd July
I like it when my humans ask me to “sit”. Each time I sit I get a biscuit. This morning when we got to the gate George and I sat and we got a biscuit. George stayed in a sit but I got up and waited for my girl human to say “sit” again and give me another biscuit. But nothing happened. I felt a funny feeling in my brain. I wanted a biscuit and I wanted to go to the sheep but my girl human waited and I didn’t know what to do so I just stood there. After a long time I sat down and my girl human opened the gate and called us through. We did another “sit” at the other side of the gate and this time I copied George and I stayed in my sit. My girl human shut the gate and then she put on a funny netty hat. I’ve seen my humans wear those hats before, they wear them when there are tiny flies about which bite. I don’t mind flies, I’m from Turkey where there are lots of flies.
When we got to the sheep they were in their wooden house again. My girl human let me do my own thing. I decided to look for some sheep droppings. My girl human was looking for sheep droppings too. She was sweeping them up and putting them in a pile. Then my girl human called Shelby over and looked at her nose again. She put Shelby in a pen and stuck another needle in her bottom, eek!
Sunday 24th July
This morning it was raining, I don’t like the rain. I wanted to stay in my bed but I also wanted to see the sheep in the field. My brain didn’t know what to do with these two thoughts. I was pleased when my girl human took charge. She called me and George and we went into the rain. I started to enjoy myself and I noticed there were different smells in the air. I saw a small green creature on the ground with bendy legs. This time I sat by the gate quickly. My girl human looked happy. She opened the gate and George and I went through into the field. I was pleased when she unclipped my lead because the rain was making my ears tickle and I felt a shake coming on. Shaking is one of my favourite things, when I do a shake all the water flies off around me and makes a funny sound like “brrrrr”.
The sheep were in a different field today. We walked up a hill to get to them. When we got there my girl human let me do my own thing. I decided to introduce myself to Yssi. Yssi is one of the second in command to the boss sheep Selene. The other second in command sheep is called Ursi. I know about these things. Dogs are the same. Everyone has their place. My girl human looked for Shelby. She gave her some brown pellets to eat from her pocket. My legs walked towards her and my nose went into her pocket but my girl human walked away. Shelby still had a funny spot on her nose. I wanted to lick it but I wasn’t allowed.
Then we went back to the house a different way. There were lots of tall plants to walk through and my girl human was having trouble finding the path. George and I used our noses to find the path. Humans’ noses are not very good at smelling. This is one of the things I have noticed as a dog.
As you may have read in Training our rescue dog Elliot and introducing him to the sheep, Elliot has been with us a few weeks and is slowly being trained in the key commands of sit, down and recall. As a farm, we also have to introduce him to our livestock, our sheep and our hens. Our approach combines dog psychology with a hint of training.
One of the reasons we chose this breed, Anatolian Shepherd (aside from already having one), is that they are bred to guard livestock. This means their instincts should be in all the right places when it comes to sheep. Nevertheless, introductions need to be managed carefully for two reasons; first we need to check that Elliot’s attitude towards sheep is as it should be and second, we need to let the sheep know he’s not a threat.
Early indicators were that Elliot would be just fine. He was interested in the sheep, but not fixated. Also, we heard from his foster carer that he had protected a lamb that had strayed into their dog enclosure. All looked good on that side.
The sheep, however, needed some convincing. While they have accepted George, their first reaction to Elliot was a bit on the panicky side. One in particular, Ymogen, verged on the edge of hysteria. It only takes one to set the rest off. As with humans, sheep have a fight or flight response. On seeing a predator, they will either gang up on it or run away. We needed to avoid both of these at all costs. The first could spook Elliot leading to an unpredictable reaction. The second could easily trigger his chase instinct. If either of these happened, the time for introductions would lengthen considerably.
The plan was simple. We walked Elliot by the sheep every day, stopping for a while with a fence in between. This gave the sheep time to assess Elliot and us a chance to assess Elliot. The breakthrough was Thursday last week. Elliot had gained my trust so I allowed him to sit at the fence and look at the sheep (hitherto he’d been put in a relax position). About 7 sheep lined up to examine him from a distance of around 3m.
After a few minutes, the flock matriarch, Selene, peeled off and came over. Without ceremony, she stuck her nose through the fence and sniffed him. He sniffed her back. They to’d a fro’d a while until she held position at which point Elliot licked her. At that point, I knew everything was going to be fine.
Later that day, I took Elliot to within 3m of the sheep but with no fence. All but two or three were lying down, chewing the cud. Ymogen was not impressed, but the rest looked at Elliot briefly and carried on. Yssi headed towards us with intent, but 2m away, turned round and flopped down, clearly unworried. Well pleased, I led the dogs away.
Next day, Nicole took Elliot to the fence and once again, Elliot and Selene exchanged a kiss. Later, she walked Elliot in the same field as the sheep but kept a few meters away. As hoped, 5 or 6 sheep came over. Elliot started to groom Witchy and licked her face all over before moving on to lick Selene’s face. He even licked one of their bottoms, something we encourage (George does this) as clean bottoms reduce the threat of flystrike.
Today (Saturday), Nicole sheared Vera, the last of the sheep to be sheared while Elliot, George and I were in the field next door pulling out thistles. Well, I pulled out thistles while the dogs lolled about, Elliot on his long lead tied to a fence post. The energy was calm and relaxed, perfect (aside from the pesky flies).
After Vera had had her trim and all the thistles were gone, we took Elliot right up to the flock again. All was fine, the best part being that Ymogen was the first sheep to come and say hello.
There is still much work to be done. All of the above is done with Elliot on a lead. Like all Anatolians, his response to recall is very much dependent on what he’s doing at the time. We are working daily on improving that. There are plenty of exciting distractions here including various wildlife trails (deer and badger), pheasants everywhere, hares and small furry animals galore. Last thing we want is Elliot clearing a stone dyke in pursuit of a deer, our recall command relegated to his to do list.
Also, we’ve postponed his introduction to the chickens as we have a brood of chicks (see Chicks Abroad). We have noticed Elliot is just ever so slightly more interested in birds than we’d like. It may be that, before being rescued, he hunted birds in order to survive. Who knows. Anyway, we’ll go through a similar process once the chicks are a little larger.
We’ve had our new dog Elliot for just over a month now. Being a rescue dog and coming from Turkey, up until now we’ve focussed mainly on settling him into his new environment and getting him used to his new “pack”, (us and of course George our resident dog).
Elliot’s young life has seen many changes, first he was rescued from the streets where he faced an uncertain future, then he lived in a rescue centre for a while, then a foster home, and then eventually he moved from Turkey to Scotland where he came to live with us. At only a year old he has experienced a lot of upheaval so we knew it would be important to take things slowly and help him to feel secure in his new environment. His training would therefore be approached in a very slow and gentle manner.
Furthermore, although to us humans his past was wobbly and his new home is, from our perspective, all he could ever wish for, this lovely new home wouldn’t necessarily be that great from Elliot’s point of view, at least not at first. To Elliot, it’s “yet another change”, more sights and smells to get used to and another pack to get to know. It would all be quite stressful for him to adjust and this would more than likely take a few months. We know from taking on new livestock that animals never truly settle until about the six month mark. They might give the appearance of being settled sooner than this, but there are little things about the body language and a look in the eye that lets us know they’re still finding their feet.
So with this in mind we were aware that during Elliot’s adjustment period we’d need to approach his training taking little baby steps.
By the same token, we knew it would be important to start Elliot’s training pretty much from day one. Being an Anatolian cross, he’s a big, powerful dog with bags of energy and a huge willingness to learn. We knew he’d need mental stimulation as well as regular walks, so during week one we started to work on his recall.
Anatolians are bred to be independent dogs so doing a speedy recall isn’t their best subject. They prefer to make their own minds up about things. Asking them to “come” is the equivalent of sending them an e-mail. They get the message but they ponder it for a while and then decide in their own time whether it’s worth wandering over.
True to form, Elliot’s first recalls fell on “deaf” ears. We always practiced it on a long lead so we could guide him in and reward him. For the first two weeks we had to guide him in all the time. Then, one day he started to get it. He now comes over to us and rarely has to be guided, sometimes he bounds over which is very heart warming. We have a lot of land here on the smallholding so in anticipation of him needing to be reached from further afield we’ve now replaced the vocal command with a whistle. He’s responding well to this and seems to prefer the whistle to our voices.
As he’s enjoying learning so much, we’ve introduced “sit”, “down” and “relax” to his repertoire. The “relax” position is really important, it is where Elliot lies on his side. We included this in anticipation of introducing Elliot to our livestock. We’d need him to be in the “relax” position when we take him in with the sheep and hens so that his energy would be right and he wouldn’t look threatening.
So, with his basic training ticking along so nicely we thought now would be a good time to introduce some sheep work to his routine.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be taking Elliot to an adjacent field to wherever the sheep might be grazing, and put him in the “relax” position for about ten minutes while the sheep mooch about near him but on the other side of the stock fence. George has an important job to do here, his job is to lie in a “down” next to Elliot to show him how it’s done. Elliot will be allowed to look at the sheep but not fixate. He’ll be on his lead and supervised at all times.
Yesterday was a big day for Elliot, his first day relaxing with the sheep! We had him in his “relax” right next to the sheep but behind a fence. Some of the sheep came up to investigate and Elliot stayed relaxed the whole time. He did brilliantly! The energy stayed calm, the sheep didn’t seem phased by him and we were more than happy with how it went.
Today we took him over again and repeated the process. We’ll be doing this every day for the next few weeks now. Later on we’ll repeat the process but with the hens.
There’s no way of telling how long it will be before we can let Elliot mooch around in amongst the sheep (on his lead), but we’ll know when we know. You can’t rush things like this, Elliot and the sheep both need to get used to each other’s presence and then start to build a relationship. We’re very much looking forward to seeing how he progresses over the next few weeks.
Just over a year ago, we lost Haribo, our collie, to diabetes. This left George as the only canine in the house. While it was tempting to rush out and find him a new friend, we held back. It sounds like a good idea but is, in reality, a double whammy. Dogs are affected by change more than death. Becoming a solo dog was a significant change for George given he’s always had other dogs around. But introducing a second dog would be further change and would likely cause even more stress.
On top of that, we have come to really like the Anatolian Shepherd breed. They have gentle natures, are good with sheep, good with hens and make excellent guard dogs. They like nothing better than sitting on a hill keeping watch in all directions. The problem is, they are rare in the UK. You can source pure bred puppies, but we are not big fans of pure bred dogs as many come with underlying health issues. Ideally, we’d find another George, a mix of (predominantly) Anatolian and other breeds.
In November, we found Animal Friends of Turkey (AFOT). They are a charity rescuing dogs that face uncertain, or should I say dire futures. We scrolled through the dogs looking for new homes and found a number of Anatolian Shepherds. We wanted to take them all, but realism prevailed and we decided to try and adopt Elliot.
We contacted AFOT and they proved very helpful and approachable. We went through the usual checks and Elliot was reserved for us. It took a while, paperwork and all that, but finally, Elliot set forth for the UK accompanied by 10 other dogs on 24th May this year. That was on the Tuesday. He arrived here on Sunday morning after an astonishing drive from southern Turkey. His first act, after a short walk to introduce him to George was to lay a large poo in George’s bed.
As you might expect, he was a little stressed from all the change, but in true doggie style, he hid it well. George was quite keen to make friends, but Elliot barely gave him a glance. He did, however, show much wariness towards me. This is not unusual, most dogs that have experienced abuse have experienced it from men. It did not take me long to win him over, helped by my giving him his breakfast.
Over the day, Elliot visibly relaxed. He had the odd moment, howling like a wolf to try and rally his now distant pack. But all in all, he settled in very quickly. He is also very intelligent, picking up some of our guidance with only one or two prompts. We took him out for a longer walk in the afternoon and made a start on recall training, a treat given for taking a single step towards us.
At one point, we passed near the sheep. They were somewhat nonplussed at seeing an unknown predator and gathered into a tight bunch before heading over to investigate. We calmly walked Elliot away. He turned to look at the onrushing stampede, tucked into a nearby blade of grass before continuing unperturbed. Formal sheep introductions have yet to take place (best not to do too much at once), but we are confident they will go well.
Nicole decided to stay downstairs overnight and set up the futon in the living room. It turned out to be excellent forethought as Elliot had a panic attack in the middle of the night. He’d probably woken up and wondered where he was, everything being unfamiliar. Nicole was on hand and her calming influence meant it soon passed.
Today, Elliot has been a revelation. We have set aside a paddock for him to run in and we took him there first thing this morning. The sheep were in the paddock next door and they gathered to inspect him through the gate. They were a little nervous, but as before, Elliot showed no threat and, after a short exchange of glances. I led him away.
By now, Elliot had acknowledged George, but George was playing hard to get. We took them to the paddock to see if they would play. It would be Elliot’s first time off the lead since he got here.
First off, Elliot, when called would coming loping over to us, something George has not mastered in his nine years with us. It was a heart-warming experience. However, surrounded by new smells and experiences, Elliot showed little inclination to play despite our best efforts to mimic play bowing. But all of a sudden, he was off, charging round the paddock like a greyhound. He has incredibly long legs. In a flash, George joined in and they bounded around together. They also took turns to lie on their backs in play mode, legs moving as if they were riding an upside down bike, a real sign of mutual trust.
Elliot is going to be a great addition to our household.
After eight months of writing, re-writing, editing, re-reading and proof checking, I am pleased to say I have finally published my second book “Dogs Talk – Four Dogs Tell Their Stories”. The original idea actually came from a journal kept a few years ago by a dog called Kika.
Kika came to stay with us while her owner was in hospital. Kika had many issues and was what could best be described as a badly behaved dog. I say this as an experienced dog psychologist who has helped a number of problem dogs over the years.
In an attempt to explain some of the principles of dog psychology to her owner without sounding bossy or patronising, Kika kept a journal. The idea was that Kika’s explanations, from a dog’s perspective, would help Kika’s owner better understand Kika’s needs. By doing so, Kika would become both happier and better behaved. I added a number of useful pointers at the back. It was called the Kika Chronicles.
Over the years, I have had a number of dogs, each a rescue dog and each with it’s own set of issues. Building on the idea of the Kika Chronicles, I wrote three sections, one for each dog, relating their experiences on moving in with me. Each is written as though it is the dog telling its own story.
The three dogs are quite different in terms of breeds, needs, issues and temperament. Each presented a unique challenge. All benefitted and became happier and more balanced dogs.
We have two dogs here, George and Haribo and both have a number of pet names. For example, George is often called “G” and Haribo “H”. Haribo also gets called “Bot”. This is a shortened version of “Haribot” which was spawned during the period Britain had the “maybot” as prime minister.
Anyway, recently, Haribo(t) has taken to leaving us presents in the night. These are not pleasant presents, in fact they are night time poos. These have been coming in various sizes, textures and smells, all spread across a wide area (as collies like to do) and all of which are not a lot of fun to clean up. Not every night, but pretty much one night in two. As you can imagine, we didn’t take photos.
We tried the most likely approaches of which, top of the list, was a good worming. A good wormer was procured from the vet but it only seemed to help for a week or so. We wormed him again with much the same result. The night time poos continued to adorn the morning living room floor.
We switched both dogs’ meals so that they got their large meal in the morning and a snack in the evening. Still the poos came. We were scratching our heads. Haribo is only eight so it shouldn’t be an age related issue.
Finally, the penny dropped. Haribo had become quite overweight a while back and so his food was reduced. While doing wonders for his shape and fitness, his tummy is still in denial. As such, Haribo has honed his scavenging skills. Now, we knew he had a pretty stronge urge to eat poo. He likes sheep poo the best, but any poo will do. Because of this, we had been keeping an eye on him. However, like most dogs, he knows exactly when he’s not being watched. As soon as he thinks the coast is clear, he’ll scavenge a bit of poo. Leave him in a down, turn your back, wait a few seconds and turn back and he’ll still be in a down. However, it won’t be where you left him. He’ll have shuffled over a bit, scoffed a quick poo and will be lying there licking his lips with a “butter wouldn’t melt” expression.
So, we tried an experiment – we put him on a lead. That might sound like no big deal but normally the dogs get to roam freely when we walk through our fields. Not that freely, truth be told, as Haribo’s partner in crime, George, also has a bit of a scavenging habit, but that’s another story. Anyway, by keeping Haribo close, we have managed to block his poo eating efforts. And it has worked, we are now getting up in the morning to a clean living room floor. Bliss! Also, Haribo likes being on the lead. Well, he’s a collie and they like being given something to do even if it’s just an instruction to walk next to you.
The whole episode has spawned a new musical ditty, often to be heard being sung around the house – “no shitee in the nightee”
Haribo came to live with us a few years ago. He came to us unwanted by his previous owner and with a list of issues over two pages long. Most of those issues disappeared fairly quickly, but one endured. Haribo was very scared of dogs he didn’t know and this led to a fear aggression response. His coping strategy was to get the first attack in.
This made walking a bit of a problem, but as we were aware of this, we were able to control him. Over time and under George’s wing (George is our Anatolian Shepherd), Haribo’s general behaviour improved, but the fear aggression stayed. In the last few months, we have noticed that Haribo just seems to have become more relaxed. He has a very stable life here and plenty of space. He and George are best mates and he also likes Maga, the collie who lives nearby.
Last weekend, a neighbouring cottage had visitors coming and they were bringing a dog. A small terrier. She’s a very relaxed dog, they told us. Hmm, the words ‘terriers’ and ‘relaxed’ don’t often appear in the same sentence. When I worked as a dog behaviour consultant, most of my clients were owners of small terriers. Anyway, I said I’d manage the introductions. On Friday afternoon, I picked up the collar and lead, but I couldn’t find Haribo anywhere. In the end I went to the neighbour’s cottage. Both George and Haribo really like our neighbours and Haribo often camps in their garden where it’s cool and shady.
Sure enough, there he was, fast asleep in their porch. It turns out they had already met, Haribo and the terrier that is, and nothing had happened. Just a small growl from the terrier, apparently (no surprises there). We are amazed. The first time Haribo has met a strange dog and not gone to level 10 in an instant. He has done well.
His second achievement is that he has lost somewhere in the region of 7Kg. Around the turn of the year, we noticed he was looking a bit porky so we cut his food a bit. It’s our fault really, feeding him too much and not noticing the him slowly getting fatter. Nicole discovered some lumps so we took him to the vet. He’d already lost some weight but he was still around 7Kg overweight. So, we cut his food a bit more. The fatty lumps turned out to be benign and now have disappeared. We weighed him again recently and he’s down to 28kg, much closer to his target weight of around 25kg.
He also has much more energy and is definitely enjoying his walks more.
So well done Haribo. Given one of his previous issues was raiding bins, it’s gratifying that even with his diet, this never happens. In fact, we can leave the animal room open (where we store animal feed including dog biscuits) and they never help themselves.
Every now and then, a story pops up somewhere about dogs and sheep. It’s pretty much always bad news, sheep have been killed by someone’s pet dog. In fact, the biggest threat to sheep is the domestic dog. It happens round here sometimes too. To be honest, one of the reasons I gave up working as a dog behavioural therapist was that I got fed up with dog owners’ unshakeable belief that their pooches could do no wrong.
Anyway, our dogs have been conditioned to respect sheep. George is an Anatolian Shepherd and his breed was created to guard livestock. Haribo is a collie and should be inclined to round them up, but has never shown any inclination to do so.
George is actually very good with the sheep. Given the chance he will groom them, licking their faces and ears and even their backsides. He particularly likes a messy sheep’s bottom! Haribo tends to give them a bit of a wide berth. I think he got butted a while back (before the sheep had got to know him), but he’s getting a bit more confident with them now.
One of our ewes, Ursi, now seeks George out whenever he’s over there. They have developed quite a strong friendship and it’s lovely to see, It is George and Ursi shown in the picture.
So it shows, dogs and sheep can go together. If the dog owners know what they are doing.
That said, when we take our dogs for walks in other places, we always have them on leads around others’ livestock. George and Haribo may be fine with our sheep, but our sheep don’t run away from them. Dogs are hunters and if something runs, they will instinctively go after it and all the training is forgotten in an instant.
I have never forgotten a moment when I was a teenager in Edinburgh. I was heading to the bus stop and passed a huge St Bernard sitting in a driveway. It watched me walk past with rapt attention. Everything was fine until I saw my bus coming and had to break into a run. As I ran to the bus stop, I heard a noise behind me and turned to see said St Bernard hurtling after me. I stopped and swore at it (basically challenged it in dog speak) and it froze mid stride. I slunk round the corner, sprinted and just caught my bus. I looked out the window and the St Bernard was still standing there, mid stride, looking mildly puzzled.
Any dog, no matter how well trained, has a very strong chase reflex.