mosesandrams After Moses spent a few days with the two adult rams and showed little interest in them, it was time for the next step: introducing him to lambs. I am hoping that he is calm enough that I can integrate him into the sheep, which will allow me flexibility in where I put him. Then I won’t need Electronet to separate him from the sheep he’s guarding, like I currently need for Bronte.

I’ve been putting considerable thought into each step of the training process, because it’s so important to try to prevent the wrong things from ever getting started. Adding a lamb or lambs is a big step, because lambs frequently panic and run, which can incite the prey drive in even the mellowest of dogs. Even with careful monitoring, I knew there was some risk to this step. Lambs are somewhat fragile, and one playful “grip” from a big dog can severely injure a leg, if not kill a lamb.

mosesandlamb I pondered which lamb(s) to start with. It made sense to choose a low value lamb, just in case something went awry. And hmm, who is the lowest value lamb in the flock? Well, twenty-eight pound Kitchen Lamb, of course… So, sorry Kitchen Lamb, you had to be the sacrificial lamb for dog training, so to speak! 😀 The other advantage of Kitchen Lamb was that he is tame to dogs, so would not likely run and incite Moses’ prey drive. So after I finished my morning errands on Saturday, I put the little guy in with Moses and the rams, at the start of my three day weekend, when I’d have plenty of time to keep an eye on things.

And in fact, this went swimmingly. The lamb was uninteresting to Moses and the group of four laid around in each other’s company without incident. So by Monday it was time to graduate to the next level: more lambs.

I needed to move the ewe and lamb group into the far pasture anyway, so it was a good day to do a lot of sheep rearranging. It was a bit like Chinese checkers. First I tied up Bronte, this is always a necessary step before any sheep are on the move. I moved the adult rams and Kitchen Lamb into the Electronet square with the weaned ram lambs and let Moses loose in the pasture. Then I moved all of the troughs and mineral feeders with the ATV, while I had the gates open. Next I moved the ewes into the channel where the rams had been. I moved the Electronet to the far field, and moved the ewes into that. Then I moved the whole group of rams, and Moses, back into the channel. I did not use Maggie, so that Moses would not see a dog “chasing” the sheep, and also to keep the sheep’s level of calm as even as possible.

In the last step, things still got a little wild. The ram lambs were nerve-wracked by the change, and their mothers being out of sight for the first time. So they were darting around in a panic, unsure of where to go. And Moses came to realize, whooo,  look, they run when I chase them! So, not entirely good, but not entirely unexpected either. I don’t care whether it be a Chihuahua, a Poodle, or an LGD breed, all dogs have at least some predatory drive buried inside them. And, it comes out when a prey animal runs around hysterically, just begging to be taken out. 😉 MosesAndRamLambs But, one nice thing about Moses having been a former show dog and part-time house dog is, he knows what it means when I yell at him! 😀 This is different from Bronte, who merrily goes on with what she’s doing no matter how mad I get at her, because she has no clue what a correction means. So, some verbal scolding to Moses was enough for him to quit his sheep running and produce the desired “guilty” look of a dog who realizes he’d better backpedal quick ‘cuz he’s in trouble!

Once I got them all into the channel, things settled down. The ram lambs could see their mothers again, and the constrained space made it less likely for them to feel like they needed to split off and flee. And, I put the llama in there, for good measure. She will try to defend the sheep from a hassling dog. Though her attempts are weak, and Bronte just thinks they are funny, I figured Moses would be more intimidated by the llama. This is where his theorized close-up bad vision should come in handy. I figure to Moses, the llama’s big, black, blurry Loch Ness neck waving around in front of him will appear pretty frightening, and he’s not going to mess with that. And if she spits on him, I think that will also make an impression. 😉 He really seems to err on the side of conservatism when anything worries him at all, he is a self preservationist.

And, so far, this seems to be true. Later in the evening, we saw from the window that Moses was trying to pursue the lambs again. And the llama got right in his business, and he backed wayyy off! I checked on them this morning, and all seemed to be well. Here is what I like to see: calm…  MosesAndRamLambs2

Today I had a couple of moments of doubt and worry, wondering if I should have left them alone all day while I was at work. It’s tough to balance the need for progress and not too much messing around, with the need for caution and low risk. Hopefully it was the right decision!