A tale of two puppies

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dogs in the woods
Little Reina already takes after her grandmother, Bridger. She is night and day different from Allanon, her half brother. (Courtesy of Farei Kennels)

Oftentimes, I see people buy a livestock guardian dog puppy and, somewhere around the third month of ownership, go back and buy another because the first one is doing so well.

If you didn’t have the good fortune to grow up with siblings, I can assure you that logic does not hold water. Unless you’re talking about cupcakes, the likelihood that the second one will be the same as the first one is slim to none. I kept two puppies this year. I’m not only replacing dogs who are getting up there in age, I like to have a baseline for what I am producing. The mothers are half sisters, and I used the same stud on both.

One pup, two pups

Allanon is the quintessential easy puppy. When I label a pup easy or hard, I am not referring to livestock safety or guarding instinct. Those should be inherent. I’m talking about good citizenship skills. I teach basic obedience here and expect my dogs to behave in any and all situations.

Allanon’s energy levels are the lowest of the low even for a livestock guardian dog puppy — and he performs basic obedience, simply because I asked. The few times he has stepped out of line, it has only taken a verbal correction to get him back on the straight and narrow. He does not question the rules or why I ask him to do these things. Allanon accepts everything just as it is. Whether it’s walking slowly on the leash or being moved from pen to pen, or even coming indoors.

Reina is an entirely different story. Like my females before her, she is smart as a whip and already has opinions, even at her tender age. She has a tendency to question the rules and vocalize if she doesn’t understand or is frustrated by things that don’t go her way. Reina is also a problem solver. I sat watching her on the tether recently, while I was working on the gate. She got it caught on a small root, making it several feet shorter. Her first response was to tug at the end, trying in both directions to see if that helped. Still stuck. She tried biting and lifting the chain, without success, but in doing so, she noticed the root and moved to investigate.

Determining this as the source of the problem, she commenced to bite and dig until she had it broken off. With much excitement and prancing, she moved to the exact end of her tether to watch me work on the gate.

Double trouble

People are often under the impression that having two puppies means they will play with each other and stay out of trouble. I assure you, just as with children, the most well behaved puppy can find trouble when they have a co conspirator.

I keep my two pups apart most of the time, working with related adults in different areas. Allanon is already loose in the sheep pen, with his mother and aunt and various chickens that pick bugs for us. Reina is in the yard, with her grandmother and aunt and most of the rest of our flock. I’ll be introducing her to the goat pen soon to see how she does in there. They do have time to play — everyone needs that, even shepherds — but work time is spent separately.

I know some people would prefer the “Allanons” when it comes to choosing a livestock guardian, and he has an important place in our working pack. With Reina, it’s her grandmother, Bridger, I see most in her. It’s an aspect of her personality I’m pretty excited about. We have a heavy predator load, and it’s my girls who hold the line time and time again.

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