Sunday, August 30, 2009

Luke Skywalker & Princess Leia have arrived

When clients tell me they have littermates, I inwardly cringe. I've seen lots of problems with sibling puppies raised together as pets. Most of the time, the puppies are so bonded with each other, they don't give a hoot about the humans in the household and in worst cases, they have a very hard time being separated from each other.

So it went against everything I preached to bring home these two pups from the same litter. However, these guys aren't going to be pets in the house. They are livestock guardian dogs and will live with the alpacas, llama and chickens.

This is such a new experience for me. I've never had a dog this young. (They are 8 weeks old). I've never had a dog that lived outside. We step up a stall for them in the barn and puppy proofed it. When the barn door is opened they have access to a play yard all to themselves where they can see the other animals, but not interact directly yet. Friday night when we brought them home, I walked out to the barn at least 6 times to be sure they were OK - (they were).

Their calmness amazes me. Yes, they play like puppies, but even when they play there is a seriousness about them that I've never seen in another breed. They are curious about the alpacas, but not too afraid. No barking or darting around like I would expect from a pup. I walked them around the chicken coop and they did well. There's no instinct to chase even when the chickens run. That's a HUGE difference from Border Collies and Greyhounds!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Llama

I didn't want a llama. Had no desire to have an animal that big. I was just getting used to handling my little alpaca boys and llamas are much larger animals. Actually, llamas are used as guardians for sheep, goats and alpacas. They sound an alarm and will try and herd their flock away from predators.

My hubby had his heart set on a llama and I couldn't say no. He is a very striking animal and his fleece is a pretty light brown - another color to spin!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Livestock Guardian Dogs

When Chet made his first trip to Texas, he took 3 of our hens with him. They were living in the barn while the chicken coop was finished. One night when the barn door didn't get closed, a loose dog got in and killed 2 of them. The dog came back the next night trying to get in again.

Everyone we talked to about keeping alpacas in the area told us that we would have to have some sort of protection for them. After the chicken/dog incident, we decided to take action. Losing chickens was bad enough, but if a predator got to our alpacas, we'd never forgive ourselves.

After some research about livestock guardian dogs, we decided to adopt a puppy who would grow up and bond with our alpacas and chickens. We found some Anatolian Shepherd puppies in the area and went to meet them. We decided on getting 2 of them so they could have an appropriate playmate while they grow up - and not to play with the alpacas and birds.

Princess Leia (L) and Luke Skywalker (R) are 6 weeks old in this photo. They are very big puppies. Luke was the biggest in the litter; the breeder says he might be close to 150 pounds when he grows up. Leia was one of the smaller girls. We think they'll make a good defender team!

Clicker Training Alpacas

I was very excited to have another species to work on clicker training skills. Chickens and alpacas are a lot less forgiving than dogs. They don't have that "desire to please" like most dogs do. Targeting is a very simple skill that is the basis for more advanced work and it gives me an idea of the animal's capabilities. Chip caught on right away and was ringing a bell on cue after just a week of target training.

Here's a short video:

Beginning the Blog

So many people have asked for photos and information about our newest critters, that I've decided it's a good excuse to set up a blog. I've been thinking about it for quite a while, but never had the time to actually do it. Diana Hansen gave me my motivation to "GET TO IT!!" as she so gently put it, so here we go!

A few months ago we were generously gifted with 2 young alpaca boys. Chet and I had thought about getting alpacas some years ago after visiting a farm in Southern AZ, but after we saw the price tags, we reconsidered. Alpacas are gentle, docile animals with fabulous fleece and we jumped at the chance to adopt these guys even though we knew we'd be moving in August. The boys have made the trip from Marana AZ to Keller TX and are loving the green pasture at their new home.

Chip (with the white face) is the more outgoing of the pair. Choco is a little more cautious about things. I have been having such a good time working with them - more on training to come.