Three Musketeers

Holly, Hope & Pups

In the last three years we have lost five of our adult livestock guardian herding dogs. This has seriously depleted our pack. Last fall Katya was born. This spring we welcomed three more pups.

The latter two look like identical twins at first, second and third glances. There are differences to the keen eye. Sirus has a tell-tale white V mark on his chest. The marks on their front paws are just barely different. Most of all though their personalities are different with one always being the leader of the way into new places and back home again. He is definitely the adventurous type yet he always knows how to return, thus his name. He is also a climber, scaling vertical walls and fencing. We’ve watched him do pull-ups to get over a fence, unusual upper body strength in a dog.

Sirius is more the cautious of the three and named for Serious Black and for the Dog Star. Both of them are tri-colored but predominantly black, something that is rare in our pack colorings. Even though they are black they’re starting to show the arrow on their tail of darker black fur.

Kit looks like a fox kit and is in the overall tri-colored K-series like Katya, Kita, Kia, Kavi, Kira and Katrina – thus his name. He started out a grey brown but his markings are beginning to darken and develop. He will likely look much like his father, grandmother and the rest of the K-dogs in our pack ancestry by the time he is full grown.

Spot the Rock Dogs #1

How many dogs can you find among the rocks? Their camouflage hides them quite well, until they move. Puppies rarely hold still for long so that helps.

They have been hunting mice among the rocks. Even at this young age they know exactly what to do with them. Kit is the most advanced hunter of the three, interesting since he seemed to lag previously. I guess he found his calling of the wild.

Spot the Rock Dogs #2

Spot the dogs? How many can you count? They’re starting to have their ears upright at this point.

Katya is still larger than all three of the new puppies put together but I suspect they’re going to surpass her in size. She loves baby-sitting the puppies and was curious about them from day one. This means she can spell Lili time to time.

In other news, I got the soaker hoses out into all of our gardens. Following that we got about an inch of rain. Works every time like a charm.

Outdoors: 72°F/47°F 1″ Light Intermittent Rain
Tiny Cottage: 67°F/65°F

Daily Spark: What do you call a cracked egg? Insane! -Hope age 6

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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13 Responses to Three Musketeers

  1. Huck says:

    Hi Watler,
    Adorable puppies. I was wondering if you felt your very small litters were a result of extensive inbreeding?

    • No we’ve seen no decrease and we have had plenty of larger litters up to seven. It is normal for early litters to be small and then for them to increase in size. Frankly, either way the sample set is too small to think one way or another since we generally only have a litter every few years. These have been the first two litters in five years. More over, research shows that with line-breeding and no selection going on it takes 10 generations for any noticeable change in fecundity. With selection there is no loss in fecundity and it can be increased which is why modern domestic animals have so many more young than wild animals. An example of this is we select up for teat count and litter size on our pigs – it is very effective, especially in a closed herd.

  2. mellifera says:

    Love that Katya does babysitting.

  3. mellifera says:

    (whoops. Premature post-ulation.) …one day I thought We have seeing-eye dogs, hearing-ear dogs, epilepsy companion dogs, ad infinitum. Is there such a thing as a household helper dog?

    I’m thinking this could be a great thing. It doesn’t take any training to get them to clean up spilled food… licking off snotty noses would be SO helpful, and pretty easy to teach ( the kids would probably learn to cope ok ; )… and if the dog in question were one of Walter’s dogs’ caliber you could probably even teach it take things to the trash, give an alert if it looks like the kids are in the middle of making a huge mess, etc. Am I right? Any thoughts on that one? This would make a future of full-time parenthood so much more bearable. : D

    • Definitely! With most of our dogs they know 200 to 300 spoken words, hand signs and whistles and what to do with them. I know some of their language, both verbal and body, but it is hard for other people to understand them. A lot of their language is contextual and model based. With Katya I’m doing an experiment of teaching her sign language so that she can communicate back to people. It is based on American Sign Language just like with the research that has been done with Washoe, Koko and other primates. However I have had to make adaptations of course since wolves-kin don’t have fingers and their shoulder joints are not as flexible as ours. Even though she’s only a few months old Katya already knows and readily, spontaneously, appropriately uses several signs to communicate things she wants. Of course, we started with food based signs. She also has a sign for puppies. I’ll write more about this later after we’ve explored this futher to see what her limits are like. All of this is on top of her regular livestock guardian and herding training as well as basic obedience training. I’ve wanted to do this experiment for years. Katya being a single pup, the only we’ve ever had, made it possible.

  4. Amos says:

    Love your dogs. I got the black ones spotted but had a hard time finding the brown one. I don’t see the brown one in the second pic nor any others in the first. Fun puzzle pics!

  5. Louisa says:

    CUTE PUPPIES!!! That first pic is adorable, humans and their canine companions

  6. mellifera says:

    Brilliant! I await the results with bated breath.

    Apparently scientists have only just discovered within the last 5 years or so that dogs actually communicate with people in a sophisticated and somewhat abstract manner (recognizing words, objects that the words refer to, etc). I have to think that this is probably because they were working with pets, which are basically rejects from the show circuit… if they’d been introduced to working animals earlier, it wouldn’t have been a surprise.

    That and Skinner was required reading for all up-and-coming researchers of behavior, which screwed them up from academic infancy. But that’s another rant altogether….

  7. Randy says:

    Domestic dogs have big litters because we make them that way. Wild ones have smaller litters. It is all about resources. Living a low fat diet and being hard working on the farm might make for lower litter sizes for Walters dogs.

  8. Sara says:

    Walter I thought you would find this interesting! I don’t think we give animals as much credit as we should…my dogs are very clever! (Well for the most part…) When they are ready to eat they smack there bowl making it make a LOUD attention grabbing bang noise and when they have to potty they scratch the door and scratch when they are ready to come in! I’m sure they do other thing to get stuff but they just have us so well trained that we don’t notice LOL Cute pups I would love to have Kit! But I think if I brought another dog home I would be in the dog house since we already have 4 :) Oh and a great training technique is having older dogs teach younger dogs. I think I have read about the your blog about your well seasoned dogs doing this with pups. My father and I was talking about some issues I have been having with our one of our dogs and he was telling me that to train their farm dogs (his dogs were also used to herd/sort/load hogs and protect the people checking pigs in the field) they would pair a pup up with the best dogs they had and let them pratice with older pigs that knew to behave.

    • Cool fox story! The old teaching the new is how we do it. We were fortunate long ago that Coy, one of our foundation dogs, simply showed up and said he was going to work here. We tried to drive him away but he insisted and became the original guardian dog on our farm. He was great with animals, and kids. The pups we have now are descended from Coy. He taught his offspring and they have taught each generation in turn. The latest pups are already learning to herd, to the chicken’s dismay. Growing up with the livestock they get to do it from a very young age and see their elders do it as well.

  9. Amy W. says:

    That is so cool walter. I have always loved reading about how they taught those monkeys to sign and what theyre doing with dolphins. I read recently about how theyre using an ipad to communicate wtih a dolphin. If anyone can teach dogs to sign I bet you can and I bet your dogs are the dogs that can do it. They are so smart. And beautiful!

  10. David lloyd Sutton says:

    Mellifera, was looking around Walter’s older posts, and saw your comment. B.F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity is the only book I have ever thrown into a roaring woodstove! When I think that we might have effective totipotency today if that poseur hadn’t pulled away the VA funding from the genius who wrote The Body Electric, my gorge rises. Once I happened upon a book in which some nimrod had interspersed chapters of Skinner and Maria Montessori . . . like interspersing filthy graffiti with elegant poetry. She was a religious mystic on top of being a keen observer, but at her loopiest didn’t deserve that association. YYchh.

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