- Author: Dan Macon
About 12 years ago, we acquired our first livestock guardian dog from a ranch in eastern Yuba County. Scarlet, as we named her, came to us as a 6-month old Akbash-Pyrenees pup. We were neophytes in the world of livestock guardian dogs, so we immediate put Scarlet with our breeding flock. The following February, when the first lamb hit the ground, Scarlet promptly decided that the lamb was hers; she chased the ewe away and cleaned the lamb. As we learned, maternal instinct can be a powerful force - in sheep and in dogs. A few days of watching her closely and scolding her when she tried to mother a lamb seemed to fix the problem.
This weekend, we experienced the opposite relationship. Our youngest daughter has her own small flock of sheep that she breeds for fair lambs. This fall, she's taken in a number of additional ewes from folks that want lambs from her ram. These sheep are in a pasture adjacent to the paddock where Elko (our LGD pup) is living. Emma also has several ewe lambs from this year that she recently sold; we're working on arrangements for the buyers (who are in Twin Falls, Idaho) to pick them up. The oldest of these ewe lambs came into heat this weekend, and her maternal instincts kicked in. Yesterday, we noticed that she was taking a keen interest in Elko. As we watched her, we realized that she was treating Elko like her lamb. She'd paw at him to get him to stand up (which ewes will do if they want their lambs to nurse). She licked him vigorously like she was trying to clean afterbirth off him. And she'd knicker at him like a ewe will do to call her newborn lamb.
Elko was intimidated by her behavior. He'd yelp if she backed him into a corner, and he'd nip at her if her licking became too aggressive. We decided that it would be best to separate them; we put the ewe lamb into a different paddock. Elko seems to be fine with the rest of the sheep in his pen.
I'm curious if others have observed this kind of behavior! What have you done when something like this has happened?