The pup challenge

We experience the highs and lows of a new puppy

As the clock struck midnight on the New Year, instead of knocking back champers, we were wrapped up in bed with a Lemsip!  We had succumbed to the virus that seemed to be sweeping the nation and it made life with a lively puppy just that bit tougher.

Toby was, of course, adorable but on top of that he was hard work.  We have had many puppies in the past but as they grow, you quickly forget the bad bits!

Lack of sleep, they like to wake early, taking them outside (in bad weather) every half an hour, trying to stop them chewing, especially electric cables that you never noticed before and keeping those needle sharp teeth out of your flesh!  Not to mention the feeding four times a day!  It’s a full-time job and not for the faint hearted.

We are very lucky in that we work from home so we could be with him 24/7.  Heaven knows how people cope when they have to go out to work.

A dog crate was an essential piece of kit, especially for those much needed moments of respite and invaluable overnight.  Clicker training helped to calm him down and focus his mind for short periods, often leaving him needing a nap and us with some breathing space.  We tried out plenty of toys and he loved most of them, but not for long enough. His attention soon returned to chewing rugs, furniture or shoes, that someone had foolishly left lying around.

Two other problems we encountered were sheep poo, and Jack our Border Collie.  The field we walk them in has recently been vacated by our pregnant ewes and there was plenty to interest him.  We couldn’t get his nose off the ground and quickly taught him a “leave” command, which works about 30% of the time. Jack was a bigger challenge – whereas both Archie and Daisy have welcomed new pups before, this is Jack’s first one.  He didn’t react very well and although the 2 shepherds would tolerate Toby, Jack was very snappy.

We tried to work this through by taking them out to one of our large sheds and training them together.  Jack realised that being with Toby meant positive things rather than negative.

To a certain extent this has calmed the problem and Jack’s snapping seems to be much more ‘warning’ than intent. Toby does heed those messages when he isn’t hyper-excited, and more often than not, Jack prefers to move away rather than getting involved. We still have work to do, but we are happy with the progress so far.

Despite all of the above, Toby has been an absolute joy.  He is so bold, intelligent, quick to learn and entertaining and he’s certainly taught us a thing or two.  Last week he started his clicker class and we were very proud of him.  He behaved beautifully.  But we won’t be resting on our laurels, there is homework to be completed and we are well aware that once he gets comfortable in the new training environment, he may not be quite so polite and well mannered.

Pictured below are the items we found most useful for Toby:

Toby loves the Everlasting Treat Ball

The treat-filled Tuggy is a hit!

Toby with the Puller

Perfect for controlled walking

 

Toby Pup starts Clicker Training

Our new pup Toby takes to Clicker Training!

Toby pup joined us in early December, and he has certainly been a live wire!

Almost immediately, we introduced him to Clicker Training. We wanted to start on some early basics, but also to channel some his mental and physical energy.

As with most puppies, Toby swings from 0 to 100% activity very quickly and he has a very short attention span. In amongst the feeding, sleeping, and play, we introduced a number of very short training sessions.

The result? Once he had made the connection between click and treat (3-4 very short sessions) he really took to it! His attitude changed from mild interest to extremely attentive, and instead of the rising excitement that he experiences during play, he remains fairly calm.

As soon as he sees us wearing the treat bag or holding the clicker, he instantly goes into ‘training mode’.

It is such great fun to do, and watching him work out what is required is both amusing and fascinating in equal measure.

See how he is progressing in these two videos:

You can find more fun videos on our YouTube Channel.

Merry Christmas from the Team

Celebrations and chaos

 

Toby

We collected our new boy, Toby, at the beginning of December.  We were worried about his long journey home in the car, but thanks to some very good advice, we all arrived home unscathed.

He travelled on the back seat in a small crate in which we had put a very comfy bed with high sides so that he felt supported but could move around.  The door was open but we fitted a barrier so that we could put hands in to comfort him but he couldn’t get out.

After some initial fidgeting, he slept most of the way and wasn’t sick at all, which was our biggest concern.

He has settled in well, in fact you would think he’d always lived here!

Archie loves him, Daisy tolerates him but Jack is not very keen.

Whilst we’re waiting for him to have his second vaccination, we haven’t taken him into the big field to run with the others so socialisation hasn’t been easy in cramped conditions.  We are working hard to try to get them all to feel happy and relaxed together but the nippy little pup is proving to be a challenge.

We have, of course, started clicker training and he’s taken to it like a duck to water.  It’s truly amazing how quickly he picks things up.

Speaking of picking things up, he does seem to be rather obsessed with stones!  We’ll have to train him out of that before he starts swallowing them!

It’s going to be a busy Christmas here, with not much time for relaxing in front of the TV thanks to our new arrival.

Best wishes to everyone and we hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas with your four legged friends!

The new recruit

We meet the new member of the team

With the sad loss of our beloved Fin at the beginning of the year, we felt there was space in our home for another glorious German Shepherd so we have been on the lookout for a pup.  There were surprisingly few available in this corner of the country, but last week we got a call offering us a short coat, black and tan male and we didn’t have to think twice!  At the weekend we travelled over 100 miles to meet him.

At 5 weeks old, he was a tiny wee thing but his ears were up and he was very bold, not at all shy.  We met the parents who were lovely, friendly dogs, so of course we said yes!

We are collecting him at the beginning of December and are already making preparations for his long car journey home and puppy-proofing the house. Although we’ve had many pups over the years, you quickly forget how much looking after they take and chaos they cause!

Daisy, Archie and Jack will have to be introduced to him carefully, Jack being the only one who hasn’t encountered a new pup before.

We have him booked on a clicker training course in January and are looking forward to sharing all his adventures here in Tales from the Croft, and through Twitter and Facebook!

Here he is in action!

The Mart

We pay a visit to the mart

In all the years we have been selling our lambs at the mart, we have not once gone along to see them sold.  A haulier collects them and they are sorted out at the other end by the stock men.

In the past we have had some amazing luck on sale day, many times we have had the highest prices but we know that this is not due to any skill on our part.

This year we tried to get a bit more scientific about the whole process.  We kept accurate records of births and noted in detail any problems we encountered.  We do tend to get a lot of lambs with entropian (inward turning eyelids) and although there is a quick fix for this, it would be nice to eradicate it altogether from the flock.

As we said last month, we had the best lambs ever this year and so after weighing them, deicided to place some of them in the premium sale.

We also decided that on sale day we would go along to see how the whole process worked and try to learn from it.

At around the same time, we discovered that you can in fact watch all the sale days online.  One of us went along, whilst the other stayed home and viewed the experience at the kitchen table!

We did learn something, our fat lambs were not quite fat enough!

At least we now know what to aim for next year.

Weight watching

We round up the lambs for a health check

Last year’s tup, Harry, was an absolute beast.  We are always careful with the rams, especially when they are in with the girls as they can be quite confrontational if approached.  However, Harry was something else.  He was a huge brute with a large head, supposedly a cross between a Suffolk and a Dorper.  He hadn’t been sheered (and we can understand why) so his big fluffy fleece made him look even bigger.

We could not walk in the field with him unarmed.  It was essential to carry a crook and a bag of straw which could be used to lessen the blow when he ran at you.  And he did, frequently!  Head down and charge was his motto.  Sometimes we were stuck in the field with him for ages, couldn’t risk turning our back on him and every time we retreated backwards, he would come forwards.  We would have to stride towards him to show him we weren’t intimidated, he would reverse, and so the dance continued.

It was a relief when he’d done his job and we could let him go.

Nevertheless, despite all the grief he gave us, he did give us the best lambs we’ve ever had.  They are lovely big chunky animals, far superior to previous years when we’ve put them all in the Store Lamb sale (lambs that need fattening before slaughter) at the end of the year.

We rounded them all up at the weekend sorted out their feet, checked them over and weighed them.  All but three are well over weight for the Store sale so will be going to the Fat sale.

Of course we are delighted but not enough to risk keeping him on and going through that again!

Our pets have the Munchies

Archie, Daisy, and Jack road test our new Pet Munchies range

With three dogs in our household we can get through quite a few dog treats, so it’s great that we can choose something healthy to give them.

Thankfully Pet Munchies premium gourmet treats are 100% natural and use good quality human grade meat and fish, so we don’t need to worry about what our dogs are eating.

We tested some, and they certainly went down a storm.  You can see the results in the video below!  Daisy, Archie, and Jack love the taste, and the choice of flavours too!

Chicken, liver, venison, lamb, fish, duck, all slow roasted in their own juices to make them extra tasty.  Surely even the most fussy dog would find something there to enjoy!

We find these particularly effective in training.  The Chicken, Chicken and Liver, and Sushi Dog Training Treats are already an ideal size, but to add in some variety, we chop some of the meaty strips into pieces and mix them all in.  What an effect that variety of reward has!

Cats needn’t miss out either, with three tasty varieties of Pet Munchies Gourmet Cat Treats!

See our full range of Pet Munchies.

Baled out!

We finally make hay but not in the sunshine…

What a difficult month it has been with regard to haymaking!  We started out with high hopes for August, thinking it would be filled with long sunny days.  How wrong can you be?

There wasn’t a day went by at the beginning of the month when it didn’t rain.  Sometimes not a lot, but just enough to dampen our plans.

As the month wore on, we were getting desparate and in the end settled for baling on an overcast day, so the hay wasn’t as dry as we had hoped, but not sopping wet.

We couldn’t risk storing it in the barn so stacked it outside and covered it with tarpaulins, which is not that easy in the strong winds.  Each morning it had to be uncovered so the sun and air could get to it.  Every so often we were caught out by showers, some so heavy we were soaked through trying to get the tarps back on!

Thank goodness it’s all done now and we have winter fodder for the hungry beasts.  The goats have sampled it and declared it edible so we should be OK with the sheep.

The dogs are delighted too as they have their field back and see where they’re going when they chase the swallows.  The babies have fledged the nest so there is plenty to keep them occupied.

We are also busy sorting the ewes ready to receive the tup and preparing the lambs for the mart.  This years lambs are our best ever and we are expecting top prices.  Let’s hope the buyers agree!

Rain stops hay!

We are rained off

It’s always a stressful time when haymaking comes around.  We are glued to the weather forecast, looking frantically for that small window of sunshine when we will be able to cut the grass.

This year has been appalling, every single day, except one, the heavens have opened and the field has been drenched.

For the last few weeks we have all been weaving our way through the long grass on our morning walks.  We can’t play with the Pullers as they would quickly be lost.  In fact, we have lost the dogs on more than one occasion.

The shame of it is, that this year the grass looks fantastic and would make lovely hay, if only we had the opportunity.

Even with a day of sunshine, it’s not going to dry the ground enough to drive the tractor over.

We are trying to hold our nerve and wait until August to see if the weather improves but if it doesn’t we may have to ask our neighbour to make large round bales of haylage.  These will be wrapped in black plastic, therefore not needing to be dried.  We are really hoping we don’t have to go down this route as the large bales are difficult to handle and have a short shelf life once opened.

However, it would be better to have haylage that no winter food at all for our beasts!

Muzzled!

We are worried when Jack falls ill

Jack has always been a bit of a chewer and a scavenger.  He likes to pick things up and before you can tell him to “leave it”, it will disappear down his throat.  Back in August last year, he swallowed a piece of rubber ball and had to have surgery to remove it from his gut.  Not long after that he was poorly again and we rushed him straight to the vet for an x-ray.

We realised that we couldn’t keep this up so decided that the only way to prevent him “snacking” on his walks, was to put a muzzle on him.

He wasn’t keen at first but he quickly got used to it, and after a while he developed a technique that turned it into a useful scoop to get things into his mouth – like snow or sheep poo!  He was also very adept at using it as a weapon on the other two, Daisy and Archie.  We called it his “warhead”!

After several months without incident we thought we would try him without it, as we really didn’t enjoy making him wear it, even if ultimately for his own good.

A couple of weeks of freedom later and he had severe diarrhoea.

We starved him for 24 hours then fed him cooked chicken and rice for a couple of days, but it made no difference and we were off to see the vet.

His temperature was on the high side of normal so the vet gave him something to get his gut working, a wormer, and suggested we carried on with the bland diet.

Over the weekend he didn’t improve at all so we took him back on Monday morning where he got a steroid injection and had blood tests.  We also had to provide a faecal sample.

Still no improvement, we were heading towards another x-ray but decided to wait for the test results.  In the meantime he had a course of steroid tablets to make him more comfortable and we were cooking him fish, chicken and rice every day.

All the test results were negative, we couldn’t find the cause of his ailment, so the vet put it down to colitis.

Just as we were at the end of our tether, he finally began to improve and is now back to his normal self, but with the muzzle reinstated!