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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello,
My little Karakachan pup is still a baby, i.e. just about 5 months old; and so far she is doing real well adapting to the rules I have set for her. Such rules have only been for safety reasons (hers and others). I have taught her the basics [come, sit, drop it, uh-uh (That's not ok to do.), lay down & roll over (so I can check her for ticks and trim her nails). She also rides well in the car, tolerates the leash and does not chase the fowl/goats, though she will chase Cujo while they are playing tag. All seems to be going real well and she is obviously happy. My emphasis has been on keeping her safe and healthy while she explores her new home and discovers her own identity and roll here. (Maybe I'm foolish, but I am clinging to the belief guarding my small herd of dairy goats and flock of assorted fowl are "inherent" propensities of this breed that will show up in time as "Valentina" grows...as long as I don't thwart their development.)

My concern is my own ignorance about the LGDs in general, i.e. what stages of growth they go thru and whether or not such is different per breed. Having a better understanding of these stages will help me stop any inclination I might have to view such development erroneously and then react in ways that might not be helpful for her or make her development more difficult for her. (Please know I was not wise enough to get her after her working parents had spent some training time with her. I brought her home as soon as she was weaned, i.e. at 8 weeks of age.)

Can anyone speak to these stages?
 

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There really is nothing wrong with having brought her home at 8 weeks. It's impressive how much of their "job" is ingrained, and at 8 weeks, mom had also passed on plenty. At this age, you were able to maximize her formidable "bonding stage" with your family and animals.

All dogs experience similar stages. The biggest one to be aware of with an LGD is the terrible teens. It'll vary in length and severity depending on the dogs individual personality, but it tends to occur around 8-18 months old as the pup begins to reach sexual maturity. This is when a pup tends to go "deaf and stupid" forgetting everything it has been taught because all of the sudden it knows better. In reality, this is the time when the dog is finding itself and establishing it's place within a pack. This is the time when patience and firmness will pay off in huge dividends as the dog learns without question that you are alpha. I try to keep my pups engaged with me through this phase as much as possible, and make it a point to conduct regular training sessions, walking the perimeter, practicing basic cues, grooming, etc.. While I expect my dogs to be independent workers, I take advantage of this time to make sure they understand that I am their pack leader when I am present.

During this phase, the play fighting between pack mates can become fierce. I've noticed that this tends to be gender specific (i.e: females vs females or males vs males) so you may not see too much of this. This fighting is largely about pack standing, so as alpha you should be able to stop it, however, this is where balance comes in. You will come to understand the difference between fighting for standing, and fighting to kill. Fighting for pack standing is invaluable to these dogs, because this is how they learn the skills that will save their lives in a fight with a predator. Blood will be drawn in this type of fighting, and as much as I hate to see it happen (I do not want my animals hurt) this is similiar to a boxer learning how to take a punch. This, unfortunately, is the best way for a dog to learn how to keep their wits about them when they are fighting a true adversary. Unless the fighting escalates to the point of fighting to kill, you should not step in. I attached a picture of my matriarch, Mitzi, after a tussel with her daughter. Please note that while this looks like a lot of blood, niether dog was seriously injured. Mitzi is capable of snapping another dog's neck in a second. She was not fighting to kill her daughter. These wrestling matches went on off and on for about 2 months, and they were the worst ones I've experienced with my dogs, but her daughter is one of my more forward guardians. One day, they just stopped, and things are peaceful again. I do not like to see it, but this is part of running a pack of LGDs.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
OMG she does look like she's been in a bad fight!

SCRMG thank you so much for that information. I value your experiences so much and am grateful you took the time to share some with me about these developmental stages. I dread asking this; but is this teen stage the worse developmental issue I might encounter with my Karakachan?

I only have the 2 dogs (little Valentina and a grown "male" lab). This lab, Cujo, has been taking care of Valentina by letting her eat whatever she wants whenever she wants. Cujo was submissive with my "alpha" German Shepherd (the dog that was killed by a mocassin); and he has (for the most part) demonstrated this same submission with Valentina. However, I've noticed him recently growling at her at times...and she would "wait". Then yesterday I noticed Cujo showing an interest in what Valentina was eating, even circling her while she ate it, i.e. the "raw" leg of a large bird. Valentina growl at him when he got too close and he didn't press the issue; but went about 4 feet off and laid down just watching her. Is it wishful thinking to believe these two will probably not engage in the type of bad fights your girls did?

Valentina has a few months to go before she reaches her teen development; so I will plan on continuing (even lengthening) my time with her showing her she can get what she wants as long as she acknowledges me as the dominant one. Good?
 

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The teenage years are the worse you can expect, and with some dogs it's not all that bad. I know some people worry about the fear stages in a developing pup, that can occur around 2-3 months and 8-10 months of age. I don't know if it's LGDs in general, or the ones I've chosen, but I've never had a problem with this.

Where you have a male and female, you may not experience too much fighting, especially since your male seems submissive any way. Typically, in a pack, there is a male pecking order and a female pecking order. Males and females don't usually rival each other. In fact, I've seen my males patiently train the females when they are down right brutal with the other males and visa versa.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
SCRMG, what would that "fear stage" look like, i.e. How could a novice such as myself recognize it?

What I'm hearing you say is that, in the future, should I get another "female" LGD (like maybe another Karakachan or a Sarplaminiac like your dogs), they would do some fighting (maybe fierce fighting) between the ages of 8 to 18 months.

Golly it is so nice to start getting a real understanding about LGDs..... :)
 

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SCRMG, what would that "fear stage" look like, i.e. How could a novice such as myself recognize it?

What I'm hearing you say is that, in the future, should I get another "female" LGD (like maybe another Karakachan or a Sarplaminiac like your dogs), they would do some fighting (maybe fierce fighting) between the ages of 8 to 18 months.

Golly it is so nice to start getting a real understanding about LGDs..... :)
Pup will be scared of oddball things like a trashcan, or paper blowing, etc. Things that never bothered them before will all of a sudden be scary.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Silveira, I've seen that behavior already, though it may not actually be the "fear stage".

There has been sounds and/or movements that have startled her. She will jump to an alert type of stance, do a little woof then check it out...like the water I was putting into the geese's kiddie pool. The water going in startled her, which looked like she was frightened. However, she came up and took a drink from that pool anyway, even attempted to get the water coming out of the hose. Another incident was when I picked her up and placed her on top of the oil drum which was laying on its side. She acted frightened but her reaction to that was one of being still and checking out the situation. She did not try to jump down nor dart away at all. Are these what you're talking about?
 

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Silveira, I've seen that behavior already, though it may not actually be the "fear stage".

There has been sounds and/or movements that have startled her. She will jump to an alert type of stance, do a little woof then check it out...like the water I was putting into the geese's kiddie pool. The water going in startled her, which looked like she was frightened. However, she came up and took a drink from that pool anyway, even attempted to get the water coming out of the hose. Another incident was when I picked her up and placed her on top of the oil drum which was laying on its side. She acted frightened but her reaction to that was one of being still and checking out the situation. She did not try to jump down nor dart away at all. Are these what you're talking about?
That sound just like a good puppy that recovers quickly! :)

Some pups do go through a fear stage, some don't. Don't stress out about it but if she all of a sudden starts acting scared of something she wasn't before, it's most likely due to the "fear period".

Don't push her to get over it. Best thing to do is to figure out how close you can get before she acts scared, go back about 2ft & start training/playing with her. Over time you can move her closer and closer to the scary thing (while playing/training) til she doesn't notice it anymore.

Or you can just ignore everything and let her grow out of it. Which is what I do.
 

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Your welcome.

Silviera is right on about the fear phase. It sounds like your puppy has a good response to things that scare her. It's funny, her response is very similar to my Sars... if it scares her, she investigates it. That's a great trait in an LGD, and a good indication that you will have no problems with a fear phase.

As for your question about the potential for fighting if you get another female, it depends. If you are concerned about it, the best way to curb it would be to get your dogs fixed. Dogs tend to fight most aggressively for pack standing for two things, food and reproduction. If there is plenty of food, and you take away the urge to reproduce than the fighting should be a lot less intense. I originally intended to breed my dogs, so my best guardians were left intact. I have been blessed with some exceptional guardians, and as a result most of my dogs were left intact. I have since refined my criteria for breeding LGDs (fortunately before I did any actual breeding), a great guardian instinct is a must, but not enough in itself to justify a breeding. As a result, only my youngest dogs are going to remain intact, and that is only pending OFA certification of their hips and elbows. If they don't score well, it's surgery for them. You'd be surprised at the number of dogs out there with displacia that show no outward signs of it. Any way, I told you all that just to let you know that fixing my non breeding quality dogs has led to a reduction of actual blood shed from family fighting even though they are still very intense guardians of my goats.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Thanks SCRMG. I'm discovering much about this Karakachan that I like! (Never owned an LGD before, though have owned "alpha" dogs.) Sometimes I see what I can only call "fearlessness" about her; and I'm not real sure what that would mean should she ever want something I did not want her to have. Thus, I have been (and will continue to be) VERY INSISTENT on maintaining my position with her whenever we interact, i.e. when I feed her, when we go thru gates or any activity where I have the opportunity to let her know who is boss and that she only gets what she wants IF she respects me as such. (I like to keep this all positive and enjoyable for her because I don't want her to ever be afraid of me as, likewise, I will not keep a dog I am afraid of.)

I sure like your attitude about breeding. It sounds both caring and responsible toward all concerned (dogs and owners). SCRMG it has become obvious to me you love and respect your dogs' individual personalities. I suspect that is why your Sars are so great! (I quote you sometimes in another forum, letting those hearing know I'm learning much from you, though I've never given your user name out. Hope you don't mind. Knowing me, I'll probably be quoting Silviera as well.) I feel so fortunate you and Silviera have taken the time to help me understand my pup's probable heritage better.
 

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Your welcome. I enjoy seeing your posts on here. Your girl sounds great, and I'm learning a lot about the breed through your posts. I think she'll grow into a great guardian, but I warn you, there's something about a LGD that's addictive. They are the most selfless animals I have ever experienced, and something about that will draw you in. :)

I don't mind you quoting me on other forums. I am by no means an expert, but I think everyone sharing the knowledge they have will lead to better LGDs overall. If you don't mind, I'll PM you my email address. I'm going to be in the Persian Gulf suffering TGS withdrawals for the better part of a year (my day job calls...). I'd love to hear how your pup is doing in that time, and will help you as much as I can.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
ROFL I do understand that kind of "illness"...When I lost my hard drive earlier this year, it was quite disheartening not being able to talk with all my goat (and dog) friends over the net.

Here's a little information that let me know this Karakachan breed was what I was looking for.

The Karakachan Dog also known as Bulgarian Shepherd Dog is believed to have originated from the ancient Thracian dogs making this breed Europe's oldest. For centuries, this ancient breed of livestock guardian dogs have been bred and reared by proto-Bulgarians. The dogs were utilized to guard not only the livestock and the property but the owners as well. The Karakachan dog is a massive powerful breed with a well developed musculature of harmonic proportions. The dog has a typical molosser appearance. These long and coarse coated dogs are noted for their aggressiveness towards carnivores. The natural and conservative breeding traditions of the Karakachan have developed a breed with impressive working abilities. Bulgaria is a country with a large population of wolves and bears. The dog has a rather slow movement but it can chase wolves and can compete with this predator's speed anytime. The breed has the necessary strength, agility and excellent fighting skills to deal with bears and other predators. These dogs are highly valued by the nomadic shepherds. Unlike other domesticated dogs, the Karakachan are treated as respected family members. The dogs are even allowed to eat first. The Karakachan Dogs have a vegetarian diet made from oats and wheat mixed with little milk.

Because of its outstanding qualities, the Karakachan Dog is considered to be a Bulgarian legend. The dog was depicted in Bulgarian folklores and in classic Bulgarian literature. Presently there are about 600 to 700 purebred Karakachan dogs in Bulgaria.

Personality
Karakachan dogs were primarily developed to be working dogs as such they would be happiest when they are working. The dogs are very territorial. Bulgarians are aware of the fact that the livestock must be approached cautiously whenever the dog is around. These dogs may be wary of strangers and show an aggressive temperament but they are extremely devoted and loyal to its family. The dog commonly forms a strong bond with its people especially with the children. Owners of this breed however must realize that a Karakachan Dog is a working breed that is accustomed to staying with the flock outdoors. The breed is not a home dog. It would do best to live in a farm where it will have the great outdoors for its play ground. Being a working breed, the dog is expected to have high exercise requirements. A well socialized Karakachan dog would tolerate smaller pets.

SCRMG so far Valentina is showing characteristics that are true to this breeding. I'm doing all I can to let her develop those propensities. So far; so good!

Stay safe out there!!
 

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so...are they only fed a vegetarian diet so they don't eat their family members? I thought dogs were carnivores though....don't they need to eat meat?

I'd love to get a LGD one day....
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
ROFL Not having ever lived in Bulgaria I really have no idea whether or not they eat meat at any time. I do know my little Karakachan will FIGHT to keep her raw meat! I also have caught her eating fruit from my berry vines. HaHaHa
 

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I dunno!! there could have been a "how to feed your Karakachan Bulgaria style" manual when you got your dog!
 
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