What it takes to train a penguin-protecting sheepdog – like Oddball!
Get ready for a heartwarming movie like no other…
Check out this beautiful tale of Oddball & the Penguins, about an unlikely guardian of a rare species of penguin (now he’s our kind of guy!) – out on DVD 6 June 2016!
Everyone loves a hero, right? And a sheepdog hero? Well that’s even better!
Based on a true story, the tale follows the events of Middle Island, Australia, a sanctuary once home to thousands of the world’s smallest penguins. Since foxes learned to cross the shallow channel to the island, penguin numbers have plunged.
The unlikely heroes of the story are Oddball and his eccentric owner, Swampy the chicken farmer. The excitable (and slightly clumsy) Maremma sheepdog turns out to be an excellent penguin guard!
Together with his daughter Olivia, Swampy trains the unpredictable Oddball to protect the island’s penguins. Will Oddball be able to save the penguins, the sanctuary and keep his family together? You’ll have to watch the film to find out!
How to train a penguin-protecting sheepdog!
It may be hard to believe, but Oddball & the Penguins is based on the true story of the Middle Island Maremma Project! Peter Abbott, a real-life maremma dog trainer, explains what it’s like to train up their latest recruit, Amor the puppy, to protect the island’s wildlife…
“It will take around 18 months to train up the puppy to understand what their role is and how to live on Middle Island. Amor is our first male dog – since Oddball retired – and will be joined by another female later in the year.
“First steps are to get Amor used to being around chickens [before moving on to penguins!]. He sleeps in the same shed as the chickens – with a wall between them where he can hear them and smell them all night. It’s all part of getting him to know that they’re his animals to live with and protect.
“As he is still very puppy-like we are supervising his interaction with the chickens to start with – at the moment he finds scaring them very exciting! We correct him by growling at him until he stops. Over time he will learn what is acceptable and what is not. When we trust him further, we can start to expose him slowly to the penguins.
“When we count and weigh the island penguins, we place them in a cloth bag. We’ll start giving Amor the bags to get used to the penguins” smell and plan to start taking him to Middle Island for day visits. He’ll then be brought along for a penguin count and asked to sit next to the volunteers as they conduct the count. Slowly, Amor will over time learn that the penguins on the island are normal – thats the plan, anyway!”