Experimental Trial

I experimented with our quiet handling at the trial this weekend. Not totally, gave him weave, contact and tunnel cues, and anything else that seemed really appropriate, but I also tried to stay quiet if I could. REALLY tried not to say his name unless I really needed his attention. Was funny how I then picked up a funny little clapping habit. Still, he was trying really hard and we had some really nice stuff, including right off the bat getting a nice premier standard Q with minimal driftiness. In fact, no ridiculous driftiness until my ‘control run’, the last jumpers course of the weekend, when I wanted to see if I got ‘loud’ again what would happen – and what happened was he imploded. It was actually kind of amusing, ‘come’ means ‘go over there and threadle that jump – really?

So, hm, I think there is a combination of things going on when I get ‘loud’, including my handling gets ‘bigger’ and he just starts flinging. So, go figure, all that time people have been trying to work on getting me to be louder and more aggressive and that just makes Navarre into a drifty dork, apparently. So, good to know, we will continue to work on quiet handling and see how it goes.

LOT of good stuff over the weekend, including some really nice weaves considering his cut under his eye – I don’t think that bothered him at all. He had one weavepole flub, but he actually seemed to be having better weavepole rhythm than he’s had recently, and very deliberate and thoughtful weave entries – very happy with those.

Lots of good running dogwalk exits and we ran everything all weekend, his RC continue to look solid, but I couldn’t handle them worth a damn. I blame the quiet handling, I totally did not even so much as handle TWO tunnel threadles off the dogwalk – he needed the information when he was ON the board, I got out like ‘Navarre!’ as he was heading into the wrong (yet ever so obvious) tunnel entrance. ‘Navarre’ is not his tunnel threadle cue, even if he could magically respond to it as he’s already going into the tunnel. So, yeah, two times we NQd because of me and that, everything else looked lovely in those runs. Doh. I think we need more practice with that, it can be hard to really practice dogwalks in sequences in our tiny arenas, I get complacent as it’s so easy to be there.

Navarre’s handling was great for the most part, he had lovely threadles, pushes, rear crosses – only one bar with our ‘loud’ run. Hm. We had one flub in premier jumpers where he did not even so much as acknowledge his bypass cue, and I felt like I was up there, pointed the right direction, big cue, verbal and, nope, no response at all. Teeters were sketchy, but I think that’s me not being consistent with my criteria. I’d prefer to have a running teeter, but I don’t know if Navarre can handle that.

So we continue to grow and while at his last trial I felt we had taken two steps back, I feel like we took step forward this weekend. It helped that the courses were a lot of extension for the most part, as AKC tends to be. I think Navarre is a very good AKC dog!

This jumpers course was ALL extension – Navarre liked it!


This was also a good Navarre course:

Here we are not on the same page about coming into me:

Love my Navarre, he is an excellent agility partner and I love hanging out with him. Though he really has turned that ‘boy’ corner, suddenly he’s all about the ladies. Walking him in the arena is much more of adventure, he’s all INTO checking out the girls or the dirt where girls could have been. He had one long distance love of a portie girl that he was just entranced with. Even with food on his nose I could not get him to stop staring longingly at her. The cute part was when that dog’s handler started asking for behaviors Navarre tried offering them from across the way! And I couldn’t get him to STOP. Ah, boy dogs. He’s still not in immediate danger of getting his nuts cut off, but it’s definitely much more on his mind than it ever has been in the past. He was much more focused on course this weekend than at the USDAA trial, being a one ring trial helped, I’m sure.

A fun weekend, some interesting bits on the courses, and then even when it’s just wide open running Navarre likes that too. Not too many pinwheels, that makes me happy. Surface down there is kind of nuts, but I don’t think there are any locations in our area that really have a nice consistent agility surface. I MAY enter one more trial in June. Not sure, we have the Justine seminar, which I’m not feeling terribly optimistic about at the moment …

In other news, I let Bright and Haku run around with Navarre after his runs … and Haku ripped open another pad and Bright ripped one of hers AND re-injured her stop pad. Good lord, it’s an epidemic.

I’m dreading Summer something fierce this year – the heat just kills me. But when summer actually begins in the PNW can be more variable than it used to be.  The ‘official’ start of summer is after the 4th of July, but June CAN be very nice – not always though. So the question is, what are my Summer agility plans – if any? We had a lot of fun this weekend, kind of sad to think we may not trial again until the end of September. Hm. But I have learned my lesson, summer trials are not for me. I miss the days where we would be done by noon. Sigh.


Enough Already

What a week, we’re falling apart over here. Last Friday Bright ended up with a deep gash on her stop pad, blood everywhere and it’s going to be a pain to heal. ‘Luckily’ she’s already broken anyway, but she is looking better with that injury but still not right in the rear. Monday Haku ran off all his pads, so he could barely walk that night – no idea what that was about. So all week long he had to stay at home and heal those. He’s finally looking more normal, but we still had to postpone our big herding adventure this week. Then today I just brought Navarre, my one remaining non-broken dog with me classes – and somehow he has a huge gash under his eye! Enough with the broken dogs, this is ridiculous!

I did make an appointment for Navarre at the vet initially, but I badgered several folks into checking him out and no one seems to think he’s going to need sutures, so he’s probably good to go. You know, as long as things aren’t brushing up against his face – like weavepoles, like at the the trial he’s supposed to go to this weekend. Why does EVERY class in AKC have weavepoles? But I did run him through a few sets after classes and he didn’t seem to notice – but he’s not much a face weaver anyway. As of now, we’re going to give it a go – it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. No idea how he did it – dork.

I’d like to do the things with my dogs, please! They are also really getting antsy as we haven’t been following our normal routine, they need more action. With Navarre I’ve been going back to working heeling again he’s so desperate. We also have continued with our silent handling experiment, and we’re getting much better. He’s still not super drivey about it, but he’s not nearly as questioning as he was. We worked three different types of agility this week, lots of wraps and threadles went well, but the weavepole exercises, even open channels, he’ll still just halt midway sometimes. And today we looked at international style drills, but that turned out not to be too hard at all, much easier than wide open stuff when you really need the verbal support. A fun experiment, good for both of us, I think.

Marvin seems to be finally feeling more himself after his rabies shot. I was beginning to think it had given him autism. After the shot he didn’t feel well, wasn’t eating, and then he just wasn’t his sweet cuddly self. And that was like, 2 weeks ago? The last couple days he’s seems more friendly and sweet again, but still not the same as he was – and he still doesn’t seem very hungry (he used to be ravenous all the time). He did sit in my lap for a bit yesterday, but I want my kitten back. Stupid vaccines, you try to be a responsible pet owner …

We did go herding today, I’m so dreading summer and trying to soak in all the good days we’re having in May. Have I mentioned how much I love May? It has been an exceptionally dry May, I’ve had to turn on the sprinklers, which seems crazy. We’ll see what June brings … Still, the original plan was to hiking early morning and then go to our lesson – but with everyone broken no hiking this week. Hrrumph.

So no big field for Haku, while he’s looking good as pads do heal quickly, the terrain in the big fields is much rougher with rocks and things, didn’t want to break him. So back to the smaller fields, where I got some clarity about fences in general. Part of the reason I wanted to go to the big field where we could just drive and drive and drive is I’m not entirely sure what I should be telling Haku at corners and fences. The correct answer is he should continue to drive them on the same line, regardless of the fence. So okay.

Feeling much better about just bellowing like a fishwife at my dog after watching the herding trial last weekend, we actually did much better this week. Or, at least, I felt better about it. “Go bye. Go bye, GO-bye, GO-BYE – I SAID GO-BYE!” We still run into the issue of me giving Haku way too much benefit of the doubt, actually. I do assume he knows better than me, but even if he does, it’s not helpful if he just ignores what I ask and does what he thinks I mean.

Much lighter sheep this week which made Haku look like a total boss. He was ‘getting behind their eye’ better this week (whatever that means, I still don’t grasp the concept of that one), probably because he didn’t have to actually push so hard to get them to move. So we got to play around with driving with purpose, since we can drive all around the outside of the field (mostly, unless I start over correcting everything) we would do out and away, across, come halfway up, turn and go through gates – good boy! And it wasn’t perfect, but we could do it (in our own way) and it was fun and I think both Haku and I felt like we were working together today. Fun stuff!

I even kind of understand our homework, which I think he tried to give me before but I didn’t understand (not unusual). So the issue we had with our little baby driving exercise today was when we were trying to get Haku to turn the sheep through the gates. If he gets behind the sheep I was having a hard time with him at that point going beyond balance to me to turn the sheep correctly to go through the gates. Look, I made a diagram!

herding flank issue

So once I gave him the go bye, he’s behind the sheep and and he wants to bring them to me, but I keep trying to flank him so he can turn them (blue line), and that was really hard for him. And basically what I had to do was get him behind, lie him down and then re-flank him – that he understood. And physically I wanted to ‘help’ him by stepping to my left, but I needed to step to my right. And, once again, the fences make this way harder than it needs to be.

So the exercise with the heavy sheep is to, without moving myself, have him flank, stand and then I’ll step into balance with him. So he learns that being out of balance will bring him into balance. And listens to me. 😉

Anyway, it was nice not feel like Haku and I were working at cross purposes today, that was fun to actually do things without being a total trainwreck. We are enjoying our herding adventure. And then there’s Navarre – OMG, what a dork. Let Dave work him again, Navarre was just awful. Dave continues to attempt to get Navarre to give to pressure, Navarre was having none of that. He’d give some distance, but only if he thought it would let him get around Dave to get the sheep. Not sure why he was being such a total dork today, but he was just exhausted with just the little that we did with him. He was basically almost never correct. So next time we go I’l go ahead and work him and see if that helps, and hopefully we can practice between now and then – he hasn’t been that bad for a while.

Northwest Championship SDT

I went to my first USBCHA herding trial over the weekend down in Scio. I had been to watch a few ASCA arena trials many years ago, but that has been the extent of my actual trial experience. This really made me feel better about me and my dogs, maybe we’re not as bad at this as I thought.

Herding is a game with a huge amount of variables and it can go wrong really quickly. And often does. And dogs often don’t listen, and after a while your response is to holler at them, ‘What are you DOING?” This is an actual phrase I heard bellowed across the field by several handlers, it rather cracked me up. And these are much more experienced handlers and talented dogs – it’s just shit happens. Border collies get mesmerized, handlers misjudge where the panels are, dogs get over excited, sheep split into three groups randomly – you just never know. And certainly some teams were obviously more smooth and connected, but even then, sometimes your sheep are just going to do whatever they want to do and you end up totally screwed.

So it was fun to watch, I must admit, I adore border collies, they are just the quirkiest dogs. I love how you can just have a bunch of border collies and they’re so easy – with each other, with the environment, with their handlers. Border collies really are easy to live with. Sometimes not so easy to actually get to listen in the field, but they’re really HAPPY about it. Which I think was one of the main differences between the ASCA trial and the USBCHA trial – there were definitely dogs at the ASCA trial that did not have passion about the work, they were going through the motions – not so with the border collies. At least with this level of herding, these dogs were all ecstatic to be there, and that’s fun to watch.

I’m not sure how long this outrun was, but it wasn’t as far as I thought it might be – I’m assuming others are longer? For the most part people used their whistles at a distance, but there was a far amount of shouting from the post when the dogs didn’t listen. Very few people actually got any of the gates when I was watching, for the fetch, the drive or the cross drive. Which, of course, made me feel better. The sheep were rented from a commercial flock, apparently. There were some troublemakers and they did not always seem to be friends, hard to herd sheep that don’t want to stay together.

I have not seen a lot of shedding, and I really never want to again – this was SO FRUSTRATING. For the handler, for the dog and for me watching. This trial involved a shed with was to take three collared sheep from the group of six, separate them and pen them. While I was there two people actually managed the shed, no one penned. Most just futily futzed around for like 5 minutes until time was called. Now, don’t get me wrong, obviously shedding is an actual very useful sheep herding skill. I don’t think this is the best way to go about it, and I have ZERO interest in doing it, I would probably murder someone.

As for driving, seemed like almost everyone’s lines were just as wobbly as mine, they almost always missed the panels and it’s really annoying when you have it just right and the dog does something to mess it up spontaneously. Herding … you need to have a lot of patience.

So herding trials, they are few and far between. If you’re really interested in competing you will be traveling hundreds of miles to obscure places where once you get there you get ONE run a day. During that run a million and one things can go wrong, including getting sheep that just don’t cooperate whatsoever – and then you’re just done. Obviously there are people that are very passionate about competing in herding, but after one trial I am not one of them.

Still, this actually made me feel more motivated to train in herding – because now that I see that shit just happens all the time, well, maybe I’m not as bad at this as I thought. The dogs love it, and it’s kind of magical to see them moving sheep around. But, yeah, I’m even less motivated to trial than I was before. Haku still deserve to have a little career, and we will enter SOMETHING, and he will enjoy himself. But, let me assure you, there will be no shedding. Good lord.

Navarre Experiment #1

Nothing like a disconnected trial to give you motivation to train. This week we started a new experiment in agility. I really don’t like constantly calling (yelling, really) to try to get my dog to come in. And besides that, it obviously doesn’t work. So this week we looked at running silently and seeing what physical cues Navarre responded to best. Also taking away my verbal cues, of which I’ve learned to use A LOT, I no longer have any expectations that I cued it, therefore he should respond to it (because he obviously wasn’t at the trial).

Now, we’ve played around with running silently before, and I didn’t really care for it as Navarre slowed way down and had a lot more questions. But this isn’t about speed, and he SHOULD be able to run without any verbals at all.

This is what we played with:

May Intl 3

So, off the bat, OMG, Navarre pulled off of so many jumps! At least when we first started. Which shows me that I’m not supporting things very well and relying on his verbal cues, probably too much. So it was good for both of us for him to start paying more attention to what my body cues were saying, and for me to really make sure I was supporting everything appropriately. Navarre really is a remarkably honest dog. Sometimes. 😉

However, the more we played with this the better we got – though if I fell behind it became a hot mess. Navarre does not drive ahead without a verbal, he will turn back and wait – which I found interesting from Mr. Drifty. So like on the white numbers 15-17, with the running dogwalk I could not get him to continue on to 16 without a verbal, he’d either come in over the off course jump or just sort of peter out and look back at me expectantly even with me really trying to push from the rear. Good to know.

So, end result of our first experiment, we had ZERO issues getting him to come into me without verbals, all of our issues were getting him to push out and go away from me without verbal support. So, huh, go figure. We will continue to play with this, though I wouldn’t expect as good of a result at a trial, as we don’t have as many issues with the drifting in practice anyway.

Operation Hand Touch continues to go well, at least with our flatwork he comes in with so much power to his hand touch that it hurts. We still haven’t really started to put it together on course, but just working on the hand touch I think has helped when I am using my hands on course.

Made an appointment with the sports vet in June (the earliest they had) for Bright and pulled her from the Justine seminar in June as well. As expected, that helped her recovery quite a bit. She’s still not right, but significantly better the last few days. I’ve been letting her do mild exercise, running in the yard, in the arena, and she’s so starved for activity just letting her in the house she bounces around like she’s on crack. So we’ll see, I’ll be curious to see what the sports vet has to say, even if she seems fine at that point. She will be 7 next month, even if she seems recovered in a month, it’s a good time to get her thoroughly checked out.

Meanwhile, that leaves Navarre getting most of the training action these days – guess who can flank his toys now? I do find it a very helpful exercise, as just as with sheep, he wants to do it eyeing up on the toy, but once you get him to actually release and flank he actually does it pretty nicely! He doesn’t do inside flanks yet, but he thinks this is a fun game. He doesn’t know what ‘stand’ means, as that’s not his stand cue, but he’s going to learn!

Oh, and Haku got to be demo dog for baby dog classes today. He’s such an amazing dog, we haven’t done aframes for years and years, he did a very nice demonstration of a bad running aframe and an amazing example of an awesome stopped aframe – he’s still got it. Oh, and tables, his table is fantastic as well. He really has a lot of agility skills, it’s too bad he didn’t get to use them more. Just love that dog.

Summer of puppies continues, got to finally visit with Carol’s briard puppies – 3.5 weeks. Not quite ripe, but still very cute. We took them outside for the first time, they were very brave about it. Though still young and shellshocked enough that we could stick hats on them and they just sort of sat there looking ridiculously cute. Next time I visit they will be much more interactive, but I’m in a phase where I like the pushy, naughty dogs – I liked the sassy girls in this litter.

I think I’m ready for something a little more challenging for my next dog, though I reserve the right to change my mind by the time that I’m actually ready for another puppy. I’m having a bit of a love affair with the belgian breeds, if only they weren’t so big and hairy. I do like their personalities, I always have. No Malinois for me though, too much. And just finding any of them that can jump – good lord. Still, I do like them, they are on the list, though I doubt anything will come of it. I also found a sports mix that really speaks me, border-staffy/whippet mix – kind of a combo of all my doggie loves. Once again, probably won’t happen, but the sports mixes have never really stood out at me – but something about that one. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to get a sighthound, but a sighthound sports mix may be the perfect solution. Once again, probably won’t happen, but I’m open to the idea if the right dog comes along.

No windsprite puppies this summer, so won’t get to play with one of those. I am getting to play with a briard puppy for a week, and a sheltie puppy for a couple weeks, then may be doing some puppy raising for another border collie, because that’s always fun. See if Bright likes yet another female or it was just Aja that she liked (she was Bright’s niece – I swear Bright can tell if dogs are related to her!). This puppy will be more challenging, I assume – sort of a Haku/Fred/Navarre mix. But they are all individuals, and that’s what makes it so interesting and fun, every puppy is a new adventure.

At least one other litter I’m hopefully going to get to play with this summer, belgian shepherds from a dog I really like a lot. Yet another litter of puppies that all look alike though – I love the variety of border collies! Though if you put little outfits on them, that can really help them stand out in a litter.

Puppy Navarre Rides Again

Somehow we haven’t trialed for a while. I think we may have gone to a trial back in March when we got back from Reno maybe? I don’t recall. It has been a while, but before our break, I was feeling pretty good about Navarre. Yes, he’s drifty, but we were no longer battling over running around all the jumps in trials. Well, yeah, nevermind, we’re back to that. Things that don’t help include screaming ‘NA-VARRE!!” REALLY LOUD, waving my arms like a maniac, lying him down when he keeps running past everything, or screaming, ‘COME!’. Oh my, he was all over the place.

We definitely had some regression all around. Had issues with him sightseeing while he was running, waving to his fans and obsessing about puppies he wanted to go molest. His brain was not quite switched into the ‘on’ position. Still, he had a lot of nice stuff, but that is the curse of the 3 year old dog, trying not to get frustrated when suddenly they look like a 1 year old dog again. Navarre is still a baby, and will be a baby for a while – time cures a lot of things.

Now, the driftiness, this I don’t think time will fix. Admittedly, I only used his ‘hand’ cue once today, and that’s something that I think should help, because ‘COME!!’ and ‘NA-VARRE!!’ mean nothing, apparently. I have also not been terribly consistent with my concern about the driftiness, I don’t expect him to magically morph into bendy pretzel dog, but this isn’t really about bending, this is about COME INTO ME, DAMMIT. We can work on that, and today most definitely proved if I don’t it’s going to be a total mess.

Things that probably didn’t help include focusing on his herding training, where I’m trying to get him to MOVE THE HELL AWAY FROM THE SHEEP, and then we ran in Gamblers and standard where he got to just run and take things that were right in front of him. Then we attempted biathlon standard … right after having Navarre play with a puppy right outside the ring – who he was then obsessed about. Oh, biathlon – it was not pretty. Thankfully, he had steeplechase afterwards, where he only ran around the LAST jump looking for any puppies by the ring.

Anyway, yes, still lots of good, but I hated feeling like I was shouting and screaming and feeling disconnected with my dog. Yes, he can be a little drifty in practice – but nothing like this. Hard to know what to do other than scream at him trying to get him to come into me. It doesn’t work though, so, hey.

Navarre ran a LOT today, he ended up with an Advanced Standard Q, Pairs Q, Gamblers Q, Steeplechase Q … but no snooker. I hate snooker. Gamblers I can at least practice contacts … But the plan was to see if I could finish up his Advanced title, but he’ll need a snooker Q and one more standard. Doesn’t really matter, I like being in Advanced, it’s so tiny! And we clearly don’t need anything harder in trials.

I am glad that I ended up just running Navarre. No conflicts, and I was plenty tired just running Navarre! Bright was not happy about the arrangement, naturally. I thought there might be a chiropractor at the trial, but USDAA trials are so tiny these days that they don’t have all the amenities that bigger trials have. Yes, she’s still off in the rear, no it hasn’t gotten any better or worse. I even took her hiking on Friday, where with the excitement I couldn’t even see her limp – ha! It’s still there though, and now I need to start figuring out who I can bring her to for an evaluation. Hm.

I didn’t go back to the trial today, it was supposed to be 88 degrees and the other dogs need love too. I did send Navarre up with Heidi though, and she ran him! He was being a really good boy and tried very hard, he was on his best behavior. He accidentally took a little detour to the table at one point, but other than that they did great!

Now, my big complaint about the trial – changing schedules day of with no warning. On Saturday my first class was supposed to start at 8am. So with Heidi driving up with me we both got up ridiculously early to meet up then drive up to the trial. Once there I got Navarre warmed up and ready to go and then was informed that they had decided right then they were going to run all the dogs through the Not For Competition class before starting the other classes. Which meant that my class didn’t start until 9:30, and we had gotten there early for no reason at all and then had to sit around and wait. I have no problem with the schedule if that’s what they wanted to do, but you don’t just randomly decide the day of to change schedules like that. Which also meant that we were there until 5pm in Starters/Advanced ring, in the heat of the afternoon, finishing up what should have been done hours ago.

Then I didn’t realize they were doing only one round of steeplechase, which I wouldn’t have entered if I realized. Steeplechase is only worth paying that amount if you get two runs, Navarre loves the class so I always enter it, but I’ll have to be more careful to double check I’m not just paying for one expensive class next time.

I am thankful for being able to pull Bright from the competition, but I am not feeling the love for USDAA at the moment. We have AKC in a couple weeks, just Navarre, of course. I think we should REALLY work on that hand touch in the meantime …

I did take the boys herding this week, I had Dave work Navarre, as I get my share of being run over by sheep with our terrible practice sheep – let someone else do it! I was really happy with what he was doing! Which is not GOOD, but considering where he came from, this is miles of improvement – he’s thinking, a little. We’re supposed to continue to work on trying to get him to understand what the flag or stick MEANS, and always about increasing distance and bending on his flanks. His baby outrun looked good there, we get to continue to work on it. He’s in a fun place, there is a little lightbulb going on that, perhaps, we’re not just there to annoy him, but we might be able to work together.

And Haku, well, he’s trying, bless his heart. He had a lot to deal with this week, the livestock guardian dogs were barking and running the fence when Haku was driving to drive the sheep – it wasn’t helpful. And Haku was not taking my flanking cues, so I’d ask and ask and then have to shout at him to get him to actually listen. Which is less than fun. He had a little good stuff, and we have a plan of taking him out in the big BIG field and just letting him drive and drive and drive – no fences, just wide open acreage. So, we’ll see, that’s in a couple weeks.

Looking at setting up a plan for the summer, where we head out hiking early in the morning and then stop for a lesson in the later morning on our way home. It makes the dogs happy, we may not be good at it, but they like it.

In kitty news, I took Marvin in for his rabies shot last week. Ended up with the vet that owns the place and apparently does most of the appointments. And I didn’t like him. Sigh. I try not be one of ‘those people’ that comes into a vet and acts like a know it all and refuses to take their advice … but don’t talk to me like a moron. And don’t try to threaten me that if I don’t put flea medication on my indoor cats that my house will become infested with fleas. And that Marvin needs to be wormed 4 or 5 TIMES to get rid of his ‘parasite load’ that all kittens have regardless of whether he was wormed as a kitten and shows absolutely no signs of worms and certainly did not have a fecal or anything else to warrant worming him FOUR OR FIVE TIMES. Jesus.

And then Marvin reacted to his rabies shot and was all lethargic and didn’t eat for like two days. Which I know is not necessarily unusual, but does make me feel like one of ‘those people’ that doesn’t want to vaccinate her animals. And don’t get me wrong, I do vaccinate my pets, but especially with things like rabies for an indoor cat, they get it once per lifetime. Which I’m sure this vet would not agree with.

Still, Mavin’s set up for his neuter next week, then he’ll be ‘done’. I do kitten vaccines and then a rabies when they’re older, but other than that they only go in when I think something may be wrong or to see about a dental. Because I’m of one of ‘those people’.

Oh, but I got Marvin a carrier backpack to take him in, because we may still yet look into being an Adventure Kitty. And the dog carrier I use to bring Fizzy or Dragon into the vet seemed extraneous for Marvin. And the vet had to use rubbing alcohol in front of Marvin’s nose to get him to stop purring. And then Marvin struggled and cried for his shot. Sigh. Sorry buddy.

Baby’s First Outruns

There is a limit to Haku’s farm usefulness. Gathering sheep he’s good at, but holding or pushing reluctant sheep – not so much. He tries really hard, but the boy has no presence. Practiced a bit at Poodletopia this weekend, which involved separating out 2 of the heavies and the one lighter sheep to help them be not so crushingly heavy. Haku was not much help with this, either was I – luckily, Heidi is very strong. I’m so not a farmer. But your hands feel very soft after wrestling with sheep.

We did get the ladies out there, Haku had some very wobbly drives where I tried not to use the fence as a crutch and drive them to a specific point – and I tried to keep him back behind the sheep better, especially with his cross drive. This often didn’t work, I need to look more at the sheep than him.  Still no real progress getting him to move forward when needed on his walk-up, he’s such a polite boy.

Still, I think he should go play at some baby trials. I have some ideas in that direction, which involves hoisting him off on someone else as there is nothing really locally. My perfect boy is going to be 9 this summer, I want him to have a few trials by the time he’s 10. And maybe he’ll be going strong as he goes into the the double digits, but I do want him to have a chance while he’s still young and strong.

Meanwhile, Navarre is actually making progress in herding! We keep inching forward, but I feel like we finally turned a corner and he does actually kind of have an idea what he’s supposed to be doing – even if he doesn’t always do it. He is definitely stronger on his away side, and, with a lot of reminders that we do not slice in and bite sheep, he can flank nicely on his go-bye too. Sometimes. You can see in his little brain the fight he has before he takes the command about what he WANTS to do as opposed to what he SHOULD do. But as he is a good dog at heart, I’m optimistic. He CAN give the sheep some room too, I think working with just pressure and release has helped, rather than telling him to back off. Still have quite the issue getting him to hold balance and walk up, but he CAN. When he wants to.

Dove was doing such pretty outruns I decided to give it a try with Navarre, assuming he would just be a dork about it. But guess who did his first baby outruns? I didn’t even bother to try with his bad side, but he did do his very first (tiny) outruns and actually moved out and around ever so gently actually feeling the sheep – what a good boy! Maybe my big dorky puppy is growing up a bit.

What we haven’t worked on is agility, and this weekend we have a USDAA trial. It was mostly for Bright, who I had to pull. It was supposed to be Bright’s first full weekend of Masters classes. We were going to do all sorts of things! But Bright is still broken, and it’s been long enough without improvement we’ve moved the injury into the ‘serious’ category. Sigh. I still can’t really tell where it is, almost looks like hip to me, but I’m not sure. It’s pretty consistent. It hasn’t gotten any worse, but it hasn’t gotten any better. Sunday she was bouncing around inside to look out the window at a visiting puppy, then I let her run around a little at poodletopia. Good news, she didn’t look any worse the next day, so … good? The plan at this point is to hopefully get her adjusted at the trial this weekend, assuming someone is there. But I think we’ll have to start looking into getting into a sports vet and see what’s going on.

Still, Bright is happy and it doesn’t seem to be bothering her. She’s just pissed she keeps getting left out of things. Love that girl, if she can never do agility again, I don’t care – I just want her to be able to hike and be the active dog she loves to be. Though I’m assuming she’ll get to come back to agility, you just never know. Worst case scenario though, she’ll be fine no matter what – she’s my best girl.

Navarre I didn’t enter in too many things in USDAA, well, compared to what you can. So many classes in USDAA. I wanted to finish up his Advanced title, he needs a couple standards and a couple games. So we’ll see, we have a bunch of runs on Saturday but only a couple on Sunday, when it’s supposed to be 88 degrees. Sigh. So maybe we’ll stay home instead! I feel like haven’t run Navarre in a trial in forever, I think we’ll be rusty but he’s always fun.

Marvin has a vet appointment tomorrow, taking him in for his rabies shot and talk about getting him set up for a neuter. I considered experimenting keeping him intact, but he’s been having so much fun hanging out in the yard I want to continue without worrying that him being intact will make him more likely to jump the fence. And his balls are HUGE, I swear they’re bigger than Navarre’s. Poor Navarre and his tiny balls.

While Marvin is maturing rapidly, Navarre is still like a giant puppy. I never really think of him as intact. He has some normal mildly obnoxious boy dog traits, like wanting to lick pee and getting caught up in the smells of girls – but he’s really been super easy.  No issues with distraction when working, he’s fine with other intact boys, no humping, obsessive marking or girl obsession. He just acts … like a puppy. And you know what Navarre likes? PUPPIES.

David brought his new puppy over, just 7.5 weeks and I introduced my crew one at a time. Fiona was intimidated by Bright and Haku, who were mildly curious about puppy but mostly just wanted to play with David. But Navarre, who I thought might be too much for puppy, was just in love. And he had the puppy playing in no time. In fact, Navarre was acting more like a puppy than the PUPPY was. Fiona was like, “Okay, that’s enough foolishness, let’s take a break,” but Navarre was having none of that.

Love my big dork, and he survived our crazy thunderstorm over the weekend. We rarely ever have thunder in Oregon, but we woke up to crazy scary loud thunder early Saturday morning. Even Bright was like, “THE WORLD IS ENDING!” I had a pile of dogs plastered to me, the cats were all freaked out. Haku didn’t care, go figure. But it did kind of crack me up that while Navarre was concerned about the thunder, he wasn’t half as dramatic about that as he is about someone blowing a raspberry at him. Dramaqueen.

Cat Balls and Broken Bright

Wow, already May – times flies! Tiny Marvin is around seven months old now. Old enough to start thinking about neutering. I neutered Dragon and Fizban at 9 months, I wanted to give the big boys a chance to grow before messing with their hormones. There is certainly more information available these days about the drawbacks of neutering dogs. The studies are mostly in favor of keeping dogs intact, which should not be a huge surprise – hormones are there for a reason. More benefits to male dogs than females, I think.

My personal belief is male hormones help support the dog, female hormones are there to support the puppies. In dogs, the female hormones are the same every time they go into heat, the body reacts like there are puppies whether the dog is actually pregnant or not, including having ‘phantom pregnancies’. So, for me, in general I am favor of keeping boy dogs intact and spaying girls after they’re grown. But I also think quality of life is the biggest factor – if a boy dog is a giant asshole to live with, then neutering is better than life with an asshole.

Anyway, I have a lot of data with dogs to work with, from actual studies to personal experience with a large body of dogs that I work with and know. Yet if you asked on the internet if you should spay/neuter your dog, you’d get a very different answer. Understandably, people are very concerned with pet overpopulation, and it has been beaten into our heads for years that spaying and neutering is the only responsible way to have animals. That intact animals are more aggressive, will go crazy and break out and roam the neighborhood looking for potential mates, pee on everything, die of reproductive cancer and have a poor quality of life. Having worked at the shelter and the vet, I see how it seems like a good idea to really ‘sell’ spaying and neutering to the new pet owner. It has really become gospel these days though, and certainly not normal in other parts of the world. People in Europe must think we’re total nutjobs.

So I was thinking about bringing Marvin in for a rabies shot and to think about scheduling his neuter and it occurred to me – what about cats? Unlike dogs, I have about zero information about living with intact cats. Everything I’ve ever heard makes it sound extremely unpleasant. Girl cats cycle continuously every three months, boy cats spray everywhere. However, the only intact boys I know of live as breeding cats, which means they live in a house with continuously cycling girl cats – which I imagine is quite … stimulating.

Out of curiosity, I poked around online for any information about living with an intact male cat that was NOT around any intact females, what did they act like? Did they still spray? Was it inevitable? I wasn’t the first to ask the question, but the only answers I came across were rabid animal rescue nuts parroting gospel about pet overpopulation and how the cat would spray all over their house and bust out and impregnate the neighborhood. Yet none of them actually had any first hand knowledge of this, it was quite clear they were just doing their best to ‘save’ this cat from not getting neutered. I found a couple bewildered pet owners that replied that they had intact indoor boy cats that got along great and never sprayed, who were immediately shamed and informed it was only a matter of time. And maybe it IS only a matter of time, it just bugs me now that there is no actual information about the subject, just hysterical mobs bent on neutering, but their focus on pet overpopulation not necessarily what is best for the individual.

I had two cats I adopted from the shelter that were brought in as mature intact toms. Obviously they were neutered before I adopted them, but I adored their strong, badass personalities. Of course, maybe they would have still been strong and badass if they had been neutered at 8 weeks, I’ll never know. I do know that certainly had no issues after they were neutered, they were best of friends their whole lives, never sprayed. And the only intact male I know that lived in a house was Fizban’s dad, who lived with the breeder and sprayed all over his area (obviously lived in a house with a bunch of intact cycling girls).

Anyway, Marvin will most likely be neutered at some point, but I kind of want to do an experiment and see what happens. ‘They’ say on the internet that once they start spraying they’ll never stop, even if you neuter them – but Fizban’s dad, the one that spent years spraying up his enclosure was neutered and now lives in a pet home, as happy as can be – no issues. And, of course, my parent’s neutered cat started spaying in the house when he like 12 years old. So you never know.

Anyway, Marvin is doing really well, and getting more athletic and very fluffy! He can now jump straight up onto the counters instead of having to use the chair first. Sigh. My new floor is now damaged from a plate shattering from being thrown from the counter because of the cats. Troublemakers. Marvin is just getting more playful and active, the maine coons seem so mellow next to him! We all just adore him, so glad he’s here. Knock on wood, after their second set of antibiotics, the cats seem to be well for the moment. We’ll see what happens, the whole swapping sicknesses back and forth gets real old after 5 months.

I did let Marvin have his first experiences out in the backyard. We had some surprisingly nice weather and it was really fun to see him romp and explore. Fizban enjoys a stroll in the yard as well, of course. I don’t worry about Fizban as he literally lacks the athleticism to jump the fence. Little Marvin doesn’t either … yet. We shall see, I’d like him to be able to have some supervised romps in the yard, it’s such a fabulous enrichment to the life of an indoor cat. I even bought them a catnip plant – Fizzy approves!

I did finally cave in and buy a chest freezer, so all the animals can now be supplemented with raw. I feel good about this decision, I’m hoping it will help with the cats teeth – and Navarre’s too, of course. The cats very much enjoy it, and the dogs do too … except that they are all determined to only eat it on the carpet – WTF? So I’ll put some pieces of raw in with their kibble and they pick up the raw, carry it across the room to dump it on the carpet to eat. NOT HELPFUL. Then while that dog is gone the other dogs go to steal that dog’s food and then dogs are scrambling going from bowl to bowl and stressed out when normally it’s just calm happy food times. EAT IT OUT OF YOUR OWN BOWL, NOOBS. So I have to be the Food Police until these dorks figure out the concept that you can actually eat raw not on the carpet.

In other news, Bright broke herself playing at the park last night. She will occasionally have some front end lameness – but this is rear. And I really, really, really don’t want it to be a knee. So far I’m just trying to ignore it and see what happens in a week. But I pulled her from the trials I entered her in May, I’m worried it may be something serious. Bummed.

But on the other side of the coin – Haku is fat! I actually find it rather weird to see him looking so round. He’s got about 1/4 of a bag left of his second bag of his ‘fancy’ veterinarian Fat Food. Which involves a lot of corn in the ingredients. He’s like a cow being fattened for slaughter. I should probably start cutting back at this point, it’s just so nice to see some meat on him again.

I have had other things going on, but we did have a chance to go down South for another herding lesson, we went out into the big field there to work on driving. Basically it came down to, we both just need more practice. Navarre is Navarre, but he’s thinking more, some glimmers here and there. We haven’t had any access to sheep, but we have been practicing on toys. Which ‘real’ herding people are horrified with, but I think once Navarre figured out how to walk up on a toy there really was a lightbulb moment. Now, flanking a toy we just started with, he’s not quite there, but the walkup with lie downs, he can do that, which is nice to see.

Agility-wise, we haven’t been doing much of anything, just tons of recall to hand, but not in sequence. I’m hoping trialing again gives me some inspiration, and we have the Justine/Jessica seminar in June. Right now, for various reasons, we just haven’t been focused on agility.

And the Summer of Puppies has begun! Soon I will get to visit Briards, the first puppies of the year!

Happy Birthday Navarre!

My big goober puppy is three! And still very much a puppy. In some ways a little MORE of a puppy than he used to be. As Navarre has gotten older he’s actually gotten more sensitive and clingy, he wasn’t like that when he was tiny. I think he trusts me to take care of him though, and when he is uncertain he definitely is the dog that wants to crawl up in my lap and make everything okay. It’s very sweet, he has a child-like endearing quality that the other border collies never had, they are just way more self reliant. Navarre ‘needs’ me a little more than they do – but he’s still a border collie, he only needs me so much!

Navarre continues to be the puppy I wasn’t looking for, but what I ended up really wanting. I thought I wanted this athletic, adventurous, pushy dog. But as soon as I saw Navarre I knew he was the one for me, and I knew he wasn’t really going to be any of those things. I didn’t know I was looking for sweet mellow goober until I saw him, and he just always felt ‘right’. Even when he was such a goof of a puppy he had no interest in playing with me, I knew he would get there. There was never any drama with him or expectations of him to be anything other than Navarre.

My perfect Navarre, such a smart, nerdy dog. So incredibly thoughtful when training, he takes it all to heart. He knows the most things of all my dogs, he really does understand the behaviors way more than the other dogs. He really THINKS and processes things, he understands them completely. My other dogs tend to gloss over things, but not Navarre. If he doesn’t know something, it’s my issue, not his.

Navarre is actually a very athletic dog, and in a very thoughtful way. I don’t have to worry about him throwing his body around. I let Navarre get the toy 99% of the time, as Bright and Haku are just STUPID about it. Navarre is so graceful and thoughtful, and very fast and powerful. Not one of Nature’s Turners, but his forward stride is awesome. And just his understanding of his body, he knows how it all works and body awareness games are no issue to him. I’m sure he could jump 24 in agility, but I’m glad we stuck to 20 – which is really barely a jump for him. I don’t want him to have to think too much about it, agility and jumping is comfortable and effortless for him. He has been such a fun dog in agility, we very much enjoy it together.

Of course, there are things he thinks are stupid – and it’s hard to convince him otherwise. like obedience, he KNOWS the behaviors, but he doesn’t approve. I’m not sure because of the lack of action or what, but you can see him rolling his eyes at me before he does it. Navarre is not shy about letting you know when you ask him to do something he thinks is stupid. Still, he is a GOOD dog, he wants to be right and he is not pushy at all. He’ll do it, because he’s a good dog. Which is not a good enough reason for me to do it though, so he’s fired from obedience until he’s older.

Now, sheep have been another story. He approves of herding, but he thinks I’m doing it wrong. He wants to be a good dog, but I believe he thinks I’m a herding moron that doesn’t understand what is SUPPOSED to be happening. On sheep is when you see Navarre’s iron core. He has never quit, never wavered, he is 100% committed no matter the pressure. I used to think he’d never actually figure it out, but I’ve changed my mind – I think he will. He may not be the most naturally talented sheep dog, but he’s got the brains and determination. He’s going to get there … someday.

And as a pet, Navarre is the easiest dog to live with. He is the most mellow, relaxed dog in the house. People come over and the other dogs are racing around like they’re on crack – and Navarre is just sleeping on the couch. There is a time and place in his mind, and at home is not the time for shenanigans. He’s sweet, cuddly and so well behaved. SUCH a good boy, the perfect pet.

So, yeah, Navarre has been just about perfect for me – and he just felt right from the day I picked him out at three days old. He has this solid, comfortable energy that just fits with me. He was just who I thought he was going to be when I met him at four weeks. I thought Dove would be the party girl and Navarre would be ‘good dog’, and that has played out – and I adore them both. They are funny, different, quirky dogs – not your typical border collies, but just perfect for who they are.

Happy Birthday, Navarre – you are perfect!