Winter of Herding Continues

OMG, the dogs are so skinny! Whoops, I should have upped their food when we started winter break. We’ve been a lot more active than we are when I’m teaching throughout the week. Extra rations for everyone, and especially Navarre – intact boys suck at holding weight. He’s also rather naked, none of the dogs felt the need to grow any coat this winter. Unlike Marvin, who is the world’s most adorable puffball at the moment. Hard to believe we’ve had him for a year! He really is the most ridiculously adorable cat, and so soft and fluffy and I just adore him. I’m so happy to be a crazy middle aged cat lady these days.

Dogs are enjoying our break, getting lots of action but probably getting hosed off more than they’d like. Herding is dirty business, all that lying down in mud. Hiking isn’t clean these days either, we are officially in winter. Which includes no more swimming for the dogs, as the river is too fast, so that means no more ‘washing’ the dogs before we go home. Alas.

Also been WAY more people out at our hiking area this winter compared to the last two winters. Unfortunately, shooting off mass amounts of guns. Sigh. Navarre does not appreciate it, and it was stressing us both out as when the guns would go off Navarre wants to run back to the car – which I don’t appreciate mid-hike. However, we seem to have found a good solution. Whenever the shooting starts, I throw a stick way into the underbrush and Navarre is totally focused on searching for the stick and appears to completely ignore the noise as long as he’s in ‘search mode’ – and his little tail is wagging the whole time. So we have been doing that whenever there are gun shots, and not throwing it when there isn’t. Today there were no gun shots, yet Navarre spent the whole hike playing ‘Stick’ with the other dogs – which he’s never done before. It was very cute how whenever there was a stump he would jump up on it and hold his stick as he gazed at me very hopefully. Love that boy!

Winter of Herding: Day Six

I’m feeling a little bit more confident with Haku and sheep. As expected, doing something every day makes a big difference. Haku remains very enthusiastic, but we did cut his lesson with Dave short – he was a bit mentally tired. Before that he was more confident with his driving than he had been, Dave put out a heavier sheep with the others to make it easier to drive and I think Haku felt much more in control. And, well, practice does make a difference. The good news, he was fairly confidently driving past what Dave said was Pro-Novice distance with minimal corrections from me. You know, in a somewhat narrow field. With a fence. One step at a time here.

What we worked on mostly was specific herding, as opposed to approximate herding. It didn’t go super well. We need a lot more specific herding practice.  And apparently most people have bad depth perception. Which is worse with astigmatism. So, hey, not alone. I still very much struggle with the inside flanks, calling those on the fly – not so good. I am doing better at using our cues a little more consistently overall though. Hoping we’ll be better with all of that by the end of our herding adventure.

As Haku was starting not to respond to cues as well as we was at the beginning of the lesson, we put him up and Navarre and Dave worked a little longer than normal. It’s very cute to see Navarre work on his baby driving, he’s so uncharacteristically uncertain about it. When in doubt he’ll try to come back to Dave, so Dave has to stop and redirect him back out again. For a dog that shoves sheep continuously on the fetch it’s funny to see him to so tentative on the longer drives.

Watching them work together I still feel like Navarre finds people to be just an obnoxious impediment to him getting to the sheep. Dave says that I’m being unfair and that Haku was probably the same when he was younger – but Haku always wanted to do everything together. Navarre continues to be quite certain that he doesn’t need people where sheep are involved. So he complies to all these stupid rules, but you can tell he just doesn’t think of this as a team sport. Which is really not like him in any other place in his life, he really is SUCH a good dog – and very willing and biddable. He’s become my ‘class dog’, he runs with all sorts of people from complete novices to more experienced and he’s so willing, patient and cooperative no matter how confusing their handling may be. Agility is something that is done TOGETHER, but herding isn’t for him.

Navarre still gets to go herding, but, yes, he has to actually listen in order to have access to the sheep. I wonder if it will ever be anything but a battle with him. The herding people he’s worked with don’t see him that way at all, so maybe it’s all just me. I get accused of unfairly comparing him to Haku quite a bit. It may be true. But, in herding, I have always felt like Haku was working WITH me from day one, I have yet to feel that with Navarre. At all. But that’s the goal with Navarre this year, to get him to the point where I actually find it pleasant to work him on sheep. Because I would, if I didn’t feel like I was just constantly correcting him the whole time. He sure does love it though, corrections be damned.

Winter of Herding: Day Seven

Seven days of herding – one week down, 22 days to go. Assuming we actually get to sheep every day. We, uh, both might need to start taking some breaks. But we’re still having fun and making progress, the weather continues to hold for us – it’s been a very warm winter. I don’t think we’ve really had a real frost yet.

Back to Scio, we started in the small field trying to look at driving with a destination. It didn’t go super well. Back out to the big field, we did more assisted driving straight ahead for long distances. So not many commands, just ‘here’ or ‘hey’ if the sheep started to go offline. The goal is for Haku to know how to fix it himself – and all evidence points to Haku not actually having the faintest clue that driving means going in a straight line. It was a good long practice of just driving, which settles him down. Ian’s more flighty sheep get him kind of worked up. Still did his share of looking back at me, even when I was basically just to the side and behind walking with him. Not sure why he keeps giving me this incredulous look all the time, even when he seems to be doing quite well.

We also did some long distance fetches, which he mostly did really well with. Once again, when the sheep were WAY out there, he saw them, I sent him, he was going great and then he just … loses them, like they’re invisible, and he stops and comes in looking confused like he has no idea where they went. But, the good news, when he came in he then redirected back out (you know, eventually). We might not be able to do it the first time, but we’re getting better at fixing things that go wrong! Progress? Still too fast on his lift, and he’s too far away to really hear me, or perhaps just too far away to feel confident enough to respond. So something else on the list that we haven’t really worked on. He didn’t leave any sheep behind today, nor did they escape to one of the gates. I’m calling it forward progress. Haku was, as always, super happy to be there and trying so hard. Love that boy.

It kind of cracks me up how herding people just like Navarre. Well, other than that first lady we went to – she did not like Dove and Navarre at all. Her loss. Today Ian gave Navarre a compliment. Sort of. He said he has the most raw talent that he’s ever seen in a merle. So a bit of a backhanded compliment, but he also said he could have Navarre ready for Pro-Novice in a month, which is a more of a compliment than being good … for a merle. 😉 So, yes, for the second time this week people are telling me that Navarre has just as good of a feel for sheep than Haku and I need to stop disparaging him. Though I have to wonder if Ian would have felt the same way if Dave hadn’t been working with Navarre this year, baby Navarre was REALLY annoying, I think. He’s less annoying now, thankfully. Still, I find it funny that all the herding people like Navarre better than Haku, yet Haku is actually useful.

So, yeah, Ian and Navarre seem to do well together, Navarre is getting more confident with what Ian wants and doesn’t get at all upset with the yelling. I think it’s helpful for Navarre to work with two people that both know what they’re doing, but work in very different ways. I think it’s helping him generalize and figure out what exactly he’s supposed to be doing. Ian worked with Navarre driving today, and Navarre did better. And, for whatever reason, Navarre seems to not run Ian over with sheep as much as he does Dave. I can’t explain that one. On Monday Ian wants to take Navarre out to the big field. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing …

Winter of Herding: Day Eight

Back to practice after a night of heavy rain – once again, the weather was lovely when we were out there. I can’t complain, but I also kind of feel like the universe is trying to tell me something as this has just been a little suspiciously easy. Hm.

The goal was to look at driving without fixing with flanks and driving with specific destinations and landmarks. About as expected, driving without flanks in a GENERAL manner went pretty well. Attempting to do any sort of driving with landmarks was frustratingly unsuccessful. Hmph. And the weather was so lovely I just was not in the mood to yell at my dog, which made me cranky when I had to yell at my dog to get him to stop overflanking and running me over with sheep. Hmph.

Still, practice makes perfect, even when it doesn’t go well … right? We did have some good stuff, but not being able to anything ‘for real’ is somewhat discouraging. 21 days left though, I can only be optimistic. And tomorrow … we herd.

Merry Christmas!

It’s been a crazy December, I’m glad I got all my Christmas decorations up early, as somehow the holiday snuck up on me. And, miracles of miracles, I finally got to pick up my car from the shop after our accident – only a month later! Bright really hated being in the pickup truck, so that should make her very happy. I love my little Transit, long may it stay undented!

We had a great visit down to the beach for Christmas, with some absolutely perfect weather. The dogs so love the beach and visiting my parents! They had the most fun opening their presents and taking long runs on the beach running around trading off the ball. Beaches are made for dogs!

Winter of Herding: Day Three

We were off to a good start with our herding ambitions this winter, three days of herding in a row – unheard of! Day three we actually got to go practice by ourselves in a bigger field that we used with our lesson with Dave. I was super proud of Haku for making progress, a really good practice where he was doing better at the longer outruns and looking for sheep. He also took corrections at a distance, when he came in too early I was able to redirect him back out to keep looking and he did it! Still plenty of work to go in that department, but, hey, a little progress here and there will hopefully add up by the end of the month. We also practiced driving the sheep around me, which he did really well with. Driving sheep farther away from me, that’s his weakness – he’s not really staying in contact with the sheep, and very questioning at a distance. I also practiced the art of yelling at a distance, I can get pretty good inflection with my ‘HEY’ to help get Haku to slow the hell down on his lift.

Haku had SO much fun – he’s loving our herding vacation and we got in another lovely hike afterwards. So far my winter break is off to a great start.

Winter of Herding: Day Four

After our trip to the beach we had another practice, where, once again, didn’t get rained on. I think the universe wants me to do herding, as I feel uncommonly lucky with the weather. We’ve had some crazy wind and pouring down rain, but, strangely, never when herding – and I’ve been expecting it. I have plenty of waterproof things to help me slog through the winter, but they have not been needed … yet. If we really do get 29 days of herding, I’m sure I’ll need them at some point. Haku gets filthy no matter what though, that boy is a dirt sponge.

I had less of a plan for our practice, but was really happy at how confident Haku is now in this bigger field. Unfortunately I do think a lot of his success is due to him just learning to run down a fence until he sees sheep though. Still, one step at a time. Still working on not lifting the sheep with speed, the farther away he is the less thoughtful he is. He tends to be really good once he gets within a certain distance of me. Did some nice downs at extreme distance today, probably because he definitely has a lot more questions at distance at this point and is really looking for direction.

I felt Haku was a LITTLE better with driving at a distance, but he still literally turns around and gives me this look like, “Really?” Driving up close we worked on trying to randomly flank on verbal only and that was … well, not terrible, but not super good either. It’s good practice for both of us.

My plan was to work on settling down on his fetch, turning the sheep around me and then driving back out around some stumps. And I think this is where a lot of my issues come in – I’m pretty good at APPROXIMATE herding. Go THAT way-ish, or kind of in this direction, or in that general area. I suck at driving the bus when we have an EXACT target. And I don’t think we ever successfully completed even my imaginary courses. Approximate herding is much easier.

Winter of Herding: Day Five

I’m on a roll – 5 days down, 24 to go! We had a lesson down in Scio with Ian today and worked on driving. I think we can all agree that Haku doesn’t REALLY understand driving. So we looked at both what distance he’s most comfortable with, and just correcting when he would try to stop the sheep on the drive with me closer to him to support him. Which, once again, is mostly the art of yelling “hey” at my dog.

It was a bit confusing as I wasn’t supposed to use his flanks, or tell him ‘come’ (which is my way getting him to switch directions because remembering inside flanks takes me about 20 seconds before I can call it) – and these sheep really want to get to the many open gates and such that are in the big field and I really don’t want them to escape! Still, it’s been on the list to work on just driving with no fences to stop or help (or hinder) us. So lots of good stuff and by the end he was pushing without me having to stop and fix his line every 10 feet. Now, we weren’t trying to move the sheep in any specific direction, which makes things a lot easier. I do much better with approximate herding.

We also got a couple challenges with sheep, which I don’t think Haku would have been able to do before. First was going into the pen and attempting to move the sheep out into the field that REALLY didn’t want to go out into the field. This was a big amount of sheep, maybe 30? So lots of angry sheep facing off on him and yet he kept a good amount of pressure … for Haku. We got some sheep out, anyway. And one of the sheep we got out was a dominant ram who challenged Haku quite a bit (justifiably, when Haku was too close) and Haku stood up to him and still moved him. I don’t think he would have been able to do that last year.

Much better distance on his outruns in the big field, no stopping at all! He got to ‘catch’ the sheep from escaping several times. Well, catch and release, in his case. He did great covering, got them turned … and then just kept leaving sheep behind everywhere. Hmph. The good news, he knows ‘look back’ pretty darn well and would go back for them … but it was pretty much a mess at that point. So I think when things get too exciting he’s not sure what to do, but bringing back just a couple sheep is a common issue of his – not very helpful. He doesn’t know it’s important to bring ALL the sheep.

So lots of good stuff from Haku, it’s fun to be able to work on different things every day and we have driving homework for Sunday.

Navarre got to work with Ian, which went better than it had before. It’s interesting to see how exuberant Navarre is with Ian, he’s super wiggly and excited to see him – yet he’s all business with Dave. Ian yells WAY more than Dave, but Navarre definitely respects Dave more than Ian at this point. Still, Navarre was trying really hard to understand someone new, and showed some nice bits and was only mildly obnoxious. He was very happy to play.

Oh, and more nice weather today – the herding luck continues. Dogs are now filthy and happy – and tomorrow … we herd.

Joy

Hard to imagine life without animals around, I have been feeling exceptionally emotional about my crew lately. I’m very lucky to have such wonderful cats and dogs that get along so well with both their own species and with each other. This is certainly not always the case, and I don’t want to take it for granted. They have all have had their issues, but I can’t imagine life without any of them. I am very lucky to live with such an amazing group of creatures. I’m also very thankful everyone is healthy and sound, I know that can change in an instant.

Just … thankful, I recognize how fortunate I am in many ways. I love what I do and being around other people that enjoy their animals as much as I do. Agility is about bringing joy to dogs and handlers, and it’s hard to think of a better way to spend the day. I enjoy obedience and herding, but the heart of those sports isn’t just joy and play like agility – there is nothing like it.

But the next month belongs to herding – well, to Haku really. His Christmas gift, and really what I think he would like more than anything, and he’s still young enough to do it. He’s a different dog these days than the sensitive little worrywart he was when he was younger. He never gets upset with herding, never wants to quit, never worries, and always smiles. It makes me enormously happy to see him this way. The goal is to get to sheep at least 4-5 times a week for the next four weeks. We’re going to give it our best shot, trying to be focused, consistent and with a theoretical goal of attempting some low level USBCHA herding trials next year. I don’t care if doesn’t happen, we will have fun with the journey.

Day One of the Winter of Herding – we had our lesson with Dave. The universe continues to favor my pursuit of herding, another lovely day. I realize this will not always be the case this winter, but, good god I’ve lucked out when it comes to herding and weather this year – summer and winter. We went to a new field today, where Haku could not see the sheep. As expected, he didn’t get this concept of trying to find sheep that he doesn’t know are there. But once he DID finally find them he had no problem sending blind when he an idea where they were. I think with practice he’ll get the concept that when I send there really WILL be sheep out there if he just trusts me. Practice, we just need practice. And he was SO HAPPY, he just loves outruns. Now, getting him not to run me over with sheep when he was bringing them back from such a distance was a whole other issue, but one thing at a time. He is doing so much better at pushing sheep these days, and much longer outruns in this situation – I think having fences helps a lot, he’s really used to them.

Winter of Herding Day Two was with Ian today, where, perhaps not shockingly, we got to work on not running me over with sheep. Which Haku did remember, finally. He struggled quite a bit in the big arena, he couldn’t find the sheep to start with, so Ian had his dog bring them down so Haku could see them. And even looking RIGHT AT the sheep, Haku lost them again just going on his outrun. Then we argued about running the sheep, so we lost the sheep, and then Haku thought that bringing back just ONE sheep was perfectly okay. It went on like this for a while. So we ended with just doing walkabouts with these different sheep and getting Haku to actually THINK about what he needed to do differently, rather than just running around like a maniac.

So, one step at a time. And despite the fact that the extent of my lesson was pretty much ‘how to yell at your dog more effectively’, Haku thought it was FABULOUS.  I can’t imagine an activity other than herding that this approach would work with. My takeaway from today, be much more proactive with making sure Haku is respecting his sheep and reading his sheep – that’s his job, not mine.

Meanwhile, Navarre continues to try to figure out this herding thing with Dave, and he finds it actually more exciting when when Ian yells at him. Despite a lot of pressure and often being wrong, he never shows the slightest sign that he would rather be doing anything else. So, hey, he can keep doing it. And probably at some point he’ll go spend some time with Dave, where, god willing, he’ll actually learn the basics and I’ll find it pleasant to work with him. He never has to be good, but I don’t like arguing the whole time. I’d like to think that I’ll get to use some of this herding stuff on him someday. We’ll see. Maybe my next dog …

I am continuing to firm up herding plans for the break, including multiple locations, some lessons, some practice and a hell of a lot of driving to get everywhere. After Christmas I am tentatively looking at some sort of sheep for seven days straight, if everything pans out. And I have other options I haven’t looked into yet. I plan to be thoroughly tired of sheep, mud, rain, cold and yelling by the end January. Surely if you do something for a month straight you have to get better at it, right?

Winter (of Herding) is Coming

I always find the seasons to be a little weird, they SHOULD be equal. The hottest part of the year should be six months after the coldest time of the year – but that doesn’t seem to happen here. August is the hottest month, and then mid-December to mid-January is the coldest – so you get like 3 and a half to 4 months between the hottest and coldest temperatures. How does that work? Oregon definitely has more Spring than Fall. A whole lot of 45 degrees and raining. Good thing I like 45 degrees and raining.

Got to watch some of the European Open tryouts last weekend, some really fun courses! Would have liked to have a chance to run those, I’m having serious arena envy these days. 60 x 90 is very confining sometimes. I was looking at some properties recently – ZOMG, a 100 x 180 arena! Oh, that would be so much fun! I could set up ANYTHING. Too bad it came with a million dollar house. Unfortunately fancy giant arenas are only associated with fancy giant houses. Alas. I’m putting it out there though, I could do with a paltry 100 x 120 arena, I can compromise.

Dogs are happy with the weather, what a change, once again, to go from the dogs looking like they were going to pass out after running around in the heat for 5 minutes to us being able to go for hours and they barely look tired. Heat is killer. Been going out the field a lot more, which is good for Haku – he’s the most active out there. Hiking he does entirely too much walking behind me.

Colder temps has brought other slightly inconvenient issues – such as basically getting trapped in bed at night. Haku has to be wedged right next to me all night long (no matter what time of year), and then add three cats on me and I often can’t move – and am way too nice to make them move or even have room to turn over. It’s a rough life. We have all been enjoying the fireplace and the christmas decorations – I really do love winter, smothering bedmates and all.

Haven’t had much of a chance to work on agility, been a lot of other things going on. I could tell when I put the dogs outside recently and Navarre and Bright were chasing each other around for like an hour – barking their heads off. That never happens! I am looking forward to my winter break and really spending some quality time with everyone. I don’t think of myself as super busy, but when the sun goes down at 4:30, it’s amazing how little light you get to play with dogs. That will start changing soon, bring on the solstice and the long happy Spring. In the meantime, it’s always amusing how much of a crowd the dogs can bring when we dash to the park to get in some exercise before the sun goes down – it’s like having my own traveling show. People are easily impressed by border collies, tricks and an aerobee.

As for this winter, I now am starting to get together my Winter of Herding plan. Actually practicing – what a novel concept! I have four weeks off teaching to try to pack in some serious practice for me and Haku. We went out to Ian’s place in Scio, which isn’t too bad of a drive, nice big fields and where they have some USBCHA trials. So having Haku familiar with the layout there would be really helpful. And it was funny, we started in a smaller field, but still just a bit bigger than what he’s used to and off he goes on a lovely outrun and just STOPS when he hits where the fence normally is. Same with driving, he’ll go to a point where the fence would be and just stops – he’s a creature of habit.

So the goal is to break some of those habits, as he did end up getting to do a few big outruns in the big field, and while it wasn’t perfect, he did seem to realize he could actually go farther in these arenas. Oh, though the first time he saw a big group of sheep he went and brought back … two of them. He very much thinks herding happens in certain sized arenas with a certain amount of sheep. With practice, I think we can get it together to do some low level trialing stuff – which would be fun. And as we got to work in the very field where it would happen, I feel optimistic that we’ll get there.

So it sounds like Ian will have some availability during my break, so hoping to get out there as much as possible to practice. With an actual goal I’m back to trying to make sure I’m consistent and clear. I also got a chance to look at some online herding stuff today, the McRae Way, which I thought might be helpful to try to get a sense of an overall process in herding, and some good exercises and ideas. Definitely interesting to see the differences between all the different trainers, in herding no one does anything the same way, really. But I figure the more information, the better, and finding trainers and ideas that fit with my personality. Herding is sort of comically obscure, that’s for sure.

Oh, and Navarre was … Navarre at Ian’s. He actually started out surprisingly gentle on his fetch, and then he basically reverted back to his younger days of running me over with sheep. Dork. But a HAPPY dork. And all our work we’ve been doing with lying down away from sheep made no difference at all when I actually asked for it with sheep. Hrrumph. As usual, like everyone, Ian seemed to feel that Navarre would magically be fixed with just a few sessions of putting some pressure on him. Yeah, because no one has tried that at all for the last 3 and a half years. Still, he’s better these days – and maybe with some frequent practice for him this winter he too can make some progress. Whatever happens, he continues to think it’s the best thing ever.

So no agility trials for me for a while, it’s time to focus on Haku this winter and see how far we can go. If things go well, there is a small herding trial at Ian’s the beginning of February – might be something to shoot for.

 

2 Years

We’ve been here for two years now, or three Thanksgivings. Such a crazy time in my life that was back in 2016 when we moved, I can’t say I’m totally settled into my new life yet. I’m not sure when you get to say that, but life continues to feel very unreal. Got rear ended in a car accident this week, which was not only scary, but incredibly inconvenient having to deal with the insurance and trying to figure out transportation and getting the car fixed during Thanksgiving weekend. Yet, on the other hand, it seems to go right along with the whole kind of unreal feel of life these days. Shit happens, you can’t change that, but you can try to not let it get you down.

I’m thankful that me and the dogs are all fine. I’m also thankful my parents lent me their truck so I can transport dogs around, otherwise the dogs would have had to stay home – and while I think of them as pretty chill, they don’t do well when they don’t have action in their lives at least some of the time.

Went through some pictures from over the year today, we did have a lot of fun. Really glad that Heidi and I had our Reno Nationals trip, and Bright got her MACH too. It was really the Year of the Brightness. Love that girl, she’s so special. Haku retired from obedience and started his herding career, which has been fun with lots of ups and downs, and continues to mystify me. So thankful that Carol took him to some trials so we could make our herding goals for the year. Navarre did a lot of growing up, not really the big goober puppy he used to be. I love the dog he’s grown into, adore that big squishable dork.

We had some fun trials and so much beautiful hiking, I absolutely loved our Friday hikes we all find it hard when we have to miss it (we didn’t miss many though!). We raised two puppies and hung out with a lot more, there was a lot of cuteness this year. Got to hang out with Bright’s very talented (and very nerdy) kids, did some seminars, took a lot of classes.

It was a good year for dogs, there was other stuff going on, but dog-wise, things were good. My crew is happy and healthy, they get along so well and are just so wonderful to live with. They spoil me, they are VERY good dogs. We enjoyed playing with the puppies this year, but all the puppies also made me realize how much I adore my dogs – and how easy they really are!

So while I’m a little early here, what kind of goals do I have for 2019 with the dogs?

Navarre I want to see what we can do in obedience, I’d like to think we’d be able to get through Open, but if he just hates trialing, I’m fine with leaving obedience behind. If he seems to enjoy obedience, we may end up finishing up his Utility training and trying for that, but there is a lot of unknowns with obedience at this point. 2019 we shall give it a go and see what happens.

We have agility, which I just love, and so does Navarre. I don’t have any particular goals with him, we are getting closer to feeling like a team. When we have weekends without running around obstacles I feel like maybe we have arrived. Would be fun to take him to WTT at some point, which involves jumping 24, but I don’t want to do that until we get the drifting under control at 20 inches, as adding 4 inches only makes it worse. We will continue to work on our Justine stuff, proofing and solidifying his trained cues – that’s always fun. Still, mostly just fine tuning with agility and Navarre at this point – and always working on collection, of course.

Herding is another big unknown with Navarre, but I’m much more optimistic about his future in herding now. I don’t really care if he never actually gets to the point of competing, but we will work on it, because having specific goals is fun. So maybe in 2019 Navarre might be able to do … something. That still seems a bit far fetched at this point, but the progress he’s made with Dave has been pretty rapid, and if he does get some skills at herding camp this winter who knows what he may be able to do. I think he’ll be at least a useful dog, which is something I never thought would happen.

So, yeah, who would have guessed my big goober Navarre would have so many different hobbies! He is the youngest (though almost 4!) and the one with the most projects at the moment.

Bright will never do obedience or herding, not her idea of a good time for either one. And that’s fine, we really enjoy agility. Once again, no particular goals in agility. She’s going to be EIGHT next year – and, really, I figure once a dog is 7 you really should stop trying to fix things and start running the dog you have. If you can’t fix it after 7 years, you’re probably not going to! But the good news, Bright looks great, she loves agility more and more every year. Her issues with the environment get less and less and she’s just HAPPY. We’ll do some proofing of Justine stuff with her, but while she’s not old, she’s not a super young rubber band any more, I’m don’t want to do much crazy backside/threadle stuff with her at this point. She can, and she’s very thoughtful and easy on her body, but I do think more straightforward is a good choice for her for the most part.

With Haku we will keep working on herding, I’m feeling somewhat discouraged about it at the moment, as without a bigger practice field it limits what we can do – but it is what it is. Still going to look for more opportunities, but I’m not going to put entering a border collie trial on our goal list unless we have access to someplace we can practice. Maybe I can take him and Navarre to some AKC trials up north at some point, much easier to practice for the smaller fields. Haku will be 10 next year … it’s a big number, but he continues to need the mental and physical outlets or else he, more than the other dogs, gets real nutty. With everything going on we haven’t had our lesson with Dave recently, but we’ll go this week and get back into the swing of things, I hope. I do also want to play with putting Haku on whistles, and try to look for some other training opportunities and see if we can feel a little more confident with what we’re doing. I may check out an online herding option, which is one I wasn’t sure would be real effective, but maybe with a ‘system’ and the whole process broken down for me I’d feel more confident what I’m actually supposed to be training! Ah, herding.

Also training-wise for 2019 I’d like to do a project of videoing all the dogs’ tricks, and maybe getting their trick titles for AKC because it does seem a little lame that I’m an evaluator that trains trick classes that has zero actual trick titles. The dogs can do (almost!) everything on the AKC tricks list, and I know an evaluator if I just want to get it done in one big group – so I may. It’s mostly just money to AKC, but it’s fun to prepare and have a tricks project to work on.

We also haven’t been working on our conditioning exercises, which I think is especially important as Haku gets older, and the two agility dogs really benefit when I’m doing a little something nightly. I tend to go through phases with it, so it’s time to put it back into regular rotation.

Still waiting for the schedule to come out for the Fenzi camp back east next year, which is something I might fly out for if it seems interesting enough. Not sure about what other seminars I may look into. I find online classes are a better use of funds, I get a lot more out of them. I always enjoy the Justine stuff, and Polona was fun this year too. I believe she’s actually coming out in 2019, which would be fun.

Then puppy raising in February, assuming that works out, which is always a big project, but fun. Will be enough time since Fig that I’ll be ready, I think. Always fun to work with a whole new personality, and this is especially interesting as totally unrelated to any dogs that I know.

So, dog-wise, I am hoping for a very fun, busy 2019!

Oh, and, officially, Navarre is sterile. Poor guy, I got him molested at the reproductive vet – which you think he might enjoy … but he was just totally weirded out. And he did not find giant Akita ‘teaser bitch’ to be the least bit sexy – and didn’t even want to be in the same room with her. But sample was taken, no sperm found. Which is not surprising at all, but good to know. The vet didn’t feel like there was any health risks with his tiny balls, so no need to neuter. While it’s clear that he is producing testosterone, it may be that he’s such an easy intact boy because he may not be producing as much. If I were so inclined, it’s possible with hormone supplementing I could get his balls to work – but I have no interest. I like Navarre just the way he is, purely decorative balls and all. He also has plenty of relatives that are reproducing, so if I ever feel the need for a Navarre relative, I have no lack of options. The litter at his breeder right now, with Navarre’s sister and Bright’s brother is SO CUTE. I look forward to seeing them grow.

We did finally have our herding lesson today, I figured the dogs would either be really thankful to be doing something, or be really terrible as they haven’t gotten much action or practice – turns out they did pretty good, considering. The sheep today were not being super cooperative, one of them had their own agenda and they were not at all impressed with my dogs. Far more than my dogs, I need more practice, I was kind of all over the place. Thankfully, I feel like I can pretty much be a shitty handler with Haku and that’s just fine. The theory is that I’ll try to do things ‘right’ with Navarre, but Haku and I just sort of fumble through things in our own way and I don’t worry too much about it. But Haku was happy, he was trying, I was ridiculously inconsistent. We need to work in bigger fields so we can try to drive in a straight line. And I need to make sure I’m using consistent cues. We should most definitely actually practice.

Navarre and Dave did really well compared to the last lesson. Navarre was way better at not being totally ridiculous with pushing sheep over Dave. Now, he wasn’t GOOD, but better than he was last time. Of course, all Dave was trying to do was get Navarre to lie down, which Navarre wasn’t doing AT ALL, but his pace was much improved. They also did a little driving, which Navarre is way too thoughtful about, funny enough. Still, we have homework we can do WITHOUT sheep, which is just working on lying down instantly, and holding position until cued again – even if praised. That we can work on, and he needs to practice for obedience anyway. I like having things that don’t require sheep to practice.

So, yeah, bring on December. Winter has finally arrived, though still strangely warm – but the rain is welcome. All the dry days were freaking me out. We are getting crazy dumping rain, which isn’t super fun, but all part of the Oregon experience.