Asher’s First Title!

Spur of the moment I decided I should put some AKC Tricks titles on my dogs, as it was on my mind getting ready for tricks classes this summer. They have the tricks, it’s just finding the time to get it done, and it turned out one my students was an evaluator so I figured I might as well. And as long as I was doing the adult dogs, I figured that Asher could give it a try too. So Asher has his first title, he’s a Novice Trick Dog! So that’s really cute, and next week we will try for his Intermediate, and, assuming we can put it together, we’ll try for his Advanced title as well. It may not happen, but it gives us something concrete to work on this month.

The adult dogs already have all the tricks, but it’s fun to brush up on some to get them on cue, which is a whole different story. And, yes, mostly it’s just time, as it seemed unfair to not do all the dogs, so getting through all the tricks with four dogs takes a long time! So we’ll try to get everyone through a level every week, and the adult dogs should hopefully get their Performer titles by the end of the month as well. They need to have a little skit for that, so that gives us something cute to work on. OMG, Bright, stop making everything up!

Meanwhile, Asher is losing teeth – he’s lost all his tiny front teeth and the two front teeth are coming in. Ears have fallen again and he continues to grow and grow! Hard to believe he’s still just three months old, such a big guy. He remains chunkier than his siblings, which I’m not sure what that means – as neither Dove or Rooster are particularly robust, I’m not sure where he’s getting it from. But it’s always interesting to see how genetics play out, and how sometimes puppies come out looking like their grandparents.

Here are Rooster’s parents:



He’s definitely hitting adolescence in terms of getting more independent, no longer the cute tiny puppy following me around, it’s me trying to keep track of him. I like that he’s not a cling-on though, it’s a quality that London really taught me to appreciate. Asher knows how to entertain himself and makes himself right at home wherever we go. I see my share of very skittish and reactive border collies, it really makes me appreciate how solid he is. For now, anyway! Who knows what weirdness may be lie ahead.

He’s growing up, making some good decisions … and some less good ones. But he’s figured out that if he hangs out nicely on the bed with me and the other dogs at night I won’t put him in a crate so he can sleep on the bed. He has sort of discovered the counters and that’s less fun managing that. And shoes, he does like shoes.

Our baby retrieve is not nearly as strong as it was, even with his ‘hand’ behavior he just gets too excited playing with the toys sometimes. He loves squeakers and destroying things, so those ‘Skineeze’ toys that are just floppy with squeakers he thinks are great – and likes to chew the legs off. He remains a freakishly strong chewer. Between him and Haku my tomatoes have been decimated – and I don’t mean the tomatoes themselves, I mean the PLANTS. Good lord, the carnage. He tried to take out a tree today.

He remains fun to train with some odd exceptions. We finally achieved a somewhat assertive door close, so that’s nice to mark off the list. We worked on some ‘stay in position’ training and he did not like that, he thinks that’s just sick and wrong for some reason (everything should be a lie down!). And brushing, he has a very weird thing about brushing. I’ve been trying to sidle up to it, but if he even SEES me brushing the other dogs he hides behind the table. Keep in mind he’s never actually BEEN brushed, not for real – there is nothing to brush! We did just some cursory introductions as a tiny puppy, and he was fine. We didn’t look at for a few weeks and when I gave him another cursory brush with a very soft brush he just FLIPPED, no idea why. He likes being pet, no problem, forwards, backwards, ruffled – but the sensation of a brush is something that just wigs him out and it was so unpleasant that ONE experience he still hasn’t gotten over. So I have done just a few tiny ‘sneaky’ sessions where I was petting him nice and relaxed, then snuck in a couple strokes with a soft plastic brush, rewarded and then we back to petting. He didn’t notice … until he noticed, then he was all suspicious. So we will work on it … slowly, discretely. Now, nail trimming he’s a total rockstar with, absolutely no issues, let’s me do whatever. Go figure. And any sort of restraint and exam he’s fine with, it’s just brushes (and combs, I checked!).

We worked introducing putting objects into other objects this week, which went fairly well once I could get him to stop trying to hug everything. We did hug as well with a toy, but attempting to get him to hug while in a sit hasn’t been very productive. He has a hell of a grip with both paws around that object lying down though! We shaped a head down, which is cute as now all the dogs can do it as a group. Though they all refuse to do it at once, there is always ONE troublemaker that likes to ruin the effect. Brought home a wobbleboard just to check, no problems with that at the moment. Need to work on his sit-up, I think he may be getting a little more coordinated, so we’ll see.

As for the other dogs, if anything, Bright has stepped it up a notch – she’s on that puppy like white on rice.  If he so much as steps a toe out of line she has made it her project that she is ON him, and her corrections have gotten harsher – as have Haku’s. And it never has to do anything with her, as he knows better not to fuck with her at all – she corrects him for annoying other dogs OR cats! He was chasing Fizban a bit and she was snapping in his face immediately, “WE DO NOT CHASE CATS!” If Haku growls at him she’s on him in a flash, same with Navarre, that puppy is being made to toe the line. That one incident of playing that I saw with Bright never happened again, she’s back to thinking he just needs discipline. And I believe her, he does have an oblivious over-arousal streak that you see sometimes, such as when he’s around other puppies (which is when she WON’T correct him, funny enough). But also when he’s just really excited he’ll throw himself around and top of the other dogs and is just being over the top obnoxious. Bright does not approve of that sort of thing, well, none of the dogs do. So I will continue to bow to her expertise, Asher certainly doesn’t seem at all subdued or upset about it. He still sleeps cuddled up next to all the dogs, he still feel confident and comfortable around them. I remain hopeful that once the puppy license ends and he makes better decisions, they’ll like him a lot more. Getting closer now, he’ll be four months in another week, I’m optimistic that they’ll be more accepting by five months.

Asher DID play with another puppy! A little border terrier the same age as him, which I figured would be a disaster as he’s so much smaller, but terriers are TOUGH, and he stuck with it and Asher did get better. So they played, somewhat appropriately eventually, and that was nice to see. Now, getting there Asher was way too rough and pushy and was running him over and body slamming, but thankfully terriers can take being body slammed by giant border collie puppies. It was nice to see Asher relax and play more normally though. Still not exactly gentle and sweet (ha!), but better. I don’t think he’ll be the right playmate for a lot of dogs, but apparently if they can handle his initial assault, he’s not too bad.

Oh, and we finally got around to getting that last puppy vaccination. Man, that vet does not like me. And maybe my understanding of immunology is way off, but I have never heard of ‘if you don’t get your puppy series close enough together you have to vaccinate again’. I think I’m one THOSE people, that thinks they know more than their vet – which I really don’t want to be – but this makes zero sense to me. She was obviously very annoyed by me not consenting to a lepto vaccination, for declining to do this ‘extra’ distemper/parvo vaccination and for saying I wanted to wait until he was over six months to vaccinate for rabies. My understanding of the ‘series’ of vaccinations for puppies is that we don’t know when the maternal antibodies actually wear off with puppies, so we’re hedging our bets by doing several vaccinations to have a better chance of covering the puppy as they grow through that crucial age period (you’re not ‘boostering’ a previous vaccination, you’re just trying to get your dog vaccinated without the maternal immunity getting in the way). However, after 16 weeks the maternal antibodies should definitely be gone, so you know that if you get that last shot after that point that they’re covered. And I’m not a veterinarian, I didn’t go to vet school, but I have never had a vet tell me that I need to vaccinate my almost 17 week old puppy again because there was ‘too much time’ between his this vaccination and his last (almost 5 weeks).

Maybe I’m wrong, that’s entirely possible, but between her bad attitude and wanting to talk to a vet I actually trust and will listen to my concerns, I just don’t want to go back there. Oh, and she was really not friendly at all to my puppy. Luckily the staff appreciated all his cute tricks. It’s frustrating trying to find a vet that you can really trust – and who can actually see you when your pet is ill. Oh, and isn’t an hour away. I think it’s time to check out vets up in Canby now. Back to the drawing board. I really should get Dragon’s teeth cleaned, but I don’t want to do that until feel comfortable with a vet. That may take a while.

Oh, and Asher weighs 23.9 lbs and was a perfect patient. 24 lbs seems okay four months, not too gigantic. He’s probably around 17 inches, I think – all legs and head.

I have been seeing little glimpses of herding behavior coming out with Asher. A tiny stalk here and there, but mostly he is thinking about stopping motion by heading off dogs and cats. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of eye, so he may be more like Navarre than Dove in that regard. Still, I have no idea how much you can tell at this age. More than most puppies I’ve had here, he’s been the least interested in running after the adult dogs, which I find unusual in a border collie – he’s just not that keyed in on motion. So he still mostly just watches the other dogs run around with this look on his face like they’re stupid to be wasting their energy like that. Then he ambushes them with a body slam and steals the toy. And when we get back from the park he ‘prunes’ my tree because he’s not tired at all. Hmph.

I did tell Dave that I would try to work with Asher in herding before we started agility. As Asher is such a big boy I had no plans to do much with him in agility until he was fully grown anyway (which will be a while!). However, what exactly is ‘agility’? I mean, we already do lots of playing with toys and running and chasing, so maybe it’s too late already to ‘do herding first’. My plan is to see what he can do in herding around 5-6 months old and basically do a little every month until he’s older. If it seems like he’ll be fun to train in herding, I’m willing to stick with that for a while and start agility later. But if he’s difficult, we’ll just say screw it and go do agility. Agility is way easier (and more fun!) 😉

As for herding, I have officially taken over Navarre. That has gone … about as expected. I’ll have to say, it seems to make him really happy. Overly happy, one might say. It’s nice to see him smile though, been entirely too much Navarre angst the last couple months. Still, there was no way I would have been able to both train the behaviors and attempt to manage Navarre at the same time, he really did need to have someone else help us with that. Now that he does know what he’s supposed to do, it’s just a matter of getting our shit together instead complete chaos.

So, yeah, Navarre – too fast, too close – that hasn’t changed. I think he’s better than he was at listening, but, uh, still not great. It’s not helpful in herding to have your dog lie down five steps after you’ve asked them. But Ian had some helpful insights about it. I would work Navarre and then Haku, and he asked me what the difference was. Really they are total opposites, where Haku underflanks when I ask, Navarre overflanks – with underflanking you can always ask for another flank, with overflanking you have completely change directions and bring the sheep back. Haku can be too cautious, Navarre not enough (so scattering sheep). And Haku is much calmer and slower – which means when I ask him to stop or change direction he can do it instantly, because it’s easy when you’re not going fast. Expecting Navarre to stop instantly when going 70 miles per hour is unrealistic, so, yes, he’s always out of position and I’m so very late. So the question has always been, how do I stop Navarre from going 70 mph? And the answer is pretty much ‘lie him down’.

Now this doesn’t sound helpful, especially with the previously mentioned problem that by the time he DOES lie down it’s not at all where he needed to be. But it’s not about managing him with lying him down, it’s lying him down until he slows the hell down. So basically if the sheep are running ask for him to steady, when he does not (because of course he won’t) it’s lie down … and wait. And wait. And wait. If I ask him to get up and he rushes,  lie him back down again. But if he gets up on his OWN slow and careful, then he’s allowed. Ah, herding. And if he keeps calm and steady, he doesn’t have to lie down, he can continue to work. But working like a maniac gets you put in a down until you get up thoughtfully.

And he still ran straight at the sheep today instead of going on an outrun – which he only does with me, apparently. So weird. Then was only bringing me half of the sheep. But we’re trying. And he’s happy, and so am I. I have no expectations, he never has to be good at anything, but we’re going to keep trying. And I’m very hopeful this Fall we will get to do some regular practicing, which is what we really need. And we’re doing a herding clinic in the Fall in Idaho! I have no great expectations of that either, but it will be fun to go see Bonnie and spend some time in Idaho, which I’ve never done. Any herding progress with be a bonus, and it will be good for Asher to have a road trip experience.

Oh, and Navarre responds a lot better to whistles than verbals, well, at least the lie down whistle. I had a little session with Ian this week on my whistles and, yeah, though my ‘low’ sound is better than it was, it’s still ridiculously high. So basically I can only make high and higher sounds, but I can’t seem to make low tones, especially in a hurry. So I need to go back to trying to get those, I just can’t seem to find the secret of that …

And Haku continues to do great with the things he does well in herding. We have no problems at all moving sheep around calmly and with great teamwork … within a certain distance. He still can be a bit tentative on his drives sometimes, but for the most part he seems back to ‘normal’. He loves his turns, and waits patiently when it isn’t and is perfect, of course. 10 years old is a magical age – love that dog.

And this weekend is ‘Sheep Camp’ down at Ian’s. A very LONG weekend, Saturday is 12 hours, I believe. But it really does sound like what I need, which herding ACTUALLY EXPLAINED. Which I’ve been trying to get someone to do for like 15 years. So I’m looking forward to it, and it’s going to RAIN – in August! The weather gods continue to be so kind this year. The only reason I was dreading this event was the weather, so now I’m quite looking forward to it. Though 12 hours … yeah, we’ll see how that goes.


3 thoughts on “Asher’s First Title!

  1. I’m looking forward to your visit and herding! Yahoo! My whistling sucks, still! Poor Rooster somehow figures it out 🙂


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