Very Briefly Obedient

With very little practice and almost no warm up as I never know when to show up for obedience trials, Navarre and I gave Open another try today.  And, once again, ALMOST finished that CDX. Unfortunately ‘almost’ counts for nothing in obedience. Today’s issue, about five feet from the end of the heeling pattern Navarre just had to stop and scratch at his collar, which he never wears outside of obedience trials. Maybe I should change that. Now, the scratching I can kind of get, but then he looked up and saw one of the markers on the ground and went over to sniff, so I called him, which apparently he came on his name and not the command or something silly like that, so NQ. I’m not overly concerned about the technicalities of it all, your dog really shouldn’t stop to scratch and wander off on the heeling, so I’m not at all upset about it.

Other than that bobble he did everything correctly, including the command discrimination and he did not ONCE stand up when I said ‘yes’ that I was ready before every exercise. I even did the ‘get your leash’ exercise correctly for once – go Heather! He didn’t look sad on his drop on recall and his fronts and finishes were actually pretty good. So, hey, not too disappointed. And it was a very QUICK trip, what with arriving two dogs before he was in the ring, and then leaving to meet someone right after. Normally I would have liked to watch and visit, but it was so claustrophobic in there with all the obedience folks squished into the tiny venue.

Navarre was pretty outwardly focused and easily distracted, but I get it, it’s not his passion in life. I felt he was trying really hard to do something that he doesn’t really care about just for me. He doesn’t find that intense one on one time as desirable as Haku and Fenwick did – he’d rather be saying hi to the people around him! He’s a good boy though, and, gosh darn it, we’re going to finish that stupid CDX one of these days. Now I have to figure out another trial to enter him in. We probably will not do Utility, or, at least, not right now. We may save that as something to do when he’s older, he’s got enough other hobbies at the moment that enjoys more. He is entered in another herding trial with Ian in a couple weeks, going to give pro-novice another try. Hopefully it will go better than last time!

Asher got to go on a six month old hike with sister Flavia this week. She really IS taller than him! Not by much, and I assume she’s just maturing faster and will pretty much stop with height soon. She has a much finer appearance and adorable little girlish head with cute little expressive ears. Asher is getting a big ol’ noggin, let me say. Asher and Flavia got along well, every time they’re together they lose more and more of that edge they had when they were younger. Now they’re just dogs hiking together, running around like nutcases.

I do wish that Asher wouldn’t get any bigger than he is now, he’s just the perfect size, just around 20 inches and about 35 lbs, I think. Alas, I think he’s got a lot more growing to do. He really is getting cuter, and just more ‘present’ in general. It just melts my heart when he stares at me with that goofy look and tilts his head trying to understand what I’m saying. And, much like with Navarre, when in doubt he just does his little sit-pretty, which is too adorable.

Asher continues to be sort of unnaturally good, which is such a border collie thing. I’m glad I had real dogs before I got border collies or I’d have really unrealistic expectations about how dogs learn. But it seems like even compared to his siblings he’s an easy boy, he never barks, certainly never screams in his crate, never even gets off the bed unless invited to in the morning. He sweet without being at all pushy, tonight he would come right up into my lap and put his head RIGHT into my ice cream bowl … and then just wait to be invited to have some. He demos stuff for my puppy classes where he works off leash surrounded by all the puppies and is perfectly focused and happy to play with me, despite the fact we certainly don’t ever work around other dogs. I have so many examples of how he’s such a good boy, but has absolutely no reason to be as I certainly never TAUGHT it, he just kind of does it.

I did get a little frustrated with him this week as we were going back to looking at some circle work and he was slamming into me and cutting behind me again and I got a bit huffy about it (that kind of thing is definitely less cute now that he’s older and bigger!), and he was so sad. Train the puppy, don’t huff at him, he wants to be right, he just needs to know how. And he does love to train, and it’s interesting to see what an extreme difference between when we’re working with food and with toys. He’s super thoughtful with the food, and really gets into his toys. We’ve been getting our tug back on now that he’s past teething stage and it’s fun to see him get so excited about it. Now, it’s not exactly unusual that my border collie likes tugging, but both Navarre and Bright were not huge toy dogs when they were younger, so it’s fun. Haku, of course, has loved all food and all toys to a ridiculous degree since day one. Haku knows how to party!

We finally somewhat mastered position changes with his front feet on a pedestal. That was so hard for him! He wanted to do it right, he just had a hard time coordinating his body. Still needs work to do it on verbals independently. We also worked a little on sequencing of pedestals. He struggled with ‘sticking’ them when coming in with more speed. And with toy could get sticky. He was mostly following my direction though. Also worked on the table and introducing sends, once again, could get sticky but if you resent him he would loosen up. We also graduated to him being required NOT to exit the arena when people came into the building – which was hard and he was not always successful! He remains a very popular puppy, he makes people feel well loved, so he loves it when people come in to the building ‘to see him’ (as he thinks of it).

We have officially introduced wraps, using a bucket so he wouldn’t have to bend too much. Didn’t take long to get him offering multiwraps with food, but he was so excited when the toys came out and we looked at just sends. That dog is DEFINITELY an ‘away’ dog, he very much prefers to go to the left, turning to right is way harder for him. We have been looking at spins, so going to try to work those right spins twice as much as the left. Yeah, it doesn’t take long before things start looking suspiciously like real agility. I think he’s going to be a lot of fun.

Six Months!

If I could have an infinite amount of dogs I’d love to have my sighthound someday. They were my first doggie love and I really do enjoy them. The last few weeks I’ve gotten to run three pharaoh hounds in class while their handler is out from injury. OMG, so much fun! I’m a big fan of the ‘stronger’ sighthounds as opposed to the more delicate and sensitive ones. A lot of the afghan hounds I’ve liked have had that stronger personality, and the pharaoh hounds as well. Some fun dogs and I have really enjoyed playing with them. Maybe someday I’ll end up with one, you never know.

Everyone is excited because USDAA nationals is in California next year, but in order for me to qualify I’d have to travel to trials, and I’m never been much into that. And AKC remains silent on 2021 nationals that was SUPPOSED to be in Reno, but I learned is most definitely not going to be since they don’t have a crating area any more. Alas, that was so convenient! So may not even be ‘west’ for that year. It did give me some incentive to actually trial if there was more of a goal, as there are a lot of local AKC trials, but not looking good. So still no big goals for next year, not sure where WTT will be either.

Asher is six months old! And, weirdly, the shortest pup in the litter at the moment. We measured him at the trial at 19 inches. Meanwhile, his sister in CA is 20.5! Sister Flea is also taller than him, as is Ravi at 20 inch – and brother Friday in FL is the size of a house, 45 lbs at six months and 21 inches. Now, the puppies don’t LOOK that big, and the girls have to be slowing down soon, that’s crazy that they’re taller than the boys. Asher has definitely gained a lot of mass recently, he’s like having an adult dog on the bed at night now. I don’t know how much he weighs, but he’s no lightweight. All the puppies are finally growing some hair, so neck and butt fringes are coming in. They are getting a LITTLE less awkward looking … but still very much big floppy puppies.

My tiny puppy is definitely past the baby stage. At the moment he’s both more focused on me, and less. When we’re out and about he’s always got his own weird agenda where he just goes WAY out running and sniffing continuously, he sort of looks like a bloodhound on the hunt. I have no idea what he’s looking for, he never STOPS and sniffs, just runs around like he’s looking for something endlessly without finding it. But he’s also super happy to come in and play when invited, and he’s getting more and more cuddly. He does run more with the dogs, but, knock on wood, has not really been doing much body slamming since we had a very serious talk about it a month ago or so. Knock on wood, Asher seems a little more open to suggestion than Navarre – who took quite some time to get over his body slamming phase.

Thankfully, I think Asher’s happy to be a ‘satellite dog’. Navarre is the dog that WILL get the toy unless I tell him not to, and the other dogs are perfectly happy to just chase next to him and wait their turn. Essentially they find being NEXT to the action to be just as fun as actually doing it. Asher seems to be fitting into that role, which makes it easier as I don’t have to make sure that he’s not going for a toy he’s not invited to get. He does still enjoy his frisbee rollers, and he CAN bring it back, but enjoys running around showing off with it. So we do about half and half.

Our training has slowed down now that we’re past the basics but not really ready for more advanced work. He has lots of cute tricks, has a much better idea where his body is and shows some pretty good self control in some situations. Things that we’re now working on (or should be working on), many of which aren’t super fun:

  • Stationing with Excitement: Just started trying to leave Asher on the table when working with another dog in the arena – ha! He can do it at home, but so far I’ve just had to put him away at the arena. He CAN do it, until he doesn’t, then he’ll run back up on the table – and then keep doing that. It’s like he’s playing tag and he runs back to the table and thinks he’s ‘safe’
  • Loose Leash Walking: As he kind of now can heel, it’s time to start insisting on not pulling my arm off
  • Not Body Slamming People: Oh my is he terrible at this, but he’s getting too big and he PUNCHES you and rebounds off to go run somewhere else, it’s not even a greeting. So, yeah, finally getting that under control
  • Brushing: Whoops, forgot about this – still need to fix this! Though the Dove puppies have MUCH less hair than Dove and Navarre did at this age. We did a tiny combing the other day without total freakout, and I ‘brush’ him all over with my hands frequently
  • Toy to Hand: He’s terrible at dropping the toy as I rewarded a lot of spitting and hitting my hand when he was young
  • Scent Articles: He can do very well, have not put it together as a retrieve yet though, just pick up and hold
  • Heeling: He likes this! Navarre always thought it was so stupid, so it’s fun to train again
  • Tugging: We laid off the tug while he was teething and are just now getting back into it, we need to play tug more!
  • Flatwork: Going to attempt circle work again WITHOUT body slamming me
  • Pedestal Work: He’s doing really well with this, he’s sticking the pedestal sends and can send from any position and wait for release and come back into me or send out to another one
  • Mat work: We haven’t done much with this, but he’s targeting it with his rear feet and we’ve progressed from turns to running across and hitting it from all angles
  • Around an Object: Just introduced wrapping a bucket
  • Cavaletti: He needs to think about that long, ridiculous body
  • Skateboarding: Meant to start this one when he was younger

He remains super fun to train, just a lovely balance between enthusiastic and thoughtful without any real softness or worry about being incorrect. He loves to problem solve and never wants to stop training. Having so much fun with him.

Dogs continue to get along really well. Navarre and Asher still playing and having a great time in the yard, though Navarre has yet to play with him inside. Asher and Bright play inside, and it’s weird how it’s usually BRIGHT that is the one pushing Asher to play. Haku is less annoyed by him, no over the top disgruntlement anyway.

We went to an agility trial! I had been very much looking forward to this USDAA trial, our one USDAA a year. We may go to more next year as it looks like there may be more local ones being offered because of nationals. OMG, challenging courses – I can’t remember the last time that happened! We kind of sucked! This trial was all about WIDE open courses, long lines, sprinting, straight tunnels and SO MUCH RUNNING. I, uh, have not been doing that much running this year, and you really CAN’T do much running in a 60 x 90 arena. Not like this, holy cow. They had extra big rings and really used that space. I really enjoyed the courses, but we had our issues, that’s for sure.

Navarre reverted back to his puppy days. Maybe it was the big wide spacing, maybe it was the excitement of all the other border collies that we don’t normally see at trials. But he was being a floaty baby dog again. He did some nice stuff too, but he was harder to run this weekend then he has been for a while. Combine that with more complicated courses where I couldn’t stand there and babysit him and we had our share of silliness. He had a VERY good time though! Oh, and he actually MISSED a dogwalk contact, which I don’t believe has ever happened in competition, so that was an event. So did Bright, but that was not surprising. Really though, he did some great stuff, just not quite ready for prime time. Our lack of practice this year showed.

Knock on wood, Bright didn’t knock a single bar this weekend! After our last show I was really worried, especially as the surface there was TERRIBLE. She was jumping sixteen and didn’t look uncomfortable, though she did slip on the marbles that was the surface. She did great and picked up the slack when I just couldn’t get places … mostly. Both dogs do have a nice go-on that we got to practice A LOT, but Bright did do some weird things too.  To be fair, we HAD to do a bunch of rear crosses, which we rarely ever do and she was a superstar.

I tried not to enter too much, but I entered too much. To be fair, every course was pretty exhausting by itself! By the end of the weekend the dogs were fried and so was I. When both dogs imploded on the second round of steeplechase I called it quits on our last run. Still, we ALMOST did all the runs, which I didn’t expect. It just felt good to go to trial and get to run interesting courses that I can’t set up at home and see some really talented teams. I do love agility, and it was nice to actually DO some agility, even if we couldn’t seem to pull it together for the full courses most of the time.

Herding has been going well, Navarre has been much more responsive since we got back from Idaho. Well, much more responsive with OTHER PEOPLE. I think having to work with me made him appreciate them more! That boy loves his herding, and he still drives me nuts when I try to work him.

Haku, on the other hand, just gets better and better. We continue to look at penning as it’s a fun, easy activity without too much wear and tear on Haku. And it’s got a measureable goal as to whether we did it correctly or not – I like that. We are not expert penners, but we’re better. And we stuffed about 15 sheep in a pen the other day. I don’t think you get more points for penning more sheep, but you should. Haku is trying so hard and loves the work.

Asher played with some sheep again and definitely finds chasing them fun. No actual herding yet, but he did finally start circling. He likes his ‘aways’, not so much the come-bye. Just building excitement until the herding instincts kick in. He took a little bit of pressure from Ian the other week. I don’t think it will an issue though.

We have some potential big changes coming, so maybe I’ll get to have more access to sheep at some point. We shall see what the future brings.

Idaho Vacation

I spent the weekend with all sorts of border collies in all shapes and sizes, but mostly much smaller than mine. I just love border collies, they amuse me greatly and I’m always amazed at their working abilities and sheer … border collieness. In no other group of dogs would you see a random selection of them just staring mindlessly at sheep for hours on end. They are both simple souls, and weirdly complex sometimes. Not smart, but so strangely willing to do whatever you ask, for no reason at all.

Our weekend in Idaho was super fun! It was time to go on a little roadtrip and this was a perfect little vacation to explore somewhere new. So fun see Bonnie, she’s been over there for four years now – time goes by so quickly! And talk about quirky border collies, she’s got a whole household (with bonus terrier). They were hilarious and very generous to let my dorks come crash with them for a few days.

Idaho was really pretty, especially with some of the more dramatic weather we ended up having! Who knew it could rain so much in Idaho? But the big skies made for some lovely views, which we don’t have here with all the trees. Just a very different landscape and very different border collies at the Kathy Knox clinic – they were so TINY! Tiny little prick ear border collies were the name of the game in Idaho. Navarre stuck out like a sore thumb, being giant and merle.

I had no expectations about the clinic or any performance from Navarre and me. But being a novice herding person, I get a lot out of watching other people and seeing what kind of training philosophy the presenter has. Kathy wasn’t radically different from other herding instructors, but I liked her. I think it’s helpful to see herding done by women instead of men, as they don’t have the same … physical presence that I think some men can have. Kathy wasn’t a yeller, but there was lots of, “What do you think you’re doing?” “Get out of that!” and “You listen!” and such. There were the usual herding props of flags, coats, waterbottles with rocks, sticks and anything else you can throw. But she does want the dog to make good decisions on their own rather than be ‘forced’ into it, and I appreciate that. So trying to use the props just as temporary measures to get the behavior, and then asking the dog to do it on their own. I thought she was fair, clear, consistent and all the dogs made progress over the weekend.

Now, I don’t think herding clinics are really worth it, you get like 20 minutes of work over the weekend. But I’m aware of that and really just looking more at seeing herding done by different handlers and trying to find methods that I think will work for us. I was clear with Kathy that I wasn’t looking at more advanced skills with Navarre as I didn’t feel we had a good foundation and system of communication. So we just worked in the round pen and went back to basics, which is what I really feel like we need to do.

I, unfortunately, did not get the answers I wanted to hear. She felt Navarre will always be pushy, it’s who he is and I’ll probably always having to be working on that. And, naturally, she liked him for that push. Herding people really seem to like pushy forward dogs, that’s for sure. Watching the dogs that get stuck and frozen by their eye, I suppose that would be frustrating. So, yeah, need to learn to appreciate the push and to deal with it in a non-confrontational way. Though let it be said, when Kathy was working with Navarre it seemed to ME that she was arguing with him continuously – but she didn’t seem to think so!

So, yeah, just working on the issues that always bite us in the butt – too fast, too close, slicing flanks and not responding promptly – and me not being fast or soon enough to correct it. But I think it was very helpful to just go back to basics, we haven’t worked in a round pen since he was young and he could actually respond much better now than he could back then. We don’t need a lot of room to make the same mistakes! I like working on foundation skills, and we set things up a little bit differently than we had in the past (and, to be fair, this was a fairly big pen, so we had room to move). So maybe if we actually got some practice time we could do the endless work of trying to get Navarre to OFFER distance instead of just being smacked into it. I thought it was helpful for both of us and he enjoyed working with her, of course! He started off pretty darn polite at the beginning of the weekend too, of course, when he got more comfortable by the end of the weekend he was back to pushier. Yes, it’s who he is.

He definitely did better in the round pen then when we went out to play with Bonnie’s sheep in the field – good lord, he was acting like a total spaz. They were pretty flightly sheep and he was much too busy to listen to me. Sigh. But, he had fun all weekend long, any time on sheep is fun time for Navarre.

I did attempt to steal Bonnie’s ‘easy’ whistles, but she lied, her adorable bird calls are fiendishly difficult. So still on the prowl for whistles that will work for me. I did learn that I can go HIGHER with my whistles, so that’s … something.

And guess who likes sheep now? Asher also thought Bonnie’s sheep were VERY exciting. He got to play with them three times over the weekend, and, if nothing else, he’s certainly not afraid and no lack of enthusiasm. As for any actual thinking about herding – well, no. But if you’re looking or a dog to chase them away from you on a field or slam them into a fence and hold them there, he’s your dog. I’m fine with that, while he may not be an instant natural, all we really need to actually progress in enthusiasm. Of course, he’s not actually ready to progress – but I’m now pretty confident that he’ll be into when he’s ready for some pressure when he’s older. So that was a box I’ve been wanting to check off on his puppy list, it’s just nice to know that it’s something he’s interested in. I was fairly certain that he would eventually turn on to sheep, but he had been so mild mannered around them I had wondered. Not to worry, he can now be quite forward.

Navarre and Asher were fabulous travelers, I was especially happy to see that Asher just took everything in stride and made himself at home wherever we were. While I brought his crate I didn’t need to use it, he mostly behaved himself at Bonnie’s place. I may be missing a LITTLE bit of my shoe, but that was the only casualty. The big news is that Asher actually got to play with TWO of Bonnie’s dogs! Bonnie has a puppy that is a few months older than Asher that is actually his cousin and they just hit it off – so much wrestling and chasing! Asher was still a bit too dominant, but Beckit didn’t seem to mind. His thing is he always wants to be the dog on top, he doesn’t switch positions in play and he didn’t really change much over the weekend. Beckit told him what for several times and he listened, but he continues to come on very strong, upright and forward when playing. This worked with both Beckit and his dad this weekend though, go figure! It was so cute to see Rooster and Asher playing pretty much right where he was conceived! I think Rooster would have liked to play more, but it was hard to break into the non-stop puppy play.

So that was huge to see Asher just being a fairly normal puppy and actually playing, but he also didn’t have any issues with Bonnie’s other dogs, who are not afraid to tell dogs off. He didn’t seem to really offend them at all, and he listened when they told him to be polite. I’m just so relieved that he can actually go into a big pack of dogs and not be a total ass. And he obviously thought this was AWESOME.

Now Navarre was MOSTLY good, but him and Rooster had a thing and he could not resist taunting Rooster about it. They are both intact and Rooster was not happy about having Navarre around, which Navarre was not real concerned about, but he seemed to find it fun kind of poke Rooster and get him riled up. They were okay outside together, but I tried to keep Navarre separate inside. Otherwise Navarre did fine with other dogs including Asher. Navarre and Asher were really easy to have together, there was no stress, they were very relaxed and happy travelers who did great together – makes me very happy!

I did find out my puppy is kind of hardcore, the last day we took the dogs on a romp on Bonnie’s property where there is a lot of volcanic rock. Asher, being Asher, is just running around the whole time doing his own thing and I heard him yelp. I thought maybe Beckit told him to stop being an ass as she was next to him at the time, Asher was lying down and looking very sad. So I went over to see what was wrong and then he just kind of popped up and ran off and continued running around, I didn’t really see anything wrong. When we got back to the house I checked out his feet and, sure enough, he had ripped off multiple big chunks from his pads. I cut off the flaps but, really, other than that one yelp he gave out, I never saw any sign after that even with the open wounds that he was injured at all. That puppy is TOUGH, I’ve had plenty of pad injuries through the years and while it’s not the worst injury in the world, I’ve never seen one of my dogs just appear not to notice at all – especially when they first happen. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but maybe explains something about him.

We all had a great time on the trip and I hope we can go back again someday. I was super fun to hang out with Rooster and cousin Beckit, I LOVE Rooster and it was really fun to see him working and just being a dog. He’s such a good boy, and so incredibly sweet. I truly think the Dove x Rooster cross was such a perfect choice, I think they compliment each other so well. I love Dove, I love Rooster, I love my Asher and I’m ever so curious who he grows up to be. But if he’s anything like his parents, I know I’ll be happy!

Back at home my mom stayed with Bright and Haku, and they obviously had a great time with her and were not overly concerned to see me again – ha! Navarre was entirely too happy to see Bright, he was all super flirty and annoying, but I think everyone was happy to see each other again. The big news, yesterday morning I looked out the window and there was Navarre and Asher playing! Now, Navarre stopped as soon as he saw me, but Asher kept trying to play bow and get him into it. I think this trip was so good for him and Navarre, as I think it really gave Asher confidence in his play skills, and Navarre is a puppy at heart. I’m so optimistic that they will be friends.

And Asher is finally getting cuter rather than fuglier, I think we are finally past the worst of the puppy uglies. Sometimes he’s starting to look a little bit like a dog! Hard to believe he’ll be six months old soon, but I think that’s a big milestone. While six month old puppies are by no means grown, they’re very much slowing down at that point in regards to size – and Asher is around 19 inches now. I’m feeling fairly optimistic that he’s not going to be 26 inches tall. My hope is around 21, I’ll take up to (but not over!) 22. Fingers crossed, I don’t want a pony!