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!