Good lord it seemed like Asher was 9 months forever. He is just all teenage goober, and that is not likely to pass any time soon. 10 months does at least sound a little more mature than 9, even if he really isn’t – and maybe someday he’ll grow up. Someday.
I do think I have one of ‘those dogs’, the overarousal dogs. Which I kind of thought he might grow out of and become more, well, sensible. I appreciate sensible in a dog. But after struggling working with him in agility this week, the magic solution was … use food instead of toys. He’s just not ready to work with toys at the moment. And he did great as soon as I switched to food. It is true that everything in agility is still something he’s learning, so I think food helps that state of mind. It was really interesting that the things that he ‘knew’ perfectly fine when only food was involved he looked completely baffled about when a toy was out. So, good to know. And when he was younger using food made him almost TOO thoughtful. That, uh, is no longer true.
So we did work up to doing some short happy baby sequences, and getting some extension to collection around tunnels and come to hand exercises. He can now do his position changes around equipment and some really ridiculous full body heeling and circle work as well. He’s trying, though he got kicked out multiple times for not being able to hold his table when it wasn’t his turn. Once again, he just loses his noggin.
So this is new for me, I’ve worked with other people’s overarousal dogs, but I’ve never actually had one. And, once again, maybe it’s something he’ll outgrow with maturity. But that doesn’t seem to be his personality in general, he’s just kind of a crazy red head – though there are certainly much nuttier dogs than him. Every dog is a different journey, so we’ll see where we end up. We’re just going to enjoy the ride, though I do think it’s going to be a while before he’s ever ready to compete.
I did realize there are all sorts of flatwork and baby dog skills that I’m teaching in classes that he really needs to learn. I don’t know why it never occurs to me to work on them with him. Learning how to safely negotiate a low dogwalk and working safe entrances is going to be a BIG one with him. I haven’t started any rear cross work, proofing his stopped contacts, actually training tunnel threadles, obstacle discrimination – all sorts of things he doesn’t need to grow up for. We will get to work. With food. Thoughtfully.
A little video of the big boy, he really is fun to work with. I do think he’s going to be a really fun agility partner:
Though you know who continues to get worse at any sort of self control as he ages, that would be Haku. OMG, he can’t wait his turn AT ALL anymore without biting feet, barking his head off and just being a total obnoxious dork. I feel bad, but I just go ahead and put him away before even attempting to work another dog these days (if I’m smart). To be fair, he doesn’t seem to mind (he gets special treats!). He is a troublemaker though. Old dogs, they are more work than puppies ….
Navarre is either feeling better or just enjoying getting to go back to agility again, he’s been super sweet and attentive at home – more so than normal. He’s always a cuddly guy, but he’s just been much more recently. We continue to use the Assisi loop on his lower back every night and have just been mostly taking it easy otherwise. The battle of the Assisi Loop is finally less now, which wasn’t really about the loop as it was ‘I need you to lay here for 15 minutes’. It’s funny how I never really noticed how opinionated Navarre could be until herding, but he really is dog that isn’t going to do something he doesn’t want to do without a big prolonged fight about it. He has finally decided that he can lay there with the loop, and he actually seems to be enjoying it now, after much fighting and sulking about it. I’m going to take that as a helpful sign that maybe someday we can get past the fighting in herding too.
We saw Maddy again and he was … better. This time he seemed more uncomfortable in the front than the rear, so he’s going back and forth, apparently. Maddy did feel that on his right front some of the muscles seemed flatter than on the left, so we have homework of triggering the muscles to see if that helps with any imbalance. We’ll be work balance work and off balancing to the right and basically getting back into our conditioning rotation. I don’t think he’s ‘broken’, but I do think he’s been sore. We’ll see Maddy in another couple weeks and see if our conditioning work has helped him out and how he’s feeling. Seems like he’s even a little sore he acts like the world’s biggest baby when getting his massage, so that’s … good? that he’s letting us know? Maybe?
Been doing some obedience training (ha!) to get ready for his show next weekend with Navarre – he looks good. I mean, not perfect, but he knows the behaviors and his heeling is better these days than it was. We shall see. Navarre also totally won the weavepole demo dog competition in class, Bright was terrible. She SO makes everything up all the time – it’s quite funny to think how much she’s changed since she was young and so serious and precise. Navarre had no problem showing off all the proofing skills the FIRST time. In agility we never argue and he always tries his best. Well, maybe not with collection. A-hem.
We had a really fun herding weekend! We went up to Fido’s with Heidi and had a two day family herding adventure with just Asher, Navarre and Dove. Those three are so cute together, though Asher ends up being a bit of third wheel – Dove and Navarre really have always been very good friends. Dove was actually in heat, but the boys really didn’t seem to care. Go tiny balls!
This ended up being a very worthwhile trip and great for both my boys. I wanted to get Asher on some appropriate baby dog sheep and have a chance to do some more frequent practice to actually make some productive progress. We also got to work with Ron Fischer, who I had heard good things about – and I enjoyed working with him.
So, yeah, no lack of forward in that family, Asher has Navarre’s issue of just wanting to be right up their butts the whole time. So we played around with some different exercises and trying to get him to recognize that being back farther would help him control the sheep – but he was like, “No, MUST. GET. CLOSER.” We tried big groups of sheep and different types of sheep, but in the end, we went ahead and introduced the down to create the distance we wanted. Asher is not a huge fan of the down, but he was willing to go along with it – mostly. Eventually. Once again, this is not a family of dogs that lies down the FIRST time. So basically once we introduced that it was using the down to reinforce that he shouldn’t be shoving sheep over me. It will be an ongoing process, that’s for sure.
Once Asher is actively working the sheep, he would give some nice flanks and with help could bring them appropriately. Heck, he even volunteered driving – that was a first! Ron said he looks like a natural driver, and that’s probably why he is NOT a natural fetcher. We really struggled to get any sort of semblance to the tiniest of outruns. I think this where just having that practice where he would scatter sheep at the beginning of every session we have done on sheep really bites us in the butt. He can go out and gather sheep gently (relatively speaking) once we start working, but any sort of send from a standstill – nope, straight at the sheep and scatter. So we could kind of fake it though, Asher continues to be a superstar at calling OFF the sheep, so if I call him off and we start to walk away if I send him back when he’s in motion, he will do a tiny outrun. But if I were stop him and then send him, no way. Definitely need work there, and I’m still not sure the best way to start him so he doesn’t keep practicing bad habits.
Asher did GREAT. He did very little exaggerated ‘overflanking’, though you could still see it. Mostly I was impressed with his focus and resiliency – traveling, working in all sorts of different arenas and pastures, different types of sheep, introducing the down and Ron trying to get him to respond as well, and he took it all like a rockstar. He was really trying the whole time, and enjoying himself without getting stressed or overwhelmed in the face of a lot of pressure from multiple sources. It was really helpful to have multiple sessions per day where he could build on the skills introduced before, and this was the first time he’s really done that much work so close together. I still never felt like I needed to yell, though I do feel okay with telling him to knock it off when he scatters sheep. There was some arguing over lying down, but it’s just waiting him out rather than fighting. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a ‘good’ herding dog, but I think we will enjoy the journey. So far, so good!
As for Navarre, the bar was set incredibly low – I set Ron’s expectations about what would be able to do to about nothing (which is true!). Navarre stepped up to the occasion though, he’s not magically a different dog, but we actually were able to work together without driving each other crazy (mostly). Basically what Ron felt we needed to do was win the battle of what of what he’s WORST with, and everything else should come together. And that would be lying down when I actually ask and not pushing sheep so hard. Easier said than done, but I do think it’s true that if we could fix that, the rest would be easy.
So we did lots of smaller exercises just focusing on getting the behavior I want to see. And it’s not like we haven’t tried before, but I think he is actually ready to listen now, so I didn’t feel like it was just a total argument the whole time. A LOT of lying down, or at least stopping, and trying to get him to understand if he doesn’t get up thoughtfully we’re just going to keep stopping until he does. But he didn’t seem to resent this exercise, but was actually responding and starting to get the point. Once again, that’s a first. So just baby steps in the right direction, and I’m cautiously optimistic.
It was funny when we had been working outruns and lying down at the top and slowing down on the fetch. After we had been doing this for a while Ron was curious what Navarre would do if I sent him and didn’t say ANYTHING to him. Navarre raced out and brought those sheep back at a breakneck speed, ran us over with them and then past us, then he flanked around to bring them back … and then just kept continually circling them to keep them with us until I finally interrupted him. It never occurs to him to actually think on his own that he should do anything gently, that’s for damn sure. So, yeah, lots of work to do, but he was listening better than he ever has. He’s not easy, but maybe we’ll be able to figure something out. Though, to be fair, he was MUCH better behaved on ‘easy’ sheep, when the sheep were more wild he definitely didn’t trust my judgement.
He did lots of nice things though, he has a lot of skills and DOES have a good feel for sheep and where he needs to be – it’s just seeing if we can get the brakes on him to actually be able to use them effectively. Hopefully we can start getting some practice time so I can set up some of the exercises we worked on. I’m ready to give Navarre another try, though maybe not with Ian’s sheep.
I liked Ron, he was nice to work with, pretty mellow, not much of a yeller but still very, uh, herding forceful. I thought he did a good job experimenting to see what was going to work best with the dog, rather than trying to fit the dog to one particular exercise. And he really tried to set the dogs up for success, which I appreciated. We are going to work with him again down here in March, so that should be fun. It would be nice to actually practice between now and then, but not sure that’s going to happen, unfortunately. But we also have a herding Spring Break vacation planned, so that should be fun too!
Meanwhile, back at home I think my puppy is learning to be a dramaqueen. I had seen glimpses of this, if he doesn’t want to do something he will cower and hide and rollover and look like the most pathetic, most abused looking dog you’ve ever seen. And, of course, my heart just breaks and I don’t make him do whatever it was that was SO distressing to him. However, it’s also pretty telling that as soon as he gets his way, suddenly he’s perfectly fine.
So this kind of thing is getting worse, and I’m feeling more certain that he’s just playing me and learning to use this pathetic act to his advantage. Now, I don’t argue that he probably is being honest in that he doesn’t like whatever he’s being dramatic about. Like at Fido’s, we were rinsing the dogs in the raised bath and he ran away and went belly up when it was his turn. So, yeah, he didn’t have to get rinsed as I didn’t want to give him a complex about being bathed (which he never has been). Then this week I don’t even remember what it was that I had asked him to do and got a little frustrated when he didn’t. Something like yanking me around on leash or not lying down or staying, I don’t even remember – but some basic behavior that he knows how to do and didn’t want to because he just wanted to go into the arena. He just went full blown dramaqueen and ran under the car and refused to come out. OMG, so much drama. So after much coaxing we made up and went into the arena and all was suddenly perfectly fine. And, yeah, he never did have to behave himself before going into the arena.
Not a fan of the drama behavior, which is also just jarring as it’s just not something he normally ever does, which is why when he HAS done it, I’ve tried to respect it and help him work through whatever was bothering him. This is what he did with brushing, where it took, what, 5 months to get him to learn that being brushed is fun. But I do wonder if I’m actually teaching him to do this kind of behavior more often. Not sure, but I’m much more aware of it as a potential issue now, and I will think carefully about how I respond to it in the future.
And then suddenly Asher just can’t wait his turn. We had made a lot of progress with waiting on the table when I’m working the other dogs, but now he regularly leaps off runs over and interrupts and then RUNS back to get on the table. He seems to think this still counts. And waiting for his turn when at the park for the toy? Nope, not any more, unless I have him on leash he’s going for that toy no matter what I say. Ah, teenagers.
Here is a video of Bright and Navarre practicing and being interrupted by Asher, and this was with him being taken out and brought back in – which used to make a big impression … not so much these days.
Notice how I just blatantly throw the toy again – sigh. Didn’t even occur to me that we’re supposed to be working on rewarding from hand.
We have done a little of slightly higher bars with his one jump work and HUGE improvement in Asher actually thinking about keeping the bar up and bending way more than he did before. Maybe he will actually be able to keep the bars up and collect after all! Time will tell … We also introduced rear crosses and have worked more on his tunnel threadle. Unfortunately the flatwork seminar we were supposed to go to this week was cancelled, really bummed, he hasn’t had a chance to work in new places with other dogs.
We did have a lovely hike with brother Ravi though, those two are such crazy nutballs. I do think they like each other a bit though, and so cute to see them together. I attempted to measure Navarre, Asher and Ravi against each other – no one cooperated. They are all similar in size though. I will attempt to measure Asher again at the trial this weekend, see if he really HAS gone over 22 inches …