Dogwalk Achieved!

We have achieved dogwalk! Asher really had the lightbulb moment and if he’s not rewarded for a repetition he changes to hit the next time through – and he’s trying so hard to adjust his stride to hit. We went back a tiny bit to the manners minder with the low dogwalk, but after it wouldn’t work when it got too hot (OMG, those things are so finicky!), just went back to the toy and powered through.  So he can now hit in ‘sequence’ two in a row, both towards a tunnel and into a wing wrap – as well as out of tunnel, which was surprisingly hard for him. Even though we had worked entries, those speed entries are always scary with a big leggy dog.

So I was thrilled with him, felt like we had finally turned the corner on that one and planned to do some more proofing next week. But the weather was so cool after our last class of the week, and I knew it was going to be going up to near 100 this weekend, so I figured we’d stick around after class and play around a little while we still could. Wasn’t planning on doing the dogwalk, it was set at full height, but he went up the dogwalk ramp so I asked him to turn around and run … and so he did. Huh. So, yeah, out of curiosity we did the whole thing – no problem. Added speed, he still did it! Well okay then.

He’s definitely a bit wobbly with it, he’s not sure where his feet are or what kind of striding he needs to do – but he’s trying really hard! So much work still be to be done, but he really was doing some remarkable adjustments to hit nice and low that I was thrilled to see – both front and rear feet. He did fall off the top ramp once, thankfully he just gracefully jumped like we had practiced and he did not seem upset about it. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the only time, he’s a big boy and those legs are everywhere.

Putting the dogwalk into the ‘got the basic idea’ category of training, along with just about everything else in agility at this point. The only thing he hasn’t been introduced to officially is the teeter. I still haven’t even decided what I want his teeter performance to look like. I’ll admit to thinking about being lazy and just doing the 2o/2o so that it’s basically pre-trained to stick on the dogwalk when he’s ready to have the stop added there. I prefer a 4-on teeter, less futzing around, but we shall see. I WANTED a 4-on with Navarre, and he just refused, which I found funny. He wanted to do that obnoxious flying 2o/2o that takes way longer because he has to stop in position until he gets control of the board or else he’ll get called on a flyoff.

As for the dogwalk, that went really fast with Asher and relatively easy to get to this point – I’m definitely getting better at training the behavior now that there are a lot more dogs in classes doing running contacts these days so I’ve done a lot more problem solving. This was very similar to how I trained Navarre, but with much less repetition and less proofing along the way (so we’ll see how that works out in the end). So far I’m happy with it, but I do still wonder if sticking to a mat method would give a more consistent performance.

I have looked a lot at mat based methods, which definitely have their advantages:

  • Can be trained fluently in sequence with no access to contact equipment
  • Give a very clear and consistent criteria – and give you something you can bring back out if your dog is having an issue
  • Easier to teach turns and acceleration into a running target area because you’re not trying to run a board at the same time
  • Should be able to rapidly progress once you add in the contact equipment with minimal repetitions

So I like the idea of training a running mat behavior on the flat and transferring to the equipment. The problems I find with mats:

  • Securing a mat is a huge pain in the ass – both on the flat and on equipment
  • ‘Mincing’ and creating unnatural striding to hit the target
  • Focuses the dog’s head down at the mat instead of ahead towards the course
  • Can create a more of a ‘bounce’ striding instead of a run as they compress to hit the target and then ‘bounce’ off the equipment instead of running smoothly
  • Have to fade the mat

I think a lot of these issues could be addressed with well trained flatwork with the mat, which, admittedly, a lot people don’t do to the extent it really should be done before combining it with the board. So when people bring out a mat for me in classes to use on equipment two things usually happen, either the dog ignores the mat completely on the equipment (which is often reinforced by the handler rewarding or going on because it was ‘close enough’ or ‘in the yellow’) or if the handler is insistent on criteria, the dog has the most unnatural looking performance as they mince awkwardly down to the mat and then leap (and if they remove the mat the dog just leaps). Usually the mat on the flat looks pretty good, but the dogs also have a history of poor performance on the equipment, so that also very much biases the performance – mats are almost always used to ‘fix’ a bad running contact, and that’s hard. So I have not been a huge fan of mats in general as I don’t like the striding they usually produce with almost every dog I’ve seen it used with in classes. Obviously mats for running contacts can work well, lots of great mat trained RC out there and I enjoyed seeing the progression with the online courses I have followed.

Asher did do some mat work on the flat when he was younger, but I never progressed once he got bigger as it was such a pain to secure it (and don’t even get me started on ‘boxes’ – gah!). I still think the work we did do was helpful in teaching him how to hit an area with a running stride. We looked at it in a basic way, sending, running, recalls, turns and in some basic sequences with wings and tunnels.

But like any behavior, step number one is to get the behavior, and sometimes targeting is helpful, but I usually do just skip straight to shaping with most things anyway. And you get to skip the step of fading out the target, which can often be tricky. So we’ll see how Asher’s performance holds up as we progress. The plan is to stick to straight off entries and eventually put a stop on it for turns and for when I can’t get there. There was someone recently that had a theory that you don’t actually have to train turns on RC assuming you’ve gone through the process of teaching the dog to hit from all types of approaches as the dog should already know how to adjust their stride. So we’ll see. I don’t want to spend all our time training the dogwalk, I’m just looking for a straight off or gentle turn running performance, and I’ll have a stop for the other scenarios.

So, progress! We’ll keep looking at it and putting it into more sequence situations – he definitely thinks it’s fun now. I don’t plan a lot of fancy cues for the dogwalk either – mostly just cueing whatever obstacle in next. ‘Go On’ to drive straight ahead regardless of where I am, ‘Turn’ away into a tunnel, ‘Here’ come to me instead of taking the next obvious obstacle, and of course ‘Touch’ if I just need a chance to get there or it’s a really sharp turn.

Went ahead and signed Asher up for the foundation skills online class with Justine, mostly because I need some accountability to actually work on his collection. I don’t expect him to be a super tight turning dog, but knowing Dove/Navarre as I do, I know that if I want any semblance of collection I need to be consistent NOW (and I have not been working on it …). So this class is a lot of things he already ‘knows’, but we haven’t worked on any of it lately and, oh, it showed in our first week’s homework. We have work to do. So many things in agility! Love this age. I think this will be a great thing to focus on this summer, little skills when it’s hot and I love Justine’s stuff.

Speaking of hot weather, Asher is doing better with the heat, thankfully. He’s also just being less of a spaz in general. When we go hiking he just runs around like a NORMAL 15 month old puppy, instead of some sort of jacked up puppy on speed (even when it’s not hot!). He no longer looks like he’s going to pass out with his eyes bugging out of his head (well, usually). I think the puppy is finally growing up a little, and he’s just such a good boy. Very glad I ended up with him. It’s also amusing that out of the whole litter, everyone is heavier than him except Flee – even the girl puppy down in CA! That is one substantial litter. His brother in FL is pushing 50 lbs, so I’ll take my ‘small’ boy at 40. Oh, and once Asher stopped running around like a little crackhead, so easy to keep weight on him now! Had to seriously cut back on his food, little fatty.

Herding practice this week was kind of a bust for Navarre, we were back to him not seeming to recognize or take any flanks whether on a verbal or a whistle. It was frustrating but I also don’t feel the need to argue about it. A couple things may have exacerbated it though, we started with penning (different sheep this week) and working on his flanks. Flanks were good but, once again, we could not get those damn sheep in the pen. We’d get them easily right lined up at the entrance as soon as they would get near to walking in they would BOLT and run me over. I truly felt Navarre was being a good boy, so I do think it’s something I’m doing. And then we left that to work on zig zag fetches and there were some gunshots that he didn’t SEEM to react to, but maybe it was more stressful than I thought. I ended up putting him up after he couldn’t seem to respond, worked with Asher and brought him out again where he STILL couldn’t respond. We did finally do a little bit where he was taking flanks so we ended on a good note, but it was an odd day for him.

Asher, on the other hand, was being SO GOOD! What a good puppy, he has really figured out inside flanks – I’m enormously happy with the work he’s doing. Flanking was good, he’s thinking more and more about the verbals as opposed to position. His flank shape really degrades at a distance though. He was oddly not walking up as nicely this week though, more hesitating on that for some reason. We penned the sheep though! And it was interesting, we did have to do a bit of ‘around the pen’ at first as I was so gun-shy working with Navarre I was afraid to cover with Asher, but as soon as I started actually giving Asher the information he did great. We got them nicely lined up at the pen where we were having issues with Navarre, the sheep were antsy and I was tentative and walked Asher up and he was NOT looking at the sheep as he walked and I thought they’d bolt … but no, walked right in totally calm. Huh. I guess Asher knows what’s he’s doing, I thought for sure they’d squirt past like they did before.

But that’s the thing, I trust Asher’s sheep sense a hell of a lot more than Navarre’s, so when Maddy wanted to move the lambs out into the front field and her next appointment was there I volunteered to try to move them – and it was definitely Asher that I felt would be a better choice. And he did great! Very calm and covered without being pushy or frantic with the inexperienced babies. Our biggest issue was two slipped past him and I decided to leave them and get the big group moved and go back for them. Getting those last two with them all frantic from losing their friends I was really happy he stayed calm and we tucked them in with the others. What an exceptionally good boy, very pleased with him and we continue to have a good time with our sheep adventure. I really need to start practicing some different whistles to see if they’ll work for me so I’ll be ready to introduce them to Asher at some point …

Haku had a good birthday week – and it’s nice that the water is so warm right now that we can do LOTS of swimming without him getting too cold. I am starting a new supplement with Navarre, a more ‘natural’ anti-inflammatory (boswellia and curcumin) that the vet recommended, so I’m going to try it with Haku as well and see if there is any difference. I still worry about him getting enough low impact exercise during the week, it’s been hard without Bright. I’ve also been crating Navarre at night so it’s just Special Haku Time at night, which he enjoys. Navarre can be really pushy during our bedtime snuggling, so he can get his snuggling during the day (when Haku is too busy!).

As for Navarre’s back, he’s been on a normal dose of metacam daily and there is no difference that I can see whether he’s on or off of it. He’s running, jumping, playing, hiking and swimming and doing everything totally normally (including peeing!). He still has his ‘half mowhawk’, still looks roached as well (but I do think that mowhawk really influences that!). We saw Maddy over the weekend, and it was really interesting to see that even though we hadn’t gone a long hike beforehand this week, he was actually … relaxing. Not being a pill and figeting and flailing and fighting. So, yeah, that’s a HUGE change. And she said he felt a lot better all around, maybe because he’s back on metacam (though not as big of a dose). So Navarre just relaxing for a massage without tiring him out first, that’s huge and has never happened. He still reacted to her working more in his groin issue, and of course to the pelvic floor work. Still, progress … I think? I hope?

I remain optimistic, and it helps that he is feeling so well overall. We still have no idea if it’s something that can be fixed, whether the swelling caused the spinal issue or the spine caused the swelling. We don’t know if it’s something that was always there or something new, and we don’t know if it can go back to ‘normal’ or not. We’ll just keep working on it and I’m doing everything I know of. Monday we go down to see Patricia in Eugene, see what she thinks. Next weekend we see the chiropractor, and we’ll continue to see Maddy weekly as well. We have some physical exercises to work as well, so hopefully that will help too.

But I’ll have to say, 2020 really prepares you for shitty things happening, I’m pretty chill about the whole thing. Even if he never does agility again, I’ll still have my Navarre – I so miss Bright, I don’t know why more now than ever. Maybe it’s more real. Maybe it’s because so many people didn’t realize that I had lost her, so I’ve had to explain what happened over and over the last few weeks when they ask where she is. Maybe it’s just being back into ‘normal’ routines and not having her there. I just so miss her and get annoyingly emotional about every female border collie I have in classes – especially if they’re weird and dramatic. Sigh.

Happy 11th Birthday Haku!

Haku turns eleven this month, my perfect boy is getting older – and obviously more perfect, of course. He’s definitely slowed down the past year, I know he has arthritis in his wrists and toes. Then losing Bright was so hard, as they had their games they would play together all the time, and would play Stick when hiking and keep each other active and busy the whole time. Now Haku just walks behind me almost the entire time that we hike, and he doesn’t really have a ‘job’ during the week to keep him mentally stimulated since he’s pretty much retired from herding. I don’t like taking him to the park as he does so much hard running and that’s the most difficult thing on him. Finally, he’s just so loud and obnoxious when I’m trying to train Asher, and what with keeping the arena doors all open to keep it well ventilated for the virus, I don’t even bring him into the arena often because I don’t want to disturb Dwight and his neighbors.

At home he still plays a lot and continues to be his busy self, but since I’ve started back to teaching I just don’t feel like there is nearly enough Special Haku Time. So my goal recently was to make sure Haku gets all the love and attention as well as physical and mental outlets that he needs. So our first game … agility! Which is obviously not a ‘new’ game, but he hasn’t actually done agility in years. He runs around the arena all the time, and we have done lots of obedience and herding training in the agility arena through the years, but we haven’t actually done AGILITY in the arena in a long time. Not that Haku can do much, and definitely not jumps, but he can still weave and do tunnels and run contacts (especially with them lowered for Asher). So, yes, Haku is having an ‘agility revival’, and it always surprises me how he can jump right back into it after not doing it for so very long. He’s just so enthusiastic about everything he does, and he doesn’t need to do much, he just loves to have a ‘job’. Obviously we can also go out and do little bits of herding as well, as well as obedience. Haku has done it all! Haku loves to show off all his things, and he knows a lot.

Then I always thought that Carol’s midnight walks sounded actually rather fun, but I find walking dogs on leash around the neighborhood to be rather, uh, boring. But if you do it late at night it’s actually kind of novel, and you know who is the perfect midnight walk companion? Haku! He is enjoying his Special Haku Walks and I hope that will help keep him mentally and physically fit in a low impact way. Navarre and Asher don’t know what to think of this new development as we leave them behind, Asher just lays right by the door until we come back. Navarre is, uh, less concerned.

So happy birthday to the best dog ever! We are still figuring out his ‘retirement’, but I will do everything I can think of to help keep him happy and healthy. Somehow he did very much transition to an ‘old dog’ recently, and it kind of caught me unaware. It’s a different phase in life, and we will adjust together.

As for the Goober Boys, they had a busy week. First of all, the big news, Asher is weaving! Clever little thing took seven sessions to work up to 6 straight poles, and then transferred that to 12 poles without batting an eye. Now, to be fair border collies are kind of autistic and really excel at repetitive tasks, but he is such a fun dog to train as well. Obviously there is a lot of work to be done, but checking that off the list for now. We’ll play channel weave games this summer to work on his footwork, speed, independence and sequencing and put it together again when he’s a bit older.

Some video of his some his first 6 poles:

This was like the 3rd even set of 12 poles – he’s thinking so hard!

As for the dogwalk, I overreached by trying to get rid of the manners minder too soon (he just thinks it’s so stupid!), and he wasn’t quite ready for that – just toys was too exciting and he wasn’t strong enough on the criteria yet. So the plan is to go back to stage one, just a board on the table to a manners minder and really proof it with ONLY the MM and no toy ‘jackpot’ until he shows me he really knows the criteria complete with turns. If he knows what he’s doing, he will do it, because he’s a good boy. We’ll get back to the fun part soon enough.

We were going to work on that this week, but, as usual, my manners minders (I have like four of them at this point, and none of them work well!) were giving me fits. I finally got one working correctly by using a remote from another machine and then a dispensing disc from yet another one – but it works! By the time I got it all figured out we didn’t have much time, so I figured we’d just do a bit with the aframe which was already lowered.

Clever red thing just took to it right away, which, to be fair, he already has the concept of running all the way down the board and the aframe is easier since it’s so big and the criteria is not as strict. So we played with the manners minder and he had no problem backchaining until he was doing the full (lowered) aframe.  I was so happy with him I broke out the toys and it STILL looked good. Added speed before and … uh, less good – serious ski-jumping. So we worked through that until he was giving me a full stride of the downramp and he was doing a lowered (4’6″) aframe in sequence at speed in less than 10 minutes without ever having seen it before with nice low hits. Which, once again, he’s already done a lot of foundation work with the dogwalk, but I was pretty impressed how fast he put that one together.

That is one very fun puppy, we’re really having a good time with this agility stuff. This is also my favorite age, when you get to start putting things together and everything they do is just awesome because they don’t know how to do anything! Once you start having expectations it’s not as fun, and then when they’re ‘trained’ is my least favorite, then you just get cranky when everything isn’t perfect! But right now, I LOVE putting it together with a baby dog – especially when they enjoy it as much as I do. Next week we’ll try to make more progress on the dogwalk, I’d really like to get that one checked off the list so we can start playing with the teeter, which we haven’t looked at other than just playing bang games as a puppy. And then once he’s got the running contact, need to look at putting on the stop as well. Ah, so much to do with a baby dog just getting the obstacles trained! And eventually we’ll start looking at collection more seriously, and introduce backsides as well. Someday.

As for Navarre, he had his vet appointment this week and I still really like the vet there. She was super impressed by how much better he felt compared to when she saw him last. The work that Maddy has been doing really made a difference and he was way less painful and restricted. We went ahead and did a couple back xrays, which were MOSTLY good – I was happy to see no signs of any spondylosis or arthritis, which you worry about with a big agility dog. Everything looked good except right at the base of the spine at the tail, which is where Maddy had found the most discomfort, despite the fact that his ‘mowhawk’ is very much on his mid-back (and the mowhawk has disappeared from his lower back since Maddy has been working on him).

Upper back looks normal

So here is the weird part at the base, which is kind of doing it’s own thing here. There does not appear to be any inflammation, but it should not look like this. It’s possible it could be affecting the nerves in the area which is causing the peeing issue. As for why it looks like this, we don’t know. And what to do about it, well, not much we can do with the spine, the vet feels the best thing is to continue to work with Maddy, possibly put him on anti-inflammatories for a few months and see if there is any improvement (though who knows, maybe his back always looked like this). But as he is feeling good in every day life, and feeling much better overall, hopefully we are already on the right track for helping him out. I’d still like to see about getting down to see Patrice as well. The vet felt very confident it was not a prostate issue at all, so we can get rid of that worry, at least.

Modeling his mowhawk

So maybe it’s something big, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s going to be a long term concern, maybe not. Maybe it will affect his agility and herding possibilities … or maybe it won’t. Really not much to say right now other than he does seem to be feeling fine despite it all, so hey. We will continue to do herding, but I’m putting most agility on the backburner as we don’t have anything we’re working for at the moment anyway. We may play around a little but I worry about that more. The good news about agility is that this seemed to happen when we most definitely weren’t doing agility, and hadn’t been for some time – so probably not CAUSED by agility, anyway. Which makes me more optimistic we’ll be able to go back to it, hopefully.

Oh, and Navarre is SUCH a good patient – it’s so nice to have a dog that doesn’t get freaked out at the vet, even when they took him back and did the xrays, they said he was the easiest dog they’ve done! He’s such a good boy, and has taken this all in stride, because he’s a superstar. Now, if they’d just STOP SHOOTING OFF FIREWORKS around my house he would be a lot happier, the random fireworks at night has made him very wary about going outside when it’s dark. Sigh.

True Summer and hot weather arrives next week, and I don’t have any big plans for the season other than to power through. This is the first summer I’ll be teaching through, so we’ll see how we all survive. I did smash all my classes into the morning-ish hours, so I’m done by 2 everyday. I’ve actually really been enjoying that schedule, and it would be nice to keep, but it’s hard when not everyone is getting the classes they want. Still, it can get plenty hot, even in the early afternoon. Just need to get through mid-September, only 8 weeks to go. Will still try to do our early morning hikes, and hopefully try to stay practicing in herding. We’ll be able to do a little agility in the mornings before classes, so the plan is to finish up Asher’s obstacle training by Fall. I’ll keep my eyes open for any opportunities to get him on some different equipment in different locations as well, which was much easier before the virus. Mostly we’ll be chilling out and hiding from the sun. Definitely not a fan of summer.

As for herding, the boys continue to progress. Navarre was surprisingly less conflicted this week, and I have to wonder if it’s connected to his back? Wasn’t seeing the poop eating and sulkiness. I’ve been really happy with what he’s doing and we continue to move in the right direction. Maybe he’s getting more patient with me. This week I attempted to pen the same group of sheep with both dogs and just could not do it with either dog. I always struggle with the sheep that don’t really respond to handler pressure, when I can’t hold my side I’m not sure how to make it work. Both dogs did GREAT at getting the sheep to me gently, getting them lined up right at the entrance … and then we just couldn’t get them in. I’m pretty sure it’s me, but I’m not sure what I need to do differently. It’s also a good opportunity to make sure the boys can get way out on their flanks when they need to – I feel like they were doing their job, anyway.

Navarre did shed a sheep this week! We were up against a fence, and it was a sheep that was the ‘outsider’ of the group, but I’m taking it. He wasn’t doing a good job holding the single though, he really has been programmed to PUT THE SHEEP TOGETHER. I don’t blame him, and we don’t have any immediate need to shed, so hey. Still, it was nice to see, as the last time we attempted to shed with what SHOULD have been two groups that did not want to be together, I couldn’t get a hole to save my life. Navarre and I are much better at THEORETICAL sheepherding than actual sheepherding. We need to work on more practical tasks where we actually have to get things done. It’s too easy for both of us to fake it when we’re just toodling around the field.

As for Asher, he is growing up in leaps in bounds these days, we worked our inside flank exercises and he’s really starting to get it. Driving is getting so much better (though I didn’t attempt all the way across the arena!). Once again, I think we would benefit from attempting actual tasks, instead of theoretical. I really need to start solidifying what whistles I want to use for him as well.

We’ll see how much herding we end up doing in the summer, don’t want to kill any sheep or dogs and it’s not something you can do early in the morning or late in the evening (whistling is loud!). We’ve been trying to get on sheep at least every week, and we have been doing well so far. Hoping to head out to Idaho again in the Fall, maybe do a sheep camp type thing with Ron and attempt a mock trial at Maddy’s. Then depending on where we are and what the world looks like, maybe some real trials next winter. We shall see. We’re having fun anyway, and training is always more fun than trialing!

Summer?

We have had the loveliest mild June and July so far, I’m just waiting for the heat to turn on. To be fair, summer doesn’t usually start around here until mid-July, but it’s not usually THIS nice! As I’m teaching through the summer, I’m hoping we can stay relatively mild – though I’m not holding my breath.

I do feel like with it being so cool that I should take advantage of it, so I went ahead and started Asher on his weavepoles this week. It’s just an activity that requires a lot of repetition and running, so I figured we could get the basics in place before it got too hot to do much. We had five 2×2 sessions throughout the week, he caught on really quickly. He was weaving four straight poles that were about 3 feet apart from all angles and approaches, with speed and rear crosses. As expected, getting the turn back in to the second set on difficult soft sided entries was his hardest scenario, which is why I wanted to just kind of power through the beginning stages so he didn’t practice too much winging out. The goal is to get him weaving four straight poles and then introduce him to the channel poles. Then we can work on independence and proofing with open channels during the summer, and go back to closed poles when he’s a bit older. It will be interesting to see what kind of weaver he is, it’s always been Navarre’s most difficult obstacle, very hard for him to bend through them.

We also did a bit of sequencing, but he was just not into collecting this week, so we had to really break it down – which annoyed him greatly, all the stopping, and the little bastard jumped up and bit my arm. I was not amused. He also got kicked out several times because he just can’t stay stationed when I run the other dogs these days – he is SUCH a teenager at the moment.

Well, I should say SOMETIMES he’s a teenager, he was actually being surprisingly well behaved this weekend. We had a special Asher agility day, getting to join a group of other young dogs at a lovely outdoor agility field. Asher has never been in a class or worked around other dogs, never done agility outside and in fact has never done agility outside of our arena – so a lot of big milestones! I had low expectations, but he actually did pretty well. We started out doing some 2x2s and played a bit on a low dogwalk to the manners minder. The problem being with both of these behaviors they’re pretty new and both of them he’s in the middle of training them. He doesn’t actually think of them as ‘agility’, so he did them but wasn’t really relaxed and focused like he normally is. With the dogwalk especially he was pretty tentative and not really into ‘thinking’ skills in this new environment. He liked the coursework though, which is what we’ve done the most of, so he was much more relaxed and into that. He was doing some funky ass jumping though, don’t know what was up with that. We definitely need to get him out and about, back before the pandemic we had a couple baby seminars that ended up getting cancelled, and obviously nothing much will be going on for a while, so I need to just find opportunities to train in new environments.

What Asher did do well at the agility play day is station on a downstay when it wasn’t his turn and I wanted to go take photos. I’m actually somewhat surprised he was so chill watching the other dogs doing agility, as he’s certainly not like that for ME when I run other dogs. But I think Asher is not going to be a dog that wants to run with other people, I tried to have Nancy run him so I could take some agility photos, but he wasn’t having any of that. He would play with her, but he is kind of a mama’s boy, actually. Which I kind of knew, but I guess I figured he’d also grow out of that. And baby dogs are growing up, both him and Flee chilled out next to each on a downstay while we had lunch, just watching us without being pushy and obnoxious like SOME dogs would have been (looking at you, Navarre …). Our puppies are growing up, it won’t be long until they’re doing agility like real dogs. But not yet, I really want to finish that dogwalk and get rid of the manners minder, hopefully we can work on it this week. But judging from his performance at the play day, we’ll have to go back a few steps.

Was super proud of Asher in herding this week, Ron was down this weekend and while I was feeling somewhat frustrated with our driving and him really understanding the task, Asher made me look like a liar and was doing some lovely work. So, yeah, driving independently across the entire arena, flanking from the across the arena, dropping right in on his ‘there’, doing inside flanks and basically being super awesome. It continues to feel so weird that I don’t have to argue with him all the time, even with Haku I had to argue. Asher is just such a good boy! He does still occasionally get ‘stuck’ with his driving, and while we were DOING inside flanks, we need to actually TRAIN them. It amused me greatly that he was taking the flank verbal that I asked for even when I said the wrong one – when did he learn his verbals? We were working with the new heavier sheep, and I think that helped him understand a lot better what he was supposed to do. Our homework is looking at those inside flanks and continuing to work on driving. He continues to look good otherwise.

Navarre also did well, I have to remind myself that we have only been working together for a few months. It really bothers me when he eats sheep poop when working, I know it’s stress/displacement behavior and I want to help him. Ron was not concerned and says that it will go away, and it was funny his young dog did the same thing. Navarre is just such a different dog these days, actually trying to be right. I have been tentative about putting any pressure on him because of the behaviors he has been showing, but he actually seemed happier with more pressure and clearer expectations today. Got him slowed down and backed off (eventually), and, yes, shockingly everything goes much better then – and then I think HE’S more relaxed because things are in control. Shocking thought. So need to maintain that pressure and expectations to help him be successful, and hopefully that will continue to be build confidence because he’ll have more control. So counter-intuitive to me …

Speaking of confidence, Navarre THOUGHT about biting a sheep today! It was somewhat warm and the set we were looking at had been out for another dog and we were working some inside flank exercises where it was just back and forth with the sheep – and this one sheep was just done with it all. Sheep can tell that Navarre has nothing to back him up, which is part of the reason he just does everything with speed, so she kept challenging him. And he did some nice work moving her, and at one point by the gate his little lips were lifting and he was THINKING about a nose nip, but he keeps doing the frantic rush and run past, which just shows that he’s insecure and lets the sheep win. Still, he’s doing better, my big soft squishy marshmallow of a dog, he doesn’t have any natural inclination to hurt another creature, and I love that about him. Sheep know it though …

So our homework is to work and insisting he gear it down and think in all the places, and then working on zigzag fetches down the field and just really showing him he can move those sheep wherever he wants to. He was a happy boy.

As for his mysterious medical issues, he’s been off the pain meds for almost a week now, he is still peeing normally, or really BETTER than he ever has. He used to do the ‘big pee’ after herding every time, but now he just pees normally afterwards, and in all situations these day. So … hm – how long has this been going on? We go back in to see the vet this week and I hope to get some x-rays of his back and see about where we should go from here. His mid-back mowhawk remains the same, while his lower back mowhawk is gone. Maddy says since he’s been off the pain meds there is a lot more inflammation and swelling – she feels up by the base of the spine and through the groin. She doesn’t think it’s an illiospoas injury, but really doesn’t have any guesses as to what this all could mean. But anti-inflammatories definitely reduced a lot of inflammation/swelling – but we still don’t know where it’s coming from. The mystery continues. Now, keep in mind Navarre continues to act perfectly normal, I don’t see any signs of stiffness, lameness or favoring. He does look exceptionally roached, but he does have a giant mowhawk … so I don’t know.

I kept the dogs relatively quiet this week, no trips to the park, though we did a bigger hike and then a smaller hike this weekend. I’m just paranoid, but I think we’ll go back to our normal activity next week, unless the vet says otherwise.

I had a really sad thought the other day, if I hadn’t have gotten Asher the only dogs I’d have right now are Haku and Navarre – and they really don’t like each other. I’m so thankful my big red puppy came into my life. He wasn’t planned, but obviously meant to be. Both Haku and Navarre play with him, he really helps keep it balanced around here. We all very much need a girl around here though, and I continue to think I’d like to add a puppy in the next year or so. Without Bright the house seems so empty the boys need a bitch in their lives to tell them what to do.

I am now worried that getting a Bright relative is going to give me way too many expectations for that puppy to, well, be Bright. Which intellectually I know that she won’t be Bright, but it will be a lot of comparison. Randomly, a litter was announced overseas that will be a repeat breeding of a dog that I’ve had a serious internet crush on from day one. So I did contact the breeder, but with the world being in such chaos at the moment, I just don’t have any idea if it something that can even be done right now. I’ve never seriously considered a dog from overseas, it has a whole set of complications anyway, so we’ll see. I think it would be a really fun litter, and it never hurts to see if we could make it happen. I do think Asher will very much enjoy having a dog close to his own age, just like how Haku and Bright were such good buddies, I hope that we can find a girl that will be Asher’s buddy as they grow too. He misses Bright. We all miss Bright.

July!?

Hard to believe that it’s July already, this has been one heck of a year. But we managed to get through the worst holiday, which really has been just another realization of how incredibly self centered our society is:

“how about teach your dogs to deal with loud noises. How fucking dumb are you to think that I should change my lifestyle because of someone’s dumb shit dog that cant deal with fireworks”

I have lost a lot of faith in the basic goodness of humanity the last few years, that’s for sure. Sigh.

Anyway, we spent the 4th up at Maddy’s until about midnight, there were still fireworks, but not as close. Navarre got to hang out in Maddy’s house with the fan and tv and he seemed more pissed about FOMO than worried about the noise. At home he’s been set up with the fan with Alexa music back in his crate in the closet. We’ve been getting the melatonin on board this week, and I don’t know if it’s made a difference or not – but he’s certainly just been sleeping in there, all tucked in with his thunder shirt. A pretty good 4th of July for him, a few incidences of unexpected explosions during daylight hours caught us unaware, but he seemed to handle it all pretty well. The goal is always just to make it through without making him any worse, and I think we achieved that.

Asher and Haku remain unaffected, but I’ll be curious to see if that changes with Asher – I think Navarre didn’t notice when he was younger. Asher’s brother and sister are really worried about them, so it’s there in the family. But so far, so good – next year we shall see.

Pico went to his new home, which I was thrilled he ended up with Julie. Fingers crossed it works out, last I heard he had fit right in. He certainly did here, it was so easy to have him and the dogs really enjoyed him. It did very much make me miss Bright, Pico was always right next to me, just like she was. I miss my Brightness. Asher was pretty sad to see his playmate go, they were non-stop while Pico was here – though Navarre and Asher have been playing more since. Though Navarre is always very strict on how much playing there will be.

As for Navarre, he’s continued on his pain meds and has continued to pee normally. We’re just about done with those, so we shall see what happens now. I didn’t notice any changes other than the peeing, he didn’t seem to me moving or acting any differently. We did just a little bit of agility at 16 inches and I didn’t see anything different (though he was very happy to play!).

He’s now seen Maddy twice, and she felt his pelvic floor was less … I don’t remember the term, but restricted maybe? His ‘mowhawk’ has actually laid back down on very lower back near the tail, which he carries differently after being adjusted. He still has a fierce mowhawk in the midback though. Maddy thought he was definitely tight in his groin, but was not thinking illiopsoas injury so much as guarding. Possible that he just did something to injure himself and with the anti-inflammatories and treatment maybe he’ll return to normal. He did NOT have any of this going on when she saw him back mid-March. So something new.

The current plan is to continue to see Maddy every week, see what happens once he’s off the pain meds and get some x-rays of his back. Possibly see about getting in to see Patrice the osteopath down in Eugene. We’ve been taking it easy this week and all the dogs are pretty tired of that plan. We shall see.

Meanwhile, we also had a very weird and unexplained complete rear end lameness from Asher that lasted about 12 hours … and then magically disappeared just the way it came. I’m talking non-weight bearing pogo stick. Not showing any signs of discomfort upon examination, he was just charging through life three legged – no idea why. Earlier that day we had hiked and herded with no signs of an issue, but that afternoon I took some video of him and Pico playing and I could see him heavily favoring it. Then he took a nap and woke up non-weight bearing. I gave him meta-cam but he was still non-weight bearing the next morning. As he seemed already broken I let him play with Pico one last time before he headed off to his new home – and suddenly Asher was using it just fine. Since then I haven’t seen a single sign of an issue. We took it easy for a few days, but then tried it out in a variety of situations including agility – no sign there was anything wrong. So … yeah … I’m still suspicious, waiting for it to happen again, but so far, no sign of anything.

Anyway, other than all the drama – did a bit of sequencing with Asher in agility last week. As usual, it took awhile for us to pull it together, but I was happy to see that he finally seemed to have grasped serpentines and committing to the jump with my opposite motion. Was interesting watching the video as I obviously don’t trust him AT ALL, so my handling is really tentative and late. We need to work on that!  No dogwalk we could lower last week or this week, so running contacts are on hold. Hopefully they magically solidify in his brain like the serpentine during the break. Really would like to get that squared away, then we can look at teeter – but I don’t want to do both at the same time. He is just a baby, in both body and mind, no rush.

 

Asher does seem to be going through a teenage stage, where he’s getting pushier testing boundaries. We went to see Dave, the first time in long time and Asher was just randomly taking himself on outruns while I was trying to talk to Dave, which has not been an issue before. We are, uh, not having the issue of him being TOO willing to drop the sheep and come into me these days anymore – he’s feeling quite certain he knows what to do. Boy, who does THAT sound like? He is doing better with his driving, though sometimes he’ll just keep sneaking past to try to turn them.

We worked on some new heavier sheep that Maddy has and it was hilarious the first time I set him on an outrun he got up there and didn’t know what to do when they didn’t immediately just start running – he actually had to lift them! He figured it out, but that was funny. Need to work on him actually knowing his flanks so we can work more on his inside flanks. He’s a good boy and a lot of fun.

Now, Navarre thinks the new heavy sheep are STUPID, he was quite clear with his opinion on sheep of this nature. He’s been funny on sheep, as he does have such internal conflict about herding these days. He knows he needs to listen, but it’s so hard for him – so he does do displacement behaviors like eating sheep poo. And I feel bad for him, and we actually don’t argue that much these days – but it his conflict doesn’t really come from worry about ‘being wrong’ so much as it’s always been super hard for him to actually have to listen and herd. I don’t know how to help him other than doing my best not add extra conflict, but, yeah, he doesn’t have the ‘lightness’ that Asher does about the whole activity. He did impress Dave with how well he was listening with his whistles at Open level distances. Well, at first, but when we tried again he started just making it up again. He has it in him, and he can do very well – but it’s not easy for him. We continue to work on whistles and pace, baby steps in the right direction.

Very thankful we have a place to practice now, makes such a huge difference! And the new sheep Maddy just got have been working out well. Hopefully someday we can go up and use the big field as well, which will let us practice some bigger outruns.