Idaho Part 5!

I had to go look back to check, but this was our FIFTH trip out to visit Bonnie! We went originally when Asher was 7 months old, and went three times in 2020 (which was a good year for herding!). This trip we did a whole group thing, which turned out really fun! One never knows when you get that many dogs in one house how things will go (10 dogs!). There were a few combinations that we managed inside, but outside they all did well with one another – including Asher and Rooster. To be fair, Rooster kicked Asher’s ass on day one when they were out running, and he seemed satisfied with that. Asher was less cocky this time than our last visit too (6 months ago). So while they’re definitely not friends, we could have them out in the house together with much less issue.

So we had so many relatives! Dove and Rooster, and their kids Flee, Asher and Gladys. The siblings all had a good time together, though Gladys is similar to Asher at that age (7 months), just sort of oblivious, so she got told off a lot (which didn’t hurt her feelings at all!). Really fun to see everyone together, and the different herding styles of them all. So thankful to Bonnie for putting up with us all, that’s quite an invasion into her house! Such a journey from Asher’s first trip out there, it’s been so incredibly helpful to have these opportunities. Though still a long way to go! He’s only 2, we’ll see what we can do.

We ended up seeing three presenters while we were out there, first auditing Patrick Shannahan when we went down to pick up the sheep. Some very interesting exercises on really thinking about tone and communication without using commands and being quiet as well. It’s, uh, easy in herding to go straight to yelling – dogs can hear us just fine. Quiet whistles too, which was interesting. All things I’d like to play around with, and very useful reminders of how much more ability we have to communicate with dogs other than just ‘commands’ and getting louder all the time.

Then Derek Fisher came out to the farm to give some lessons, and that was really interesting as well. Some very helpful exercises to help with Asher’s precision and talked whistles. He felt it would be better to switch my comebye whistle to low high so a smaller flank would be easier to differentiate between the other whistles. I do like the idea, as going high low if you just do the high part sounds like both his ‘there’ whistle and possibly his away as well. I’m bad at whistles – sigh. Shrill and shriller. But the theme is definitely to start adding to our whistle vocabulary so he’s not having to think so much about what I’m asking. I don’t know if I want to change my whistles though, and for some reason low-high is so much harder for me! Do need to have a shorter stop whistle as well. So, whistle practice, I need to do it – without a dog!

Finally, we went out to Broken Circle and ended up seeing Rocky Brown. He did great with the young dogs in the round pen, was very helpful to see good introductions. Robin and Rocky are training cattle dogs, so a bit different – and they definitely want to make sure the dog will go in to bite if they need to! We also worked with the big dogs down in the field with some very hard to move sheep – and poor Asher had the hardest time with them. And poor Rocky didn’t really know how to deal with a dog that had no way to move livestock – that doesn’t work with cows!

It has become a theme that Asher tends to have a crisis with driving out in Idaho, but I think the overreaching theme should be – Asher doesn’t really know how to drive. There are other issues, such as him not wanting to go into pressure and not having a response when a sheep says, “No,” – but at the heart of it, he’s insecure because he doesn’t understand the job. And this is Asher, we need to take it back down to the ground and start over and help him understand what he should be doing. He has a much better understanding than Navarre about how to read and cover sheep on the fetch, so he should be able to do that on the drive as well. But he’s uncertain, so he stalls out, looks at me and then I just use commands to get him through – which works, but he still doesn’t understand what he SHOULD be doing. So that wasn’t solved in Idaho, but it became very clear, and we need to break it down and make sure he’s successful with each piece by itself, no lumping in the different aspects.

Still, while he struggled with driving, Asher did a lot of great things! For one thing, he didn’t lose the sheep to town – hurrah! To be fair, the sheep we had this time were MUCH heavier and more reasonable. The sheep we had last year just wanted to RUN. These sheep we had this time gave both Asher and I time to think and would actually STOP. So we were able to take them from the pen and across the farm … relatively smoothly. He got to pen them, get them into the trailer and other real life tasks that make me feel good about his ability to be useful. He is such a good boy! His outruns looked great, even at big distances. I’m still mostly managing his lifts by lying him down, but he was able to occasionally do it on his own without coming in too fast and overflanking. He did some nice work out at the cattle ranch on some hills with trees and big outruns where I let him mostly figure it out on his own. Once again, helps that this group of sheep was pretty settled in general. Now, pushing those sheep – that was harder. So there was lots of turning and facing Asher and him pushing and moving them … eventually. So good practice there, and he will definitely try to just quit in that situation – he has a hard time with that kind of confrontation. But I think every time he’s getting more confident and realizing he CAN do it. Sheep can totally tell he’s a sissy though. I think he’ll get BETTER at that sort of thing, but probably never going to be his strength.

I feel very confident that Asher will try to do what I’m asking, and sometimes he will doubt a flank – but I don’t blame him, I’ve steered him wrong before! He was struggling on his comebye flanks for some reason, but it’s POSSIBLE there could have been a physical component to that. He had developed a little cowlick right at the base of his tail, and I had wanted to have someone work on him to check it out. As long as we were out in Idaho we went down to see Bonnie’s rural vet, who does body work, acupuncture as well as more traditional vet things. I figured he had something going on down there, but he was moving fine, not showing any obvious signs of discomfort – running around like a maniac as usual. So shocked the hell out of me when the vet came in went to manipulate his rear he whipped right around and tried to take her out! I had never seen that with Asher before, scared the crap out of me! Luckily, nothing phases Dr. Martha, I got a hold his head and she did a quick exam and then threw in some accupuncture needles and gave him a break to get some laser treatment. When she came back, same response from Asher with any manipulation back near his tail, so I just held on tightly – but she got in there and worked on him … and suddenly he just went completely limp and relaxed. She adjusted something and no more Cujo Asher, he was totally fine. So THAT was interesting. She said he had a ‘bruised tail’.

The cowlick definitely got better after that visit, and we worked on stretching out the area. When we got back home I took him to a rehab vet who said he had a sore illiospoas … which I’m not really buying. But got him a twice weekly appointment for laser and hydrotherapy (which I also don’t think he needs, but what the hell, it’s good to get him used to it). He was a total angel at the rehab vet, no signs of Cujo Asher at all. Finally, we got out to Maddy who did not think he had sore illospoas, but was very tight in the muscles in his groin/rear. And, oh, is he related to Navarre, getting him worked on when he was sore he was a HUGE wiggly pain in the ass. It must be genetic. But, once again, no Cujo Asher – just Asher not wanting to hold still. He did get better, and we’ll continue to see Maddy as well. She didn’t think there was any injury, just tightness.

Anyway, Asher did GREAT in Idaho, and wasn’t as stupidly cocky as he was last time, so I think Rooster was more tolerant of him. Asher is growing up, he wasn’t as annoying in general, and did well with all the dogs in the household for the most part – and was just a wonderful traveler and such a joy to hang out with. I just love that big red dork, he’s amazing.

Bryn was also a super traveler, as expected. I was super proud of her, she was MOSTLY great in the house. She did have one accident overnight towards the end of the trip. However, the next night she actually woke me up, went to the door and scratched at it to be let out instead of peeing on the floor, which impressed me! She didn’t destroy anything, just the one accident (well, other than her pooing in the crate in the car, which had some other circumstances behind it ….), and was totally confident wherever we went. She did MOSTLY great with all the dogs, she was a friend to all … as long as they didn’t try to take her things. She does have a bit of a resource guarding tendency, and we’ve worked on it. It’s only in specific situations, and not all the time. But, yeah, the first time Flee came over when Bryn was chewing on a nylon chewy Bryn went AFTER her. And Flee was like, “Chill out, bitch, I didn’t want your stupid chew toy!” But then after that, no more issues. They shared chewies, stole it back and forth and were the best of friends wrestling the days away. So Bryn is MOSTLY perfect, but she does have that edge sometimes and is NOT afraid to back it up. But only sometimes.

Both Bryn and Asher got to learn about the quad life (or, technically, the side by side). Learning to trot next to it and eventually to be tethered in the back. Both dogs had zero issues – which didn’t surprise me with Bryn, but did surprise me with Asher as he was nervous about it when he was younger. They both can be tethered while other dogs work sheep … but Bryn needed some help to become less shrill about it. She is definitely good at being a farm dog, including getting in with the sheep uninvited … A LOT. And Bryn can just fit through anywhere, and I’m a slow learner. And she has ZERO recall off of livestock. So three times that happened, and she was so stinkin proud of herself. I didn’t want to get upset up with her, but by the third time, just STOP IT.

Still, I was really happy with Bryn the times she was SUPPOSED to be on sheep. We ended up doing basically four PLANNED sessions on sheep. I took her out in the round pen and was really pleased with her working with me and responding and getting around the sheep. She has a great feel for sheep, changes direction nicely and those little legs aren’t holding her back, she can cover! Then Bonnie took her out as well, so I could take pictures 😉 And she was more thoughtful. Then with Rocky I took her out again and was super pleased, we actually got to try to progress a little, having her come into pressure and move off the fence as well as try to get her to come off the sheep more and doing ‘little outruns’ in the round pen. Then Rocky worked her as well, and WAY longer than I would have! And, yeah, that girl just keeps on going, no issues. He definitely put more pressure on her and asked for more, and she had no problems with that. Then at the end encouraged her to get in and bite them – ah, cattle dogs.

I think she’s going to be a really fun herding dog, and knock on wood, she is not just trying to plow past the person to get the sheep – she seems like she’s willing to partner up and do it together. Definitely more confident and willing to stand up to sheep, though there is a theory out there that I make my dogs too nice 😉 Which I’m not going to complain about! So at 5 months, I am VERY happy with what Bryn is doing on sheep. She’s not old enough to really do much more with at this point, so it’s just waiting for her to grow up. I do think I’ll see if I can start doing some toy herding games, which, I freely admit teach them NOTHING about reading sheep – but can help them understand the directionals. I should probably teach a recall first though ….

I got to meet Bryn’s brother and grandma! Oh my, there are NO legs in that family. Her brother looks just like her, just a bit bigger, wider and way more goobery – very happy and sweet though. Robin really likes him, he’s ranked #2 of the current set of young dogs, apparently. He sounds like he’s more wild on sheep though. And Grandma is red and tiny little legs and not nearly as much coat. Once again, really happy and bouncy and adorable. I don’t know if Bryn remembered being there before, she’s just so comfortable everywhere it’s hard to say!

The week went by way too quickly, lots of laughing and playing with dogs and mostly lovely weather. We went from snow to melting much to total Spring in a week. Idaho moves quick! Hopefully we will get to go back again, always have such a lovely time – that’s my kind of vacation.

Back at home, Navarre and Haku stayed with my mom and behaved themselves while getting a crash course in the dog door lifestyle. We had finally installed the fancy new dog door into the dog run … and almost immediately the new door it was installed on broke, so we couldn’t open it. So the only way to get to the potty area was through the dog door. So luckily they all picked it up quickly, and apparently were MOSTLY good about using it (the boys still need to be ‘invited’ to use it, while Bryn just does it herself). I think Haku doesn’t have great bodily control these days, so apparently there were a couple inappropriate turds. But, yeah, we are now a dog door family. I’ll feel better when I can trust them to use it ON THEIR OWN. But there is still a lot of me gathering everyone up and walking over there and telling them to go outside. But finally the new flooring is in as well, which means I can put them in the dog room (with the dog door) and they can figure it out. And, no, surprisingly the cats haven’t figured out the dog door yet. I don’t think they can get out of the kennel run, so they are welcome to go back there … if they ever figure it out.

OMG, a light at the end of the tunnel – I took off a week to finally catch up on things around the house and all the big projects are ALMOST DONE. The fence goes in the middle of May, and I still want to replace the tub with a shower, but then it’s just little things. I also got some new couches so no more piles of animals on the one couch. I am finally UNPACKED! My pictures are on the wall, my car can now be parked in the garage. It’s almost like I live here now. And so many things are happening! Agility! Herding! The world is happening again and I think I’m going to be exhausted by the end of April. But Navarre is turning SIX this month, and Asher is 2, we have missed out on enough – time to get back to it.

We actually went to two herding clinics in one day, Ron in the morning and Ian in the afternoon. We hadn’t seen Ian for over a year, since the start of the pandemic – omg, Navarre was SO HAPPY to work with him again! It’s like no time had passed at all, they are a great team together. No stress displacement behaviors, knew his whistles, was actually listening and had no problem with the work. He still wants to do everything at warp speed, but that doesn’t seem to bother Ian. So we need to get them together more. Ian seems to think he can find another handler for Navarre (who he always thinks needs to run in Open). I don’t know though, he hasn’t been happy with anyone except Ian really. I’m willing to give it a chance though, if I can find the time to do it. He was SO HAPPY.

Asher did well, we are still on ‘learning to drive’ theme and trying to get rid of the stall out and look back while not getting him pushing TOO hard. The consensus was to stop worrying about ‘straight’ at the moment and just get him moving up on the sheep consistently … without pushing too hard. So we will work on that, and if he needs to be shushed on every three steps in order not to look back at me, that is what we will do … hopefully eventually we can get rid of that. No particular issues with the shetland rams, though there was one that turned to face him a LOT, and that’s hard for Asher. He turned him, though he really doesn’t want to. Getting better, one asshole sheep at a time. I was really happy that when I sent for a really long outrun that Asher had zero problems with that – Idaho for the win!

So the plan is to enter the May trial at Ian’s, let Ian run Navarre in PN and me run Asher in Nursery. They won’t be using the shetlands, but the question of whether Asher would be comfortable there – no problem. And Navarre obviously is ready for action!

Haku even got to move a sheep! There were spare rams wandering around the property so I let Haku drive one back into a pen. He was so happy! He’ll be 12 in a couple months, but he is definitely still all ‘there’. I was working on teaching Bryn to hug with jump pole and let him have a go – he hasn’t worked on hugging for YEARS – but he immediately was doing it. He’s amazing! Arthritis is definitely there, and I have tried some fancy new joint supplements – but I don’t see any difference. His poor little toes going in all directions!

As for Bryn, she was pretty much a feral farm dog out in Idaho, it became apparent we really need to work on her manners and she got demoted to wearing a collar like a baby dog – oh, the shame. So back at home we are working on her stays and self control again, and it’s going okay. I think she doesn’t feel ‘ready, for a lot of training. She is so much better, but still is not driving the work yet. So I continue to be cautious about pushing too hard, training should be fun. But, yeah, needs some stays and recalls. We introduced hugging and she picks things up quickly, but solidifying them is hard as she doesn’t like any repetition. So most of her behaviors are introduced, but not trained … including her stays and recalls.

On the other side of the coin, we went back to some agility and, wow, she gets so excited about that! A little TOO excited, we now have biting and nipping to make the game ‘go’ – which I don’t appreciate. So funny how she has zero problems with repetition in agility! She does pick things up quickly, especially when we can actually work on things a bit like we can in agility. She now has an adorable tire in ‘sequence’ and we introduced a tunnel into her figure eight and once she put it together she was giving some very nice commitment considering we haven’t really trained any of it. It’s all behaviors she doesn’t need to be doing at this age, but it’s where she’s her most engaged and happy – so we will continue. Physically she’s very coordinated and comfortable with her body, so I don’t worry too much about physical impact. Asher got to do NONE of this baby agility, giant dork with no body preservation.

I have no particular goals or aspirations with Bryn in agility. To be fair, I usually don’t with my dogs! I want her to be happy and for us to do the best we can while keeping it fun. We will probably train international skills that we’ll never get to use, because it’s fun. Much like I can’t really envision what Bryn will look like as an adult, neither can I envision her in agility. I don’t expect her to be the fastest, but I’m sure she’ll still give those little legs a work out. I have a hard time imagining her being a wide turning dog at least! A good jumper? Maybe? I’m pretty sure she’ll be two footing those weaves 😉

I waffle back and forth about worrying she’s too small to worrying she’s too big. She’s definitely WIDE, that is one tank of a dog even at this young age. When we were out in Idaho we measured her around 16.5, and since we returned it seemed like she had gotten taller. But I measured her with the agility wicket and, no, still 16.5. So not growing for like 3 weeks is … not a good sign. So I’m back to worrying she’ll be too short! Though if she DOES stay this size, I think that assures we’ll have to try to get on world team (assuming I ever get her papers, which is a whole other drama of getting them from the original breeder). So how big will she get? Only time will tell. But, yeah, if she goes over medium size, I guess she doesn’t need to be on world team then 😉 23.8 lbs at 6.5 months.

Asher is all about agility trials now. We went down for a couple runs at a new venue for him in Eugene – total rockstar. Well, total rockstar that did not collect AT ALL. I led out in standard two jumps and placed myself so he knew he was turning 90 degrees to the teeter. He just careened past me with complete disregard. And jumpers was ridiculous, I basically stood in the middle of the course and did all rear crosses and he just … kept going. Running Asher in agility right now is like trying to hold one of those ‘Wet Willy’ toys – he’s just squirting everywhere. But yet he’s definitely really trying, but collection … not so much. There is some recall to heel work in our future. Still, hit his weaves the first time, no bars, running dogwalk with a 90 degree turn exit, NOT taking many inviting tunnel offcourses – SUPER proud of him. And, yes, he is just so into it, you can’t help but be caught up in his excitement. So two more Qs for Asher, maybe we’ll make it to Open someday ….

Navarre also did well, my goal of getting his MACH this year will only work if I actually ARRIVE in time for his standard run (a-hem). But he pulled off a Q in jumpers, despite the fact I thought he skipped a weavepole. Knock on wood, he’s moving well and I didn’t see anything off. He had a good time, but it was such a small trial he seemed confused where all the action was.