Asher NA NAJ!

Asher is out of novice! Man, AKC novice courses are just downright mean, so while I was in no particular hurry, it’s nice to be done with them … at least, until Bryn starts trialing. But the spacing won’t be ridiculously tight for her, so that makes it easier, in many ways AKC agility is really focused on small dogs, not big dogs (and I don’t even run a 24 inch dog – I feel so bad for those that do!).

I actually hadn’t intended to enter this show, I have one judge on my list that I don’t enter, and not because she has terrible courses or is a bad person or anything, but consistently puts poor contact approaches (and is a judge in our area A LOT, so I’ve seen many of them!). And, OMG, same thing this trial. I’ve never had to approach ANY other judge about safety concerns, but after I asked for approaches to be fixed for safety THREE TIMES in one trial, and was basically told I needed to ‘train harder’, I knew we were never going to see eye to eye on it. And that’s the thing, for a lot of people contact approaches aren’t that big of a deal – and little dogs especially, it’s just not an issue for them. And if it’s not an issue for them, then the issue obviously doesn’t exist. I remember the days when I ran a little dog – ah, ignorance is bliss.

This is the sort of contact approach I have an issue with, one of her courses from the weekend:

But it’s fine, only one dog fell off, so no problem. Which goes to another issue, I’d be totally fine lowering the dogwalk – which is blasphemy to some – but why does the dogwalk need to be so high that if a dog does fall (which happens to even the most careful dog and handler), they are much more likely to be injured? I never saw that course run, but was informed that it ran ‘just fine’ and I need to ‘train more’. I would never ask Asher to do that approach, and it doesn’t matter that lots of other dogs compensate just fine. It’s something I feel very strongly about, a dog can seriously injure themselves on poor approaches like that – courses should ALWAYS have safe contact approaches. Always, always, always, no excuse otherwise (especially repeatedly!).

Anyway, I decided to enter so Navarre and Dot could have a trial before it started to get too hot to trial up at Ridgefield, so I entered the day my problem judge was not judging standard. Though, I have to laugh, this was her novice jumpers – I mean, really?

Squish everything into half the arena? Did I mention how AKC is based for little dogs?

Dot and Navarre are definitely coming together, they are running clean in class sometimes and have sort of figured each other out. Dot is VERY good at playing, which Navarre appreciates! I entered them in four runs, and they had two REALLY close runs, a qualifying FAST run and one run where Navarre decided that weaving was optional. He’s never been one that has ever loved weaving, but it was good to see that the next run he did he didn’t have an issue. But it’s become apparent he only does complex weaving maneuvers because I’m running him – he acts like a baby dog in the weaves with Dot. But everything else looked good, he goes a little slower with her, but they’re still figuring each other out. They both are enjoying it, I don’t know where it will go or how long it will last, but it’s been fun. She’s always worrying about qualifying, which is so not anything I care about.

Well, I DID want out of novice to get away from the courses, and Asher went into the weekend needing one more in standard and jumpers. I also entered him in T2B and FAST to see if trialing more would help get him settled down. But weirdly enough, he was all business this weekend. And maybe maturity, maybe having more exposure – but could also be the ‘Calming Care’ probiotics? I’ve been giving them to both Asher and Haku, and they do seem to be a little less edgy. Not that either one is ‘crazy’, but have some overarousal issues. So, maybe that helped?

Asher went four for four – that has certainly never happened before (though, he’s never run four times in one day either!). His weavepoles remain spot on, which is where I would expect him to have issue – including in FAST where I layered a jump – no issues. No knocked bars, no frantic behavior. We had a couple little miscommunications which were both my fault. On one for some reason I was patting my side, and, yes, he did his bypass! And then on another I front crossed the teeter instead of blinded and was not ahead of enough to cue the next jump so caused a refusal (didn’t trust him!). But his contacts were mostly good, no issues with his teeters or dogwalk, and did NOT act like he’d never seen an aframe before. Though all the aframes he did were not confident and high, he still sees them as ‘different’ – but that’s a lot better than leaping off like a maniac! Startlines were vultures, but solid – and a first, he did NOT jump off the table!

We were a team, and a fun team – he’s SUCH a fun dog when he’s not being a nutball. I really LIKE running this dog in agility, and it’s almost like we’ve TRAINED THINGS, which I was not feeling before. Before I felt like he was just flinging around at the end of string, and definitely not on the same page. So fingers crossed I hope that continues, at least today he feels ready for Open, which is a good. Proud of my boy, he’s one amazing guy.

And, wow, so much fun to go to trial and hang out with people again! So much catching up to do, and just sharing after runs and actually getting to be in there and WATCH people’s runs. Ahh, feels so good. Ended up bailing on the USDAA trial this weekend, had entered just the team day with the thought that would get us the most amount of exposure in the least amount of time. But they ended up not even starting the trial until 11, you had to wear masks (outdoors!), it was hot, I just don’t do well being out in that much sun – so we bailed. Which means we don’t have any trials on the schedule, and may not until the Fall. Ridgefield is an oven in the summer, I don’t do outdoors, I don’t think there is much else.

Mostly back to herding though, getting ready for Asher’s upcoming Nursery trials in back to back weekends in July. I’d like to, you know, actually practice – but that might not happen much. We did get to Maddy’s to practice, and, yeah, the driving issues did not magically disappear – especially at a distance. We were about 50/50, he’d either just walk on like he owned it, or would stall out and just stare at me as the sheep ran away. So that’s frustrating, don’t know what he’s thinking, but hopefully we continue to get more good than bad.

Kind of funny, the lack of practice with all the dogs definitely showed – we went out to Ian’s over the weekend. Navarre was in his own little world and not listening at all, Asher was being a flake and basically chased/let the sheep run all the way back into the woods so I had to walk all the way out there to get him to fetch them. And as Bryn HAS worked in bigger fields I thought I’d give it a try with her at Ian’s – ha! Oh hell no, she just zoomed around doing whatever she wanted to do, no response to that down that we’ve been working on at all. She at least was bringing the sheep TO me, so she had that – you know, at a 100 miles per hour. She’s so DIFFERENT every time she’s on sheep, but I’m also kind of glad she’s not being all super pressure sensitive like she was, I think that would be hard to deal with. She’s just a puppy, so no biggie – not really worried about getting started with her for a while, she’s obviously not ready. And Asher and Navarre, well … you can tell we haven’t been practicing, and I wish that was going to change, but probably not. We seem to be in an agility phase, apparently.

Bryn is in season – gah! 8 months, that doesn’t bode well, I assume she’ll be an every six months kinda gal. Bummer. She also does not think it’s her job to stay clean whatsoever, Bright did spoil me. At least Asher let me know, otherwise I’d have no idea – that girl has SO MUCH HAIR back there! Or, she DID, not it’s all fallen out. Haku had to be neutered because he WOULDN’T let me know when Bright was in season, that was too dicey. Asher is super obvious. So we’ll see how that goes. Easy to keep them separate, whether Asher is going to be obnoxious is another story. He chilled out after his initial obsession and was pretty much ignoring her, I had everyone out playing together, hiking, etc. So I had them in the house together and was on the computer and looked up and there’s Asher humping away and Bryn looking perfectly fine about the whole thing – so, yeah, stopped that and now am being more vigilant. Very sneaky, Asher, very sneaky indeed.

Bryn is growing up in other ways too, she’s learned to walk with the other dogs at my side when I need her to – which is what I consider a ‘grown up’ behavior, and not something I usually bother with when they’re puppies. And she’s just doing really well with self control in general. I can run other dogs in agility while she waits … vaguely near the table (thanks for teaching her that, Asher …). While hiking bicyclists came up behind us and she just recalled and waited off to the side while they went by. Then the next week it was horses – what a super star! When did she learn to do all this stuff? It’s so amazing how quickly they grow up.

Bryn did her first blind crosses in sequence too! Her flanking in agility is getting much better, maybe she’s actually getting the point now? Definitely can’t use a squeaky ball though, only a tug. I was using a squeaky to proof her end behavior on the teeter and then tried to do a little sequence – ha, couldn’t get her to come in for anything! But with a tug she’s figuring it out, and turning much tighter too – I’m encouraged! She remains really fun to play with, miss tiny legs.

Her first ever blind crosses in sequence:

We have done a little bit more and she’s just reading them super naturally, and isn’t flanking and is actually collecting … maybe she WON’T be super hard in agility after all! She’s pretty much got her end of teeter behavior, we’ve now proofed with motion both ahead and to the side and with toys. She will sometimes not come all the way to the end, so just working on that. We’ll continue to add value to driving to the end of the board so that when she’s old enough and we look at putting it together hopefully it will be easy.

She DID get in trouble, multiple times, recently. So, yes, teenager. First one was she’s had some issues getting overaroused when people come into the arena (when my dogs are running around while I’m setting up) with their dogs and she’ll run the wall barrier … which was better than jumping OVER it, which she doesn’t do anymore. But then she was doing that and a dog peeked over the wall and she jumped up and snapped at the dog – so no more getting to do THAT. Then, ironically, as soon as we finally get a fence she finds a way underneath it and goes and visits the neighbor with sheep up the road. Sigh. So the neighbor kindly brought her back, but, yeah, not going to let THAT happen again – which, once again, when we didn’t have a fence it never occurred to her to leave the property! Now that she knows the sheep are over there … sigh. So, yes, working on Bryn-proofing the fence and making sure she doesn’t sneak off when we are just hanging out on the property. Troublemaker.

Another troublemaker is Navarre, we now have two fabulous barn cats – Heidi’s farm cats. They’re dog and cat savvy, traffic savvy and good hunters. They seem to very much like it here and they are super friendly and adorable. And Navarre is OBSESSED about them. I don’t know why he gets like this with other people’s cats, but I kind of assume it will fade in time. The cats are unimpressed with my dogs and don’t worry about them doing anything, so they’ve been out together, but Navarre will herd them CONSTANTLY, and really intensely. So weird. They, obviously, can stick up for themselves, but been trying to keep Navarre from bugging them. So, yeah, we have indoor cats and outdoor cats – and the outdoor cats are WAY friendlier. Go figure. Oh, and the new cats have seen my cats through the door and they’re perfectly friendly and nice, “Hey, how’s it going?” – and my cats are total super dramatic assholes, of course. Fingers crossed the outdoor kitties stay safe, so far they’ve been here for … 2 weeks? So that’s encouraging.

Oh, Bryn went swimming! We went up to Joan’s and Carol helped introduce her, got her a little lifejacket and used a leash to help her be successful. I was pretty pleased and she did well, thoughtful, I think when we go again this weekend she’ll be more confident. Doesn’t hurt that it will be 106 degrees. The heatwave coming is quite frightening, I’ve never experienced these kinds of temperatures. We’ll see if it really does get above 110. Bryn has been swimming in the big stock tank that Heidi brought though, I think we have another water dog.

It’s almost official, yes, Heidi is moving to the property. Her tiny house will get here hopefully sometime this month. She’s here now living in her trailer, which is an adventure. Will be fun to have someone else around, and the dogs all get along … except for Bea, but Bea doesn’t get along with anyone. We’ll see how it goes, and we now have a road that goes to the back of the property … which will also be used for going to the arena, which we will hopefully be starting in the next few months. Right now everything is just kind of a mess, dirt piles everywhere and things torn up by machinery – but the good news, the lawn looked terrible anyway, we can only improve it! Bright Acres is evolving.

And the state is finally opening up! One of the last to do so, but I’ll take it. So ready to move on from all the restrictions – I’ll actually be able to go into the vet with my animals again! I have a backlog of things I’ve been putting off because of the vet situation, I hope I can get them in easier once things are opened back up. I do already have an appointment the end of July to test Asher at the reproduction vet. I called when I thought about the fact I already had a teaser bitch ready and everything, but, not surprisingly, they didn’t have any appointments for a while. But it will be interesting to see if he’s shooting blanks like Navarre or not. This whole having intact boys and girls together is a big pain in the ass, so I need to make some decisions. However, if Asher did actually have swimmers … hmm, I just adore that dog, we work so well together. Not that I WOULD breed him, but I want to get all the facts before I make any big decisions on neutering. Knock on wood, so far Bryn hasn’t gotten weird with her first season, so that’s a point in her favor. Not making any decisions yet, but it would be nice if one or the other got fixed, just for my stress level. We shall see.


Wow, people are DOING THINGS again – it’s so funny to check on facebook and suddenly there are all these updates on trials and trips and THINGS again. And, yes, suddenly our schedule is filled with things! At least, comparatively speaking. I never seem to be actually home to enjoy the property, busy busy busy. But it’s looking like that may change, possibly sooner rather than later – looking into getting the arena built here. Which is kind of huge and overwhelming, but also I think something that Future Heather will be very happy with for many years to come. OMG are costs insane, but they don’t seem to be going back down, so, hey. The future is coming, but there are many steps to get there. One step at a time.

In the meantime, Asher has two days of 4-5 runs of agility coming up. We’re going to attempt doing MORE trialing and see if it settles him down any. We did another two runs down in Eugene, which actually didn’t go too badly. I think it really helps now that I don’t have to wear a mask when running! He has also been on the calming care probiotics, so maybe that helped? Jumpers he was less chaotic, but knocked two bars. He wasn’t frantic though, and, once again, nailed the weaves. Standard was a HORRIBLE nasty mean novice course which included yet another dogwalk angled off into the corner and a more than 90 degree turn off of it – TO A BROAD JUMP. Ugh. I almost didn’t run it, but I was there and I figured I could just train anyway. But he actually got that dogwalk exit, AND HIS AFRAME. Like he knew what it was – after retraining it AGAIN after his last trial. He seems to struggle with rear crosses in competition, but we limped through that nasty course with a Q. I’ll take it, getting out of novice standard is just necessary, so ugly.

He needs one more jumpers and standard to get out of novice. He’s still VERY much a novice dog though. And we still aren’t practicing like we should – though we spent all our practice time fixing that damn aframe again. Anyway, I felt he was more settled, so we’ll see how the next couple trials go – one USDAA team day (the courses will be so far out of his league!), and then 4 runs at an AKC trial. I’m looking forward to it though, he IS fun to run when he’s not trying to kill himself.

Asher also continues to go to water rehab every week. I had bought a whole package (bigger than I thought, apparently!), with the assumption I could spread it out throughout the dogs. But Navarre will have NOTHING to do with the underwater treadmill – he just tried to jump out the ENTIRE TIME. I was soaked through by the end. He’s been on treadmills since he was a puppy! But Navarre doesn’t do things he doesn’t want to do, and he was having none of it. And Haku is a known treadmill pooper – so Asher it is. The thing is, I was skeptical it was going to do a damn thing, but it’s actually really been beneficial to him. Yes, he’s a very active dog, but the more thoughtful movements with the treadmill he’s gained a LOT of muscle and balance to him. He now does 30 minutes twice a week with the jets and trotting – it’s hard work. He’s such a good sport about it – unlike uncle Navarre. He actually kind of likes it now, or is at least okay with it. I’ll be glad when we finally finish the package though, it makes for a LONG day going to do that after teaching all day (did I mention how I’m never home?). I do feel like it’s hopefully helping Asher stay sound, which is always the goal with the red menace.

Herding-wise, still not practicing as much as I’d like – but at least we’re doing a little. I was so frustrated with him when we went to see Dave this week. We hadn’t been out there for quite a while, and Asher does always seem to be much less responsive there than in other places. This week he didn’t listen AT ALL. And that so isn’t like him! I expected the issues driving, but he never ONCE lied down when I told him the whole time. I had to physically go and stop him multiple times – that is just not something we’ve had an issue with. So I was not happy at all with him, which I’m sure didn’t help with his constant stalling out on the drives. Very discouraging.

Afterwards I went up to Maddy’s to practice, after letting it go and remembering what I need to do with Asher to make him successful – and that’s go all the way to the beginning and train it again. I KNOW THIS. We’ve been through this MANY TIMES with many different behaviors – it’s how he works. So I let the frustration go and we went out to be calm, to break it down and show him what his job was … again. But as soon as we got there, completely different dog. Lying down INSTANTLY, driving without any stalling out at all – WHO WAS THIS DOG? It’s definitely the dog I’d prefer, I was THRILLED to see him actually HOLDING A DRIVE LINE. He was fixing his own line, and definitely not stalling out at all. So … huh. I don’t know what to make of that. At Dave’s we were using very heavy dogbroke sheep – which is why it was so weird he wasn’t listening to my commands, it’s not like there was ANY danger of losing the sheep. At Maddys, we used the heaviest of her sheep, but very different response.

So I can’t explain it, but I so want to feel more confident with his driving (and DEFINITELY his stops!), as the plan is two more nursery herding trials in July. So one at Ian’s and one down in Palm Cottage. I want the dog that showed up at Maddy’s to go to those trials – it’s fun to run that dog! We will work on it. We also are going to go to a ‘trialing clinic’ down at the beach in August, which should be fun – and during my summer break!

Oh, and, randomly and very unexpectedly … Asher’s balls grew. It’s not like I ever really see them, and they certainly hadn’t changed for the first two years of his life – little grapes exactly the same size as Navarre’s were. There was absolutely no reason to assume that would change, Navarre’s certainly didn’t in 5 years. But Asher was sprawled out on the couch and I took a picture and … there they were, and, huh, they did look bigger. But must be an optical illusion … nope, they were more … normal sized. So, huh. I had been making a lot of assumptions, including that he was sterile and I didn’t have to worry too much about Bryn going into season (and not being able to tell because, OMG, so much hair!). But it’s possible these might actually work, and Asher has certainly has had more ‘male behaviors’ than Navarre ever did. So getting him checked out at the reproductive vet has moved up in importance.

As for Bryn, she is 8 months old now! She remains everyone’s best friend (in my household, anyway!) and is such a wonderful addition. I have been thinking a lot about Bright recently, what would she have thought of Bryn? Would they have been friends, would she have approved? I’d like to think so. There is a softness in Bryn that seems like a little piece of Bright, and an independence too – I’ve only had two BC girls, and they were both very independent in their own way. Bryn likes to cuddle, but when it comes to sleeping, much like Bright, she wants her own space. I did lose Bryn briefly when hiking this week, as she always has to be ahead, and went up the wrong trail. I kept going assuming she’d figure it out, but I had to go back and find her. While she didn’t do that again that hike, she continues to be the trailblazer, always way out in front – rarely comes back in to check on me. I love her confidence though, and she’s almost always happy to come in when asked – but she is her own dog.

I measured Bryn myself at the last trial, she was about 16.8, and 25.5 lbs. I’m going to guess she’s going to end up less than 17.5 inches and 28 pounds. She remains ADORABLE, but in a much more mature fashion. She looks like a little shrunken border collie. Her tiny little head just kills me, and when she’s bouncing around and barking like a shrill chihuahua – gah. Just love that little girl.

Been contemplating the best way to proceed with her in agility, I don’t want to discourage her enthusiasm, but I also don’t want her to practice the extreme flanking and pressure sensitivity. Had a really good suggestion of just using gates, which never would have occurred to me, just to help her be successful and get her to understand what we’re looking for. Then, of course, STOP THROWING THE TOY. Which I still do, I swear, it’s Bright that got me into that mode, it’s hard to stop! Bryn likes her tug though, so it’s all good. And then we played around with going back to our leg weaves, which I had stopped because she was coming through and then jumping up to bite me. So obstacle and then leg weave and then back to obstacle, to get her to come in and go away. Still have biting, but I think that has a lot of promise to help her understand that even if she comes in, she then gets to go away, so it’s all good.

She DID learn to rear cross, which is when it became abundantly clear I can’t get within 15 feet of her or she’ll shoot around everything. Really hard to run a dog like that, so we need to make a change. Working on collection, introducing a tunnel wrap, lots of coming back in to reward, going to try gates and then leg weaves to help her get more comfortable coming in. We have a plan. Otherwise we’ve worked on solidifying her teeter end behavior, so she can now find and ride down the end of a lowered teeter in a down. She likes that game, once she figured it out. Went back to working on the running contact platform, lots of progress there – she can do it ‘in sequence’ with other obstacles, and she loves it. Went back to look at tunnel threadles, she’s starting to get the idea. Lateral sends to obstacles look good, didn’t take long to figure out go-ons. Would like to work on more verbal discrimination and fiddly things, but she remains pretty unenthused about ‘thoughtful training’ with food. She’s an action girl. We’ll get it all there eventually.

Oh, and Bryn can now stay when I’m working other dogs. I would say, “Stay on the table”, but does she? Of course not. Asher taught her as long as you stay out of the way, it’s cool. So I gave up and as long as she stays out of the way, I’ll take it. She is growing up, and we have been working HARD on her lie downs in exciting situations – she is SLIDING into a down in agility, it’s amazing. Did that work transfer to sheep at all? Oh hell no.

She hadn’t been on sheep since sheep camp, a month or a month and a half ago? I didn’t know what to do with that pressure sensitivity so didn’t want to practice on my own (and she’s still so young anyway). Had Dave work her on his baby dog sheep and was very pleased. With these sheep she didn’t feel like she needed to be way off, and much easier to just work on basic skills and getting her not to go to the heads. When she would get tired she would get naughty and less responsive, but for the most part she did great and was being very thoughtful and staying off the sheep without being too far off. So more like a normal baby dog, and I feel more comfortable practicing with a normal baby dog. I still had Dave work her though, I wasn’t in the mood to be run over by knee knockers. Bryn is still a baby, so baby steps it is. We’ll see how long it takes to get her trained, she’s not as biddable as Asher.

I do have a little killer on my hands, Bryn killed a mole! Of which we have A LOT. So I’d like her to kill more, but it’s a start. It was cute, I went to let the dogs inside and she came right in, proudly carrying her dead mole. I now see her stalk up on some of mole hills, ready to pounce if she sees anything. I may regret this at some point, but we definitely have a lot of rodentia around here. The last mouse Bryn at least carried outside after carrying it around inside (alive). I have seriously started contemplating getting another cat – one that will actually KILL THINGS. My dainty purebred fluffballs are useless in that regard.

As for Navarre, he continues to run with 90 year old Dot in class every week, which is freakin adorable. I also thought it would be easier to get them used to one another, as Dot’s dog and Navarre run very similar – but it’s been harder than I anticipated. Or Navarre is being deliberately dense. I did run him down in Eugene and he was just taking whatever, which I was surprised about. So he might just be guessing at the moment, take whatever looks good. Which is certainly what it SEEMS like when he’s running with Dot – he’s not THAT hard to run! So we’ll see, I entered him in four runs next weekend so Dot and him can see about practicing together, which may not go well. We’ll find out. He seems very happy though, no complaints. No herding for Navarre, haven’t been able to make that work. He IS entered in Ian’s trial, so that might not be the wisest choice.

Haku has also been on the ‘calming care’ probiotics, and I might also think he’s been less frantic. Time will tell, could just be reading into things. I have been much more proactive and just putting him outside if I’m training another dog, instead of expecting him to hold his shit together. He may also just be getting older, he will be 12 next month. My special boy, he still loves to do all the things – and still is right next to me every night. He continues to enjoy the puppy as well.

We did have a visitor, Carol’s briard puppy stayed with us for a week. I can now say, YES, Bryn has really grown up! Puppies are cute, but a lot of work – Bryn seems stunningly mature now. All the dogs did great with Leica, and after some initial suspicion, Bryn and Leica became good friends – with appropriate boundaries, because Bryn is no pushover. The boys, however, just let Leica walk all over them – so they were pretty happy when she went home. Bryn was pretty jealous of Leica, which worked in my favor – she’s not super jealous when I work with the boys, she did not like it when Leica was stealing the training spotlight.

Life on the farm continues to be wonderful, it helps that it’s been an incredibly dry spring, so that makes it so nice just to hang out and enjoy it. Hoping they cut the field soon, I actually lost Bryn in it the other day, I could see little puffs of pollen coming off the grass where she was, but then I lost her and she didn’t come when called. She eventually came running around the entire field – too hard to navigate in the tall grass! The dogs will enjoy the wide open space again. The backyard fence is in, which is novel. So at least this time of year I can send them out to play without supervision – and they’re loving that. When it’s really muddy it’s back to the dog yard. House is pretty much set up these days, I have one more big indoor project to do, and, of course, lots of little ones. Today I actually have NOTHING ON MY SCHEDULE. So am I catching up on house projects? Of course not, I’m relaxing and trying to catch up editing pictures. Still though, so very grateful we made the move!