Idaho Vacation

I spent the weekend with all sorts of border collies in all shapes and sizes, but mostly much smaller than mine. I just love border collies, they amuse me greatly and I’m always amazed at their working abilities and sheer … border collieness. In no other group of dogs would you see a random selection of them just staring mindlessly at sheep for hours on end. They are both simple souls, and weirdly complex sometimes. Not smart, but so strangely willing to do whatever you ask, for no reason at all.

Our weekend in Idaho was super fun! It was time to go on a little roadtrip and this was a perfect little vacation to explore somewhere new. So fun see Bonnie, she’s been over there for four years now – time goes by so quickly! And talk about quirky border collies, she’s got a whole household (with bonus terrier). They were hilarious and very generous to let my dorks come crash with them for a few days.

Idaho was really pretty, especially with some of the more dramatic weather we ended up having! Who knew it could rain so much in Idaho? But the big skies made for some lovely views, which we don’t have here with all the trees. Just a very different landscape and very different border collies at the Kathy Knox clinic – they were so TINY! Tiny little prick ear border collies were the name of the game in Idaho. Navarre stuck out like a sore thumb, being giant and merle.

I had no expectations about the clinic or any performance from Navarre and me. But being a novice herding person, I get a lot out of watching other people and seeing what kind of training philosophy the presenter has. Kathy wasn’t radically different from other herding instructors, but I liked her. I think it’s helpful to see herding done by women instead of men, as they don’t have the same … physical presence that I think some men can have. Kathy wasn’t a yeller, but there was lots of, “What do you think you’re doing?” “Get out of that!” and “You listen!” and such. There were the usual herding props of flags, coats, waterbottles with rocks, sticks and anything else you can throw. But she does want the dog to make good decisions on their own rather than be ‘forced’ into it, and I appreciate that. So trying to use the props just as temporary measures to get the behavior, and then asking the dog to do it on their own. I thought she was fair, clear, consistent and all the dogs made progress over the weekend.

Now, I don’t think herding clinics are really worth it, you get like 20 minutes of work over the weekend. But I’m aware of that and really just looking more at seeing herding done by different handlers and trying to find methods that I think will work for us. I was clear with Kathy that I wasn’t looking at more advanced skills with Navarre as I didn’t feel we had a good foundation and system of communication. So we just worked in the round pen and went back to basics, which is what I really feel like we need to do.

I, unfortunately, did not get the answers I wanted to hear. She felt Navarre will always be pushy, it’s who he is and I’ll probably always having to be working on that. And, naturally, she liked him for that push. Herding people really seem to like pushy forward dogs, that’s for sure. Watching the dogs that get stuck and frozen by their eye, I suppose that would be frustrating. So, yeah, need to learn to appreciate the push and to deal with it in a non-confrontational way. Though let it be said, when Kathy was working with Navarre it seemed to ME that she was arguing with him continuously – but she didn’t seem to think so!

So, yeah, just working on the issues that always bite us in the butt – too fast, too close, slicing flanks and not responding promptly – and me not being fast or soon enough to correct it. But I think it was very helpful to just go back to basics, we haven’t worked in a round pen since he was young and he could actually respond much better now than he could back then. We don’t need a lot of room to make the same mistakes! I like working on foundation skills, and we set things up a little bit differently than we had in the past (and, to be fair, this was a fairly big pen, so we had room to move). So maybe if we actually got some practice time we could do the endless work of trying to get Navarre to OFFER distance instead of just being smacked into it. I thought it was helpful for both of us and he enjoyed working with her, of course! He started off pretty darn polite at the beginning of the weekend too, of course, when he got more comfortable by the end of the weekend he was back to pushier. Yes, it’s who he is.

He definitely did better in the round pen then when we went out to play with Bonnie’s sheep in the field – good lord, he was acting like a total spaz. They were pretty flightly sheep and he was much too busy to listen to me. Sigh. But, he had fun all weekend long, any time on sheep is fun time for Navarre.

I did attempt to steal Bonnie’s ‘easy’ whistles, but she lied, her adorable bird calls are fiendishly difficult. So still on the prowl for whistles that will work for me. I did learn that I can go HIGHER with my whistles, so that’s … something.

And guess who likes sheep now? Asher also thought Bonnie’s sheep were VERY exciting. He got to play with them three times over the weekend, and, if nothing else, he’s certainly not afraid and no lack of enthusiasm. As for any actual thinking about herding – well, no. But if you’re looking or a dog to chase them away from you on a field or slam them into a fence and hold them there, he’s your dog. I’m fine with that, while he may not be an instant natural, all we really need to actually progress in enthusiasm. Of course, he’s not actually ready to progress – but I’m now pretty confident that he’ll be into when he’s ready for some pressure when he’s older. So that was a box I’ve been wanting to check off on his puppy list, it’s just nice to know that it’s something he’s interested in. I was fairly certain that he would eventually turn on to sheep, but he had been so mild mannered around them I had wondered. Not to worry, he can now be quite forward.

Navarre and Asher were fabulous travelers, I was especially happy to see that Asher just took everything in stride and made himself at home wherever we were. While I brought his crate I didn’t need to use it, he mostly behaved himself at Bonnie’s place. I may be missing a LITTLE bit of my shoe, but that was the only casualty. The big news is that Asher actually got to play with TWO of Bonnie’s dogs! Bonnie has a puppy that is a few months older than Asher that is actually his cousin and they just hit it off – so much wrestling and chasing! Asher was still a bit too dominant, but Beckit didn’t seem to mind. His thing is he always wants to be the dog on top, he doesn’t switch positions in play and he didn’t really change much over the weekend. Beckit told him what for several times and he listened, but he continues to come on very strong, upright and forward when playing. This worked with both Beckit and his dad this weekend though, go figure! It was so cute to see Rooster and Asher playing pretty much right where he was conceived! I think Rooster would have liked to play more, but it was hard to break into the non-stop puppy play.

So that was huge to see Asher just being a fairly normal puppy and actually playing, but he also didn’t have any issues with Bonnie’s other dogs, who are not afraid to tell dogs off. He didn’t seem to really offend them at all, and he listened when they told him to be polite. I’m just so relieved that he can actually go into a big pack of dogs and not be a total ass. And he obviously thought this was AWESOME.

Now Navarre was MOSTLY good, but him and Rooster had a thing and he could not resist taunting Rooster about it. They are both intact and Rooster was not happy about having Navarre around, which Navarre was not real concerned about, but he seemed to find it fun kind of poke Rooster and get him riled up. They were okay outside together, but I tried to keep Navarre separate inside. Otherwise Navarre did fine with other dogs including Asher. Navarre and Asher were really easy to have together, there was no stress, they were very relaxed and happy travelers who did great together – makes me very happy!

I did find out my puppy is kind of hardcore, the last day we took the dogs on a romp on Bonnie’s property where there is a lot of volcanic rock. Asher, being Asher, is just running around the whole time doing his own thing and I heard him yelp. I thought maybe Beckit told him to stop being an ass as she was next to him at the time, Asher was lying down and looking very sad. So I went over to see what was wrong and then he just kind of popped up and ran off and continued running around, I didn’t really see anything wrong. When we got back to the house I checked out his feet and, sure enough, he had ripped off multiple big chunks from his pads. I cut off the flaps but, really, other than that one yelp he gave out, I never saw any sign after that even with the open wounds that he was injured at all. That puppy is TOUGH, I’ve had plenty of pad injuries through the years and while it’s not the worst injury in the world, I’ve never seen one of my dogs just appear not to notice at all – especially when they first happen. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but maybe explains something about him.

We all had a great time on the trip and I hope we can go back again someday. I was super fun to hang out with Rooster and cousin Beckit, I LOVE Rooster and it was really fun to see him working and just being a dog. He’s such a good boy, and so incredibly sweet. I truly think the Dove x Rooster cross was such a perfect choice, I think they compliment each other so well. I love Dove, I love Rooster, I love my Asher and I’m ever so curious who he grows up to be. But if he’s anything like his parents, I know I’ll be happy!

Back at home my mom stayed with Bright and Haku, and they obviously had a great time with her and were not overly concerned to see me again – ha! Navarre was entirely too happy to see Bright, he was all super flirty and annoying, but I think everyone was happy to see each other again. The big news, yesterday morning I looked out the window and there was Navarre and Asher playing! Now, Navarre stopped as soon as he saw me, but Asher kept trying to play bow and get him into it. I think this trip was so good for him and Navarre, as I think it really gave Asher confidence in his play skills, and Navarre is a puppy at heart. I’m so optimistic that they will be friends.

And Asher is finally getting cuter rather than fuglier, I think we are finally past the worst of the puppy uglies. Sometimes he’s starting to look a little bit like a dog! Hard to believe he’ll be six months old soon, but I think that’s a big milestone. While six month old puppies are by no means grown, they’re very much slowing down at that point in regards to size – and Asher is around 19 inches now. I’m feeling fairly optimistic that he’s not going to be 26 inches tall. My hope is around 21, I’ll take up to (but not over!) 22. Fingers crossed, I don’t want a pony!

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FCI Marathon

Asher has had a sudden burst of stalkiness. He’s trying to use it with the dogs now, and is suddenly getting sticky/stalkier with toys too. I tried him again on sheep this week too, and he was more interested, but not at all ready yet. I’m okay with him taking it slow though, Dave says someday I will realize what an amazing dog Navarre is – but he’s certainly not going to be appreciated in his time as I don’t have the skills to run him. SO PUSHY! It’s just always a battle with Navarre and sheep, not my idea of a good time. He continues to look better for other people, and I’ll admit that we’re a little better together then we used to be. Though that’s not saying much. To be fair, we haven’t practiced. I thought Dave had a good description of a quality that Navarre has in every day life, he wants to be ‘personally invited’. He really is quite easy to live with, but when I’m out with the group he’s always the one that when I tell the dogs to come to heel he has to have his own personal invitation that, yes, I meant him too. Apparently you multiply that kind of behavior when aroused, which he really only gets super aroused on sheep – he’s such a chill dog otherwise. Something to work on, I suppose.

With Navarre I do have some goals to help us get better in herding, so hopefully that will happen eventually. Actually practicing is kind of a big one. Though I get confused on exactly WHAT I should practice. I had it in my mind we needed to go back to step one, look at essentially fetching and, well, circling sheep. Today Dave was like, “Why spend so much time working on something you rarely use?” So I don’t know, but I’m also not in danger of practicing yet, so I don’t have to worry about it. I do need to have a picture in my mind of what I want it to look like, and break it down until we’re successful without yelling or arguing. Which I’m sure won’t be any problem at all.

Practicing is the biggest thing, but the other project is whistles. Navarre does a lot better with whistles and I have no concept of raising my voice without yelling, so at a distance, even if I’m not TRYING to yell, it’s still yelling to be heard. I’m a quiet person! And I’ve tried with Ian’s whistles, and I’ve gotten better – but I still can’t do the away whistle, and especially with long tones. So that’s been a big road block. However, dogs are smart and even if I attempted to do the same whistles that Ian does, they’re never going to sound the same. Navarre can learn two sets of whistles, which I think is my solution here. So my current goal is to try to find some whistles that I like and can actually reproduce successfully. I’ll try them out on Navarre with the eventual goal of working with Asher.

Still, even if Navarre and I never do a damn thing together, herding continues to make him incredibly happy. It’s really his thing and what he loves most in the world. I do think the weirdness we had for a while on sheep was just Puppy Angst, I don’t see anything that he was doing before. Navarre is all around much happier now that Asher is older. He still doesn’t like the puppy, but he’s over most of the Drama.

Haku and I worked on penning this week, not super successfully. Ian said it’s because both dogs don’t have square enough flanks so keep pushing the sheep when they need to just be keeping them in place. Now, I’ll take responsibility for Haku – but I damn well didn’t train Navarre, so if he has shitty flanks, I know who to blame. Haku had a great time though and is looking really good. I don’t remember if I mentioned it, but he feels substantially better to me now that he’s on the (very expensive) muscle building supplement. I still try not to over do it, but I’m not super worried about him any more. And we have a lot of fun together playing with sheep, even if we don’t do it right. ALMOST penning is just as satisfying as actually doing it in my book. I always felt like it was my problem not being quite sure when to move him, and then when I would ask him to flank I’m looking at the sheep and Haku, very correctly, keeps flanking and we totally screw it up. Still, it’s such a different feeling when out with Haku, he takes a lot of shit from Ian and Dave that he doesn’t listen more often than Navarre, but it FEELS like he’s trying his best the whole time.

Next weekend is the big Idaho road trip with Navarre and Asher. I’m hoping they may get to be friends along the way. It could happen. We’ll do the Kathy Knox clinic, but my expectations are very, VERY low. Should be a fun time though. I wish puppy were more turned on to sheep at this point so Bonnie could play with him while he was out there though.

Asher kind of did some agility training this week, but I’m still not counting it as ‘agility’. We introduced a rear feet running mat, the table and did some front feet pedestal sequencing. The sequencing is more body awareness for me though, I want him to be thinking about decelerating to hit the target and stick it. Same with the table. He’s much faster for toys than food with these exercises – such a border collie. He also achieved true hugging, so he can now sit up and hug a toy.

We’ve got lots of legs, his head is getting surprisingly large and the canines are finally coming in. I’m pretty sure all the baby teeth are now gone, he lost his last canines this week – teething has gone very uneventfully. He still continues to want to tug and doesn’t seem overly concerned with it. I’ve still be waiting for most of the baby teeth to come out before doing a lot of tugging again though. My little puppy is becoming a VERY awkward teenager. He still has this fringe of bright orange hair on top of his head left over from his puppy coat – it’s not attractive. When is he going to start looking like a DOG? Good lord, so awkward. He’s so butt high at the moment and legs everywhere, maybe he’ll start evening out a little by six months. Maybe.

Bright and Navarre went up to an AKC trial this weekend, just one day and our third trial this year. It went about as expected. For premier I ended up making my own course again, such stupid design and poor spacing. So that just puts me off right there, don’t need to drive all that way and pay a bunch of money to go make up my own courses. Standard was just a boring, down and back course – typical AKC course that could double as a novice course. But, hey, at least the spacing was … okay. The reason I went up is because Jan Skurzynski was judging, and her jumpers course was fun! So at least one course was fun. I was jealous of the big Premier event they were having up north and a USDAA trial over in Bend. Not a lot of local options around here, and I’m not going to travel. So we’ll see what happens this year, I plan to enter our one local USDAA show that we do a year, then I’m not sure after that.

As for the dogs this weekend, Navarre was jumping 24 – I don’t remember my reasoning behind that, but he did fine, jumping looked good, no knocked bars. He just goes SO WIDE. So he did well on my premier course I made up (other than confusing a threadle with a threadle rear), the standard course and ALMOST all of the jumpers course. Right at the end was a rear cross … sigh, it’s kind of comical how bad I am at them. But I’m pretty damn sure, “NAVARRE COME COME COME” does not mean “Quick, flip away from me!” Hmph. Still, he had a good time. Not herding good time, but he thinks it’s fun. It’s funny how just totally relaxed he is around agility compared to herding, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

 

Unfortunately Bright was off, not sure what the deal is. The first run I pulled her after she knocked three or four bars. I didn’t give her a big warm up for that run though, so for the next run I really warmed her up, we played at the practice jump, she was stretched out and as ready as we could do – and still knocked the first bar she came to (after dramatically leaping off the dogwalk, but that could be unrelated!). So I pulled her and took her to be adjusted. She did have some things that needed to be fixed, so maybe it was that or maybe it was just we haven’t practiced and we’ve been off all summer. Hard to say, but I was planning to drop her to 16 this winter anyway, so might as well do it now. I’m not super concerned yet, though it was very disappointing for both of us at the trial, she was so excited to be there and so pissed when Navarre got to play and she didn’t. Miss running my Brightness, she’s my agility rock these days!

Asher did well at the trial, I do think he went to one up in Ridgefield when he was a tiny puppy. Mostly he had to learn that everyone did not, in fact, want to be body slammed by him. He seemed to finally grasp that everyone we passed did not want to say hello – however, quite a few did, so he got lots of love. No issues with going past the other dogs or dealing with crowds or noise, so that was good. I was especially tickled when he started offering heeling as we wound through the crowds. Good puppy!

Oh, and he got adjusted again, I did everyone as long as I was there. Nothing out of the ordinary and it was nice to hear that Asher felt good, or ‘gumby-like’ was the exact description. He actually did super well at being adjusted (this was his second time), holding still and being a very good dog. Less so when WAITING for his turn, but, hey, he is only five months. He figured it out though.

It is an adjustment dealing with four dogs on mass. Four dogs FEELS right still, but it is a lot more to deal with, especially with one of them a puppy. So walking with four dogs on leash through an agility arena is … interesting. The puppy is not usually the issue though, let it be said. It will be a lot of dog when Asher finally grows up, his brother weighs 41 pounds at 5 months – holy crap! Now, I don’t know how much Asher weighs, but I’d like to think he’s not 41 pounds. Let’s just say he isn’t, because that would just be depressing. He’s not going to be small though, that’s for sure.

FCI agility championships is Finland this weekend! The livestream has been very good, so that’s been fun to watch. My favorite event of the year, I love seeing agility done well. So many running contacts and trained behaviors, and so many impressive teams and crazy fast dogs. With the right training though, you don’t have to be super fast to handle … though it helps. Not a fan of ‘every jump is a backside’ though. It’s one challenge, but one that I think is harder on the dog’s body than normal jumping – fine in moderation, but, good lord. The theme of the weekend was long lines of threadles, backsides and serps slices and being able to handle them completely independently to stay ahead. My dogs are certainly not super good at that particular challenge, they tend to start guessing. As usual, the Russians had it TRAINED, and that is just so much easier then relying on handler timing! Fun to watch, though I stayed up much too late …

Five Months!

Gah, somehow four months is super young and five months has an air of maturity about it. And it’s true, there is something a bit magical about five months. It may be a touch of maturity, but I think there is just that sense of cresting that big first overwhelming wave with a puppy. They need EVERYTHING when they arrive at 2 months, and it’s such a huge task to go from basically an infant to a somewhat productive member of society.

Tricks and fun stuff aside, there is all the crate training, housebreaking, socializing, manners, self control, to wait their turn, to understand that their behavior is what makes things happen in the household. Asher is somewhat of a good citizen at this point.

He’s really only had one accident in the house (maybe 2? I don’t really remember …) and that was when he was tiny. I don’t know if he’s ‘housebroken’, but he knows peeing outside is what needs to happen to come in for the fun stuff, and as long as you take him outside a lot it’s just not been an issue. He is getting better and better at PRETENDING to pee, which was pretty comical at first, but his acting skills are improving.

He sleeps through the night and never gets off the bed – if he wakes up before me in general he just chews on one of the (many) toys that the dogs have littered all over the bed. At bedtime he is one of the first dogs in bed and settles down for snuggling. He also kennels up without an issue and is MOSTLY quiet in a crate. But we almost never use it at home, and in fact I moved his crate back into the walk in closet as it was just sitting next to my bed unused for weeks. He likes his crate in the car and seems very comfortable hanging out there while I teach and travels great.

So, yes, he’s easy to live with … mostly. He is a very destructive little bugger – but as long as he has something to chew on, he’s happy to choose appropriate objects. He usually ends up just laying next to my chair if I’m working on the computer, though he is quite happy to entertain himself. He’s getting more and more snuggly, enjoying shoulder rubs, belly rubs, ear massages and full body cuddles. He likes being near me, but he’s not at all clingy, and is happy to also chill outside – even without the other dogs. He almost NEVER barks, though he can ‘talk’ a little when excited – it’s how you can tell he’s over-aroused. Compared to his very vocal siblings (they talk A LOT), he’s very quiet.

He is good at waiting his turn, he chills with the other dogs while I get their food ready, he’ll chill on the couch when I train or play with another dog (without complaining!). I haven’t attempted it in another environment though. Asher does not think the world revolves around him. His stay is strong, his recall is strong. Neither is bombproof yet, so he’s not quite ready to graduate from his collar, but strong. We haven’t worked on loose leash walking at all, and it’s not on the list at the moment. I just don’t spend a lot of time walking him on leash, and I just kind of manage the issue. We ARE working on heel position now, so we will, eventually, work on heeling on leash too.

The dogs continue to thaw towards him. They find him kind of annoying, but in a totally expected way. Bright plays with him and seems to really enjoy him, but still gets after him if she feels he needs it. Navarre just ignores him (like he does with most puppies after they’ve lived with us for a while), and Haku is the only one that is still more upset with him than he normally is. Maybe he just got used to snarking at him after doing it for months. He’s still MUCH better though.

I just adore Asher, he’s easy to love. He’s such a nice balanced puppy, he’s both very sweet and people focused, but independent enough not to be clingy or obnoxious. He’s super fun to train and loves the process, he’s not overly soft or overly oblivious. He’s not too pushy and he finally seems to be grasping the concept of, ‘Hey!’, which he just didn’t think applied to him for a long time. So for things like chasing a cat or jumping on my head, he now gets that I don’t want him to do that. Which is an odd concept to have to ‘teach’, but he didn’t seem to have any sensitivity to that kind of thing as a tiny puppy. Maybe that’s why all the dogs hated him … He’s got a huge amount of ‘try’ in him, he wants to figure out the puzzle in training.

He throws his body around way too much, which I don’t appreciate it. I feel like he’s doing it a LITTLE bit less, but he still definitely leaps before he looks and throws himself around without thought. For a lot reasons, we’re waiting on a lot of agility until he’s older and can show me he can do things thoughtfully. We continue to work on a lot of body control and awareness – that’s the stuff that’s the most hard for him when he has to actually THINK about what he’s doing. But he’s slowly getting better at it. This week we finally achieved a proper sit up where he was thinking about using his core to hold the position. This has been a slow process, but he also needed to build up the muscles and really learn how to do it CORRECTLY. I’m very pleased to see him doing it nicely, and once he really seemed to get it it’s transferring quickly. Now, we haven’t gotten back his waves on cue yet, but we’ll get there again. We also went back and revisited his ‘frog’ this week, which I had forgotten about (along with spins, those fell off the radar too!). Frog is hard for him, but he can stretch that rear out when he’s really concentrating. Once we clean up his backing up to higher objects our next project is individual back leg lifts. If Asher ends up a shitty jumper, it’s not going to be because he doesn’t know how to use his body correctly, we have a plan.

He loves toys, he loves to tug, to chase, to retrieve. His tugging is kind of comical as he’s a pretty aggressive tugger, but he also seems to have inherited Navarre’s ridiculous habit of throwing his paws over the tug toy, which turns him into a pretzel. He loves to train with toys, so far he hasn’t gotten sticky or overaroused. He’s fast and somewhat bendable at this point – I think he’s going to be a really fun agility dog, as that boy loves to run, loves to play and isn’t afraid to put his whole heart into it.

Asher has LOTS of tricks, and he loves his tricks! He’s so easy to train at this point, he’s really figured out the game. The plan is to focus on some obedience this month, try to get some heeling in place, introduce fronts and finishes, go-outs, stand proofing, recalls, scent articles. We are still laying off the toys until he gets some more teeth – good lord, that puppy has none! And hoping to do a little bit of herding so we can start to get some of that foundation work out of the way. Once I feel like he can do some basic herding things we can start looking at agility flatwork. So we’ll see how long the herding thing takes.

His teeth have sucked all the air out of his ears this week, they’re limper than they have ever been and look ridiculous at the moment. But those molars are finally coming in, and his sister has canines too – the boys don’t yet though. Sister Flea is also going through a fear period, so it will be interesting to see if the boys follow as she seems to be maturing faster at this point. All three local puppies went on a hike together this week, and it was interesting to see how they started forming a little ‘gang’ for the first time. Instead of each kind of doing their own thing, they explored together in a little pack – and they were EXPLORING, I don’t know if they were spurring each other on, but way more offroading than they had done before. They are getting somewhat more coordinated, and showed some nice skills jumping little logs … sometimes. Such silly looking puppies they are at the moment, when are they going to start resembling dogs? The boys are getting bigger heads, but Flea is still about the same height. They are getting along better too, though Ravi was feeling rather cocky today, though he mostly took it out on his sheltie housemate rather than the other puppies. Flea and Asher seem to be doing pretty well together, despite Asher still being a dick and doing drive by head bites. Dickhead. I hope they grow up to be friends, it’s so fun to watch them together – you can definitely tell they’re related!

I made a very crappy video of the puppies playing in the woods, but they will grow up soon enough and with the rain pictures were not going to look good! So excited that Fall is here though, bring on the rain!

Watched some of the USBCHA semi finals today, that was fun but not inspiring. Herding just has so many variables, and so much of it just seems FRUSTRATING rather than fun. I am not inspired to ever have the goal of getting to that event, but it was really fun to watch it done well. Though there was a whole lot of it not going well. And all people that struggled with penning made me feel better about my last trial.

Back to teaching next week – the dogs are going to be so excited to see agility again! The break was nice and I’m all ready to go back and try new things.

 

Less Offensive

While Asher has not had a lot of fans with other dogs, I must say he’s been very good with my cats overall. He occasionally chases a cat, but just out of puppy boisterousness, and the cats don’t seem to take it personally or feel threatened at all. They feel very comfortable around him, sleep on the bed with him at night and basically just find him completely unobjectionable. And this is meaningful, as Dragon wanted to KILL Fig for some reason. You don’t want an angry 20 pound cat coming after you, let me tell you that. So it’s been nice to have such a smooth transition with the cats anyway.

Speaking of Dragon, we have really become good friends recently. I don’t know if it’s time or what, but he’s just become so affectionate lately. He likes being picked up, he wants pets and sits on my lap. He is still flighty and suspicious, but nothing like he used to be. Out of all the cats he’s now the most cuddly. Fizban can also be cuddly, but not to the extent that Dragon is these days. I thought it might be a weird phase, but Sweet Dragon seems to be here to stay, and I approve. Marvin is now the most standoff-ish, as he never really recovered from his weird personality change when he got that rabies vaccination. But he’s still cute and sweet – and, hey, look at Dragon – one never knows what might happen in the future!

They all continue to be great buddies, despite the size difference with Marvin and the maine coons. I really do enjoy cats, even the weird ones. Mine seem happy, I try to give them a lot of things to do throughout the day. I have all relatively young cats at the moment. Fizzy is the oldest at 6, which is nothing in the world of cats. I’ll have these guys, hopefully, for a long time.

And the dogs seem to continue to soften towards Asher. He’s just not as offensive as he used to be. They now act he’s just like … a normal dog. Just any other dog that we happened to have in household, even when he’s obnoxious they’re not doing the over the top displays of dislike. Haku now just gives him the same growling ‘rumble’ that he does to Navarre when Asher steps on him or tries to get his toy. Navarre is just like, “Whatever.” And does his own thing while puppy does his. And Bright and Asher have suddenly become really good friends! The other day they spent the whole day playing, running around and chasing each other in the backyard, wrestling and having such a good time. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me! Bright will still tell him off, and HARD, he will scream and flip on his back and she won’t let him up for a minute or two (she does no damage whatsoever). But, for the most part, so much progress with everyone.

Not a lot of training this week, we were off at the beach and all the dogs very much enjoyed themselves on this longer trip. Asher did great, I didn’t even need to bring in a crate this time, he behaved himself. He also proved to be a lot less annoying than the adult dogs. I don’t usually have all of them free in my parent’s house at once, as they get SO excited and act like nutcases. But we went ahead and did it this week and it was, well, pandemonium. Except for Asher, who just lay around and chewed on bones. Haku was stalking cats, stalking other dogs and obsessively squeaking every toy he could find. Bright and Navarre just need ALL the love from ALL the people and won’t fricken leave you alone. They have no concept of coffee tables (which I don’t have at home) and kept leaping over the couch like they were in the olympics. Navarre counter surfs and Bright has to drag every toy in the house everywhere. And just forget about trying to watch a movie with them around, they are like a whirlwind. And let me point out, they are NOT like that at home! But they are obnoxious little buggers in company.

Anyway, we DID introduce stacking a ring onto a cone with Asher, and he picked it up in one session! Now, admittedly he already knew the hard part, which is picking up and holding an object, but he seemed to get the concept of the ring onto the cone quite quickly. I wouldn’t call it trained though, when he gets too excited it’s cones flying everywhere. We also attempted to work on his sit-pretty on his small platform – he gets SO frustrated with trying to get his body cooperate. Fiddly things like rings onto cones, no problem – but getting all those legs organized onto a platform, SO HARD for him. Still, he finally had that lightbulb moment where he started using his core instead of just flinging himself upwards. There is still a lot more feet flinging than I’d like, but considering he’s not a very coordinated guy, we’ll take it. What I found impressive was after we worked on that a little we were doing cue discrimination. So I back him up and then ask him to usually sit, down or wait (in a stand), and sometimes wave. Today I backed him up across the room and asked for a wave and he started trying to throw a sit-pretty! Now, that’s not what I want him to do when I ask for a wave, but it was impressive anyway.

We had a herding lesson with Dave this week, and just did Navarre as we had just come back from the beach and had already gone hiking that morning – I thought Haku could use a break. Mostly we did a lot of talking as I get struck by the inability to do anything with Navarre because everything is wrong. I understand consistency, intellectually I completely understand why it’s so important to make sure you get what you want to see otherwise you are telling the dog that what they are doing (which is incorrect) is what they should do. However, I also am a shaper, I understand in the learning process things are not going to look perfect and that’s okay to take less than perfect to help the dogs make progress towards what you want to see. So in my mind, Navarre is NOT trained, he does NOT understand what the cues are supposed to mean so when I don’t get perfection, but I get a good attempt, I go with it. This just isn’t working for Navarre when he’s working with me. He’s definitely a ‘give an inch take a mile dog’. And not just in herding, but it doesn’t affect us as much in other places.

So Navarre works best with Dave, who has been 100% consistent with him from day one in what he expects. Me and Ian, not so much. Navarre knows that, with Dave, the cues mean what the cues mean – and Navarre will fix it when he’s told he’s wrong (which does not involve yelling on Dave’s part). Navarre does attempt to ‘cheat’ sometimes, but he’s not ridiculously pushy like he is with Ian and me, and it’s because of consistency. Now, on the other hand, Navarre is mentally just exhausted after working for like 10 minutes with Dave. You can see, he literally looks dazed and he’s just gone – it’s SO HARD for him. So they can’t actually work very much at all, because actually thinking about what he’s doing is way harder than arguing with people (which he can apparently do all day long). It’s just fascinating to watch his little ears, which are back towards Dave the whole time, really trying to LISTEN.

Then when I try to work Navarre EVERYTHING he does is wrong. Even just setting up next to me is wrong, he doesn’t come all the way in he keeps lying down ahead of me instead of where I asked he doesn’t leave my feet correctly on the outrun, he doesn’t bend out like he should, he doesn’t slow down on his lift, he doesn’t lay down when I ask, he doesn’t flank when I cue it, he doesn’t steady when I ask, he doesn’t respond to his ‘there’ … there is nothing there. And sometimes we can scramble through things, but it’s pointless as we’re not working together at all. And it comes back to when we started in herding and I never COULD get him to give an inch from the sheep. Circle, circle, circle – always too close, too fast. We couldn’t do the ‘first’ step, so it doesn’t surprise me that, magically, we can do more.

Now, admittedly we haven’t really practiced together, on our own. Which may help or hurt, because I don’t think I do well with trying to make everything ‘perfect’. But it’s possible we may make some progress if I can implement my plan to practice at least once a week. Or maybe not. We have a history. And he’s a hard dog for me in herding.

I have a different vision of how I want to progress with Asher. As in every sport, it does come back to foundation. So hopefully I can do a better job of putting a good foundation on Asher, with an idea of what I want the finished product to look like and knowing that it’s REALLY important to me that we work as a team out there. Haku lacked the skills, Navarre lacks the teamwork, maybe Asher will benefit from their experience.

Asher of no teeth, good lord! His molars have all fallen out and there are no adult teeth coming in yet! So food literally just falls out of his mouth. He’s also bulked out some, as have his siblings, they now have more body to go with those long, long legs. That’s a relative term, of course. Went hiking with sister Flea this week, very interesting turn of personality where she is now become super ‘grovely’ with the adult dogs, much like Dove is. Flea was so hardcore I found it surprising to see that in her. Now, the adult dogs don’t LIKE this, but you can’t really get mad at a dog groveling at you. She was also obsessively flinging herself at me as well, not really to greet, but just didn’t know what to do with all the excitement. Asher and Flea continue to get better together, only one incident where Flea pinned Asher, mostly it was Asher most definitely being obnoxious to her, and now Flea was being way more tolerant. Mostly they were good together though, hopefully they will fade from the obsessive bitey face and become good friends.

Navarre and Robert ran in the agility competition I put on over the weekend, Navarre was happy to do so, but surprisingly kept running to me after their runs were over. Navarre was wide, did I mention he was one if you give him an inch? We are entered in one day of an AKC trial in September, and then we’ll do a full USDAA and maybe something else in October. We’ll start to get back into our agility groove next week. Maybe I will stop and reward my foundation behaviors – you know, like maybe collection. Shocking thought.

As for Asher, some things we need to work on:

  • Heeling (both sides)
  • Recall to Heel
  • Sit Pretty
  • Back Up a Wall
  • Side Legs
  • Rear Leg Lifts
  • Side Pass
  • Sit to Stand Platform Squats
  • Circle an object
  • Bow
  • Station with Agility
  • Scent Articles
  • BRUSHING

The last is ridiculous, all the dogs got a lot of burrs in their coats hiking this week, which was not a problem to brush them out of the adult dogs. Still can’t even TOUCH a brush/comb to Asher. You can use your FINGERS to pull the burrs out, and, once again, zero issues with nail trims, I can handle him all over – but do not even get NEAR him with anything brush like. My first plan of ‘just ignore it until he forgets about whatever weirdness is freaking him out’ does not seem to be working. He will now at least not hide behind the table when I’m brushing the other dogs. Now, keep in mind, I’ve never actually ever brushed him, he never had a bad experience or any reason for this behavior – and I haven’t seen him react to anything else like this other than being sprayed with the tick spray. When he first arrived we did just some cursory quick brushes just to expose him and he was fine, but for some reason by the time we attempted it again, he just flipped.

So the question is, is there actually something truly aversive about brushing with him, or is it just a big thing he’s now built up in his mind? As I have barely touched him with a brush, I tend to think he’s just built up some weird thing about it and now he’s just given himself a phobia. So I’m not entirely sure how to approach this without making it worse, or having that extreme dislike carry over to other things. I don’t want him to start worrying about training because he associates it with The Evil Brush. Or cuddling with me or anything else. This reminds me of Navarre’s extreme dislike of people blowing ‘raspberries’ at him, which I never did fix that issue, though I CAN blow raspberries at him in a lot of situations now, but not at home. Contemplating, this is not my area of expertise.

AHBA Herding Trial

The Dove puppies are 20 weeks now, how time flies! They are still squarely in the middle of the Fugly Four month old stage, they all look ridiculous. But they ARE having fun ear adventures again, so that’s really cute. Asher is particularly funny because his ears are SO BIG, he looks like dumbo when they stand up and flop about when he runs. They mostly just come up when he’s excited, and I’m sure they’ll end up adorable airplane ears in the end, but I’ve really been enjoying his funny ear stages – I love a good ear adventure. Who would have thought he could get those big things up so far though? He looks like a totally different, and much more mature dog when they are. He’s still got a lot of teeth to go at this point, lots of teething ahead. Which reminds me, need to buy more bully sticks …

We seem to have turned a corner, suddenly Navarre is just not all that concerned about Asher any more. He’s no longer refusing to come into the house when the puppy is loose, he’s not acting out, he’s not pouting or hiding in the other room. He’ll even play some tug with the puppy, which is not his idea, but he doesn’t seem to mind. So just such a huge weight off the household, and I’m no longer worried I was going to have to send Asher back. I think the magic was just waiting for the puppy to grow up some, and while he seems MORE annoying to me now than when he was younger, the dogs seem much less offended by him. So that makes me very happy!

Asher has also gotten WAY more snuggly, which is very appreciated as well. He’s now coming and snuggling when it’s bed time and in the mornings too, he’ll come and snuggle on the couch as well.  Of course, on the flip side he’s had a sudden surge into teenage ‘I don’t want to, you can’t make me’ going on too. He’s been such a good, easy puppy that I’ve taken it for granted. Suddenly we’re having to go back to basics and, yes, there are rules around here. I think this stage will probably last a while. Sigh. Still, he’s a good boy at heart, we’ll get through it.

This week we hiked with brother Ravi, and, yeah, those puppies just have it out for each other. They are BETTER than they had been, but Ravi and Asher were worse than than Flavia and Asher last week. Littermates just have weird relationships. I do assume they’ll get over it eventually, little hellions.

Not too much new in the world of training with Asher, we continue to look at heeling, just heavily reinforcing for position. I’m doing both sides, as it’s good for agility too. Then cue discrimination, which kind of depends on his mood. We finally achieved backing up to an object, and he can now do a 2o/2o with speed into position. Which I’m claiming is not actually agility training 😉 Our next project is working his sit-up, and eventually hugging with both feet.

We never did get around to editing any video for the TWO puppy classes we’re in. I just don’t have much patience for fussing around with video, especially when I don’t really have any questions. Still, I have enjoyed both classes and we’ve worked on all the material that Asher has been ready for. Was nice to have some concrete homework and we’ve been having a great time. I just loving training puppies.

Bright, Navarre and Haku finished up their Performer Trick titles this week, Asher wasn’t ready for that one yet. So that was, mostly, fun to do this summer. I was about ready to strangle Haku, I swear he just keeps getting more difficult! So no training anything NEW for him, and getting him to actually shut up and DO the tricks is quite the feat as well. Still, at least Navarre really enjoyed learning some new tricks. There were quite a few that I took for granted that they’d be able to do. Like pulling a bag of objects, OMG, Navarre is such a wuss about this! He finally figured it out though. Let it be said, the other dogs did not have such an issue …

And guess who escaped from Ian and joined Navarre and me herding this week? Asher is a little troublemaker, but he did find it very fun and was much more interested in the sheep and moving them around. So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say he won’t hate sheep.

Then we did a little crash course in arena herding as both Haku and Navarre were entered in an AHBA herding trial locally this weekend. I was looking around for other things for Haku to do, and this just all kind of fell together to enter for just one day this weekend. Now, I had no illusions it would be pretty, but the hope is we’ll have fun and learn some new things. We went up and practiced a bit in the arena at Brigand’s and that was amusing. Navarre … was Navarre, complete with a total lack of outrun. Haku and I couldn’t pen anything. We need to practice patience and going slower. That seems to be a theme.

The trial was fun and quick, and I thought the dogs did very well considering. This is all stuff we never practice in a tiny area. I had very low expectations as even though I parked someplace they had never been before and they couldn’t see anything going on, Navarre got out of the car VIBRATING and so excited he couldn’t even pee. Not a good sign. Naturally, Navarre got to go first. People were very kind and helping me through the process, which I hadn’t done before.

We entered the advanced level as it is no help at all to me to walk with the dogs, though you can still do quite a bit of going with your dog in AHBA. And Navarre was trying, up to a point. He was actually lying down and he did do an outrun and I was trying my best to be patient and keep him moving slow and precise with LOTS of lying down and waiting. Slow and precise is a relative term, of course. But we did the little drive through the panels, which was the part I felt the most confident with because, well, that’s what we mostly practice. Penning I just don’t know how to handle yet, and Navarre was being REALLY good as I put him in a down at one end of the arena after we turned the panels and went to open the pen and the sheep came right with me … and I ended up with the sheep right at the entrance of the pen, but my dog on the other end of the arena – ha! So maybe if my dog had been closer we could have gotten them in, but not so much after. And I’m so not used to sheep that will just run you over, I didn’t feel like I could help with the penning. But, yeah, that’s something to work on. And after the pen Navarre was just too keyed up, but we did our hold and sort and put them away.

So, hey, I’m calling it a win for our first ever competition together. It may not have been pretty, but I’ve felt MUCH worse out there with him. And Navarre, of course, had the BEST TIME EVER. We can now say we have trialed once, which is not something I ever thought he’d be able to do with Navarre. Everyone has start somewhere, and I can see us doing it again in the future. With the small arena I feel much less frantic, though it still felt super unnatural to try to work in a small area.

As for Haku, this was our THIRD competition together, it’s not like we’ve done much more than Navarre! And I felt much more relaxed with Haku, of course, though same sort of issues – still couldn’t pen, even with Haku much closer. But we did the other things, more or less, though not in a very straight line. Funny enough, Haku’s score wasn’t much higher than Navarre’s, but it felt much smoother to me! Haku also had a great time, I’m really glad we went. It gives us something concrete to work on. Now, I don’t know when they may have another AHBA trial up there, but I would definitely do it again. Maybe practice some penning before then 😉

And Asher and Bright enjoyed hanging out at the trial, but, more importantly, very much enjoyed swimming at Joan’s pool afterwards. Asher has never seen a pool before, but he just jumped right in. Less good at getting OUT, I had to rescue him multiple times as he hasn’t grasped the concept of the ramp. That boy loves his swimming and his water, and that makes me happy. As do all the dogs, they had a great time. And it’s crazy how fast Asher is growing, suddenly we’ve moved from SUPER narrow puppy to adding more substance, he definitely just looks bigger all around. Knock on wood, I was really worried when he started running around Joan’s metal agility equipment, but he does actually pay attention to where he’s going, thank god.

Dogs have very much been enjoying summer vacation and getting to do a lot more doggie activities, and we have a couple more weeks to go!

Legs Everywhere

Asher continues to grow in new and exciting directions. His latest is to get REALLY long and skinny – so he’s basically a giant head on stilts. So much legs! Maybe 18 inches now? But the big news is that he finally seems to have figured out what those legs are FOR – that boy can run! He’s not terribly good at stopping or turning, but when he turns it on he can really move these days. It was one of those funny overnight transformations when he went from a sack of potatoes tripping around to floating across the landscape with his already gigantic stride.

So this is good and bad, as now he is getting bigger, faster – and did I mention no brakes? Asher is going to need a lot of schooling in not slamming into other dogs. And me. I always forget that stage when puppies aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing and can run into you. My dogs learn quickly not to hit me as I swear like a sailor if they do. I also swear if they hit each other, so they seem to quickly figure out how to look where they’re going. Asher will hopefully eventually learn that … but most definitely not yet.

We went on a nice, adult dog hike this week with Maddy’s dogs – and Asher was fine. It’s only around puppies that he’s a dick. And those puppies can be much bigger and older than him, but if they still have a puppyish quality, out comes his dick side. Asher LOVES terrier puppies though, he got to hang out, behind a fence, while we played with a litter of cairn terriers – SO CUTE! And he thought so too, in a posturey dickish way.

We also hiked with sister Flea, they are 19 weeks old now! I think, it’s time to start counting in months, they’ll be 5 months old mid-September. Flea and Asher were better, only had to separate them a couple times, mostly they didn’t get too overaroused, but still some of that. It seems better and better every time they hike together. Keeping moving helps! Also having Maggie, Nancy’s very dominant bitch, along helped too – she put up with no nonsense and Asher respected that right away.

Bright continues to thaw a little towards Asher, playing with him a couple more times – but still VERY strict with him. He seems to respect that, but she still thinks he needs a lot of discipline – as do the other dogs. Navarre I think has thawed, maybe with Asher getting older, maybe just with time. He doesn’t like him, but he’s not so upset that he’s here. So better at ignoring him. They have a weird relationship, the other day we were all in bed and I was reading, puppy was chewing on a toy tucked in next to me and Navarre gets on the bed and comes over for love. Puppy ignores him, doing his own thing and I give Navarre all the love he wants. Then Navarre starts licking Asher’s ears and Asher just kind of freezes and lets him do it. And even without Asher doing ANYTHING, Navarre did his disgusted ‘chew on your muzzle in a clear sign of disapproval’ move and then would go back to licking his ears. I just have no idea what’s up with him.

Introduced Asher to some sheep with Dave, not because he really needs to, but I did want him to have a positive experience. I do think he needs maturing all around, but it was interesting to see him really contemplate the sheep. He tried moving them a little, but mostly just watched them in that very thoughtful way he has. I really appreciate that, I’m hoping he got some of his dad’s thoughtfulness in herding. While herding people seem to appreciate Navarre’s ‘push’, I’d really rather have something with a bit more control. So it was a positive introduction and the first time he’s really acknowledged and interacted with sheep. Now to wait for him to grow up. The hard part about saying I’ll do herding before agility is that you really can’t do much in herding with baby dogs, but there is a lot of flatwork and other things you CAN do with puppies for agility (but, quite honestly, is also easily trained when they’re older).

So Asher’s focus continues to be tricks and body awareness and obedience. Which, at 4 months old, is really the only thing he’s old enough to do anyway. But if he was going to hate sheep, that would be good to know so we could focus on other things – but can’t really say anything about sheep yet.

We did introduce the concept of heeling this week. I have never had much luck with getting dogs to understand using their pedestal pivot as a come to heel exercise. It’s amusing trying to put myself into that picture now, he just bashes me out of the way. So we’ve just been shaping the heel position (on both sides). He’s kind of getting the idea, and has a nice rear end pivot. Navarre was so difficult to teach to heel, and his heeling remains erratic, I hope to have a better time with Asher. Asher just enjoys training obedience way more than Navarre ever did – it was one of those things that Navarre thought was stupid, and he still kind of does.

Asher’s position changes are getting more precise, we’ve ALMOST lost the wave on his sit and he’s able to move through the positions at a distance smoothly. He really is a fun dog to train. We’ve also started to introduce articles to his scent discrimination. He’s very successful with the scent discs, but gets too excited with the dumbbells. He’s starting to get the idea though.

The big news is that Asher can now wait his turn, he MOSTLY patiently waits on the couch while I’m working another dog. And even if he does come off he immediately gets back up when I ask him what happened to his wait. I love his attitude when training, he doesn’t get sulky or worried, he loves to learn, never wants to quit and thinks it’s super fun to problem solve. He hasn’t had an issue with overarousal either, he really seems to have a great personality match for me and training.

Out of curiosity I had Dave work Navarre again this week – no weirdness whatsoever. Dave was super quiet and relaxed, but I don’t think Navarre was at all being sensitive. He was, as always, being pushy. We talked as usual about how to handle that, as he really wasn’t responding to Dave’s ‘there’s’ either. Navarre just needs SO MANY ‘lie downs’ for all his many issues. It’s lie down for going too fast it’s lie down for going too close it’s lie down for changing direction, it’s lie down for ‘there’, it’s lie down when he’s wrong, it’s lie down when it’s actually appropriate for him to lie down. SO MANY DOWNS. Still, his ‘there’ should be ‘THERE-lie down’ instead of the opposite. And Dave thinks it’s okay to get Navarre out of his downs with a ‘steady’ instead of a ‘walk’, as Navarre thinks walk is such a high energy activity, which is different than what I had been told before, where you shouldn’t use ‘steady’ unless you can actually change his pace. Still, what I CAN use to get him up quietly is ‘there’. So to get him to stop and come in it’s now ‘there-lie down … there’. Bonus points to Navarre, he was actually doing quite well with his (small) outruns today.

Well, it was relaxing not to work Navarre, I’m hopeful we can get some actual practice this Fall and get more comfortable with each other. I thought I might also look into some of the other herding venues that sometimes have local trials, ABHA and ASCA, as that may be something that Haku AND Navarre could do. It’s hard to train for USBCHA without a lot of access to sheep and BIG fields.

Agility! Things are happening, it’s like a miracle, USDAA is actually making some changes. Once again, I imagine too late to be meaningful, but they actually are getting rid of their up contacts! And are ASKING FOR INPUT about changes like the table and the spreads. That’s kind of unheard of, so maybe some change? I actually plan to go to a USDAA trial this Fall. Shocking. It will finally be Navarre’s Masters debut, and I had forgotten that Bright was in performance 16, that will be fun. I’m trying to think the last time I went to a USDAA trial was – a year ago maybe? But the judges sound fun, I’m hopeful for fun, open and safe courses – which is all I really want. And still waiting to hear about AKC nationals for 2021, if they happen to go back to Reno I’ll try to qualify my two. If it’s not, well, I’m less inclined to roll the dice on AKC trials at this point. They CAN be fun, and they can be both awful and so stupid. Also not sure about WTT, which is another option. But I think Navarre needs another year under his belt before I feel real confident with his abilities. And we, uh, kind of skipped this year. We’ve been to two trials, but we’ve played with a LOT of puppies.

I miss agility! I have scoped out some options this Fall, AKC has changes coming as well. I don’t really need fix and go, I just want to actually, well, go. Then the one trial down in Salem that I had decided to go to coincided with the obedience trial conveniently at my agility arena – go figure! So I entered just one day of that obedience trial, and the plan is the enter a day of agility as well. I’d like to THINK Navarre only needs one more attempt to finish his CDX, but he may take 20, one never knows. As for Utility, I’m not sure. He has days when he finds it fun, and some days where he’s just rolling his eyes at me. We shall see.

Year of the puppy has been so much fun, it’s crazy how many puppies there are at the moment – and are yet to be! PUPPIES EVERYWHERE! I’ll admit, the terriers are FUN, and Asher thinks they’re great – they can take a beating. I continue to be really happy I ended up with Asher when I did, as I may have fallen for some other puppy because they are SO CUTE (and so much harder than border collies!). Really, other than the other dog thing, I am so enormously happy with Asher – you never know what you’re going to get.

Haku was up with Carol this weekend at an AKC herding trial – which I think may be his last, for several reasons. This is the last opportunity until next April, and it’s hard to say how he may be doing at that point. Then apparently he was just a hot mess up there, not responding to cues at all and just doing whatever the hell he wants. So that’s new, and he did that with me a while back too. I don’t know if it’s age or what, but they had done really well together before. They actually had to just leave the course it was so bad. So Haku’s AKC herding career may be at an end, and without something for us to work towards, and with his erratic behavior, he may be officially retired. I don’t know if Haku is ever going to be ready for retirement, time will tell. He’s actually been getting so worked up waiting his turn to train on the couch that he’s biting the other dog’s feet and working himself into a squeaky lather. So I’ve just started putting him in another room when I train, and everyone (including Haku) seems more relaxed with that. We tried training some new behaviors to finish up his trick titles and he was just awful, he is SUCH a difficult dog to actually train. Love him to pieces, but he has issues in that regard. 10 is not old, but he’s definitely changing – and getting harder!

Sheep Camp

Ian’s sheep camp was long, there is a lot to talk about with sheep. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous, downright chilly at times and we even had the most rainfall since January. Well, in Portland they did, I don’t think we did down in Scio, but we did get wet. It was perfect though, and I very much enjoyed hanging out in a beautiful setting all day long learning something new.

This was a very helpful experience. In herding they don’t really have a process to initiate the newbies, they don’t break things down and explain the hows and whys of what you’re training. The secret does come down to the sheep, which, once again, no one really talks about sheep behavior and how those effect what you’re trying to do. Well, at least in a way I could understand. Definitely helped fill in some pieces of the puzzle. At least in theory, I can’t say my practical application really improved much. Oh Navarre.

So I now know what they’re talking about by ‘lead sheep’ and how to identify that sheep and other types in the group, why they do the things they do and what to do about them. Theoretically. That requires actually being able to trust your dog to do their job so you can actually WATCH the sheep, which you most definitely should be doing. Which I am not with Navarre (but I can with Haku!). I really tried to get a better understanding of why I end up with issues like split sheep, and while it would be nice if that never happens, what to do when it does (aka ‘driving your car into a ditch’).

It was interesting to see what you should be looking for when you walk the field for a trial (which is not even a thing I knew existed, as no one has done that at any of the trials I’ve been to – well, in the lower levels). It was interesting to learn about the different breeds of sheep and what they’re like and what trials use what – but not super relevant. Navarre and I won’t be trialing for a long, long time (and very possibly not ever).

We did lots of exercises of moving sheep ourselves and pretending to be the dog for someone else, or directing someone else as our dog. I was pretty flat out terrible at a lot of those, I had a hard time taking it all seriously pretending another person is was my dog. But learning to move sheep myself was really helpful, I just haven’t spent any real time with just sheep, without a dog, so that really helped me see how things work.

However, I just can’t do the yelling. I definitely get and appreciate the concept of teaching the dog to read the sheep and fix issues without being micromanaged by you. I think both me and my dog love that idea, I’m quite sure my dogs are in a much better position to really fix things before they go into a ditch. But the yelling … oh, the yelling. I just don’t think that’s the right way for me to communicate with my dog that they need to figure out how to fix something. And then being around other people yelling, I like that even less. Now, Navarre could care less, he loves yelling as it’s associated with sheep and he just thinks sheep are the best thing in the world. But it’s still a constant argument with him, and I’m not up for it and I don’t like it.

So I really enjoyed the concepts that we learned about, including teaching the dog to work independently to fix problems as they arise. All very helpful and logical, I just need to find another way to go about it. Navarre and I do not work that way. Ian and Navarre work great that way. Well, they work, it’s still a constant argument though – and not a little argument, it’s always a BIG argument before Navarre settles down a little. EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s not helpful to have a sheepdog that can’t work until he’s gotten in trouble 12 times.

So while I feel I learned a lot about sheep and what is SUPPOSED to happen, I don’t feel like I have a clear plan to get there. Without yelling. Or with yelling, to be fair. What I think we need to do is like anything else we work on – break it down, make the dog successful, be clear with each piece before trying to just throw it together and yell at him. So hoping to have time to actually practice and think about what it is that is most important to me with Navarre and herding, and that’s feeling like we’re a team and making sure he knows what his job is, and a clear response when he doesn’t feel like doing that. I most definitely don’t want a robotic dog, I want a partner. You don’t yell at your partner.

Navarre didn’t actually have much to do over the weekend, but he got to work some – which is more than my other dogs, that mostly hung out in their crates in the car. So a long weekend for them. Navarre just did little things, where mostly Ian had to take over as Navarre and I were just a trainwreck. He did work for Anne, which he thought was fun. He was never at all the least be sad or pouting. At all. He was, if anything, more high every time.

Asher seemed more interested in sheep, I let him watch some and he found them curious. So Ian put him in the round pen this week, where the sheep immediately tried to commit suicide and slammed into the fence – Asher avoided them after that. So not ready yet, but definitely getting more into controlling motion of dogs and cats, he’ll get there eventually, I’m fairly certain.

Navarre worked for both Ian and I this week, and things went much better with Navarre and me (and with Ian too, actually). Maybe he does herding better without an audience. Or sitting the car waiting all day. Still, tiny progress is always appreciated. One step at a time. Haku also did very well, we just worked on turns for his AKC arena trial this weekend. He’s such a good boy, though struggles to cover the sheep these days at the farther distances. I may be imagining it, but I feel like he’s gained muscle since we started his new supplement and switched foods. I certainly haven’t seen any stiffness since we went off the veterinary joint formula food, which is good. And we’re on summer break, which means we get out and about a lot more, which is always good.

Took the dogs down to the beach and they had a great time. Asher was a fan of the beach, but I can’t say I know any dog that isn’t! He even swam in the ocean, which is impressive. He did pretty well for his first road trip, including sleeping like a little angel through the night on the bed and I left him several times in a soft crate while we were gone and he didn’t destroy it! He did bark a bit when people would come near on the beach, which was unusual, but he didn’t do it after the first time. Still, we need to get back out in the public and make sure this isn’t a ‘thing’. He did pretty well with all the uncontrolled offleash dogs running up to us, so there’s that. Obi didn’t like him, who usually likes EVERYONE, including Bright who just torments him bossing him around in his own house. There is something about that puppy that just seems to make a very bad first impression. Asher is running around with the other dogs more, which is good and bad as he’s also doing some drive by hair pulling, which, naturally, they don’t appreciate.

Went up to Frenchman’s Bar again this week and he had a great time romping in the water with my dogs and Carol’s dogs. He really seems like such a nice puppy, occasionally obnoxious but I don’t get the dislike from other dogs. I’m ever hopeful he’ll grow out of it. He really is an easy puppy for ME to live with though, other than his destructive streak. He has a good heart and tries very hard, and he’s much more focused on me than Navarre was at this age. No problems hanging out with us while we had lunch, I was glad to see there was no worry at all about people coming and going around him. And he really likes ice cream!

Love that little goober puppy, I’m very much looking forward to him getting past the four month old stage – oh, so not attractive. He looks like a sable currently with his dark hair growing in through his bleached out puppy coat. His teeth are all falling out like crazy and we’ve laid off any tugging for a while. It’s amusing watching him try to eat. His ears rose and then lift and then fall back to ‘puppy’, it’s like a cycle now. I’m pretty sure once he’s done teething we’ll get back to rosed ears. Though they were completely backwards and soaking wet the other night, yet again – Navarre had obviously been having a good time molesting the puppy. Weirdo.

Bright did play with Asher for the second time, we were just hanging out and suddenly Bright started wrestling with him on my feet, I was super surprised. So was he, you could tell he wasn’t sure if she was going to tell him off. They played for a while, until Bright was done, and he immediately backed off when she told him. So, encouraging. Little steps towards acceptance.

I’m actually pretty pleased to see that Asher appears to have the same ‘tiny balls’ that Navarre does. They remain smaller than many 8 week old puppies at four months. I am a big fan of Navarre’s tiny balls, it’s like getting the benefits of an intact dog without any of the more obnoxious traits – and naturally sterile, so no need to worry! I think Ravi has the same tiny balls and their brother in FL still has none, I think. So tiny balls must run in the family.

Otherwise we didn’t do a whole lot of training recently. Mostly review, and briefly introduced scent discrimination one night. He did get both his Intermediate and Advanced trick titles too, such a good boy. Though we have to actually get him registered to do something with them! I have lists of behaviors to work on, but I’m trying to wait to do a lot of the agility flatwork until we’ve introduced some herding. I’d like to work on getting the beginning of a sit-up, still need to work on backing up to an object, side legs, back leg lifts, bow, heeling, skateboarding, caveletti and working on stationing while I’m working with another dog. Always something to work on!

Asher’s First Title!

Spur of the moment I decided I should put some AKC Tricks titles on my dogs, as it was on my mind getting ready for tricks classes this summer. They have the tricks, it’s just finding the time to get it done, and it turned out one my students was an evaluator so I figured I might as well. And as long as I was doing the adult dogs, I figured that Asher could give it a try too. So Asher has his first title, he’s a Novice Trick Dog! So that’s really cute, and next week we will try for his Intermediate, and, assuming we can put it together, we’ll try for his Advanced title as well. It may not happen, but it gives us something concrete to work on this month.

The adult dogs already have all the tricks, but it’s fun to brush up on some to get them on cue, which is a whole different story. And, yes, mostly it’s just time, as it seemed unfair to not do all the dogs, so getting through all the tricks with four dogs takes a long time! So we’ll try to get everyone through a level every week, and the adult dogs should hopefully get their Performer titles by the end of the month as well. They need to have a little skit for that, so that gives us something cute to work on. OMG, Bright, stop making everything up!

Meanwhile, Asher is losing teeth – he’s lost all his tiny front teeth and the two front teeth are coming in. Ears have fallen again and he continues to grow and grow! Hard to believe he’s still just three months old, such a big guy. He remains chunkier than his siblings, which I’m not sure what that means – as neither Dove or Rooster are particularly robust, I’m not sure where he’s getting it from. But it’s always interesting to see how genetics play out, and how sometimes puppies come out looking like their grandparents.

Here are Rooster’s parents:

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He’s definitely hitting adolescence in terms of getting more independent, no longer the cute tiny puppy following me around, it’s me trying to keep track of him. I like that he’s not a cling-on though, it’s a quality that London really taught me to appreciate. Asher knows how to entertain himself and makes himself right at home wherever we go. I see my share of very skittish and reactive border collies, it really makes me appreciate how solid he is. For now, anyway! Who knows what weirdness may be lie ahead.

He’s growing up, making some good decisions … and some less good ones. But he’s figured out that if he hangs out nicely on the bed with me and the other dogs at night I won’t put him in a crate so he can sleep on the bed. He has sort of discovered the counters and that’s less fun managing that. And shoes, he does like shoes.

Our baby retrieve is not nearly as strong as it was, even with his ‘hand’ behavior he just gets too excited playing with the toys sometimes. He loves squeakers and destroying things, so those ‘Skineeze’ toys that are just floppy with squeakers he thinks are great – and likes to chew the legs off. He remains a freakishly strong chewer. Between him and Haku my tomatoes have been decimated – and I don’t mean the tomatoes themselves, I mean the PLANTS. Good lord, the carnage. He tried to take out a tree today.

He remains fun to train with some odd exceptions. We finally achieved a somewhat assertive door close, so that’s nice to mark off the list. We worked on some ‘stay in position’ training and he did not like that, he thinks that’s just sick and wrong for some reason (everything should be a lie down!). And brushing, he has a very weird thing about brushing. I’ve been trying to sidle up to it, but if he even SEES me brushing the other dogs he hides behind the table. Keep in mind he’s never actually BEEN brushed, not for real – there is nothing to brush! We did just some cursory introductions as a tiny puppy, and he was fine. We didn’t look at for a few weeks and when I gave him another cursory brush with a very soft brush he just FLIPPED, no idea why. He likes being pet, no problem, forwards, backwards, ruffled – but the sensation of a brush is something that just wigs him out and it was so unpleasant that ONE experience he still hasn’t gotten over. So I have done just a few tiny ‘sneaky’ sessions where I was petting him nice and relaxed, then snuck in a couple strokes with a soft plastic brush, rewarded and then we back to petting. He didn’t notice … until he noticed, then he was all suspicious. So we will work on it … slowly, discretely. Now, nail trimming he’s a total rockstar with, absolutely no issues, let’s me do whatever. Go figure. And any sort of restraint and exam he’s fine with, it’s just brushes (and combs, I checked!).

We worked introducing putting objects into other objects this week, which went fairly well once I could get him to stop trying to hug everything. We did hug as well with a toy, but attempting to get him to hug while in a sit hasn’t been very productive. He has a hell of a grip with both paws around that object lying down though! We shaped a head down, which is cute as now all the dogs can do it as a group. Though they all refuse to do it at once, there is always ONE troublemaker that likes to ruin the effect. Brought home a wobbleboard just to check, no problems with that at the moment. Need to work on his sit-up, I think he may be getting a little more coordinated, so we’ll see.

As for the other dogs, if anything, Bright has stepped it up a notch – she’s on that puppy like white on rice.  If he so much as steps a toe out of line she has made it her project that she is ON him, and her corrections have gotten harsher – as have Haku’s. And it never has to do anything with her, as he knows better not to fuck with her at all – she corrects him for annoying other dogs OR cats! He was chasing Fizban a bit and she was snapping in his face immediately, “WE DO NOT CHASE CATS!” If Haku growls at him she’s on him in a flash, same with Navarre, that puppy is being made to toe the line. That one incident of playing that I saw with Bright never happened again, she’s back to thinking he just needs discipline. And I believe her, he does have an oblivious over-arousal streak that you see sometimes, such as when he’s around other puppies (which is when she WON’T correct him, funny enough). But also when he’s just really excited he’ll throw himself around and top of the other dogs and is just being over the top obnoxious. Bright does not approve of that sort of thing, well, none of the dogs do. So I will continue to bow to her expertise, Asher certainly doesn’t seem at all subdued or upset about it. He still sleeps cuddled up next to all the dogs, he still feel confident and comfortable around them. I remain hopeful that once the puppy license ends and he makes better decisions, they’ll like him a lot more. Getting closer now, he’ll be four months in another week, I’m optimistic that they’ll be more accepting by five months.

Asher DID play with another puppy! A little border terrier the same age as him, which I figured would be a disaster as he’s so much smaller, but terriers are TOUGH, and he stuck with it and Asher did get better. So they played, somewhat appropriately eventually, and that was nice to see. Now, getting there Asher was way too rough and pushy and was running him over and body slamming, but thankfully terriers can take being body slammed by giant border collie puppies. It was nice to see Asher relax and play more normally though. Still not exactly gentle and sweet (ha!), but better. I don’t think he’ll be the right playmate for a lot of dogs, but apparently if they can handle his initial assault, he’s not too bad.

Oh, and we finally got around to getting that last puppy vaccination. Man, that vet does not like me. And maybe my understanding of immunology is way off, but I have never heard of ‘if you don’t get your puppy series close enough together you have to vaccinate again’. I think I’m one THOSE people, that thinks they know more than their vet – which I really don’t want to be – but this makes zero sense to me. She was obviously very annoyed by me not consenting to a lepto vaccination, for declining to do this ‘extra’ distemper/parvo vaccination and for saying I wanted to wait until he was over six months to vaccinate for rabies. My understanding of the ‘series’ of vaccinations for puppies is that we don’t know when the maternal antibodies actually wear off with puppies, so we’re hedging our bets by doing several vaccinations to have a better chance of covering the puppy as they grow through that crucial age period (you’re not ‘boostering’ a previous vaccination, you’re just trying to get your dog vaccinated without the maternal immunity getting in the way). However, after 16 weeks the maternal antibodies should definitely be gone, so you know that if you get that last shot after that point that they’re covered. And I’m not a veterinarian, I didn’t go to vet school, but I have never had a vet tell me that I need to vaccinate my almost 17 week old puppy again because there was ‘too much time’ between his this vaccination and his last (almost 5 weeks).

Maybe I’m wrong, that’s entirely possible, but between her bad attitude and wanting to talk to a vet I actually trust and will listen to my concerns, I just don’t want to go back there. Oh, and she was really not friendly at all to my puppy. Luckily the staff appreciated all his cute tricks. It’s frustrating trying to find a vet that you can really trust – and who can actually see you when your pet is ill. Oh, and isn’t an hour away. I think it’s time to check out vets up in Canby now. Back to the drawing board. I really should get Dragon’s teeth cleaned, but I don’t want to do that until feel comfortable with a vet. That may take a while.

Oh, and Asher weighs 23.9 lbs and was a perfect patient. 24 lbs seems okay four months, not too gigantic. He’s probably around 17 inches, I think – all legs and head.

I have been seeing little glimpses of herding behavior coming out with Asher. A tiny stalk here and there, but mostly he is thinking about stopping motion by heading off dogs and cats. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of eye, so he may be more like Navarre than Dove in that regard. Still, I have no idea how much you can tell at this age. More than most puppies I’ve had here, he’s been the least interested in running after the adult dogs, which I find unusual in a border collie – he’s just not that keyed in on motion. So he still mostly just watches the other dogs run around with this look on his face like they’re stupid to be wasting their energy like that. Then he ambushes them with a body slam and steals the toy. And when we get back from the park he ‘prunes’ my tree because he’s not tired at all. Hmph.

I did tell Dave that I would try to work with Asher in herding before we started agility. As Asher is such a big boy I had no plans to do much with him in agility until he was fully grown anyway (which will be a while!). However, what exactly is ‘agility’? I mean, we already do lots of playing with toys and running and chasing, so maybe it’s too late already to ‘do herding first’. My plan is to see what he can do in herding around 5-6 months old and basically do a little every month until he’s older. If it seems like he’ll be fun to train in herding, I’m willing to stick with that for a while and start agility later. But if he’s difficult, we’ll just say screw it and go do agility. Agility is way easier (and more fun!) 😉

As for herding, I have officially taken over Navarre. That has gone … about as expected. I’ll have to say, it seems to make him really happy. Overly happy, one might say. It’s nice to see him smile though, been entirely too much Navarre angst the last couple months. Still, there was no way I would have been able to both train the behaviors and attempt to manage Navarre at the same time, he really did need to have someone else help us with that. Now that he does know what he’s supposed to do, it’s just a matter of getting our shit together instead complete chaos.

So, yeah, Navarre – too fast, too close – that hasn’t changed. I think he’s better than he was at listening, but, uh, still not great. It’s not helpful in herding to have your dog lie down five steps after you’ve asked them. But Ian had some helpful insights about it. I would work Navarre and then Haku, and he asked me what the difference was. Really they are total opposites, where Haku underflanks when I ask, Navarre overflanks – with underflanking you can always ask for another flank, with overflanking you have completely change directions and bring the sheep back. Haku can be too cautious, Navarre not enough (so scattering sheep). And Haku is much calmer and slower – which means when I ask him to stop or change direction he can do it instantly, because it’s easy when you’re not going fast. Expecting Navarre to stop instantly when going 70 miles per hour is unrealistic, so, yes, he’s always out of position and I’m so very late. So the question has always been, how do I stop Navarre from going 70 mph? And the answer is pretty much ‘lie him down’.

Now this doesn’t sound helpful, especially with the previously mentioned problem that by the time he DOES lie down it’s not at all where he needed to be. But it’s not about managing him with lying him down, it’s lying him down until he slows the hell down. So basically if the sheep are running ask for him to steady, when he does not (because of course he won’t) it’s lie down … and wait. And wait. And wait. If I ask him to get up and he rushes,  lie him back down again. But if he gets up on his OWN slow and careful, then he’s allowed. Ah, herding. And if he keeps calm and steady, he doesn’t have to lie down, he can continue to work. But working like a maniac gets you put in a down until you get up thoughtfully.

And he still ran straight at the sheep today instead of going on an outrun – which he only does with me, apparently. So weird. Then was only bringing me half of the sheep. But we’re trying. And he’s happy, and so am I. I have no expectations, he never has to be good at anything, but we’re going to keep trying. And I’m very hopeful this Fall we will get to do some regular practicing, which is what we really need. And we’re doing a herding clinic in the Fall in Idaho! I have no great expectations of that either, but it will be fun to go see Bonnie and spend some time in Idaho, which I’ve never done. Any herding progress with be a bonus, and it will be good for Asher to have a road trip experience.

Oh, and Navarre responds a lot better to whistles than verbals, well, at least the lie down whistle. I had a little session with Ian this week on my whistles and, yeah, though my ‘low’ sound is better than it was, it’s still ridiculously high. So basically I can only make high and higher sounds, but I can’t seem to make low tones, especially in a hurry. So I need to go back to trying to get those, I just can’t seem to find the secret of that …

And Haku continues to do great with the things he does well in herding. We have no problems at all moving sheep around calmly and with great teamwork … within a certain distance. He still can be a bit tentative on his drives sometimes, but for the most part he seems back to ‘normal’. He loves his turns, and waits patiently when it isn’t and is perfect, of course. 10 years old is a magical age – love that dog.

And this weekend is ‘Sheep Camp’ down at Ian’s. A very LONG weekend, Saturday is 12 hours, I believe. But it really does sound like what I need, which herding ACTUALLY EXPLAINED. Which I’ve been trying to get someone to do for like 15 years. So I’m looking forward to it, and it’s going to RAIN – in August! The weather gods continue to be so kind this year. The only reason I was dreading this event was the weather, so now I’m quite looking forward to it. Though 12 hours … yeah, we’ll see how that goes.

 

15 Weeks

Asher continues to be really fun to train. He’s an enthusiastic and focused problem solver. He can get easily frustrated sometimes, but I try to make sure my rate of reinforcement is very high. He does have a ‘stubborn’ streak about anything that he doesn’t care for, that is a dog that likes to have things a certain way, and is willing to stage a protest if he doesn’t get it. Definitely a dog that does best when he thinks everything is his idea. I think Navarre is similar in that when Navarre is doing behaviors he really likes, everything is smooth and easy – but if he decides he doesn’t care for something, he leaves you know doubt about how he feels.

Asher’s retrieve and hold training went very fast. He quickly moved up to holding an object firmly no matter how I poked and wiggled it, and then targeting the object to my hand. We have tried a few different objects as well, including a dumbbell that is way too big for him, but he had no issues. We then moved into throwing the object and then returning to hand without an issue. Love that puppy, so much fun to train!

We have struggled more with backing up to an object. Like many dogs, he took pains to make sure he DIDN’T touch the platform when backing up, practically jumping BACKWARDS over it. So still working on backing onto a platform, but his stretch forward on his touch is amazing and he generalized coming across the board into position no problem. Haven’t proofed it with speed yet though.

We continue to look at proofing stays, he can now wait to be released as the last dog when we have dinner, releasing only on his name and waiting while the other dogs run past him. He now stays with the group before being released when we go out to play as well. It’s a good start and makes everything easier, such as when I’m sitting down with the bowl of treats to train, I can now put him on a stay so he doesn’t dump over the food enthusiastically jumping on me!

He has a sit now, but it’s not very strong and still has a half hearted wave to go along with it. Need to finish up training his pedestal pivot in the opposite direction, and it has not transferred well to have him pivot into heel. If I ask him to pivot while my leg is there he just bashes into me like it’s a personal challenge to get around me (kind of a theme where Asher is concerned).

Still hates cupboard slamming, and it’s a mystery why. This is a dog that bashes into everything and has no noise sensitivity that I’ve seen – and my cupboards don’t slam with his sissy nose touches anyway but ever so gently close noiselessly. We keep at it, starting training sessions with a very reluctant cupboard close before moving to the ‘fun stuff’.

We started teaching a pole hug this week, he’s done a few sessions and is doing some very cute enthusiastic hugs … in a down, which is probably related to the paw crossing, as they are related. He can also hook a paw around when he’s sitting, but in a down he’ll get both feet around the pole. He wouldn’t be able to do that in a sit since he doesn’t have a sit-up yet, and doesn’t have the strength for that yet.

Things that didn’t go super well were circle work, where he would cut behind me every time, and downs when he was excited – he gets sticky and mesmerized. Also had some issues with his leg weave recalls where he would abort at the last second as well.

We do considerably less visiting while I’m teaching these days. First he doesn’t really need to go out much, and second he’s trouble as he knows how to go through the doors in the arena and run amuck, so I have to be careful. If I’m working with him directly, no problem – he has amazing focus even with other dogs and people around. But if I’m not directly engaged he’s off to pummel the masses. That is a dog that is going to need some serious retraining not to leap on people when he gets bigger, as I’m certainly not teaching him good habits at the moment and he’s very physical. He continues to love his crate in the car and as we always have his mid-days snacks, he loves to get into the car, which is handy.

He continues to love play. He loves to play with all sorts, chasing and tugging and retrieving. He switches easily from toys to food and back, and from toy to toy, he just wants the action. He does want to show off his toys if there are other dogs around though, so his retrieve isn’t nearly as strong then. He’s just a fun boy, I don’t understand why other dogs don’t like him as I think he’s super fun.

Went hiking with his siblings again this week, things were much less chaotic and calmer overall. Especially in the beginning all the dogs were getting along with much less posturing and overarousal. Now, later in the hike we had issues again, almost exclusively between Flea and Asher – they have a thing, mostly it seems like Flea really feels the need to give it to Asher, and I think he’s inviting it. But siblings are interesting like that, they have a whole history together. Overall they had fun together, and my crew doesn’t worry about all the puppies, they ignore them all equally.

Asher has had more appropriate interactions with adult dogs this week, which is what he really needs. I don’t think he’s learning anything helpful playing with puppies, except possible how to swear more. He’s more relaxed around other breeds and they seem less offended by him. He’s a confident guy, but seems to feel less need to posture these days.

We had an interesting change in our relationship this week, not sure if it’s a phase or what, but suddenly Asher got much more cuddly. Where before if he was on the bed he was usually over by himself, but this week would come snuggle up next to me before obnoxiously chewing on things for hours at a time. He just seems sweeter and initiating snuggling instead of just constant action. I’m a big fan of sweetness, so this is a change I’ve been enjoying. He’s been a very busy puppy and not too interested in cuddling so far, so maybe that will change. It’s okay if he’s not that into it, I’ve already got three very cuddly dogs – it’s hard to cuddle four dogs at once!

Meanwhile, all the thawing that seemed to take place with Asher and my dogs did not seem to last long. They’re all back to wanting him gone and letting him know about it. I still don’t understand why they are so against him, he really is not an annoying puppy compared to many of the others we’ve had through the years. But my dogs, ALL my dogs, think he needs an incredible amount of discipline, and they are giving it to him. Even Haku corrects him, and Haku doesn’t correct any dog! I would say they’re more USED to him, but there is a lot of unhappy older dogs. Asher, of course, doesn’t care – just as happy as can be. Go figure. I try to give them lots of breaks from the puppy and special one on one time – and continue to be optimistic that they’ll learn to like him once he’s out of the baby puppy stage. I do think that if they’re still unhappy with him at 6-7 months I need to make a decision if he’s right for us, but I truly think they’ll thaw in time.

The EO was over the weekend, such a bummer for the ridiculously hot temperatures. What is it about that event? They always seem to have extreme weather of some sort there. I’m glad they ended up figuring out ways to make sure the dogs didn’t have to run in the heat though. Courses looked really fun and, wow, they’re are some amazingly fast dogs out there! I do very much enjoy watching it, but I’ll admit I’m feeling rather ambivalent about working on the skills that would be needed at such a level. We just don’t have that kind of agility around here, and never will. I have zero interest in flying to europe just to do dog agility, so I’m with those that feel agility in the US is stagnating. I very much believe it should be accessible to all, but there is no reason at all to actually train and push in this country, just be steady and qualify. I feel like if it bothers me I should do something to help fix that, but I’m not sure what that would be.

Actually training Asher in agility seems a LONG way away, but it’s amazing how quickly they grow. I expect him to be a big boy, so we won’t be doing a whole lot until he gets older. He does occasionally do tunnels just for fun when we’re hanging out in the arena, just because. I do love training agility, so I’m very much looking forward to that. The training is my favorite part, after that it doesn’t seem like there is much to do with the skills once you have them!

Acceptance?

It was a big week, six weeks later, the dogs appeared to have finally thawed somewhat with Asher. For no particular reason I can see, but I’m not complaining. One night I thought Asher was just playing with some toys behind me, I look over and him and Bright and just wrestling away, like this was an every day occurrence! And they played for like an hour straight, appropriately and happily. So, huh, that was unexpected. Then a couple days later, with no warning whatsoever, I look out onto the porch and Navarre has pinned down Asher and is obsessively cleaning his ears. So that was just super bizarre to going from not wanting anything to do with him to stalking him down and hanging out with him under the karunda beds on the porch (Asher’s preferred napping spot).

I don’t see any real difference in Asher’s behavior, maybe the dogs are just finally getting used to him? Asher remains too rough with Haku and I have to intercede on his behalf when Asher keeps biting his nose trying to steal Haku’s toys. I know we are going to have to have some serious conversations about body slamming as Asher gets older, with dogs and with me, he’s just one Nature’s Slammers. He doesn’t think much about his body at all, which is not my favorite trait. He’s doing better at knowing where it is though, he can think about when he wants to – but it’s HARD, he gets really easily frustrated with body work. Navarre was a natural at this stuff, for Asher it’s work.

New behaviors this week! Silvia’s class certainly ramped up fast, suddenly we’re supposed to be holding objects and putting them in other objects and hugging and all sorts of tricks that take a lot of time and pieces to put together. We were ready for something new though, and he’s ready for a bit more now too. Closing cupboards and doors and proved surprisingly difficult for the dog that slams into everything. If you WANT him to suddenly he’s all shy and reserved. So we have the world’s wussiest nose push to ever so slowly close the cupboards, and that was with a lot of work. He oddly just does not like this behavior, which is a first. He’s found things hard before, but this the first time he’s said ‘no thank you’ to working on something. Which is his choice, he never has to, but curious that there is something about this that he finds unpleasant. It was a good process to go through, as he is free to decide he doesn’t want to train something, but he then got exposed to having his turn end and another dog take his place. He did not like that! So we work on a little cupboard and then we go to other behaviors he likes better (or in other words, anything!). He CAN close all the cupboards and doors, but not with the vigor I want to see yet.

We started the hold, and this is a behavior that easier every time you train it. He was picking up strongly after the first session and after a little break was giving it even a little duration. Helps that he’s not overly paw focused and he’s REALLY happy to do anything other than cupboard closing. So we’ll see how that progresses, I shouldn’t be cocky.

We continue to work on his other behaviors, trying to look at naming and stimulus control. His positions are ridiculous because he just throws himself around like a maniac, so not at all what I want to see going from position to position. He does have a sit now though, so progress. We have lost his long distance back working on his back as a kickback stand. Or, in Asher’s case, a fling yourself backwards stand. He is getting better at his opposite motion pedestal pivot, but still needs a lot of help, he likes the other direction a lot better. He still very much likes crossing his paws. We had an issue that he did not want to down on concrete, so that was good to know. Oddly, we have never worked on spin, so need to put that one on the list.

Went a couple adventures over the weekend, trying to keep getting him out and about. We went to a food cart court and he did pretty good chilling while we ate and ignoring the other children and people. Also went to a fairly large farmers market and he did great with the bustle and other dogs and things. I was particularly impressed he was able to settle and not bug us while we ate some waffles sitting on a curb, his impulse control skills are paying off even in new situations. He also, shockingly, managed not to offend Carol’s dogs at all. He played with Pixel (he pissed her off immediately the first time they met when he was younger) and he very much respected Demi. So that was unexpected as well, maybe he is growing up.

The big news is that he went swimming in the river, no problems. He loves the water, the waves too much and even did a tiny baby dive into the river on our last go. That’s a big goal of mine with puppies, to get them loving the water and swimming and I’m calling that mission accomplished.

Oh, and his ears are just ridiculous at the moment, a lady at the market came up and asked if he was a Brittney Spaniel, and I couldn’t fault her! I’d also take Toller, this is not a very attractive age! I don’t expect that to change for a few months, but I still think he’s cute in an awkward fugly way.

Navarre continues to be REALLY WEIRD. Herding, licking, posturing, sulking. Then for the first time ever he wasn’t being all gung-ho about herding, which shocked me. We hadn’t seen Dave for months, and Navarre was super weird and leaving sheep to come back to Dave and not really working the sheep but just being all stressy and odd from the moment he arrived. He’s NEVER done that, never been anything but enthusiastic, and it wasn’t anything Dave did, Navarre was just off from the start. So was it the length of time since he last worked with Dave? A new ‘I Hate the Puppy’ phase? Not feeling well? Or some completely different reason? I just don’t know, time will tell if this is a trend, but he remains ridiculously enthusiastic at Ian’s, including the day before this.

Navarre and Ian have been working on fixing his outruns on the top, which involves a lot of stopping him on outruns and waiting until Ian gets up the field. Haku and I worked on this, once upon a time. It seems to be helping, but, shocker, Navarre’s first thought is never to go wider. He also sucks at working a troublemaking single, which I’ve seen before. He’d prefer to just ignore the troublemakers and stick with the group.

So the plan is for one more week with Ian and then I’m taking over Navarre. I don’t expect this to be a very smooth transition, but we’re going to give it a go. My goal is to do a lot more practice in the Fall, which I think will help. I just need to be zen about it all, we’ll get there in our own time. We’re going on a herding road trip this Fall to Idaho to work with Kathy Knox, and while I’ll probably bring both boys, I plan to hopefully work with just Navarre. We will find our way, or at least have a lot of fun trying. Fun, not frustration, that’s the goal.

Haku continues to do well with puttering around with smaller chores in herding. I wish for so many reasons that he was younger, he’s so much more my style to work with. But, yeah, not much power there. We’ll see what Asher brings to the table when he gets older, but I imagine he’ll be a more powerful dog than Haku – but that doesn’t take much! Haku will continue to do AKC arena trials, which I think is perfect for him right now. I did switch his food back from his fancy joint formula and added a muscle builder to his supplements – we’ll see if that makes any difference in muscle loss.

Been refreshing Utility obedience with Navarre, just a little bit. He is so different in obedience than he is in agility or herding, there is a tentativeness there, I don’t know where it comes from. He CAN do his articles, but usually only the SECOND time, the first time he goes out grabs the first one, I point out it’s the wrong one and he goes, “Oooh, we’re looking for a specific one – got it!” and then runs out and actually LOOKS. Been working on pivots and gloves too, it’s all pretty shakey. Need to get a plan of attack for teaching Go-outs, need to practice the moving stand and train a recall signal. The plan is to finish his CDX this Fall and then have a long term goal of getting his UD … someday. If he just drives me up the wall in herding we can always take a break and do obedience, though I know which one he’d rather I do.

We actually worked on agility this week! Puppies are so time consuming those first couple months, but we’re finally setting down and getting back into a routine. This sequence was posted on FB and I wanted to give it a try, so many handling possibilities!

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I was really happy with the dogs and their weavepoles, we did this with weavepole grabs, flip aways, push past the exits, blind crosses, layering and more – lots of options! It kind of cracked me up that the issue we had the MOST in this course was 1 to 2, they were both just sure we were going to the weavepoles – heh.

And in cat news, I bought them a ceramic water fountain, it’s just lovely! Okay, I may have actually got it for me, as I love the sound of the water tinkling away. I’m hoping that the cats learn to love it as well. I tried a plastic water fountain many years ago and it was a nightmare to clean, this one is just two pieces and no crannies, should be easy to really keep it clean. So far the cats aren’t impressed, but hey, they’re cats, they’re hard to impress. The cats are currently in a bit of tizzy as I didn’t realize that Fizban had learned to open the rubber bin I kept the cat food in. So he would flip the latch and open it up – and the other cats would join him. I’m embarassed how long it took me to figure out what was happening. By the time I did I had some very fat cats. Now that I have the food under lockdown again they are all acting like they’re starving. Still, I’m much happier, I just could not figure out why their was so much more litterbox waste to take care of!