Welcome to The Real Time Canine, Part Two

Welcome to part two of The Real Time Canine. In this edition, I will describe the daily life of a Border Collie sheepdog prospect. In weekly posts using words and pictures, I will describe what they learn and how they learn it. Each pup imparts knowledge in their own special way, and through them I will give you insight into how I train a Border Collie Sheepdog from beginning to success.

As with Kensmuir Star in the original
Real Time Canine, you will be with us every step of the way as these talented youngsters acquire the confidence, willingness and skills necessary to attain my goal for them to become a useful working sheepdog and successful trial competitor. I hope you will join us and find useful tips and technique on how to train a sheepdog.

After a lifetime with animals, dogs, horses and livestock, I am happy to share my expertise with you. I have found success at sheepdog trials at home and abroad, and have trained dogs that went on to find success with others. To learn more about me and my dogs, please visit my BorderSmith website, and my BorderSmith Blog!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Little Dog, Big Field

December in So Cali
Jed is learning, and I'm pleased to report that my leash plan worked beautifully.  In an earlier post, I wrote how Jed was going through the "keep away" phase that many pups do, and how I had changed my method of overcoming that since raising Kensmuir Star. With Star, I verbally corrected him when he did not come when called, and more or less hunted him down. He eventually overcame the tendency, but my method was too harsh for him, and I wanted to try something lighter with Jed.

With Jed, I keep a leash handy, and when ever he was slow to respond to "here" request, I would simply go to him, slip the noose type leash over his head, and off we would go. No problems, no hesitancy, no fear.

Today, for the first time, when I told the dogs to "load up," as we were heading to the big field for practice, Jed trotted straight to the truck and got in. Still too small to jump from the ground, he jumps to the trailer tongue, then into the truck bed, and he's so athletic, it appears to be more like stepping. Where it is still an awkward maneuver for Star, Jeddie makes it look easy.

After working the big dogs today, I wondered whether the lessons would hold. I tried it again, and all 3 of my dogs, Jed included, got right into the truck. Lesson learned. That job is done, and it surely makes things a lot easier for me. Good boy, Jeddie!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Green Grass and High Times

Jed's so happy to be alive

Warm sunshine and green grass

It doesn't get any better than this

Monday, November 22, 2010

"In training you have to guide instinct, being always careful not to blunt the genious of the pupil with over direction." James Gardner-winner of the first sheepdog trial at carnwath circa 1876

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A 1 and a 2

Another of Jed's littermates, Osa, with her owner, Karen. What a slick family of youngsters they are turning out to be.

The distinction of Amanda Milliken's line of dogs is so clear in Jed, that it is positively striking to me.

For years I did not allow my dogs in the house mainly because I had no tolerance for the dirt they brought with them. My strong feeling now is that I have lost a lot of time.

For a while that funny tail troubled me, because I have a friend who believes that funny tails are connected to bad brain cells. If so, they have dissipated from this dog like formaldehyde in a warm room, and with age, the tail has self-corrected.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Friendship Renewal

Jed and his puppyhood friend, Elvis

Of course Jed tagged along last weekend to the Porterville Dog Trial, and only got better at being on the road. This pup is so smart, and picks up on things so easily that he has become quite easy to live with on the road and off.

Jed was bred by my friend Llona, who owns Elivs, shown in the picture above renewing old acquaintances. There were 3 or 4 of Jed's littermates in attendance at the trial, and it was interesting to see how different and similar they are to each other. Llona kept a male she named Bolt, that towers over Jed in size, but looks just like him and the others in expression and coloration. It is going to be fun watching and comparing how they grow up and train up.

Top to bottom, Jed's sister and brother

It appeared to Llona and I both that Elvis and Jed recognized each other. Apparently Elvis was the baby sitter when the pups were still with mother. Jed would have been much smaller than Elvis at that time, but it was easy to see who still held the upper hand in this relationship, regardless of size. Attitude is everything.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Instinct Takes Over

                                                        Photo credit: Jan Elliott

This is Jed and I comparing to see who has the whitest teether. OK, actually this is Jed making me laugh with his winning smile. When he is really happy, this funny pup wrinkles up his nose, shakes his head from side to side, and bares his teeth in a huge puppy grin that conveys more personality and joy than I could ever describe. This pup is as engaging as he is intelligent, and this morning he gave me a showing of his good breeding.

Jed has been raised around sheep, and has always taken them in stride. That is until today. There have been 2 previous experiences where he became a bit interested in the big woolies, but it was only in passing before he toddled off to explore something, and he called right off both times.

This morning, while I was feeding, I left a gate open into the sheep pen, and Jed ran through to follow me. All of a sudden 200 years of selectivity slapped him upside the head, and his instinct took over. Little Jed turned on to sheep this morning in a big way. He circled them at first shortly turning the circling into a chase. One ewe dodged off by herself, and he was on her like flies on a popsicle. Having one all to himself was way too much fun, but the ewe soon realized there was safety in numbers, flew back to the others, and the chasing began again.

It took a good 5 minutes of calling and grabbing before I finally collared Jed around the neck on one speedy pass by me. I threw my arm under his belly and swung him into the air more or less balancing him over my shouder while he tried to climb down my back to get at them again.  Jedi weighs almost 30 pounds now, so this must have looked comical, but I don't think anybody caught our act. I carried him off praising like crazy, and he settled down once all the excitement was over and we were around the corner.

The moment a Border Collie puppy realizes his heritage for the first time is always amazing to me. It's like catching lightening in a bottle. One minute they are simply the funny puppy at your feet, the next a purely instinctual creature that will never be the same again.

Now the real fun begins, for me at least. Don't get me wrong, I love puppies, love almost everything about them, and Jed is proving to be my kind of guy. He is extremely smart, learns quickly, and as a result is very obedient and was easy to train that way. He is a pleasure to be around. No jumping, no barking, comes when he is called (most of the time,) crates and kennels and travels very well.  And now he's shown me his sheepdog side as well.

I will not do anything with this new found talent for a while yet. I let my puppies be puppies for as long as I can. In another couple months I will give him a go in the round pen to determine whether he is mature enough to take some training. Either way, it is fine by me. He has shown me the fire in his belly. Now it's up to me to craft a sheepdog.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Keep Away

Jed loves to ride in the truck, but has decided that he doesn't like to get into the truck. However, he has decided that it's only when I want him to get into the truck that he doesn't like it. Otherwise he runs right up the dog ramp, or hops up by the hitch when the trailer is attached. He has also decided that it is no fun to return to his kennel after our nightly walks just before bed. He would rather sit by the gate, in the hopes that I'll take him inside with me, all evidence to the contrary.

In these situations, I call him to me, he turns and moseys in the other direction, and I hunt him down with my frustration rising. And it is not as if he runs off. Ignoring me completely, he just ambles away to a spot by the back door, the gate into the dog yard, or the barn where he sits and gives me "the look."

Knowing this is simply a case of adolescent silliness only helps slightly to temper my irritation and resulting anger when I'm tired or late. To make matters worse, Jed is showing signs of wariness when I bend to touch him, fearing that I will scruff him and put him somewhere he would rather not go. It only happened a few times, bit I saw that I needed a better plan.

I have a handy leash for puppies with a handle on one end, and a simple noose on the other that adjusts to fit.  What I am now doing with Jed is stopping the "keep away" behavior before it starts. When I know I will be kenneling him, or loading him in the truck, I simply slip on the leash before he can disobey. That way I avoid being ignored, and Jed never has a chance to get in trouble. I'm happy, Jed's happy, and that is as it should be.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nature versus Nurture

Jed went to the vet this week for his rabies shot. This pup has gained 10 pounds over the last 8 weeks. At just over a pound a week, I think it possible for me to accomplish that as well, but Jed makes it look good.

Please look closely at the picture and you will notice that Jed has his "big dog" collar on. It's the same one I use on the adult dogs in my kennel, and on the last hole, it fits perfectly. That's how much he has grown recently. I do not leave collars on my dogs except when I transport them, or am otherwise off the property, and Jed is no exception. I worry that they could become tangled or hung up on something, so at home, they go commando.

Little Jedi is growing into a very nice pup. He loves to run and jump on top of stuff. All kinds of stuff. The haystack, boulders, the big rock bench in my yard, concrete wall, wobbly wooden benches. If he craps out as a sheepdog, they would love him in the circus. The dog has tremendous balance. Actually he has everything I want in a pup his age. He is quiet, well-mannered, intelligent and athletic. Now, if he only has talent...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Week 8

Jed gets a taste of SoHo

By now you have figured out that 2 weeks turned into 3, on it's way to 4 since I have posted. No excuses, just lazy. I have had a hard time getting back into the swing of training my dogs since coming home from 16 days on the road. That and the fact that it was 111 degrees here yesterday has inhibited my motivation considerably. Little Jedi is now officially a road warrior, and learned to handle travel with the aplomb of a much older dog. He did good!

5 things:
  1. Quit squirming
  2. Why didn't you just say so
  3. Waiting patiently
  4. Loyalty
  5. Friends
Somewhere around Las Vegas on our way out, I was considering tossing Jed out the window on the freeway. In the 5 or 6 hours it took us to go that far, he had persistently squirmed and complained. I should have put him in a crate in the trailer, but chose the safer method of leaving him crated in the back set of my truck. I had to swallow my frustration more than once during that time, hoping that he would get the hang of it sooner or later. Decidedly later, he did just that, and because I did not cater to him by letting him out every hour or so, after Vegas, he got the hang of it and road quietly for the rest of our journey. The lesson? Leave them alone, they will adapt.

Once acclimated, the only time Jed spoke to me was when he had to empty. Good boy! Usually, I would first hear a low moan, then whining, and if I still hadn't responded by that time, he would startle me with one, great big, unmistakable bark. His way of saying; NOW! In so doing, he really showed me his intelligence, and I'm happy to report that this was not his only way. I always answered his call, except for once coming through Nevada on our way home. He barked, I answered a phone call and forgot, the cab turned a sour yellow color, at least in my imagination. After a quick roadside stop for clean up detail, and a profuse apology to my most excellent puppy, off we went without any further pollution.

Jed had quite a bit of crate time on the trip, and he weathered it well. After a nice, long outing every morning with all the dogs, Jed got crated either inside or under the RV trailer. None of my neighbors along the way complained about noise problems, and I never heard him in there, so I have to assume that he waited patiently for the next long walk, play time, or to be handed off to a dog-sitter du jour. He learned to love the crate at home by being fed in there, and hanging out in one with me in the house, and it all paid off in spades on the road.

A neighbor had a puppy about the same age as Jed, and we let those 2 romp and play together at Meeker. Jed came to know where she lived, and on more than once occasion headed that way to be rewarded with visitation privileges. One morning, my friend was out walking all her dogs, and agreed to include Jed so the puppies could play. I went back to my trailer, then went out later and took him back home with me. Later, I found out from another neighbor, that Jed had returned home on his own, climbed the stairs to the door, and tried to alert me to his presence. This was valuable practice for him, and might have saved his life later in the trip. On the way home, in Cedar City, UT, I put Jed, Price, Mirk and Star inside a chain-link, designated dog-walk pen, and left them alone. After hours and hours in the truck with only an occasional outing to empty, I thought they needed to stretch their legs. I also checked the perimeter, and thought the enclosure was puppy-proof. It wasn't. But I heard something at the trailer door, looked out, and there was Jed on the top step telling me; "I want to come home now." I cannot express the relief I felt upon seeing him there, nor the sheer joy of knowing how much he loves me.

Jed has a whole host of new friends made while we were away. As a matter of course I will hand off a puppy to any willing participant who will keep him, play with him, and socialize him for me at a dog trial. Usually it's kids who want to play, and he met some of those, but it was the loving adults who tended him best. At SoHo and at Meeker, he went, he followed, he played, and was loved by a fine compliment of adutls who just love puppies. Thanks to them all for helping me greatly to socialize my very gregarious young man. I thank you. You did a fine job, and Jed matured wonderfully through the process.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Week 7

Three way tie

Believe me when I tell you that this is one well-adjusted pup. I am so busy preparing, training and planning for my upcoming trip to Soldier Hollow and Meeker, that little Jed is way back there, on the farthest back burner having to pretty much take care of himself.  He doesn't seem any worse for wear, and in fact, doesn't seem to mind at all.  He still greets me with his happiest, most wrinkle-nosed smile first thing in the morning, he stills play relentlessly with Star and with Mirk, when Mirk deigns to allow it, and he maintains his happiest to be alive attitude at all times. Other than a house visit in the morning for breakfast, Little Jed is being left to his own devices much of the time, and to tell you the truth, I don't even know he is there. Good little puppy!

Five things:
  1. How come?
  2. Take that!
  3. I'm not so sure
  4. A lamb you said?
  5. Heaven help us
I have been getting out early these days to beat the heat, load up my sheep and head out on the big field to tune up my big dogs for the trials ahead. It's early, lack of preparedness is causing me tension, and I am running out of time, so I am abandoning all non-essential functions. Unfortunately for Jed, this means that he gets left at home when I go. I have been bringing him in for breakfast, and leaving him crated while I go to the big field to train. If he understood that Dexter is being left as well, I wonder if it would make him feel better?

The big dogs are starting to complain now that Jed has gotten big enough to pester them in earnest. Like a midge (Scottish gnat) he was simply annoying before, but things have escalated. Jed certainly learned the hard way who will put up with him, and who will not. Price is the headmaster, and brooks no insolence from anyone, least of all, what is in his eyes, a worthless puppy well beneath his stature. Jed has learned to give Price a tentative try, and leave it at that. Mirk will allow Jed to have a romp, chew on his neck, wallow beneath his chin, and lick him, but he makes it crystal clear when play time is over. So that just leaves Star, who is caught in the "tween" time when he still wants to play often enough, but understands what it means to be hot and tired. Starman receives the most attention from Jed, and that is as it should be.

Like Star, and unlike every puppy I have raised before Jed and Star, Jed is not getting enough socialization. I am a bit of a recluse by nature, I am not trialing much in this economy, and I tend to stay home unless absolutely necessary. Jed does not go to the store, experience places like PetCo, is not around many strangers nearly enough, and it shows. Lately when he has seen strangers, he has demonstrated a bit of caution around them. Not aggression, but hesitancy. With a pat and a cuddle it is easily overcome, and I am confident that caution is not a big part of nature, so I am not concerned about it. I simply have to make a consceintous effort to get Jed out and around more, and I can think of no better way to do that than my upcoming trip. It will be so good for all my dogs, and even more so for me.

Jed's first interest in sheep came one day when a young lamb was gambolling around his pen. The big dogs were fascinated, and I wonder whether it was their attention that got his. Jed and the lamb went nose to nose at the fence, which made we speculate about when he will "turn on," as they say. I have had pups that have done by now, and others that haven't. I have known of a few unfortunates who never became keen on sheep. It does not happen often, but it does. I had dog named Moe that was a half-uncle to Jed who never paid any attention to sheep until he was 6 or 7 months old. And when he did start looking, he did so in a big way. I sold him as a trained nursery dog, and he went on to win the Canadian National Nursery Championship with his new owner. Because Moe and Jed are similarly bred, I would expect their timing to be similar.

Jed has gotten to the rambunctious puppy stage where everything is fair game. My shoes, even when I am wearing them, my pant legs while I am walking, flora and fauna in the dog yard, other dogs, just anything that he can get his mouth on. He was leaping onto furniture in the house, and making it look easy I might add. In other words, he has become this massive jumble of jubiliant puppy energy, so it's a very good thing that I have taught him to listen carefully. Since the first day I got him, I began the process of teaching him to take a correction. At his age, I certainly don't mean a physical (hitting) correction. I mean verbal corrections, so that now I can just give him a growl, and he knows what it means. That doesn't mean that he always or even immediately reacts, but he definitely knows what I mean, and will always refrain from the offending action at some point. When you wait until puppies are at this stage before you teach them what it sounds like when they are breaking a rule, it's too late. It's also much harder on the puppy, because they are now bigger, and wilder without any understanding when you don't approve. So the too-late correction, when given, must be stronger than had you begun earlier in the pup's life.  When I take pups as infants I begin teaching them manners on day one. They know no other way, and are easy and pleasurable to train, and it sure makes for a nice dog.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Week Six

Jed gets his bluff in early

Already little Jed has simply blended in with my pack. He knows his place, has assessed the pecking order, and knows just how far he can push which dogs. He recognizes Price as second-in-command to me, established that Mirk can be pushed so far, and is thrilled that Star likes to run and play too. If you simply leave them to it, dogs assimilate. It is when we, the smarter humans, intervene and impose assumptions, that the problems come up. Our assumptions relate to human behavior afterall, and have nothing to do with what canines do naturally. Humans should set limits of acceptable behavior for our dogs, engender their respect, and then allow them to act like dogs.

Five things:
  1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  2. Playing out
  3. Dog box
  4. Puppy teeth
  5. Toys
I feed my big dogs once a day in the evening. Dogs are programmed to eat and go to sleep, so when I kennel them at night, I feed them at that time, and I seldom vary from that routine. With their bellies full, they are more inclined to settle in, stay quiet and remain content. Puppies, however, are different, and I feed mine several times throughout the day until they are 5 or 6 months old. They too become tired and sluggish after they eat, and they sleep a lot when they are young. Jed is not a good eater, and I wish I knew why, but I give him the opportunity 4 times throughout the day. The problem is that he just picks at his food. He gets an early breakfast, mid-day snack, lunch and dinner with the big dogs. I just wish he would clean his plate.

I make sure every day that Jed and I spend quality time together. Sometimes it is sitting by me on a leash while I give a lesson. Sometimes I throw a ball for Dexter, and he chases Dexie who chases the ball. Often we just rough house on the grass together. I roll him around, hold him close, scratch his belly, and pet his face. I may just spend time brushing him, but all the activities are designed to create a bond between us, and allow me to understand him better. What kind of dog is he? Is he brave? Wary? Concerned? Athletic? Smart? At some point in the future I will begin to train him on stock, and ask him to do things that go against his nature. The more he trusts me, and understands my ways, the easier and more successful I will be. A little groundwork now will go a long way once we get in the training pen.

So much for a special traveling crate. I have 4 dogs, 5 if you count Dexie, who doesn't really count, but that number of dogs requires a bit of streamlining. This week Jed traveled for the first time in the 3-hole dog box that is bolted in the bed of my truck. Until now, he has been riding in a small crate behind the front seat. I had him there, so I could teach him to ride quietly. I spoke to him, or tapped the crate when he whined or barked and he learned quickly to settle in and ride well. One day last week, I decided it was time to transition him to the back, I popped him in the dog box, and off we went. He rode without making a sound, and waited patiently in there while I worked Mirk and Star in the big field. Afterward the 4 of us went for a walk, and Jed was rewarded for his patience with a long stroll and a romp with the big dogs. My dogs need to become accustomed to change. Once trialing, they are thrust into a myriad of unfamiliar situations and stange places. I can't coddle them, and ease them into new circumstances. They must learn to deal with it on their own, do it well, and on the spot. So, when I give Jed something new, I simply give it to him, expecting him to tolerate whatever I give him. All the groundwork in obedience, good manners and limits of acceptable behavior allow him trust me and easily accept whatever I give him.

Like most of the pups I have raised, Jed likes to bite at my shoes and clothes while walking with me, and I don't like it. He could get stepped on and it's irritating to always be tripping over him, or moving him out of the way. I'm not always wearing clothes that I don't care about when we're together, and any way, sometimes it hurts when he bites my feet or through to the skin. There is no reason why Jed can't walk beside me without taking a bite, so I simply don't allow it. I speak to him when he bites at me, and a time or two I have reached down, tapped him on the nose or shoved him aside. Just like with everything else, I am completely consistent with this, and he has learned quickly enough to keep his teeth to himself.

If you do not give a puppy something to do, he will find something, and it will probably not be to your liking. As you know, I have a dog yard of about a quarter acre below my house. The dogs are loose there together much of the time, and from time to time I throw toys out for the dogs to claim. There are rope toys, chew toys, marrow bones picked clean, tire toys, etc. I am careful to make sure that the dogs don't have access to anything that could hurt them, like balls small enough to become lodged in their throat, and they are never turned out with collars on. Collars can become entangled, or used by other dogs to cause harm. They can twist on a dog's neck and choke them, and I feel better knowing that I have eliminated every hazard possible when my dogs are loose. Jed has toys in his kennel as well to keep him busy at night. And, I change them fairly often to give him a distraction. Unfortunately, he pulls his dog house bedding out in play as well, but the good news is that he is never bored, and has every opportunity to learn how to keep himself contented and quiet.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week Five


This week Jed went visiting, learned a new skill, and become an outside dog in every sense of the phrase. We visited his breeder, Llona for a good day of working dogs at her place where he renewed his friendship and got some love. We were out and about quite a bit on our own turf running errands, taking long walks with all the dogs, and expanding Jed's routines to include a typical day for a big dog.
Still on the thin side, it has nothing to do with Jed's intake. He is a good eater. I find no evidence of worms, but he goes back to the vet Monday for his third and last worming anyway. A second round of puppy shots was actually do last week, but I ascribe to a different protocol where I wait for a little maturity then give boosters independent of each other as much as the drug companies allow. In other words, I don't give DHLPP, distemper, hepatitis, leptosperosis, parvo and para-influenza, together in one vaccine because I don't believe a puppies immature immune system will tolerate it well, and I don't give lepto at all. We simply don't have any prevalence of it in my area. Jed isn't eligible for his first rabies shot for another month.
Five things:
  1. Socialization, socialization, socialization
  2. Quick study
  3. Be vewy quiet
  4. Here, here
  5. One of the boyz
I was talking with a friend who has young pups the same age as Jed. They were explaining that they hadn't gotten out much with their pups, because it is hard to manage 3 at a time, and because 1 or all gets sick in the car. To me, these are not reasons to keep pups in, but, by all means, to get them out! Socialization, with high expectations for good manners, together with consistent application of training and correction as needed is the single best way I know of to raise a great dog. If I had more than 1 pup, I might just take one at a time with me, but they would all get a go. As far as car-sickness, there's only one way through that, and it is in the car. You might have to clean up a few times, but it will pass every time. I promise. Jed goes with me whenever I can take him. To the feed store, to the big field when I train, errands of all kinds. He has a small crate in the back seat of my truck into which he goes happily on my "kennel", and for the most part, he rides contentedly. Anyone can pet him. I harbor no illusions that allowing others to interact with my dog will harm him in any way. Through others, he can learn to engage, be responsive, and that the world is a great place to be. He can also learn to well-behave, because I enforce my same rules of comportment regardless whether it's me or a stranger. I'm not afraid to say to others; "push him down if he jumps up on you," because consistency is king, and if he ever showed aggression of any kind, regardless of the excuse, I would give an immediate and undeniable correction.
I don't necessarily make things easy for Jed because he is a baby. I let him figure out as many things as he can on his own. His physical size dictates my intervention occasionally, but other than that, I encourage him to do for himself at every opportunity. I was loading dogs in the dog box on my truck bed, and I use a ramp down from the tailgate to help Price, because he is old, and Star, because he hasn't found sufficient mettle to propel himself up on his own. Except for the Min Pin, Dexter, I have never before had a youngster run up the ramp on his own. I have had to show every Border Collie I've had since acquiring the ramp, how to use it. That is until Jed. While loading my big dogs into the dog box, I heard scratching behind me, and looked to find Jed half-way up the ramp. Clever pup, and isn't that always great to see?

You can't have too many people who love you
Did I mention that I don't allow any noise from my dogs? Does that seem harsh? Well, it's not the way I do it. Instead of trying to eliminate barking once it becomes ingrained, I simply never let my dogs start that extremely bad habit. And I promise, if you do not quell it before it begins, you will never, ever rid yourself of the abhorrent nuisance completely, and you will have no one to blame but yourself. Jed leans toward the vocal, and his preference is to a particularly nasty yap. Each and every single time I hear him, I speak to him in a manner that matches his intention. In other words, the intensity of my correction matches the excitement of his barking, but I am always calm when I speak to him. I don't react to his noise, I simply correct it. I may just use my voice, or I may tap his crate or kennel, but there will be a consequence each and every time I hear from him and it's working already. He now knows why, when he receives an "aahhh" from me, and quiets completely most of the time.
Little Jedi is a very engaging youngster. He likes the attention, and he loves to play. Have you ever heard the Thoreau quote; "when a dog runs at you, whistle for him?" That is exactly what I do with Jed. I use his natural joyfulness to teach him to come when called. When we are together, often times, I will say his name and cause him to look at me. Usually that is followed by him starting towards me at a happy run. At that point, in my happiest voice, I repeat "here, here...here, here." In that way I am not only using his own momentum to teach him to come to me, but I am laying ground work for things like teaching the shed in the process. It all becomes very easy when you use a dog's own initiative to teach them.
For the first 2 weeks or so, Jed was a house baby. He learned my ways, the sound of my voice, and what it feels like to be around me. Even though he is still pretty little, it's time to learn what it's like to be a big dog, and so he is out with the big dogs in the dog yard most of the time now. I know my dogs won't hurt him. I have raised enough pups, and trust my dogs' training and temperament enough to know that with certainty. If you do not have the same confidence in your dogs, please do not try this at home. I have seen more than a few youngsters belonging to others that were damaged permanently by older dogs showing aggression towards them. One lost an eye, and another received a broken jaw. Because I am the undisputed ruler, my dog yard is a peaceable kingdom, and it is a great place for Jed to learn to become a great dog. He is learning those all too important dog lessons that I could never teach him, and he is learning from the masters. So too will he learn bad habits if my dogs had them to teach, and that is why I am thoroughly consistent. If you do not want your pup to learns bad habits, do not leave him around a dog or dogs that have them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week Four

Making a good impression

Puppies get hurt. It is just a fact of life that, like children, they are clumsy, don't have full control of their limbs, they tangle, and they injure. Jed had what appeared to be an innocent fall this week, I saw it happen, and didn't really think much of it. He was running just in front of me on our way to the barn, when he folded up like an old cardboard box and collapsed in a heap. It did appear that he he hit the left side of his head flat on the ground though, and that is what caused the problem. Within an hour his left eye was all but swollen shut, his inner eyelids were red and irritated, and I started to worry. It was Sunday though, and I really wanted to avoid the emergency room, so I cleaned his eye with a warm, wet cloth and flushed it with saline. When you have as many animals as I do, you keep supplies.

I cleaned and flushed every 4 hours or so, and we made it to Monday and the regular vet. He was due for his 2nd of 3 wormings anyway, so we were able to kill 2 birds with one stone, and his eye was looking much better by the time we got there. The good news is that his cornea was not scratched, and my vet loves him. No bad news.

Five things:
  1. The big boy box
  2. It's time
  3. Taking turns
  4. Force fed
  5. All night long
I am tired this week. I am tired of getting up with the puppy 2 or 3 times each night at zero-dark-thirty, and I wanted to acclimate Jed to his big-dog kennel. But, I didn't want to scare him, so I eased him into it. I began by leaving him outside, by his little puppy-self, all alone in the world, inside his big, scary kennel for a few hours while I went to the store. My kennels are chain-link, 5 in a row under a big Chinese elm tree, all attached so the dogs can see each other. All but Price, who is on the end shielded completly by a piece of corrugated tin, because he is the canine equivilent of a human bar brawler. He causes trouble just because he can.  Jed could see the rest of his family and I was confident their support would see him through.  I never heard a peep out of him either when I was leaving or when I returned. Well, that went well.

So well, in fact, that I decided to leave him out for most of the night. As I said before, I maintain my dogs with fairly consistent routines. They know when I feed them each evening, that they are in for the night with only one quick walk right before I turn in. Jed certainly didn't know the routine yet, but there was no time like the present to teach him. I made up his dinner, kibble, flax seed softened overnight in water, and a little wet food, put him and it in his kennel, turned my back and walked away. It was strangely quiet. I expected some racket, but got nothing but blissful silence from little Jedi. He had his dinner, he had his toys, he had his big-dog house with his favorite blanket stuffed inside, and apparently he had contentment, because I never heard from him again. I woke up around 3 in the morning, and put him inside with a bit of kibble in his crate. Just like crating him initially for short periods, I thought it best to treat his kennel the same way.

Tolerance is a virtue, Mirk

The older dogs know when it is not their turn. They know that while I am working another dog, it is only a matter of time before I come for them, and the big dogs I have now know to remain quiet in the interim. Once again, Price can be the exception, but only to the extent that he chews and twists on his tie out chain, and I must kennel him at dog trials when I am running another. What can I say? He is an exceptional dog, so I make exceptions... It is a small price to pay, (no pun intended.) This week little Jedi experienced waiting his turn when I left him in the dog yard while working Star and Mirk just across the street in the practice field. He studied us from inside the fence for a while, then toddled off to find a diversion. That was all there was to that. Now, had he been been noisy about it, I simply would have crated him in the house, because he is way too young to be corrected for desire.

Jed is not a good eater. Nor, I am told, is he growing at the same rate as his brother, who is quite a bit bigger. I like thin, athletic adult dogs, but I like rolly-polly puppies, and Jed is thin and leggy. I feed him 3 or 4 times a day, and pretty much around the clock. For the most part, he cleans up his meals, but it takes him a while. Some handlers subscribe to the regimen of placing food in front of a dog then picking up anything uneaten after 20 minutes. I do not see anything wrong with the technique, but in Jed's case, I am leaving food in front of him for longer periods to make sure he gets enough nourishment. He is not underfed. His eliminations are frequent and in sufficient quantity, I would just like to see him with a big fat puppy belly. Not going to happen. At least not yet.

By the end of the week, Jed was spending every night, all night in his kennel without protest. Once again, it was just me and Dexter sharing the roof over our heads at night, and I think Dexie was glad of it. Ok, Ok,  I was too, and got my best sleep in weeks.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week Three

Jed and Price, from 1 generation to the next

Jed and I learned a lot about each other this week. He's smart, I'm tough, but fair and completely consistent. These are the stand-out lessons. Jed learned the meaning of the word "cookie," and his ears perk up immediately in anticipation. About 80% of the time, I would say, he keeps his feet to himself. Unlike, Star, the last puppy I raised, Jed is not the least bit hesitant about coming to me when I call, and seems to prefer my close company.

5 Things:
  1. The sound of my voice
  2. An hour out
  3. It's all the same
  4. Quick release
  5. Quiet
One of the benefits of keeping Jed with me in the house now is that he learns what I sound like under different circumstances. I am able to interact with him, correcting him or praising him as need be, and he is learning the fundamentals of correction and encouragement. And those, of course, are the building blocks of training a working sheepdog. I give him a low growl when he chews on my rug, runs off with my shoe, or puts his feet up on the furniture. He gets my happy voice if he comes when I call, submits to being picked up without being chased, goes in his kennel without a fuss. When my attention is not directed at him, he is simply learning me. How I move, and what those movements mean. How I smell and what my actions mean to him. It is all fundamental to learning to please me, which will become oh-so-important when the real training begins.

Nice ear

Still sleeping inside at night, I began putting him in the dog yard for a couple hours at a time with the big dogs, and he did well. Whenever I sat him down inside the gate, I got a "huh?" look most of the time, but I have never heard a peep from him while he was out there. My dog yard has lots of big boulders just right for climbing on, and jumping over. I think this encourages balance and athleticism in my dogs, and I like to initiate that at an early age. I read a biography of Ty Murray, arguably the world's greatest rodeo cowboy. In it, he describes being utterly focused on his chosen profession from his earliest memories, and orchestrating exercises throughout childhood that encouraged balance. He walked miles of fence line, rode a unicycle, learned to juggle and trained with his high school gymnastics squad, despite never competing with them. He was single-minded in his pursuit to be the best, and he achieved that by a mile. My single-minded pursuit is for Jed to be an excellent working sheepdog off and on the trial field. I too will orchestrate exercises that encourage balance, strength and athleticism in him. He goes for long walks with the big dogs to encourage stamina. He has trouble keeping up, but not for long. I lay him on his back, then let him struggle to right himself, we play with a tug toy and he chases Dexie, who chases a ball. I don't yet know whether he has the talent to attain my goals for him, but I will make sure he gets every opportunity.

Routine is very important to dogs in their daily life. Stability gives them confidence and courage, and while I like to mix things up on the training field, the mechanics of living remain predictable. I feed Jed at the same times each day. And so he will like it, I always feed him in his crate. When he rides in the truck, I always crate him. Some day that may change, and he may earn the keys to the co-pilot's chair, but not yet. Good manners and respect first, privilege later.  We feed the animals in the morning, the sheep go out and in at the same time, we walk after we work in the big field. These things and more are constants in Jed's life. He can count on them, he knows what is coming and where is his place among them. He doesn't have to wonder, and most importantly, he doesn't have to worry.

Jed's breeder, Llona Brandenburg, did a good job of creating a naturally clean puppy. By that I mean a puppy that prefers not to soil his immediate living area. Llona provided a whelping box that allowed the puppies to move away from their main living area into another one designated by a low bump the pups had to crawl over to get to. When given the chance, Jed always empties outside, and always after moving a considerable distance from me. Yes, some dogs are naturally clean, but it never hurts to give that idea legs whenever possible. One of the ways I encourage cleanliness is to release Jed from his crate immediately upon hearing him cry, when it's been a while. If he has just been outside and fusses when first crated, that's another matter. But, if he has just woken up from a nap, or at zero-dark-thirty in the morning after sleeping for 3 or 4 hours, when he cries, he goes out. Jed has responded to this really well, and almost always empties the minute he hits the grass. Also, because he knows he will get out when he needs to, he is happier about being crated. It's a trust thing.

So, what about when he cries in his crate just after coming inside? I correct him. Not harshly, understand, but I give him a low growl to let him know I don't like it. I may tap on his crate, and there has been a time or two when I raised my voice, but I resort to that sparingly so that it means something when I do. In the first paragraph I mentioned that Jed and I learned a lot about each other this week. One of the things that I learned is that I can talk to Jed, and he listens. When raising any dog, observation is a critical tool that is all too often overlooked. I observed Jed, and realized that I can converse with him and convince him to abide by the rules. When he fusses, I may say "no" and get another bark. I follow that with "quiet" and may get a "roo, roo, roo." I come back with "knock it off," and by that time I usually get some quieter grumbling just before he picks up a toy and entertains himself. He must be quiet. I will absolutely not tolerate anything else. He may not bark...ever. You have to be stronger with some dogs than others to get your point across, but this is Jed's story. With him, you can talk it out.

Dexter and Jed - Two peas

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Week Two

 Lump of coal clay

It took exactly 2 attempts at corraling Jed in an exercise pen for him to learn how to claw his way out. I caught him the first time, grunting, reaching, twisting his body to inch slowly up to the top and make his escape. I put him down, and he gave up. Once back inside the next night, he soon started to climb. I plucked him off the wire enclosure and, once again, put him down, then stepped out of the room. What...what was that? Turning to see what was nudging my leg, it was Jed, of course, standing nearly on top of me. That was the end of the Ex-pen, rendered useless before I could ever relax.

I have a very active puppy on my hands. I've been worried about him not eating enough, and I shouldn't. He eliminates quite often, thank you very much, and is wearing me out with boundless energy. Even while he has learned to quiet himself when crated inside the house, he demands attention all the time. I decided today to tucker the little guy, and took him with me to the big field while I worked my dogs. He was very patient in his crate under the shade of tall eucalyptus trees that line my practice field, and I didn't hear all that much from him. Then it was time to walk. We were quite a site, the 5 of us. 3 big Border Collies, 1 tiny Border Collie, and 1 infinitesimal Miniature Pinscher. I just chucked Jed down and off we went, him on wobbly legs but keeping up... with me, anyway. Except for the occassional puppy-sit, he stayed by my side while the others wandered. Since I didn't have to worry about him, I had plenty of time to enjoy watching Dexter paddle and hop his way through hay stubble that's half as tall as he is. My plan worked. Once home, Jed ate and crashed. So did I.

Another big day in the big field. He's been asleep for over an hour now.

                       Little dog, big field                    

This week's top five:
  1. I stood by while Jed slid and fell, but he mastered the stairs on his own.
  2. Just buckle it and go. How to become comfortable in a collar and bungi leash.
  3. That's right, those are sheep that you smell.
  4. Calling Dexie on his bluff for the win. Sweet!
  5. It's never too early to learn how to please.
I give my pups lots of opportunity to figure things out on their own. Border Collies like, and need to problem solve. I could have saved time, made it easier for him, and carried Jed up the stairs. But I would have eliminated an opportunity for him to figure it out and learn on his own. I will almost always leave them to it when I have an opportunity to encourage critical thinking in my dogs.

I am very straighforward about introducing my dogs to new concepts. I do not see value in talking dogs into things. That seems more like begging, which doesn't engender their respect. To introduce Jed to a collar and leash for the first time, I could have used treats or clickers, or some some slower form of what might be perceived as a more gentle introduction. My belief is that way is more difficult for the dog. I will almost always choose short and sharp. Do it 1 time with enough intention for the dog to accept it, and move on. I expect that my dogs will accept the new concept. After all, I make the rules that they must live up to. I introduce the new concept, and simply move confident in my belief that they are accepting. With very little persuasion, my dogs have always complied, and I believe that has as much to do with my confidence as anything. Dogs follow my lead. If I am unsure, they are more. Insecurity can manifest in what looks to us like bad behavior or disobedience. Barking, squirming, whining, clawing, twisting or running away all to avoid a collar.  I picked Jed up buckled on his collar, which was already snapped to a bungi lead, and walked away. He never made a sound, and immediately began the process of learning to walk nicely.

Do I have any belief that little Jed, at 9 weeks, will become interested in livestock? No, but I will do everything to encourage it even from this young age, and I will be watchful. I'm lucky. I have an opportunity to raise my pups around sheep. They are simply always around, and the youngsters do not know any different. That way they do not become hyper-excited from just seeing stock, like some pups who never see them until it is time to start training. You are starting in a hole with those dogs. There were more than a few times this week when I noticed Jed watching my horse and sheep, and I saw him sniff the air in their direction a time or two as well. I will be watching for any sign of recognition.

Bravery is such an important quality in a stockdog. Sheep are sometimes cranky, rams can be mean, cattle are strong, and ewes with lambs can be downright dangerous. A successful stockdog will have the courage to face them all, without so much as taking one step backward. It is absolutely necessary in a top-class dog. Can you win dog trials without courage? It happens all the time, but winning dog trials does not mean a dog is top-class, and I would never breed one without it. At this point, Jed is not much bigger than 6-lb Dexter. Dexie is older, smarter, and very possessive of me. He got his bluff in early with Jed, intimidating him with bluster, snapping, and a growl that sounds like a garbage disposal.  By the end of the first week, Jed was standing flat-footed looking impassive when Dexter advanced, and I was glad to see it.

Pressure and release, pressure and release. That's how we train stockdogs to work for us. We apply pressure to let them know we are not pleased, release it when we are. If my dogs are put on sheep for the first time understanding that concept, and wanting to please me, my job as a trainer is so much easier. I introduced the theory to Jed right away. I tapped the crate when he was unhappy there. I ignored his mournful cries from the crate, then retreived him once he became quiet. Every single time he put his feet on me, I gave a low growl, and gently shoved him aside. When he stood still for me to pick him up, I praised him profusely. More praise for coming to me when I called him. He was born wanting to please me. Personally, I believe there is not a dog anywhere about which that is not true. But, sometimes we cross the wires, and through our own ineptitude and misunderstanding of dogs, we encourage the wrong behavior with poor timing, and end up with a dog we call bad. For me and Jed, it's simple. I consistenly encourage the good, and consistently discourage the bad. 

Another big day in the big field and the "keep away game" has begun. In other words, he's thinking about becoming hard to catch. I'm being pro-active about this, and I'm starting now. He just doesn't want to be locked away in a crate, which is what I do to him most times that I catch him. So, I've begun a catch, tickle, release program. As often as possible, while we're out walking, or haning together, I call him to me, give him much love, and set him free. It's working already, because he never knows what will happen when he comes to me, but it might be good!

Likewise barking. There are few things in life that irritate me more than a dog barking incessantly, or at all really. Jed has shown an inclination to bark at play, which I am discouraging. It's a v e r y bad habit, and better to simply stop it before it starts. Yes, it's irristably cute when Jed and Dexter play, with Jed hopping, running, and barking. What can it hurt, right?  It is not cute at all, however, when he's older and tied out while waiting his turn to work, let's say, barking his fool head off because he was never taught better. Or at a dog trail, when I leave him to run another dog, and he is standing flat-footed barking like Cujo and annoying the entire campground. We see those dogs at every trial we go to...right? It's rude, it's extreme bad manners, and I know absolutely that it's almost impossible to stop once it starts. It is SO much easier on the dog to dispatch this problem when they are young. Most importantly, however, if you expect to have a well-behaved dog at work, and on the trial field, they simply must be well-behaved away from those pursuits. You most assuredly cannot have one without the other, and there are no exceptions to that rule.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Week One

After what seemed like a very long wait, Jed has arrived. Over a year ago, I got on the list for a puppy out of Llona Brandenburg's Sweet, a daughter of one of my favorite sires, Stuart Davidson's International Supreme Champion, ##Star. In retirement he went to the stellar Canadian handler, Amanda Milliken, who used him on her deep bench of top-class bitches to produce some of the most successful Border Collies working in North America today. My former Moe is one of those dogs, and the main reason I chose to take a pup out of Sweet. If Jed turns out to be half the dog that Moe is, I'll be a happy woman.

Initially, Sweet was put to a Scottish import from Bobby Henderson named Shep. I am so familiar with his line, and was so excited about the cross, that I signed up for two pups, but the bitch didn't settle, and I had to wait. Next, with the help of veterinarian, Joy Thayer, Sweet was artificially-inseminated to Suzi Applegate's 2008 USBCHA Nursery Champion, Buzz. There were 3 males and 5 females as a result. Llona kept one of the males, and I had first pick of the other two.

"Breed for the outrun." That has been Amanda's premise all along, and her success in doing so is evident in all of her dogs, and their progeny. Llona delivered Jed to me one day when she drove the 60 miles or so from her home to work dogs with me. After schooling her young dog, she jumped Sweet out of the truck and we set up an outrun that was somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 yards. In a field completely unfamiliar to her, Sweet set out wide and fast, covering every square inch of that 100 acre field on the away-to-me side. Without so much as a hitch, she crossed a deep, brush-choked wash and rounded a low hill that obscured the sheep to land almost perfectly on balance and deep. I stood smiling as she quietly moved off with my stony Dorpers fetching them smoothly down the field. "Breed for the outrun," indeed.

Two days before Jed made the trip to San Diego, I traveled to Llona's home in Hemet to select my pup. It is said there are handlers who are able to deftly pick the most talented pup from a litter. I have no idea how they do it, but I believe they exist. I am not one of them, however, and settle for a crap-shoot every time. Then there is the school of thought that says "let the pup choose you." The instant I sat on the livingroom floor with all 8 pups loose around me, Jed ran straight into my arms, nestled his head between my ear and shoulder and began to tell me all about it in low moans. It seemed the decision was made for me and I was willing to go with it. I watched the others for a while, and Jed wandered off eventually sealing his fate by rushing back to the crook of my neck with just as much momentum as the first time. That was it. Decision made.

Star is the last puppy I raised and he is almost 2 years old as of this writing. I have forgotten what it's like to have a puppy around. Like child-birth apparently, you forget the sleepless nights, the whining, and the worry. Jed was up every 2 hours that first night, but by the end of the week had stretched it out to 4. At 8 weeks of age, he is sleeping in a crate in my bedroom, and has already learned to quiet himself fairly quickly once inside. He figured it out when I didn't respond at all to his ardent cries and mournful howling. I just left him to it, and patiently waited him out. I tell him "kennel," put him inside with a bit of kibble, and that's all there is to it. One way to teach a puppy to love the crate is to never leave him in too long. He gets lots of playtime and I take Jed outside to empty about every 2 hours, longer at night and if he is quiet. In that way he trusts that when he gets in, he will be allowed out before too long. Food helps too, but this pup is not my best eater, and I'm a little worried about it at this point. He tried cottage cheese and liked it, so that's how I'm getting kibble down him now, by topping it with cheese curd.

Jed's lessons began the minute I got him home. I began by using his name at every opportunity, and he picked up on that immediately. Always willing to look straight at me, he turns his head or cocks an ear when he hears his name. I use it a lot. If we're outside, and he runs to me, I clap my hands and say "Jed, here, here." That reinforces his name, and teaches him to come when he's called by putting a word to the action. It's never too early to learn good manners. Speaking of which, even at his tender age, Jed is never, ever allowed to put his feet on me. He hasn't seemed inclined to be touchy-feely, but this bad habit is so readily learned by dogs that it's never too early to begin deterring them. Dogs jumping up is a huge hot-button with me, because it is an overt sign of disrespect. If I want them to respect me working on and off the trial field, then they must respect me in all aspects of their lives. Better to start early, because once learned, it is very hard on the dog to talk them out of putting their feet on you. And it's so easy to do. Jed jumps up, I give an easy growl, shove him aside, and I repeat every single time he does it without exception. Consistency is the key, and I cannot stress that enough.

My mother taught me how to swim by throwing me in our pool. She expected I would not drown, and was right there to help, but it was literally sink or swim. I'm a really good swimmer. So it has been this week with Jed. He has gone where I have. I expected that he would follow, come when he was called and take walks with the big dogs. With one exception, he did not dissappoint. I put him in my quarter-acre dog yard to see how he would do, and he is just too small and just too young for that. Overmatched by the big dogs, he was intimidated when they howled at a passing fire truck, and he could not quite figure out his place in the hierarchy. I watched for a while, then brought him out to play on the lawn. For now, 6 pound min-pin Dexter is more his speed, and that's as it should be.