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, 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.