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!

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...