Danger Deer

It is spring/summer in our area and Momma Drama is happening all over the Farm. I am not just talking about puppies either! For three days this week, my dogs and I were held captive by a Determined Doe who had made her nursery in the woods just above the house.

In the mornings Chase and Bree are the first ones out the door. Chase runs up the hill barking and patrols the perimeter to make it safe for all who follow. He saves us from deer and wild turkeys and probably vicious chipmunks and birds, things of that nature. It starts his day off right and is his time to play King of the Farm. Bree pretends to help by running about 50 feet after him – then decides that her interests are better served closer to home.

Day 1: Chase and Bree head out the door for their usual morning routine. Within a few moments I hear more frenzied barking from Chase, and it is moving closer, rather than away from the house. I get outside just in time to see a doe chasing HIM down the hill towards home. He heads for Mom lickety split and comes up between my legs in his safe position, with a definite look of surprise. His morning is NOT going as planned at all! The deer stands on the hill above the house, stomping and snorting at us. Before making a hasty retreat inside, I notice that there is dirtiness, maybe blood on her hind legs and think that maybe she has been chased by other dogs. . . .

I had left the door open when I came out to investigate, when we got back in the house Bree was already curled up on a bed wanting nothing to do with things like Dangerous Deer.

The rest of my dogs went out under supervision and were sent down to the field to do their business, rather than up into the woods.

Later that day, Stan and I took a walk up the hill with Quest, the teenage boy dog, and Channer the Brittany. That was stupid. In my defense I still did not realize what drama was unfolding because I never dreamed that a doe would fawn right above the house with all the dogs around. But she did. As we passed the thicket where they were hidden, she blew out of the trees almost into the middle of us, and took off as a distraction to keep us away from her precious baby. Channer is a scaredy cat and hid behind Stan. Quest could not resist his prey drive and bounded after her under Turbo power, zero to sixty in 2 seconds. No lie, I yelled his Name, Stop and COME HERE!! And he came. I have spent hours and hours working on COME with this boy – he kinda rocked it!! I am so thankful and this type of situation is exactly why I train COME with such fervor. We live with herding dogs and we live with wildlife and I love both. I do NOT want my dogs going after the baby geese or turning into a pack that is vicious on deer or putting the cows through the fence, etc etc. C-O-M-E is NEVER optional here. And it works!

So now we know what is going on in the woods above the house and we all make a rapid retreat to leave Momma deer alone.

Day 2: I would have thought that the doe and fawn had left during the night, but they did not. Just in case, I went out with the dogs and again sent them down to the field, rather than up into the woods. In between potty breaks, they were kept inside or in their yard. That proved to be prudent as the doe made her appearance several times during the day, above the house kennel, stomping and snorting at all who dared poke their nose outside – including me!! We took heed and left her completely alone.

Day 3: Same morning routine as Day 2. There is a feeling of less intensity from up on the hill. The doe did not come and stomp at us. I wonder if she has left, but use caution and keep everyone safe just in case. In the afternoon she came out of the woods while I was in the yard. She made one last circle completely around the house and yard, as if to let us know who is REALLY in charge around here! I acquiesce, the Farm is hers as long as she needs!

This proved to be our last extreme maternal encounter. Maybe later on this summer we will see a doe and fawn browsing in the alfalfa and I will hope it is my Danger Doe, safe and sound. In the meantime, this is the only picture I got of her doing her final perimeter sweep just below the yard. Remember – I was hiding in the house with the dogs too!

Image

 

 

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Table Training

TABLE SHOWING & CLICKER TRAINING:

Putting my Champion dog on a table looks something like this: Bend over the dog – already a threatening position so the dog ducks. Stick my butt up in the air, grab the dog by the ruff with my right hand before it can back away, further capture with my left arm by squishing her butt up into her ears, lift her up and PLOP her on the table. If we are lucky neither one of us bangs into the table on the way there. We aren’t always lucky. . .

 

Mission accomplished, dog is on the table – wait, the judge is coming. Start grabbing and placing legs – there are 4 of them you know and they are all attached to invisible strings, place one and another moves. Oh well, don’t have time for that, good enough – the judge is HERE – grab the head, pry open the mouth if you can catch it and pray no one gets bit in the process.

 

OK, the examination is done, whew, all parties heave a huge sigh of relief. Now we have to get the darned dog off the table which can look like: A: Dog is so relieved to be done with THAT process that she LEAPS off the table running into me or the judge and sends the table rocking – or B: Grab the dog again as above and PLOP her on the floor, jerk on the leash and head off running for the down and back.

 

I am sad to say this is a fairly accurate description of my past show ring behavior.

I vow to never do that to my dog again.

 

GOAL:

Here is what I want the picture to look like: When I kneel down the dog places her head at my right hand and her butt at my left so I can gracefully and without struggle, pick her up and set her on the table. No plopping involved.

 

On the table the dog free stacks the exact same way she does on the floor – she does it just fine on the floor there is no reason she can’t also stack herself on a table.

 

I want to be able to stand back, out of the way so the judge can look at my dog. When my right hand is placed under the dog’s muzzle, the head relaxes into the hand and can then be moved anywhere needed. I can then grasp the upper lips just behind the nose leather and present the bite to the judge myself.

 

When the examination is finished my dog will be released from the table to jump down without panic and be mentally ready to move on to the next task.

 

TRAINING NOTES:    DAY 1:

I have 4 show dogs in various stages of training and handling comfort levels. Now that I am actually paying attention to my dogs’ table behavior, my first observation is that NONE of them are comfortable on the table. OK, fix that first. Dog on the table = click treat until they are looking forward to the treat and not worrying about the table. My criteria is stand (NOT stack – just stand up, only toes touching the table – that is ALL!) and c/t. By itself that took about 5 minutes each.

 

Then we played ‘catch the Aussie head’ for a while . . . ANY giving of the head to the hand got c/t. Then trying to move the head with slight finger pressure caused more rounds of ‘Catch the Aussie head’. Back up, head touches hand = c/t.

 

Because I like to move things along quickly and I am a ‘Lumper’, I start messing with rear legs trying to place them. This caused rounds of ‘pull on the Aussie leg for a while’. Oh good grief. Too much, too fast and I don’t want to ‘place’ legs anyway! I forgot – old habits die hard. I do want the dog comfortable with ANY touching/handling on the table but need to concentrate on the giving of the head – the rest will follow. I have been actually training ‘table’ for a grand total of 15 minutes per dog and I want the finished product already. I am nuts.

 

 

Table Release: My release from the table is ‘Free’ and I am allowing them to jump down however is comfortable for each individual. I trust that experience will hone that skill. I want them to jump down because I believe my dogs can accomplish this much more gracefully than I can lift them down – as long as the table and landing surfaces are safe of course. These are all agility dogs who can leap from the top of the highest A-frame without regard for any contact zone! They can jump down from a table. The key here is that no jumping from the table happens unless the release is given. I can’t even count how many times the boy dog jumped off the table today and had to be put back on. No punishment, but no release to do other things either. The more difficult the struggle, the more lasting the lesson. . .

 

Day 2:

Today is the day I realized I have to catch my dogs in order to get them on the table in the first place. Small room, no leash, 1 table and any Aussie I own can run circles around me in a 6 x 10 foot area. So I stopped to decide what I want this picture to look like. I knelt down in a ladylike manner, (snort!) held my right palm thumb up, pinky down and c/t for nose touches. Nose touches palm, click and toss treat so we can do it again. As the touches became more deliberate I began tossing the treats to my left and slightly behind me so the dog could come into the touch in the position I am aiming for. This worked really well. No cue yet other than the kneeling and the open palm which are cues in their own right.

 

Observations: All 4 dogs were more comfortable on the table today than yesterday. My most clicker savvy dog who knows how to offer behaviors threw herself into a stack as soon as she realized she was getting c/t only for stand. God I love that dog!

 

The puppy realized that treats happen on the table and replaced yesterday’s frightened shaking with actual spinning circles on the table top just to prove it is fun up here! I call that success. My first goal was comfort on the table. No I don’t want spinning circles on a show table but who cares? We aren’t showing tomorrow and my first step is done in 2 short sessions. Yeah!

 

Today the boy dog only jumped off the table 1 time without permission! Another success!

 

PLAN: To avoid the struggle to get on the table tomorrow we are going to practice the ‘loading’ position in another location. A different room, outside, wherever is comfortable. I think this is going to be handy when going to the vet’s, getting into a tub, maybe loading in a vehicle also. . . Then we will just get on the table as best we can to work on head relaxation.

 

DAY #3:  Today was a total wash. I must have been giddy with the success of day 1 and 2 and pushed everything way too far, way too fast. Stick with me folks, I do this for a living! All dogs got extra treats and hugs because Mom was a Jerk! We went swimming instead of further table training today. . . .

 

DAY #4:  Today was awesome. Hand touches at the ‘loading’ position were immediate and enthusiastic. The wigglebutts were still moved out too far for me to easily reach so I lured them into the proper position – 2 x each dog and they were standing exactly where I need them to for easy pick-up. The puppy and the worry-wart of the bunch of course had to jump in my lap a couple times and knock me over backwards – NOT the graceful maneuver we are looking for! But once they figured out the correct response that behavior stopped. Plus, free puppy kisses make me smile which keeps training light and fun. If we are having fun and the dog is having fun, training happens faster and with more enthusiasm by all parties.

 

On the table: Aussie heads were willingly placed in my right hand and some sideways movement with slight finger pressure was managed. If struggle ensued then the pressure and/or movement was too much for this time and the pressure was released. Each little Aussie head then moved right back into my hand. Yes!

 

 

Since clicker training in a stationary position is approximately 80% click timing and 20% treat placement, I took advantage of both. We aren’t ready for leg placement until we have control of the head. But the edge of the table is being crowded and lots of hunching/bunching up of bodies is happening. Not something I want to encourage. So, while the heads were getting clicked for giving to the hand and sideways movement – the treats were placed under the chin to move the feet back. The dog follows the treat from his nose down and back towards his chest and his feet automatically start to move backwards. This also begins the signal I will use later for ‘back’ both on and off the table.

 

OBSERVATION: No dog has jumped off the table without permission. I have been automatically treating after the release from the table so now each dog is jumping down and immediately looking at ME to ask what is next?? Perfect show ring behavior! Isn’t it nice when a plan works??

 

NOTE:

* Approximately 5-10 minutes only per dog is being spent on this each day.

* I am working with the table facing a mirror – it helps me to stand straighter and not hover over the dog – I want the dog to be able to stand and work independently from me.

 

SUMMARY:

 

It has taken 4 days to get 4 dogs reasonably comfortable with loading, being on the table and unloading. No I do not consider this a ‘finished’ behavior. Since dogs do not generalize well, we have to practice our new skills in other locations, under different conditions and yes, even at shows. Especially at shows. What usually happens is we humans get to the ultimate destination that we were training for – forget everything we have taught our dogs, behave in a totally different manner and then expect our dogs to perform the same as they do at home. It is extremely important for the handler to maintain a behavior that looks something like normal to give the dog a clear picture of what is expected.

 

We often train with something close to mechanical repetition. With the use of a clicker and the freedom on both ends of the leash to experiment – training becomes fun and a real means of communication. It transcends the ‘language’ barrier.

 

These are the steps for any training activity/behavior.

 

Recognize that there is a problem/weakness in a behavior/activity AND exactly what that weakness is. (I wanted to train a comfortable, confident table behavior – but couldn’t even get the dogs on the table properly.)

 

Form a clear vision of what you want the behavior to look like start to finish. Write it down. It will change as you accept less or receive more behaviors and you lose the ‘picture’ as you go along. We need a reference point so we know when we have surpassed it! J

 

RECOGNIZE SUCCESS AT EVERY LEVEL. This is more difficult than you think. We humans want the finished product NOW. Each of the steps that are completed successfully on the way – IS a success – and not incidentally makes the finished behavior happen quicker.

 

The most difficult thing in the world for me to do is to STOP when there is a fairly major success or breakthrough. It is so much fun to recognize success that we want to do it over and over. Very few dogs can do this on the first success/breakthrough of any behavior. If we do stop however, on the next session the dog can usually pick up at the success point and move even further ahead and with even more enthusiasm. Stopping is worth it – but difficult.

 

 

Be a ‘splitter’, not a ‘lumper’. A goal of free stacking on a table is comprised of many, much smaller behaviors. Comfort on the table, stand, movement of the rear, movement of the front, touching the head, showing the bite. That may even be ‘lumping’. Movement of the rear: There are 2 rear legs; ultimately if only one moves that isn’t full movement of the rear. It is up to you to recognize how much your dog can manage in one session.

 

Last but definitely not least – Enjoy the ride. Your dog loves every moment spent with you. If training is a chore to you, it will be to him also. I always ask my dogs if they are ready to go PLAY??!! This causes loads of enthusiastic circling, hopping, dancing behaviors. THAT is my training goal on any given day.

 

Thanks for listening!

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Looking Back/Looking Ahead

The end of any year and beginning of the New Year is always a time for reflection, pause, hope and infinite possibility.

2011 has felt like a very disjointed, rather scattered year for those of us here on the Farm. Because life happens, most of my plans for the year ended up looking totally different from start to finish. We started the year with a flood in the house when the hot water heater exploded. We are apparently ending the year with a flood in the house from frozen ground and severe flash flood type rain – in December! What the heck? It seems like each year we say the weather is strange and different. Truly, strange and different weather seems to be the norm. I spent yesterday cleaning and mopping. I will spend today cleaning and mopping . . .

Each year we take on some project to upgrade, improve, maintain the property. In 2011 I planned to gravel the drive and parking area. That is all and I did that. We also ended up purchasing the equipment from another facility that went out of business, completely remodeling the Groom Room and Kennel Room, adding inside/outside runs to the boarding area. Essentially we completely improved and expanded the boarding portion of Chandrea Farms. One of life’s circumstances threw an opportunity our way, so we ran with it. What that really did was insure that almost half of the year was spent in the ‘construction zone’. Naturally it began to snow before the outside pens were completely done. In the spring there will still be fence panels and more gravel to install, move, struggle with. But the indoor and completed portions of the project are pretty darned awesome! The dogs are warm and comfy and everything is easier to clean and maintain. My only complaint is that the new rooms still do get dirty and do need cleaned! After all that effort, shouldn’t it stay clean? What is up with that? 😉

My mother says: ‘You remodeled the Barn and not the House?’ Yes Mom, it is true. I am comfortable with my priorities. The dogs live here, you don’t.

In other Farm Dog news:

Vogue ended in the Top 10 Mini Aussies in NAMASCUSA for 2010! That is quite an honor. She did not get to a lot of shows last year, but everywhere she went, she won. Besides that, she is a pleasure to live with and a rocking, enthusiastic performance dog. She totally naturally loves the ‘heel’ position. She is a joy to work with.

We had a monumental loss this year. My daughter’s first performance dog, Desi, passed very quickly after a very short and deadly battle with cancer. I plan on writing their story someday, when I can do it without a full box of tissue handy. Desi helped raise Andrea. She left a huge hole in our hearts.

Chase and Bree are now the ‘Seniors’ in our house. They are healthy and happy and mostly furry footwarmers and floor stumbling blocks. Bree is a little ‘fluffy’. Hmmmm. Maybe her New Years resolution should be a diet? Na – why would she want to do that?

The next Generation:

Vogue’s daughter, Kindle, has joined the family and will hopefully follow in her Momma’s pawprints. ”The Experimental Litter’ is all about that special litter.

A wonderful boy, Striker, came from my friend Sheri in Alaska to live with us. He is apparently our ‘Stud Dog of the Year’. Before I even used him, Andrea got a Striker daughter from his very first litter at Sheri’s. He is adding wonderful, true Aussie type to our lines. Yeah!

In other Dog News:

2011 saw the acceptance of our dogs into AKC/FSS as Miniature American Shepherds. The name change is political and definitely a very ‘human’ thing to do. The dogs would never have made that decision. But it is what it is and it is an exciting time in the history of our breed. We can now participate in the largest, most established and esteemed venue in the world and that is exciting. The first Mini Americans have already attended and participated in the Eukanuba Agility Invitationals. Breed history is being made.

With the advent of AKC acceptance, somehow, I ended up as Chair of the Breed Standard Committee. It is an honor to be so involved in this part of our breed history. The dedication of the Board and the Committee members is way, way above and beyond the call of duty. The amount of time and effort that has gone into gaining AKC acceptance is truly overwhelming. The Board members in particular have given up a huge portion of their personal lives to attend meetings and do the footwork/paperwork needed to make this happen. The Committee members gave up a good portion of 2011 for this project. The Board has been working on this for about 3 years. I am in awe of their dedication and grateful to have this group of amazing people to work with.

This project has also reminded me that I am better off working with the actual furry dogs. I am proud and happy to have been a part of our dog’s history. I do believe that everyone should volunteer at least some time at some point if they can and are dedicated to their breed. I have now served 2 terms on the Board and Chaired the Breed Standard committee. My hope is that in 2012 I can go back to the dogs and out of the office, so to speak. In my professional life, I worked 22 years in positions that required decorum, tact, professionalism and a wardrobe. This part of my life needs to get back to what I truly love doing – training and raising these wonderful creatures that share my life.

Having put this all in writing, no wonder I am tired and my house is a mess. It seems that once I hit 50 something, it takes me twice as long to do half as much. But I still take on twice as many projects. Maybe 2012 should include personal instruction in how to say NO! 😉

Looking Forward:

I seldom make New Year’s resolutions. They are usually too whimsical and difficult to keep and set me up for failure. I am always goal setting however. Since it is New Year’s and I am goal setting – I guess I will give New Year’s resolution/goal setting a try again. 😉

I miss writing. I don’t know that we live an extraordinary life here on the Farm with the dogs, but it is unusual. Writing about this life adventure seems to be my next metamorphosis as a person. So my goal/resolution for 2012 is to write at least once a week about life on the Farm.

I resolve to produce some of the best of the ‘new breed’, Miniature American Shepherds during the coming year. The ‘Best’ includes conformation, performance and just wonderful dogs that are a joy to live with. That is my goal.

I want to be a better friend. The past year has been so busy with the construction zone and the breed standard committee that I have inadvertently ignored or at the least delayed contact with people that I truly cherish. For that I am sorry and I promise to make the time for friends. It seems I get caught in a cycle where the people that I want to talk to the most, I actually talk to the least. I want to have an hour to visit and most days do not have that kind of time available in them. The time is there, something else needs to shift. Take the Time it Takes to lay a good foundation in training is one of my favorite mottos. My New Year’s mantra is Take the Time it Takes to Treasure my friends.

Just once I would like to have every room in my house clean and organized AT THE SAME TIME! I am not even sure if that is possible. But I would like to try . . .

This year, I want to get back to my roots and the performance arena. We started with performance, then drifted into a very fun and exciting time of conformation competition. I have missed the dedication, triumphs and tragedy that accompanies the performance world. We have a very promising young generation in Vogue and Kindle that would love to participate. That is my goal.

I want to have more patience with myself and my husband . . . Sigh . . . . 😉

Last but not least, my own personal daily goal has always been to be a better person. Each day I get an opportunity to try again. Maybe someday soon I will get it all right . . .

Happy New Year Everyone from all of us on the Farm!

Cheryl, Stan, Andrea and the Furballs!

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Winter Games/Loose Leash

Well, I took advantage of a 3 day break in the winter weather and a balmy mid 30 degree temperature average, to work these kiddo’s outside on long loose leash walks. When I started this adventure my intentions were training time. It ended up being cardio time. This is NOT a New Year’s resolution of mine! I can’t keep resolutions so I just don’t make them. Less chance of disappointment that way. On the other hand, the dryer has been regularly faulty and shrinking my jeans lately . . . once again, all things work out as they should.

Our lane is 1/4 mile. My goal with each dog is to work up to Step 3, down and back. Yes I am trying to get 2 of these dogs ready to show, but they still need a loose leash foundation before we can work on the details of a show gait.

April: She has the most experience and it showed. After very few steps she was paying attention to me and staying on the left side without crossing over. On the way back I started tossing her treats instead of handing them to her and she was catching them. When she missed I did not stop for her to get the treat off the ground, we just kept going. It did not take very many misses before she was catching every one. She showed complete understanding by popping a treat off her nose well out of reach, looked at it go, and snapped her attention right back to me for the next one. Yeah! Mission accomplished.

Envy Day 1 was WILD!! This beautiful little girl is 1 year old and lives with a friend who has had her for only a few months. She is here because I love my friend! Her Loose Leash explanation started at Ground Zero. She is a dedicated puller with little awareness of right/left/in front/behind. Going down the lane the first time she wrapped me up like a Maypole 3x. And yes, I let her do it. The consequence was that she had to figure out how to UNWRAP the Maypole before any fun forward motion could happen. ‘Crap’! says the puppy! Dogs do learn in 3’s by the way. This must be the some thousandth time that I have counted 3 booboo’s on the way to success. This first trip down the lane took a very long time also because I kept stopping and turning around each and every single time the leash got tight. Until she finally stopped and looked at me as if to say ‘Hey – make up your mind! Which way are we going?’ And that got treated big time. That was recognition that there was someone else on the end of the leash. On the way back she got lots of treats for being in the sweet spot on the left within reach.

Deja Day 1: Was WILD! Her issue is the opposite. She does not pull, she CROWDS! She can wrap her entire body in a circle around my left leg. We are constantly tripping over each other. And swearing. Well, I swear. She doggy laughs. She also is not incredibly food motivated. And yes I have done my homework in that regard. For 6 months she has worked for her kibble, eat it now or go without, etc, etc. She just isn’t. What she loves is loves, praise. And her Wubba. And me. So down the lane we go with me being very silent and basically MARCHING along with lifted legs (hence the cardio workout!), and whenever we get a few steps all together in a straight line without bumping into each other – we stop and have a small party. I tried handing her a treat a couple times. This did not work until about half way down the lane, then she finally took a treat. Yeah! So then it was alternate MARCH, party, MARCH, treat, etc. On the way back she was taking treats so I placed them in a manner that pointed her body slightly away from mine. With this dog, repetition and consistency is KEY!

Envy Day 2: Started out like Day 1 for only a few yards – then she noticed me and was rewarded heavily for that. She got the fun walk today. In case you are thinking we are out in the country with no distractions – HA! Think again! Turkeys, coyote tracks, grouse, deer, moose, other dogs, you name it. We never know what adventure is waiting in the woods on any given day. Today we walked up on 2 scary young men on snowshoes. That was awesome! The snowshoes were big and made the snow crunch. The men were loud and noisy and we walked behind them, in front of them, towards them, away from them and said Hi and got treats from them. All with clever manuevering that caused the leash to remain loose. I set her up so she could succeed in this situation without me tugging on her. Her treats were a reward, not a bribe. I gave her time to choose to ignore them and pay attention to me. She also got clicked and rewarded for looking at them without concern. This walk was awesome! And long!

Deja Day 2: The nice young men with the snowshoes were gone. Bummer. But our walk went better. She took treats sooner and we did not bump into each other as much. Good thing too. She is fine but my shins are bruised!

Envy Day 3: Today is getting colder. The beautiful fluffy snow melted some and turned to ice. UGH! Anywhere there are tire tracks it is pretty much a skating rink also. It is a great day for a practical application of loose leash walking. If the dogs were pulling me around on a tight leash I would be on my arse in a heartbeat. I can do that all on my own without any help from the canine clan. So, Envy and I headed down the lane working the leash in a different manner. Today I let the leash slide along on the ground around her feet. If you have ever had horses you know that this is part of ground work with a colt. The initial panic of feeling things around their legs can cause horses to injure themselves horribly. The panic that dogs can feel when a rope or leash wraps around their legs can be much the same. So off we went with the leash tangling around her feet and legs and I gave her time and the chance to learn how to untangle and keep it untangled herself. I consider that even though I bought the entire leash, I only own the 8″ handle portion. It is up to the dog to own and manage the rest of the leash. There really were a couple of small moments of panic until she realized she could control her own feet enough to stop the tangling. With this type of foundation training, my goal is to help the dog realize they do have control of the situation. The second part is to set them up so the choice they make in the situation – is the one I want. It is a balance of making sure they succeed enough to keep trying, and fail enough to try harder. At any rate, by the time we headed back towards the house, I was able to change my speed faster and slower and she still managed her end of the leash just fine! Mission accomplished.

Deja Day 3: Since I took Envy on the ice and I just did not feel like going through that adventure again, Deja and I took off through the snow covered field. Not sure that was a great idea, but it worked. I slogged through the 10 inches of ice crusted snow while Deja bounced, tangled, untangled, bounced and generally had a blast. It really went pretty well for a self induced cardio workout until on the way back. We had a major tangle involving both of us, lots of flying snow and somehow I ended up in the snow angel position with a large, furry, extremely happy girl on top of me. I may never need to wash my face again! I laughed so hard I actually thought I was not going to be able to get up again. I love dogs!

Tomorrow is a day off. For the dogs. I get to see friends and puzzle puppies! Our weather is supposed to head back into the teen and zero range again so next week will be Indoor Winter Games.

Enjoy!

Cheryl 🙂

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Let the Winter Games Begin!

OK, I have promised this for a while now. Winter is here to stay for at least another 2 months + in our area. After the Holidays the dogs and people start getting cabin fever and going stir crazy and just plain WILD! It is time for the Winter Training Games to begin.

My plan was to start on Monday with winter training. Which I did. Then on Tuesday we had technical difficulties involving a hot water tank eruption and subsequent extinction. Life gets in the way of my best laid plans once again. Sigh . . .  But, all time is training time – even when it is not actually hands on. So, the 4 dogs that I am going to be working with got their schedule rearranged. They were separated from all other dogs by location (fence, in the house at separate times, crates, etc.). Then they were taken on potty walks in the freezing blasted snow (my complaint – not theirs), on leash and separately. Tomorrow when the Games begin – they will be totally ready to focus on ME again.

All 4 dogs have varying degrees of LACK of leash training. All 4 will definitely be in a show ring at some point, 2 of them THIS month. All 4 may be obedience dogs someday – 2 definitely will. 2 of them were raised their first 6 months by someone else, 1 is almost 3 years old with very little leash time and the puppy – is my own little leash neglected boy, 4 months old. One advantage of being a Farm dog is that we have little need for leashes and I pattern the puppies to stay with people at all times, creating even less need for leashes. The down side is that when it is time for that little string to be attached – it is a totally foreign object. Most never care. This one screamed. Oh good grief. Big fat baby. You would have thought I was murdering him.

The way I see it there are several objectives when handling a leash:

  1. First and always, Loose Leash. That is the ONLY criteria.
  2. Left side Loose Leash walking. The criteria is that the dog does not cross in front or behind handler and the leash stays loose. That is all.
  3. Close. Left side, Loose Leash, any gait. Not a specific position, but within reach. Great for walking in crowded areas.
  4. Show Gait. Left side, slightly ahead and at an easy, complimenting trot with straight ahead movement.
  5. Heel. Very specific left side, dog’s right shoulder blade in line with handler pant seam.
  6. And then – repeat on the RIGHT side.

Tomorrow we shall see where each of these dogs land. Considering their respective lack of experience and the fact that it has already been a longggggg winter, my guess is that we will begin at the beginning. . . . Gah!!

Today I am actually grateful that the Holidays are over (even though the food and company were tremendous!), so we can start on our winter games!

Enjoy!

Cheryl 🙂

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2010 Revisited

Depending on the circumstances, time flies, crawls, is full of sharp pain, heals pain. Each year is chocked full of the events that comprise life.

The Farm dogs year:                                                                                                                     The Triumphs:                                                                                                                           Vogue goes BEST OF BREED at NATIONALS!! Amazing, stunning, WOW, and all attending adjectives.

Chase IS an obedient dog! HIGH IN TRIAL Rally at NATIONALS!! At 7 years old he proved that re-training IS a real possibility. His motivation/drive was lacking and after a year of re-building that skill, he rocked competition. His first agility weekend out, he qualified in 14 of 16 runs! In this case, re-training was definitely worth the effort.

April came to live with us and produced a beautiful litter of puppies. One in particular that is staying on the Farm. . . .

Deja came to live with us and shows all the promise of her excellent heritage.

Several people with Chandrea puppies have become extended family. THIS is why I raise dogs.

Vogue goes BEST OF BREED at NATIONALS!! Amazing, stunning, WOW, and all attending adjectives. Did I already mention this? 😉

The Tragedies:                                                                                                                                My first ‘Mini’ girl, Bree, had to be spayed at a fairly young age, due to basically – just being a really bad Mom! Not everyone should be a Mom I guess. She is happy being a Princess and lap warmer. And she gave me Vogue . . .

A very promising and long awaited youngster did not pass health clearances. That is why we do them. The hopes and dreams, not to mention time, effort and actual cost, that good breeders put into young dogs is GREAT. When this unlimited promise does not work out, it wrenches the heart. And this proves that genetic testing is imperative. In order to produce healthy offspring, the parents must first be healthy. Those that say something like ‘I don’t need to test – it isn’t in my lines’ – are only fooling themselves. Probably, they are just guessing because they admittedly have not checked.

All in all, it was a great Farm Dog year!

On a Personal Note:                                                                                                                         

  I learned that the term ‘Adult Child’ is a very loose term. In August I moved my daughter and all her belongings, complete with U-Haul, half way across the country. We did this to help her on her way to starting her grown-up, independent life. In December, I moved her back home. Now don’t get me wrong – I am happy to have her. But, that was a lot of expense and effort for 4 short months . . . Adult Child, Hmmmmm.

I learned that great friends can result from unfavorable circumstances.

It is possible to forgive great wrongs. Time does heal . . .

I turned 50. How exactly did that happen?

I really CAN complete a full project!

Zen is a worthy goal.

Saying ‘I am sorry’ and meaning it – feels good. I am not always right. Saying ‘I am mad at you for good reason’ and meaning it – also feels good. I don’t have to take abuse. Knowing which is appropriate, is wisdom.

When the power goes out in a snow storm – it REALLY sucks! When I was younger, power outages were an adventure. Not any more. I will take electricity please!

The people in my life are more important than time. It is time to make time for the people.

‘One day at a time’ applies to being a better person.

If your hot water heater has a small leak – fix it now! Don’t wait for the flood!

My first home bred, home raised Champion, Vogue, took BEST OF BREED at Nationals! Did I mention that??

Happy New Year Everyone!

Cheryl 🙂

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Nature vs. Nurture

This is a topic that I have been contemplating all summer long. The question really is, which came first – the chicken or the egg??

I had an opportunity this summer to have two dogs that came from the exact same location and exact same breeding/litter – at different times. There were some very interesting and entertaining similarities.

Both puppies had a difficult time learning how to eat properly. In my world, proper eating is very simple no matter what the age of the dog/puppy. The food gets put down, eat it or don’t, and by the time I have gone through all the dogs and am picking up bowls again, the dish is picked up regardless. See earlier posts for my observations on food and boarding dogs. Experience tells me this behavior is ‘nurture’. Dogs naturally eat when food is available – we humans make them picky.

Walking with people. Both puppies had zero respect for ‘people space’ and bounced from side to side on leash without regard for location or the tripping factor and zinged to the end of any leash in a heartbeat. Again, experience tells me this behavior is ‘nurture’ and most likely the use of Flexi’s when walking. Damn I hate those things. Get rid of them, outlaw them, throw them in the garbage. They only teach dogs bad habits and I can totally tell when a dog has been raised on a Flexi. Anyway, an arguement could be made that this lack of people space and respect is nature if both dogs were by nature, pushy little monsters. Which they are. But the body direction that I am talking about is with and beside me rather than towards me.

The Nature part of this pushiness is the running towards and into me and other dogs. Both of these puppies had to learn from me and from the other dogs that smashing towards and into me/them, was RUDE! I used treats tossed on the ground around me to stop the smashing into, before it happened. I let Desi teach them doggy manners! Having an older dog that is a Grandma figure that can discipline with fairness and in a language the pushy puppies understand – priceless! That is nurture of the most effective type.

Puppy A was naturally more graceful than Puppy B. Puppy B trips over her own feet, still does not realize that she has 4 of them! And for the most part, doesn’t care. Puppy A has a natural grace and athleticism that leaks out of her pores and flows down to her little feet and rocks any activity that she does. Definitely Nature.

This observation makes me smile every time I think about it. When I cleaned her outside kennel, Puppy A would RUN up and down the hill beside the kennel and around and around, while I was inside the kennel cleaning. It made me laugh out loud as it was so obviously a game. HaHa – you are in and I am out! She totally made this game up on her own. And now – Puppy B is doing the EXACT SAME THING!!! It gets even more interesting because that kennel is a stand alone and has been in that location and used by each of my dogs at different times for several years. No other dog that I have ever had in there, has offered that specific behavior. So I would definitely say Nature. What would the Nature category be??? Maybe creative thinking?? Observing dogs is a blast.

Now let’s take puppies as our next example. Any given litter can generally be divided into those that are brave and obnoxious, those that are hesitant and cuddly, and those that are somewhere in between. That is Nature. Now, take one of those brave and obnoxious puppies and put it in the hands of someone who uses punishment as a training tool – and suddenly the puppy is shy and fearful. That IS Nurture for the sake of this discussion. Take the hesitant, cuddly puppy and cuddle, even coddle it more – telling it that ‘yes, the world really IS a scary place’ – and that is Nurture. I would argue that the results of both methods of handling are just as disasterous for each respective dog.

This is one of those convoluted subjects that can and does have us each chasing our proverbial tail. My point is that Nature definitely has a hand in what our dogs are. Nurture is what we do that creates the dog they become – both the good AND the bad. With the exception of extreme emotional or physical limitations, our dogs have the ability to become braver, more mannerly, more athletic or more patient, depending on our ability to show them the way. I think my next point is that it is an injustice to the ‘shy’ dog to keep them isolated because they are afraid. It is also an injustice to the ‘pushy’ dog to let them continue to be pushy because that is just the way he is; or he/she is just so happy to see people; or he/she just can’t help it; or he/she is just a puppy. That makes because/why an excuse to not train. At the least, we must adjust our expectations of that dog, to encourage bravery, or to encourage patience, or to at least address whatever the issue is. Too many dogs lose their homes because their people cannot or will not address the real issues and excuse training issues as something hidden in the ‘Nature’ of the dog.

My last point is about living in this world of multiple dogs. I have learned to enjoy the differences in each and every dog that shares my life. They do NOT have to be created or treated equally in order to be happy and well adjusted. It would be boring for them and us if they were. For example, just because Bree and Vogue LOVE showing off in a show ring, does not mean that Chase has to show also. I really, really want Deja to do agility – but she is clumsy Puppy B – so maybe she won’t. I am giving her the opportunity with exercises that improve footwork, such as caveletti’s, but she is not a Natural as her sister, Puppy A – is. Deja is however showing a great apptitude for obedience work. So I will allow that skill to blossom and be happy with her as an individual.

I could seriously write a book on just this topic alone, complete with examples. For now, my last point is to enjoy the dog in front of you and if you see a behavior or attitude you don’t like, work on improving that behavior, with your dog. Nurture success and success happens! Sometimes in unique and surprising ways. Love the dog in front of you.

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