Friday, July 17, 2009

We're Moving!

Today we went over to look at the house that we are planning on moving to at the end of this month. We were told by our landlord of 4 years that she was selling the house, and we needed to find somewhere to live. This is not an easy task with 4 dogs, all over 30 pounds (well Tori is soaking wet) which is a common limit for rental properties, who generally only take two dogs. We have had people laugh and hang up when we tell them we have 4 dogs...others just hang up. One lady told Jason "That's not a family of dogs, that's a kennel!" Really. When's the last time you went to a kennel? Small kennels have around 10 dogs, and regardless of numbers, the dogs are kept in kennel runs - hence the name. My "kennel" sleeps on and under the bed, and sits behind my computer desk, and gets told to get out of the kitchen at least 4 times a day.

This rental property service does not charge pet deposits. This is wonderful news, as we are very poor, and we really need a company that loves dogs and understands our needs. We had been told the yard was huge, but it is really HUUUUUUGE, favorite part....includes a tennis court. When I told Jason how excited I was about the tennis court (which is covered in weeds and small trees, and hasn't been maintenanced in years) he said "Why, it wouldn't even bounce a ball in there"..."not to play tennis! I hate tennis. For training, silly!" I can't believe he thought I wanted to play tennis. Anyway, there is enough space in there to set up some agility equipment, if I ever get brave enough to weed wack the place.

So I am actually including pictures, for the first time, that I took today while the dogs were in the backyard playing. While I'm sure they will have incredible adventures in the new backyard, we will all miss this shady haven and the cool rock firepit/grill which we not only use for cooking, but as you can see, the dogs use as a playground. Enjoy :)

Shadow and Layla hunting squirrels

Pirate remembering all those tasty hamburgers we cooked here.
Tori will probably love having a place in the country, neighborhoods are too hectic!
Layla will miss having this grill to her advantage in her squirrel hunts!

I'll include some pictures of the new place once we move in!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Finally, something to blog about!

So, I haven't been doing much training, and while I did go to Dog Scout Camp, that just seemed much too wordy to blog about...and I was way too tired when I got home, and apparently for weeks afterward...anyway, it's got to say something about me that I finally found something to get jazzed up about enough to get my lazy ass over here to post something. I know, you're thinking, what could be more exciting than Dog Scout Camp, where Tori jumped twice her height in the high jumping competition (known as the Puissance Jump) to be the first dog to earn the newly created badge....or where Pirate learned to jump off the end of the dock....where I got to spend two whole weeks thinking about nothing other than dogs?!? Well, something is more exciting than, when I fed the dogs breakfast, Tori delivered me not one, but all four of the dogs' bowls to my hand.

A little backstory....for some reason I am totally obsessed with the idea of having a dog that will bring you the dog dishes. This may be because of my inherent laziness, and hating having to crawl in the back of crates to grab the bowls....or the Chesapeake Bay Retriever I used to take care of that brought me her bowl....but, whatever the reason, I've always dreamed of owning a dog who did that. Well, the Chessie did it because of her natural love to retrieve, and her love of food, and in her mind bringing me the food bowl just sped up the whole process of eating, so why not? Pirate loves to retrieve, but he does not love to that's right out. Shadow loves to eat, but does not love to retrieve, sigh. Layla will have none of that nonsense....but, I thought, Tori had promise. I clicker trained her to retrieve a bowl to my hand, and she was doing pretty well, but has not refined the skill (she's just learning that having her paw in the bowl is counterproductive to picking it up). I haven't worked on the behavior for quite a while (since camp back in May), and wasn't really expecting her to do it.

I went to feed the dogs this morning, and Layla was doing her typical "she finally understood what all my whining was about" dance, and just trying to see how wound up I could get her (great for training, I know...) I was encouraging her to grab her bowl, thinking she might just be desparate enough for food that she'd consider it. Tori was sitting in her crate waiting for her food, and she suddenly said to herself "Damn it! I know how to pick up a bowl" and in her typical Hermione attitude, decided to show Layla how it's done. OK, so the first one was kind of rough, but it was a bigger bowl than she'd worked with, so I praised her for putting it in her mouth, even though she was still standing on the other edge. I then encouraged her to get all the other bowls, and she picked each of them up and gave them to me. I was so excited....this was actually worth sharing with you...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hey, I wanna drive...I'm alright if you're alright

Tori and I had a great lesson out at Val's today. After our performance at the trial, we have taken things back a few steps and are really working on control. I am making Tori listen the first time I say it, and if she doesn't do it the way that I want, I chase her back and make her do it again. It's really hard for me, as an avid positive dog trainer, to be so hard on her. However, I've found that if I really get on to her once for doing something I don't like, but make it very clear what I do like, I don't have to do it again. My constant nagging at her, but not following through with any kind of correction, was what was making her so crazy. Now that the rules are very clear, she is really settling down. Val suggested that I develop what I call the "bad mama" look, which I give her right before I go chase her down. That way, she can correct her own behavior before I have to when I give her the look. This is working pretty well, and I can often just glance back at her and she will slow down.

We worked on driving a bit today toward the end, and it went much better than I would have thought! We are just having her push the sheep past us a short ways, so that she is not tempted to flank around and catch them if they move further away. She is confused, but working with us, and trying to figure out what it is we want.

Val keeps asking me "Are you feeling better about this?", to which my only answer it "Of course, my dog is actually listening to me!"

If you haven't heard Drive by Dispatch (where my title comes from), I'd recommend it. I plan on making a video of Tori driving with that as the background someday...unfortunately YouTube would probably just strip it off.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'll take two Advil and an icepack....

Well, things didn't go well but I did have a great time at the herding trial. I have determined that we pushed Tori too far too fast, and she has picked up some pretty bad habits because she's figured out that I can't "get" her. The first day she got through most of the course (it wasn't pretty, but we were there), and then coming out of the cross-drive the sheep darted for the draw, Tori couldn't cover them, so she got all worked up and split sheep everywhere and we ended up getting the big "Thank You" for gripping. I was thankful that she does have a good "That'll do" and I was easily able to call her off the sheep while the stock handlers let the sheep back in the pen.

The second day, we had the most awesome judge, Tracy Miller from South Dakota. I knew of Tracy through the email lists, and she turned out to be SO awesome! Even though things kinda went to hell with my run, starting with Tori overflanking, to her gripping at the Z-chute, and ended with me on my backside after tripping over a sheep (which actually had nothing to do with Tori), Tracy had really nice comments about Tori. She said we just need to work on control, but Tori had the heart and intensity to always keep trying. She guessed correctly that Tori was a fun dog to live with, always making me laugh and doing silly things. I bruised my tail bone pretty badly, and will probably end up going to the doctor to make sure nothing is really hurt. I told everyone that I saw the sheep plotting this after Tori ran them through the was like the prank where someone kneels down behind you and someone else pushes you over.

The coolest thing about the herding trial was that I still had a great time, even though my dog was clearly not ready to be trialing. My friend Casey won 1st and 2nd place in Started, and Reserve High in Trial on Saturady, and then pulled off 1st and 3rd in Started with her 1st place dog Jade (the rockstar) going High in Trial with a 97/100! See the High in Trial winning run on YouTube: We had Casey over on Saturday night for beer, awesome bratwursts, and a long night of talking about dogs and whatever else came up. We were both a little blurry eyed Sunday morning! Luckily there were donuts, and breakfast burritos for a little morning pick me up.

Shortly after we got home, our new roommates started to move in. They have two dogs, bringing the total to 6. More on that later....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"I'll meet you behind the barn with two buckets of grain after the trial..."

OK, so it's been forever since I posted, because I didn't think anyone was reading...but I was informed by Ellie that this was incorrect, and so I am going to get my act together and actually post something here now and again.

It's 9am and I have a herding trial to go to today...but thanks to Mother Nature, the trial was pushed back to 12pm, so I got a wonderful opportunity to sleep in. Tori and I will be competing in Started A Course, more about that after the trial, mostly because I have no clue how she will do.

My plan is to ignore my dog as much as possible and focus on the sheep, and just. keep. walking. I've been contemplating how I could bribe the sheep to just stay with me no matter what that black and white blur is doing out there. I know where their feed shed is and they know it (I just spent a week taking care of them while Val was in Cancun!) "If you guys just stick with me, I'll meet you behind the barn with two buckets of grain after the trial...yes, I know the black and white thing is nuts, just ignore her"

We are having a barbecue tonight, hopefully with lots of friends, lots of dogs, lots of food and lots of can always ease the pain....

Monday, February 2, 2009

Herding lesson

Tori and I had a herding lesson at Val's on Saturday. In town, a beautiful day was evolving, evident by the fact that I left the house with my hair down, wearing a light jacket. Thankfully, when I got dressed that morning, I thought it was going to be cold, so I was layered up; and despite the gentle breeze outside my lovely city abode, I remembered to bring a hat. My herding instructor lives approximately 10 miles from the Colorado-Wyoming border, and it is plagued with my least favorite form of weather...wind. As I drove the 30 minute drive north, I started to recognize that it might not be so beautiful at the aptly named Rancho Terra Norte ("The North Ground").

Val laughed when I asked if we should reschedule as what felt like 60 mph winds roared around us. She reminded me that since Tori would barely be able to hear me, that yelling "Lie Down!" repeatedly wasn't going to get me very far, so I had to get after her the first time I say it. We were working on outruns for AKC Started A Course, which I realized are really pretty basic, but difficult because a.) the stock are often not where they should be (big surprise) and b.) there is barely enough room to get a perfect lift on this course even if your dog is able to press itself to the fence and be very very sneaky - a powerful dog needs more room to get to the top than the A course allows. Because we didn't have a set out dog, we really worked on pulling sheep off the gate of their pen, and trying to get them to the fetch line. Tori still has a big tendency to cut in at the top of her outrun, and I am *slowly* learning how to position myself to keep that from happening. She had a couple of pretty nice outruns, which were a bit sloppy at first, but saved by the fact that she listened to my "Lie Down" at the top. We also worked on walking behind the sheep in a straight line, not dashing back and forth as if the 3 sheep were going to suddenly break rank and flee in all directions. Not exactly a natural tendency of sheep, especially those who have been worked by dogs. We are getting some nice straight lines with the sheep behind me (although not very far)

After her lesson we went to the [grooming] shop, to visit Jason and give Tori a bath. She hates getting groomed, but I gave her the works...I did just stand in raging wind for an hour so she could play with sheep :P

Monday, January 26, 2009

This is the start of it....

I actually started a blog. I haven't had a blog since I was an angsty teenager trying to keep up with the Jones's, or whatever equivalent teenagers try to keep up with. I have been fairly anti-blog since then, it just seemed kind of weird keeping a public diary, but here I am.

Let's start by saying this is the dogs' fault. Everything is these days. It's why I eat crappy food, barely pay the bills, and have about 10 times more dog hair on everything I own than the average human being. It's their fault I started reading the 20 or so Yahoo! groups I follow, one of which is where I heard that blogs are supposed to be a good way to keep a training log. It is also their fault that I started reading other people's training blogs. I guess the only thing I am going to own up to is succumbing to the peer pressure and starting a blog of my own.

So, a little about me...I'm a 22 year old college student, making my way toward a Bachelor's degree in Biology with a minor in Biomedical Sciences. After that I want to go to vet school to become a veterinary behaviorist, another thing I am blaming on the dogs. Animal behavior, dogs in particular, is a passion of mine. I am a scientist at heart, and I train my dogs using principles based in science, aka clicker training. I have a boyfriend of 4 years, Jason, who I plan to marry once we both grow up, and he too is obsessed with dogs. Between the two of us we have 4 dogs, and more dog hair on our clothes than one would expect from our household. This is probably because both of work at a grooming shop, a job I've held since the business opened 3 years ago. I am a Border Collie breeder, with the assistance of my mom and litter sister, and we have bred 3 litters in the past 5 years. I compete and/or train in obedience, rally, conformation, herding, disc dog, tracking, lure coursing, agility, and pretty much anything else the dogs drag me into.

I'll introduce the dog's briefly, but as one might guess, this is going to be a blog about them, so as time goes on anyone who might read this will get to know them quite well...

The oldest of the household is Shadow, a 10 year old Border Collie, who also holds the position of goofiest dog in the house. Shadow is currently experiencing a second puppyhood, which involves tearing around the house at breakneck speeds, woofing, grabbing toys, and just generally being silly at least once a day. He is a total attention whore, and has always preferred people over dogs.

Next is Pirate, a 4 (almost 5) year old Border Collie, from my first litter of Border Collies. He is a fetchaholic, and can almost always be found with a toy in his mouth or on the chair next to you waiting to be thrown. He isn't the brightest Border Collie around, but he has amazing athletic ability and a sweet personality. He is also my conformation dog, a sport as controversial in Border Collies as global warming.

Then comes the Queen (aka Queen Bitch), Jason's 3 (almost 4) year old Rhodesian Ridgeback Layla. She runs the roost, and keeps the silly Border Collie antics to a minimum. If you asked her what her favorite things were she would say her Daddy, and prey animals. She's a couch potato in the house, and a crazy running fool on the lure coursing field. She also shows in conformation, and is almost finished depsite the judge's inability to read the size section of the breed standard.

The baby of the family is Tori, another Border Collie from our second litter, only two months younger than Layla, but so deadly cute that you'd swear she was still a puppy. Tori is my heart dog, and a perfect example of the dog gods giving you the dog you need instead of the dog you want. She has "issues" with the way the world works, and is quite convinced that it's her job to control the entire world. She loves herding sheep, chasing Frisbees, and snuggling up on the couch.

Stay tuned to hear about our adventures!