26 February, 2011


Well not much going on around here lately. School is taking up a LOT of my time and I should not even be writing this now... so I will make it brief :)

Last weekend I took Lucy down south to her first sheepdog trial back since pregnancy. She did a good job, we had a little trouble syncing up to get good lines. I knew I was in trouble on the sheep side when she checked her sheep on a decently wide outrun at about 9 o'clock and broke way wide and deep. Squirrelly sheep alert! She was right, we had 4 white high-headed ewes who were about done for the day. They were nice and honest sheep, just difficult to line out. Between that and running in high winds it was interesting. 0-1-2-17 (oops)-1-10 (timed out trying to shed).

I came away with a great sense of peace that day. Spending a day in the sun (and frigid wind - brrr!) with good people, sheep and dogs was just what I needed. Bring on the vitamin D!

Rye had a great time at the trial, which you can read about at his blog: The Rye Way

Yesterday I took Lucy and Rye down to Fido's. It was cold, in the 20's. (Yes, for HERE that's cold!) There was a blanket of snow on the ground but most of the roads were in good shape unlike to the north and east of here.

Lucy looked good on sheep, but we have lost some ground on shedding cleanly while she was off work. She clearly knows the job and is keen to come in, but wants to stop short on the correct group rather than flanking through the gap when asked. We did a little work on that, and will do a LOT more later, going back to the "X" shedding exercise for a while to clean things up. The good news is, I identified a problem and actually know how to fix it?

We had a nice time working sheep, chatting and then Rye got to play with a new puppy friend named Bea. They had a wonderful time!

Ok, that's it. I'm back to writing a paper now (and letting Rye in and out).
Thanks for reading.

13 February, 2011


We are down to just one pup, Rye. I am starting to get very attached to him and he showed a bit of special loyalty himself today. He was loose in the house with my husband and the big dogs. Toys, cats, etc everywhere. I went into the bedroom to take a shower (bath off the master). There is a baby gate across the bedroom door. Rye got tired, so he went right up to that gate and curled up in a little ball, sleeping smashed up against the baby gate on the hard floor. He would rather be there than on the soft dog bed.

To get down to 1 pup, that means Sagan went home with Ross and Leanna on Tuesday.

Rave went home with new mom Diana on Friday.

Reba went to Diane's on Saturday

and got to meet Auntie Janet who will run her in Novice

The house is blissfully peaceful. I do not really miss the pups being at the house. They all got such wonderful homes it is easy to let them go. Plus it gives me special time to bond with Rye, which is treasured.

Oh, and the less-poop thing is AWESOME.

12 February, 2011

The Perfect Memento

Some of you may remember this summer Lucy and I had our first Open win together. It was a major accomplishment and I don't think I will ever forget that run. Especially the shed was so amazing! It was also the first time we won enough money to do something special!

The special thing I decided to do with our winnings was to order a custom shepherd's crook from George MacDonald of The Shepherd's Crook and Ewesful Acres.

George is a well-respected stickmaker and I have yet to own a proper crook. He works on carving sticks during the winter months, and I was so excited to get the email that my crook was ready - and he sent photos!

MY new stick!

Yes, I am that excited about a stick.

Thank you, George. I am looking forward to picking up this treasure very soon - and it will always serve to remind me of Lucy and I, our partnership, and our first Open win together. I hope it was not our last!

11 February, 2011

Raising puppies: Looking back

I feel tired today. In looking back at the last 8 weeks, I am starting to understand why! I take puppy raising very seriously. I have no way of knowing if what I do with these pups helps them get a better start in life, but at least I feel like I've done all I can.

Here is a basic summary of some of the things we did with the pups as they grew up, all in one place. I wrote this as a response to a post on our SVBT behavior question forum from someone who was asked to give a presentation to breeders.


1) The first 2 weeks: passive exposure and early neural stimulation. Here is an example: http://ahimsadogtraining.com/handouts/ea...ion_en.pdf

The puppies should be handled, gently, daily, and on all parts of their bodies until their eyes and ears open. Care should be taken to keep the puppies safe from disease, as puppies are not able to mount things like a fever response until 3 weeks of age, so a limitation on the numbers of people who handle them is key.

During the entirety of puppyhood, keep pups around normal household sounds like the TV, pots and pans, dishwasher, vacuum, etc. They should be protected enough that they can feel safe if they get alarmed, but exposed enough that they are habituated to these experiences by the time they go to new homes. I also bathe the pups and clip nails once a week.

2) Week 3 - 8: Active socialization.

Week 3: Real walking and attempts at play begin, usually starting with mouth-mouth biting. Since the puppies are now old enough to mount a fever response if they were exposed to something by accident, careful socialization with strangers is now permitted. I suggest exposure to walking practice on a variety of surfaces, temperatures, etc. Daily handling is still very important, but strangers may participate in handling as well. At our house, we have weekly "puppy potlucks" starting at age 3 weeks. We have 10-12 visitors come over and each bring something fun to do with the puppies involving sight, touch, smell, sound or taste.

Puppies should be handled and kept under threshold. Puppies who seem afraid or upset should not be handled "through" this - the handling should be decreased in intensity but increased in frequency to help the pups be successful. Flooding at this age can have lifelong consequences.

The puppies can also start introduction to solid food this week and it is a good opportunity to introduce hand feeding. I feed 3 meals a day (30 minutes each) starting at 21 days of age and continuing until the puppies leave.

Weather permitting, I have the pups start spending time outdoors for supervised play on week 3.

Week 4: Play begins in earnest. The pups should be given opportunities to play with adult dogs that are GOOD WITH PUPPIES if possible. By good with puppies, I mean the dogs are gentle and tolerate, but engaging and will stop play if it gets too rough. Play with toys should be encouraged. I also introduce potty pads at this age and begin gently placing the pups on the pad when I suspect they will eliminate. Continued hand feeding and begin luring into a sit is a great thing to start.

Puppy potluck: I have each person spend time tugging with and/or hand feeding a puppy so the puppies learn to play with a variety of different people (with different skill levels) and get classical conditioning as well to the presence of strangers.

A balance board can be introduced now so the puppies can learn to manipulate moving surfaces. This may help with future experiences in sports like agility, or with things like learning stairs, traveling in elevators, etc.

Week 5: The week of OUCH. This is the week puppies usually start using their teeth pretty hard, but they are a little young yet to learn inhibition with people. Learning inhibition with other dogs seemed to start at this age with all the litters I have raised previously (all medium size herding breeds. Smaller dogs and neotenous breeds develop more slowly).

Continue allowing play with household dogs who are good with puppies. Still no strange dogs allowed due to disease risks. Continue luring into the sit. I introduce the clicker just to charge it this week.

Collars: I introduce wearing collars under supervision this week and continue until the pups go home. I do not leave collars on unsupervised pups.

Puppy potluck topics: Brushing, gentle restraint and active tugging. Remind puppy potluck goers that the puppies are very bitey right now and they MUST always use a toy during play. I also start doing gentle restraint (body hugs like for a cephalic catheter, gently holding on my lap on their side like for an ortho exam, sitting with head held gently like for a jugular blood draw) and demonstrate it for the puppy potluck people if they are interested. Once the puppies are getting sleepy, we practice this type of handling. If the pups struggle, we hold them gently and talk softly to them. Usually in a few seconds they stop and then we release the hold. Because our puppy potlucks were so big with this litter, I did most of the brushing and restraint myself rather than in a group to make it easier/less chaotic on the pups.

If the pups are worried about restraint, counter conditioning should be used - this should now be EASY since the puppies are already accustomed to being hand fed by a variety of people.

WEEK 6: Bite inhibition learning continues with other dogs, and begins with people. At this age I begin giving feedback to the puppies (cease play and say "ouch") when they bite hard. Every few days, I respond to softer and softer bites. This allows the pups to learn what hurts and cases play to stop, and what level of contact is allowed. Dr. Ian Dunbar has a nice protocol published for this - I just start younger since I have the opportunity.

The adult dogs may begin correcting the puppies with snaps, muzzle grasps, growling, etc for hard biting. This is normal and should be permitted as long as the adult dogs do not scare the puppies too much nor injure them.

Puppy potluck: Same as last week, but introduce hand targeting and sit cue during the luring exercise while people are doing hand feeding if the puppies are hungry. This was foiled for my litter this year because the pups weren't that interested in food on the week 6 potluck.

I also have the mother dog sleep separately from the puppies starting this week (in a different room).

WEEK 7: Housetraining begins. I take the puppies out every 30 minutes when they are awake, and separate them into individual crates to sleep at night. This is NOT FUN but I believe it is exceptionally useful. This allows the stress of being separated from littermates to be experienced in small doses in a familiar environment before the puppies go to their new homes (another major stressor during puppyhood).

Learning to sleep separately for a week or 10 days before going to a new home I think makes it easier for the pups and easier for the new owner, as a familiar routine is already in place. Fewer things being changed when the transition to a new home occurs, the better as far as I am concerned.

I make it a point to take the pups on several car rides this week as well, and they usually have their CERF and vet exam this week. Take plenty of treats and favorite toys along for the vet visits and spend some time playing in the exam room before and after. The vet staff will usually be happy to help Smile

WEEK 8: Puppies can begin going home. You will be sending home puppies who know how to play with puppies, adult dogs, toys, a variety of people, are comfortable around all sorts of noises, surfaces, smells, sights. They know what the clicker is, how to follow a lure, take treats, how to do hand targeting and are learning how to inhibit their bite with people and other dogs. They know how to wear a collar, ride in the car and visit new places. They can sleep in their crates and have a very elementary introduction to house training.

I think these skills help puppies and their owners stay happier together and bond more quickly with less stress on both ends of the leash. I have done this for 6 litters in a variety of formats over the years with excellent success.

09 February, 2011

Heart trouble

So I have this trouble with my heart. It aches and stabs. The ache is so deep I can't even cry most of the time.

I really miss Paddy. I have sat down to write her memorial a number of times and can never get past the first few words. She was such a part of who I am, it is hard to re-learn to be me without her.

I feel badly for Rye because I want to be fully emotionally available to him, but I sense that absence in myself and then the guilt follows.

I suppose time will cure it, but this heart trouble... we had too short a time together, that dog and I.

08 February, 2011

A blog just for Rye


Feel free to stop by and watch him grow!

06 February, 2011

Lucy's pups - 8th week of life

Well, Lucy's puppies are now 7 and 1/2 weeks old. Next week they go to their new homes.

Sagan will go home with Ross and Leanna on Tuesday.

Photo by Nancy

Rave goes home with Diana on Friday.

That can't be comfortable?

Reba goes to Diane, but I am not sure what day.

We will be down to a blissfully small number of puppies: ONE. Rye. Good boy.

Yes, I did say BLISS.

This week the puppies have spent a fair bit more time outside. They are doing about 70% of their bathroom duty outside, but that still means errant puddles and piles here and there. They will go up and down the deck stairs with encouragement, stay awake for hours at a time playing and are now sleeping INDIVIDUALLY in separate crates for about 7 hours a night.

They had their first vet checkup (all good news), microchipping and CERF exams (also all good news). Along with those came the first car ride. There was some howling and some vomiting, but it wasn't too terribly bad overall.

The puppies continue to mature into more and more rough play. Lucy continues to play with them frequently as well as Magick. Lucy will still let them nurse if we don't stop her. Sometimes a bitch can be a little too tolerant. I have been intervening whenever she lets them nurse. She will only tell them off very seldom. I predict a sleepover in Rye's future or a t-shirt in Lucy's if she doesn't start putting an end to nursing.

We had our final puppy potluck yesterday, and everyone had a nice time visiting, eating and most importantly playing with puppies!

Since Diana was home sick with the flu, Nancy acted as a stand-in as Rave's mama

This nearly gave her husband Scott heart failure. Here is what he had to say to me about it

Greta came up from Portland to visit the puppies one last time. She will get to see Rave all the time, but Sagan was her favorite to play with

Even though he does things like this!

And I sat back to relax, and reflected on the week past.

Magick and Rye devised a clever little game called "I'll bite your foot, now you thump me on the head with your foot." They did it enough times consistently that I actually got this picture.

Lucy got in on the tugging action with the puppies for multi-player tugging fun.

But at 42 lb total weight, they have her over-matched! Watch out mama... of course, you are rolling around on your back ;)

And Rye continues making inroads with our adult dogs. Zora often licks his nose when she is sitting on the chair or sofa.

Photo by Nancy

And Rye ended the evening by dreaming of sheep to come...

I hope they were good dreams, buddy... and that you will enjoy our journey together as a team.

01 February, 2011

Rob has been placed

Great news - Rob has found a home!

Have a wonderful week, everyone.