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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Collars, and Halters and Slip Leads, Oh My

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WalkiesMoss has been pulling on the leash more these days. I like for them to walk in front of me since we have to walk on the street. If they walk beside me, I’d be in the middle of the road. I also want a nice, relaxing walk, not a training session.

Moss was pulling on his buckle collar and then the choke collar so I bought at pinch collar. Over time, he started going right to the point of pulling with that collar.

I have a head halter somewhere but can’t find it. I refuse to buy another one, and besides, you usually have to spend some time training the dog to accept it.

I made a version of the Sporn halter. It worked somewhat but he still goes just a tiny bit beyond the comfort zone. So I ordered a front attachment halter. I just came yesterday and I have to say I’m underwhelmed. He might as well have a buckle collar on.

He seems to do a bit better with a really well-fitted choke collar that stays up behind his ears. But once he lowers his head and hunches his shoulders, even that one slides down. And I worry that if he gets hot, his neck would expand to the point where I couldn’t get it off. It’s a bit of a pain getting it off now since I have to slide his ears and skin under the chain.

I was browsing the pet section on Amazon when I saw a mention of a British slip lead. I’ve used slip leads to hold onto dogs but if they loosen up the dog can slip out of it. I would never use one for training or walking. But I wasn’t sure what a British slip lead was so I went to my research facility – the internet –

When I saw what it was, I couldn’t believe it. I HAVE one of these things. Someone gave it to me and I thought it was just a regular slip lead. I didn’t notice the little leather piece that locks the collar part of the device so that it can’t slip off or slide down.

It’s a thick length of rope that has a ring at one end and a loop handle on the other. When you slip the handle through the ring, it makes a loop. The slider piece has to be outside the ring so that it can be adjusted.

We are going to try it out tonight when we go for our evening walk. I’ll report back.

Nose Work

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the nose knows

I was doing some research to help out my sister with her dog. I got inspired to do some nose work with my old dog, Doc. He gets too worried when I try to teach him a new trick so I decided just to hide some treats and let him hunt for them while I work with Moss. I saved some containers to put a treat in and hid them in plain sight around the floor. He found a couple and then came to me for more. I had to convince him to go look again. He did finally manage to find them all. I think this will become a good nose game for him. I know he has a good nose. I’ve watched him find his little frisbee in the grass when he can’t see it.

Musings

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It seems to me that there are two paths to competing with dogs.

One is that you work with the dog you have, and accept the limitations that might arise. The other approach is to find the most competitive dog you can and go for the ribbons.

There’s nothing wrong with either approach. Buying a dog, or dogs, until you get the best you can find is certainly valid – unless it gets out of hand. I know people who buy and sell dogs regularly because none of them live up to expectations. Sometimes, however, it’s really because the handler can’t live up to the standard they set and blame the dog.

Yet a really good handler may never be happy with a dog who can’t match the level of the handler. Then it really is better to place that dog in a loving home and find the dog that is a better match. After all, you can’t make a competitive trial dog out of a bulldog.

If I were really going to compete in herding trials, I’d certainly try to find an easier dog than Moss. On the other hand, the difficult dogs are the ones that teach you the most. I’ve had some great dogs and some were naturally talented. I didn’t have to do much but guide them gently to get a great working dog.

I’ve also had dogs with no talent but were eager to please. That took a different way of training. Now I have a dog with some talent, eager to please, but wild as all get-out. This is like no dog I’ve ever tried to train to work sheep. I know there are folks who would tell me to forget it. He’s just going to be too much work and may never calm down. But I don’t want to give up because I want to see if he really can be turned into a quiet worker on sheep. I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot about the mind of a dog by working with him.

Another Sheep Session

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MossI wish I had taken some videos of Moss’s first introduction to sheep. Once he turned on, he was simply wild! He wants to work like a cattle dog – running and barking. He wasn’t trying to grip much but he sure wanted those sheep to MOVE.

I tried putting him in a smaller pen but I still wasn’t able to slow him down. The sheep got to the point where they recognized my truck and knew the crazy dog was coming!

This time, when working with my friend, L, she suggested I keep him on a long line until he learns to control himself. Even that has been a real learning experience for all of us. I’ve never had a BC this crazy and wild to work.

So I’ve been walking around the pen and making Moss walk, lie down and come to me. He really wants to be good, but he just can barely stand it.  Today I realized, after watching L work with him, that I was walking too fast. It made the sheep move too fast and therefore Moss was too excited.

She took him again later and I realized that I was trying too hard to physically control him by using the line. She talked more to him and made him do it himself. It worked much better.

I’ll take more pictures as we go.

Back to the Sheep Pen

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Moss got to work sheep this afternoon. I kept him on a line and we walked around the sheep. My friend brought her dog in to keep the sheep from racing to the other end of the very large pen. After a couple of sessions, he really started to calm down – and so did the sheep. He was started to even break contact and look around. (a good thing for him since he’s so crazy and out of control around sheep.) Just as we were wrapping it up, the sheep split and ran to either side of him. I told him to lie down, and he did! Whata boy!

Moss Runs Through Some Tricks

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Vacation Weekend

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The dogs and I went to stay at a friend’s house over the weekend. We were ranch-sitting while they were away. We fed horses, sheep and guard dogs and mostly hung out.

I used the sheep pen as a giant circle pen and had Moss run to the other side and lie down. Then I’d call him back and have him lie down again. Sometimes I’d call him to me. It was an exercise in obedience. He caught on pretty fast and loved to run as fast as he could around the pen. On our last day, he came running back to me around the corner of the pen and slammed into one of the heavy posts that hold up a roof for the horse bathing stall. He hit it so hard it spun him around and he came crying to me. He NEVER cries when he is hurt so I knew it was bad. Nothing seemed broken but he was limping and he had scraped hair off the side of his face and his shoulder. Poor MossHe was extremely quiet for a couple of days. Then he seemed to have bounced back. He undoubtedly had a wicked headache. We have resumed disc training but I cut it short and no really high jumps.

Doc just hung out and occasionally got to “help” me bring sheep out of the pen. They both had a great time (until that accident) with all the toys and room to run indoors and out.

IMG_1252Doc hanging out with one of the guard dogs.