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Old Dogs

Old Dogs

I do love my old dogs, no matter how troublesome they may be.

I do hate to see Doc slowing down. He has been listening to the song “Old and In the Way” and taking it to heart. Whenever I try to move around in my cramped trailer, there he is, right in the way. I’ve gotten very adept at stepping over him.

We had a cold snap last night. I turned the heat on, but I tend to keep it low. This morning I noticed Doc shivering in his crate. He has a full thick coat so I was surprised, but I dug out his winter coat and put it on him. Whatever it takes to keep him comfortable.

He sometimes can’t find me and has a worried look on his face, especially if we are staying away from home house-sitting. He will pace back and forth through the rooms or yard until I wave my arms and talk to him. Then he relaxes.

I thought this year I had licked the skin problem that had been getting worse each summer. This year I managed to get the hair on his back to grow in to its full natural thick coat and the itching stopped. Now that it’s turning cold, he has started chewing raw spots again. What’s up with that?

He has become very vocal in his old age. He isn’t whining so much as moaning. His latest routine to make me crazy is a new tactic of scratching at the door. Naturally, I’ll take him out whenever he seems to need to. But he has to go out on a chain since we live in a trailer park. So he goes out and just stands there for a minute and then starts moaning. I give up and bring him back inside. He scratches at the door again. He moans.  And so it goes…

Still, I love this old guy. I know the day will come when we can’t be together any more and the thought breaks my heart. We have been through a lot of good times and bad times. He has always been there for me.

What a Boy!


Now this is what I’m talking about. Moss has been catching on to this idea of working together. I don’t expect perfection, but I’ve been waiting a long time to see some signs that he is learning.

He surprised me today. He has been reluctant to go too far on an outrun. He gets uncomfortable and runs back to me. Today, I used him to move the sheep to another pen and he ran way out to get the sheep. I was amazed!

We are actually working on four different things.

  • longer outruns
  • staying back off the sheep
  • walking up at a walk
  • downs when and where I say

I put him on a long line a couple of times the past couple of weeks and explained to him the concept of WALKING up to sheep. He thought “walk up” meant dive in. Today, we were putting the sheep away and he got between me and the sheep. He looked back at me and I could see him thinking, “if she’s behind me, I should be walking.” And that’s just what he did. I couldn’t believe it. I just held my breath and let him walk up until we got to the gate.. What a GUY!


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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.