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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!

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.


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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.

Moss Runs Through Some Tricks

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