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Monday, January 31, 2011

Dog Sports Junkie

Alright, now that introductions are mostly out of the way - I figure I'll get started with what this blog will mostly be about.


I'll be the first to admit it, I'm a dog sports junkie. Is anyone else out there?

I've never won any sort of championships, I dont have the fastest dogs out there - I just like to have fun setting goals and achieving them. I will argue that Clementine is crazy smart beyond belief - but that's for another day.

This past weekend started out with flyball practice. We have a tournament next weekend and it will the the first tournament for many of our club's new dogs. It will only be TeeVee's second tournament. We worked a lot on passing this week, which is what TeeVee needs. He has crazy chase drive and it has taken nearly 2 years of training for him to even run in a lane against other dogs. The patience has paid off and now he does great, but will often want to chase the dogs in his team as they run past him. He is now passing some other big dogs WITHOUT lunging, but is developing a hard eye and creep until the dog has passed him, then he runs normally. This is not acceptable either, but it is better than it was. Whats a few more months of work?

Sunday we took a trip up to Valdemar Farms to have TeeVee's herding instinct test and for Clem to have a lesson. Clementine and I took herding lessons for a little over a year, but that was two years ago. Life got in the way for a bit. Here's the thing... out of everything I do with my dogs, working Clem on livestock is by far my favorite. I never see my dog happier than when she is working stock. Our instructor (Cathy Balliu) says that she is like a Turbo Charged PT Cruiser... she has only two speeds. Stop and GO! Because Clem is more Cattle Dog than Border Collie, she doesn't have much of an eye. Instead - she paces quickly to get the stock where they need to go. We took a break from herding in order to start agility, which Cathy thought would help her off lead obedience. As you can see in the (long) video, she has some nice downs and distance most of the time.. but every once in a while (notably around 5:40 and 6:30) she has a real temper tantrum. I ended up getting in a shouting match with her and we really butt heads. Cathy told me to just ignore her and let her work through her arousal level. BEST ADVICE OF THE YEAR. If you watch the whole video, you can see a noticeable difference.

Clem shows drive with the stock that she doesn't show with anything else. Yes, she loves flyball, disc and agility...but it's not the same. She eventually gets bored or tired and thats it. She'll even work stock in thunderstorms, despite normally being severely thunderphobic.

When we left off with lessons two years ago, she was up to herding a flock of about 10 sheep at a time, doing outruns at about 50 yards and starting to drive the sheep through gates. We're going to back up a bit in an attempt to get a bit more control since she is such a hot head.

Lesson of the weekend: Sometimes you just need to shut up and let your dog work some things out on their own.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding the Training Addiction

So remember in that first post how I mentioned that the shelter said that Clementine was low energy and sweet? That all got thrown out the window after the first day I had her. She is smart, feisty, full of energy and not a fan of cuddles. When I first got her she was also terrified of everything. Every noise, she would flatten on the floor and pee herself. I lived on a very busy street here in Denver and it was a bear to potty train her because she was afraid of the traffic too.

I attempted to crate train her and I'd come home and find her in the crate, 15 feet over from where I left her. The whole apartment would smell of fear and she'd be shaking and shivering. I stopped trying to crate her once I got her house trained. The solution that worked for us was me keeping her tied to me with a leash at ALL TIMES unless she went potty outside. Once I figured that trick out - it took all of two days to have a house-trained dog.

Her separation anxiety then turned towards chewing and getting in the trash. I thought I would cleverly outsmart her by getting one of those step lid trash cans. I had that thing home for all of two minutes before I found her with one paw on the step and her head buried in coffee grounds and paper towels.

It was right then I realized I didn't have an average dog on my hands. I vigilantly researched everything I could about the breed and joined online chat groups. I read website after website on what to do with a fearful cattle dog. EXPOSURE, EXERCISE AND TRAINING - LOTS OF TRAINING.

I thought back to what my horse trainer always told me - to be calm, to not react. I began by taking Clementine everywhere I could. Don't like car rides? Too bad, get in. Don't like that other dog? Too bad, keep walking. Don't like loud noises? Yeah, you get the picture.

My dogs may be spoiled rotten, but I will say they are not babied and they are not sheltered. I understand they are dogs and they are not perfect. All I can do is try to make them the best dogs they can be.

It has taken years of this exposure level with Clem to get where we are today, but it has paid off. I now have a dog who used to be afraid of everything, to only being mildly upset over car rides, thunderstorms and fireworks. She trusts me and even though we often butt heads - we have a partnership that is beyond rewarding.

Turn on the TeeVee

As I continue writing this blog; I'll get more into what all I do with both of my dogs.
I'd like this to overall be a bit of a training diary for me. A place where I can share some of the things that I've learned over the years - as well as communicate with other dog lovers and trainers.

While I can go on for years about my dear Clementine - I can't go too far without mentioning her adoptive-brother, TeeVee. TeeVee was adopted from Western Border Collie Rescue ( in November of 2008. Those who know Clem, know that she isn't the most playful with other dogs. Yet, over the years I realized she really had a "thing" for smooth coat Border Collie boys. I fostered for other rescues in the past and she did well with most young male dogs, but smoothies? My tuff tomboy becomes an instant flirt!

Once I met TeeVee, I knew they would be buddies for life. Within five minutes of meeting him, they were scampering all over the yard. Play bowing, wrestling, nipping. She loves to chase and he loves to BE chased. I left his foster mom's houses telling her I'd think about it and get back to her. I made it halfway around the block before going back.