Dog Training


In contrast to the ease in which Quincy Dog has integrated into our household and farm, I submit to you, dear reader, this P.I.T.A. canine. She is coming up on her two-year-old birthday and is still quite juvenile. One day last fall, I was out doing chores, she had escaped again, and I heard a ruckus near the chickens. She’d caught one that had flown outside their pen. I started chasing her with the ATV and she bolted, chicken in mouth. I finally caught up with her in the tree farm next door. She was laying low, and looked like she was burying the victim. She bolted again and ran for home. I looked and looked for the chicken, but couldn’t find it. I retraced our steps, white feathers marking the trail. It wasn’t dropped anywhere. I drove back to the tree farm and walked the row where I saw her lying down. Only to find the chicken, stuffed head-first down an excavated tree hole. The chicken was relatively unharmed and wound up surviving the ordeal. But I had lost my patience. On a day that this crazy dog let me touch her, I nabbed her, and tied her up to a stake in the ground, like a dog in the seventies.  She was quite sad-faced about this new curtailment.Open-mouthed smile 



imageI’ve been stressing for a couple of years about a succession plan for our two remaining border collies, Maggie and Gene. They just turned thirteen and fourteen. Though they can still help with farm chores, their endurance is short, they aren’t fast enough to catch renegade sheep anymore, and they pay for it later- sore joints for a day or so. They love it and will want to do it til the day they die. But obviously that’s not practical. Yet, facing getting a replacement dog is also facing that they are getting old and we’ll someday lose them. That’s hard too.

I’d mentally waffled between replacement options. Getting a  young pup has the advantage that they usually bond best and make the best pets and companions. You can train them exactly how you want. Plus, you get the longest useful life out of them. But housebreaking a pup when working full time has its challenges. I didn’t think I’d have the time to put into that, plus also training the pup on sheep. Some border collies aren’t ready to even start working sheep until they are yearlings. I thought about whether I could send it out for training, but sending a housepet to a kennel situation for a month is a little cringe-worthy. Bottom line, a pup would be a big investment.


PupIt has been nearly three months since Bronte was diagnosed with bone cancer, with a stated typical timeline of roughly six months left to live. I have switched her to a ketogenic diet and started treating her with CBD (an extract of marijuana, minus most of the THC), in an effort to slow the cancer’s progress and buy a little more time. She is doing very well thus far, most days just slightly favoring the leg and still very cheerful. The wrist tumor is getting bigger, however. This timeline weighs heavy on my mind, both knowing that Bronte doesn’t have long to live, and also that I don’t have a lot of time to get her replacement trained and functioning reasonably well.



Our new pup is a Maremma. She was born on a 2,000 acre ranch. And I don’t mean “the breeder who produced her owns a 2,000 acre ranch.” I mean, this pup was born and reared in an environment where she and the group of dogs into which she was born ranged over 2,000 acres. Naturally, the dams of the litters stick close to home when whelping and rearing young pups. The breeder described that at sixteen weeks, the pups still weren’t ranging far from the safety of the homestead. But, they were indeed ranging, and acclimating to the lifestyle of learning to protect a large span of territory from predators. She hails from Eastern WA, where wolf packs are now a force to be reckoned with, and most ranchers are needing to run large groups of LPDs to protect their livelihoods.


I wanted to write a bit about handling rams, but realized it was becoming a really long post, and that this topic deserves its own post first.

A long time ago, I took a seminar from an unusual kind of dog trainer who was invited as a guest at my dog training club. Not somebody who competes in precision obedience, agility or herding, but somebody who mostly works on remedying problem pet dogs, especially neurotic and fearful or pushy, out-of-control dogs. She was into the TTouch methodology (a book I’ve always meant to read, and someday I will!). Admittedly, I attended kind of thinking who is this lady, she seems like a nobody, a wannabe dog trainer, she doesn’t compete and win, and what is all this hippie TTouch jazz? But, she was actually really gifted, and I learned something amazing from her which changed the way I handle animals forever. This is what she shared (in my simple language, because I’m not well-versed in the science behind it).


My younger border collie, Maggie, is still struggling with pain issues after days when she has a lot of exercise. Adequan and Duralactin are helping, but not solving the problem. I tried giving her buffered aspirin on working days, that also helped, but still not entirely. The vet has given me some NSAIDs to use on the days where she exercises really hard, which is usually about once a week for sheep chores. I’m just starting to try those now, and am finding that giving her one in the morning before she works seems to make the evening much better for her. But the next morning she is still very stiff and sore.

The other thing I’m trying out is having Gene, my older border collie, help out with sheep chores, so that Maggie doesn’t have to work so hard. There are some pro’s and con’s to  using two dogs at once. 


Moses arrived here in the spring of 2010, a middle-aged, retired show dog. His former owner sent him home with me in a most presentable form, fully bathed and groomed, ready for a show. Here is what he looked like upon arrival, fearfully meeting grubby Bronte:


In retrospect, the bath was a bad idea, as he was not waterproof for a few weeks, and got really wet when it rained. But it was mild weather, and he survived the short but difficult transition to farm life.


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