Monday, November 30, 2015

New Dog Progress Report

Austin is settling in nicely. He's an energetic, active young dog with a personality that is far more border collie than cattle dog. He's getting on well with Flick and Wiley and shows a lot more ball fanaticism than any dog I've had so far. Flick loves playing ball. It's FUN, and tossing a tennis ball on a rope at the end of an agility training sequence is a definite motivator. But for her, part of the fun is playing a little keep away at the end. Bite, bite, giggle. Come and get it if you can.

You're going to throw that, right?
For Austin, the ball is very serious business. He runs after, brings it back,  tosses it down at my feet, and backs away. If I don't throw it again, he'll nudge it towards me. He doesn't want me to interrupt him with treats in the middle of BALL. Just throw the damned thing. Ball is not a game. He pretty much ignores other dogs when he's playing ball at the dog park. Yes, I finally have one of THOSE boring (to everyone else) dogs.

It's a bit weird, but that's how border collies are a lot of the time. His only issue so far is a bit of cat obsession. He's fascinated with Leo and Merlin and will chase them. It seems more herdy behavior than serious "I want to eat them" predation. But it's still upsetting to them, and intense herding can drift into more predatory behavior. So we're trying to find a way to redirect this obsession.

I've done a bit of jump and tunnel work in the backyard with him so far, and have bought the materials to make a small wobble board for him. He definitely is fast and is going to need to learn how to collect and pay attention to his body when he jumps so he doesn't knock bars. I've ordered a copy of Suzanne Clothier's natural jumping book on Amazon.

He's a nice dog, though, very affectionate. He's pretty level headed and cerebral for a 1.5 year old male BC/cattle dog mix.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy US Thanksgiving

Here's a picture of a Mount Vernon turkey my husband and I saw a few years back when we visited the home of our country's first president. They didn't let us get too close, but somehow they seem like a fitting picture for today's holiday.

Hope everyone celebrating Thanksgiving today has a great feed with their loved ones.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Because We Couldn't Be Sane, Normal People With Just Two Dogs

When Roxy passed, I wondered if I was up for getting another dog in the near future. With Wiley and Flick, we are hardly dogless. And with my late-night writing schedule, I've been kind of bleh about dragging my butt out of bed before dawn on weekends for agility trials lately. And there's no question that walking two dogs is much easier than walking three.

Then Doug started to ask when we were going to get another dog. And I realized that some of the reason I've been less than enthusiastic about agility lately is that Wiley's getting older and slowing down quite a lot lately, and Flick (who is a hyper vigilant dog who occasionally decides she just doesn't like someone or other) will never be the kind of dog I can just relax with in noisy, chaotic trial environments.

Still, I wondered if it was the right time to start looking. School's kicking my butt this semester, and some nagging and vague health issues have robbed me of my energy and motivation lately. And the universe seemed to be telling us to wait too. We narrowly missed out on a couple of prospective dogs at our local shelters (Other people beat me to the adoption). And while perusing petfinder for kelpies, border collies  and their mixes, I realized that the canine population had really shifted in our state. Herding breeds are increasingly rare (it's nearly all bully breeds and Chihuahua mixes all the time there for some reason).

Not that I'm complaining. It's nice to know that the owners of herding breeds are getting more responsible in our neck of the woods. A friend suggested a McNabb breeder to me and the person who hooked me up with the shelter that had Wiley back in 2006 said she'd recommend me to them. But I wasn't quite sure I was up for buying a dog. I really want to save a life, or at least clear up a slot in one of our local rescue groups that keep dogs out of shelters. So maybe it would be best just to wait for a while.

Then I saw a picture of a 1.5-year-old border collie/Australian cattle dog mix on petfinder. He was at the Wags and Whiskers rescue group down in Modesto, and he sounded very promising. Our application was accepted, and the people were very nice about agreeing to hold him for us on Saturday, so we could drive down without worrying about losing out to someone who got there right before us again. He interacted nicely with Flick and Wiley, and is really just an awesome boy. Evidently, his original owner purchased him from a breeder of what are sometimes called "Texas Heelers," because they intentionally cross cattle dogs with border collies or Australian shepherds for ranch work down there.
Flick seems to like Austin a lot so far
So we adopted him and named him "Austin," in honor of his Texas roots. He's really sweet. Energetic and loves to play ball, but he has an off switch and is willing to lie quietly and chew on a toy too. He's got a nice, sound structure, and he's got a touch of that border collie focus and eye without the over the top edge that some of that breed have, yet he's softer and more biddable than many purebred cattle dogs. When he gets interested in something, like another dog or a cat, he redirects easily. Flick loves him so far (which was a worry I had), and Wiley is slowly coming around to the notion of no longer being the only boy dog.

So life just got complex again.

Roxy would have liked him too, I think.