August 2010

August 2010


Better Every Day

Decker did well today.  My friend came over with his pup to socialize her again.  Last week, Decker acted up right when my friend was leaving.  This week, Decker was just about perfect.  My friend even said he can tell that he is happier and more relaxed.  He has noticed a difference in him in just one week.  

Decker killed one of my chickens yesterday, so I can't let him have free rein any longer.  I moved a crate onto the front porch for him when I am busy.  So to protect the loose chickens, he will either be in the house or in the crate when I need to be on the computer.

During sheepdog herding today, Decker did even better that last week.  He was able to lay down several times in the middle of the round pen with out much coaxing on my part. So now I can get him start to hold pressure on the sheep when I stop moving.  That's nice.  I am still working on his fetch and expect that to take more several weeks. 

Tomorrow is dog day.  I will be taking the dogs to my friend's house to socialize and play.  I might work him on sheepdog herding there too.  

I am very satisfied at Decker's progress.


Oh No!, There is Someone Behind Me!!!!

Decker went to church with all of us on Sunday and did fine waiting in the truck with the girls.  After Church we needed to pick up some groceries and he waited while we were in the stores.  The last store was the grocery store.  When we got back to the truck, we loaded groceries into the back end of the bed.  Decker was very interested in what was in the bags.  A few "hey!"s and he stayed out of the groceries.

Later in the day my brother came over for a brief visit.  I put Decker on leash in the house and instructed my brother not to challenge him by looking in his eyes.  Decker did fine and had no aggression problems.  No correction leaks on Sunday either!

Today,  all of us went on a four mile- 1 hour- power, pack walk again.  He did fine with barking dogs but he "keyed in" on a walker passing by.  I don't know if he was just looking but he needs to concentrate on the walk, so I kept correcting him when he perked-up his ears and looking at the walker.  After we passed the walker, Decker still kept turning his head, and getting corrected for not paying attention to the migration.  Soon after the walker incident, a neighbor was watering and walking around his yard and Decker was nervous as we passed him.  He doesn't seem to like people behind him, even at 100 yards away.  We will work on that trust issue.  I think that a walk around a near-by lake where there are a lot of people walking around and jogging and riding bikes would be a good set-up for him.  The more he acts up, the more corrections he will get, the faster the learning will take place.  At least that is the theory.


A Visitor at the House

The girls, Decker and I went on another four mile (1 hour) power pack walk this morning.  He did excellent until we turned onto on road.  Apparently there was a jogger approaching from the rear.  Decker was nervous about it and kept turning to see him.  I just kept correcting him until he quit looking back and started concentrating on the walk.  

Later this morning, we had a friend come over to the house for a visit.  I instructed our friend not to look in Decker's face, so not to challenge him or make him real nervous.  Things went OK with him until our friend pushed Decker a little too far.  He started growling and was immediately taken to the ground and bitten with my hand.  Decker was not real comfortable with our friend, but this visit was good because our friend was not afraid of Decker in the least.  Decker needs to feel that energy.  A little later we were playing with the girls and Decker on leash was beside me.  The play got close to Decker, and he half-a s tried to bite our friend's foot.  Granted. his foot did get real close to Decker, and I know that Decker's buttons had been pushed.  But unless he makes mistakes, and gets corrected for them, he will never be rehabilitated.

This visit was real good for Decker in that respect.  He growled several separate times, and got corrected.  I noticed that Decker was trying to avoid our friend.  Perhaps this is one of the first steps in his rehab.  Dogs have four responses to stimuli; flight, fight, avoidance, submission, in that order.  Decker has done the first two responses, and is starting the third.  I can't wait for the last!


Decker Making Improvement

Decker urinates when he gets scared.  While shaping the way that I want him to play with toys, (I know, control freak-but I don't want the girls toys ruined instantly), if he insists on doing what I am telling him not to do, he gets corrected sternly, and sometimes lets his urine loose.  Man, that is irritating!  I might put a male wrap around him while he is in the house to help curb the damage caused by those slips.  So I can't chase him through the house when he runs from me, because he is letting loose here and there!  Working with that insecurity problem is tough.  Kate was submissive and for her first two years of life, when ever she greeted anyone, she would flip over on to her back and let it loose a bit.  Sometimes getting her butt wet too.  But Decker does this as he is creeping away from me.  

I don't like dogs that run away from me anyway.  Stand up and face the consequences for the behavior!  Tam started out running from me.  Man, I chased her down a couple of times and let her know that was not the behavior that I wanted.  It didn't take her long, I saw her actually stop in the middle of running away from me, turn around, and walk back towards me.  I won!  Now she comes even if she knows she is in trouble.

Decker does have that problem of trying to get away when I am correcting him.  I just keep pursuing him until I catch him and drag him back to where I was when I started the correction.  I warned my husband about his urinating behavior, and he looked at me with a "just great!" look on his face.  He does try to help with Decker when he gets home at night.  Matt's personal goal is to try to teach Decker not to body slam Kate when he gets home every night.  We all try to protect Kate as she is our million dollar baby with two hip surgeries in her past.

Letting a dog get away with improper behavior is what got Decker in this mess to begin with.  He growled and barked at a stranger, he was insecure anyway, his owner didn't know how to properly discipline the improper behavior and it escalated to biting.  He is also a high energy dog and needs his energy expelled on a daily basis.  He has fear aggression.  Even Cezar Milan says that this is the hardest bad behavior to deal with.  Real mean aggression is easier and faster.  With fear aggression, Decker's confidence will have to be built up.  That usually takes a while.  The sheepdog herding will help and getting his energy out and so will a lot of exposure to the world.  I think correction after correction will help toughen him up emotionally, and the urination problem should dissipate.

First thing this morning as Matt was leaving, I let Decker out to pee.  Matt opened the garage door and startled Decker.  He took off running about 15 feet or so and I was talking to him (in a low growling voice) to knock it off.  I was trying to let him know that I didn't want him to react like and be scared, because there was nothing to be scared about!  Depend on the human, not yourself.  That is not your place, it is the pack leaders place.

This morning we went for a two mile power "pack" walk again.  About a half of a mile in to the walk a cat starts coming up toward us.  Decker was pretty cool about it and doesn't seem to want to get cats.  When we got within about 10 feet, the cat decided to hiss and run away.  On the way back there was a person riding her horse in an arena.  Decker kept "keeing" on it.  Ears perked and head turned, body tense.  There was a chance that he had never seen horse and rider before, but he needs to let me handle the pack,  I will protect the pack, not him.  I kept letting him know that he needed to knock it off.  Correction after correction, until finally he quick "keeing" on the horse and concentrated on what we were doing, migrating.

Later in the day, I took Decker and the girls next door to my neighbor's dog pack.  She had another person there visiting and I phoned before I came over and gave the usual instructions not to look at Decker in the face.  At first he was swarmed by dogs and was distracted by smells.  Us three woman talked outside while all of the dogs were greeting, sniffing, and playing.  Eventually my neighbor was able to have Decker approach her.  A little later, I had my neighbor take the leash and walk away with him.  He didn't cause any problems, accepted it, but kept looking at me.  We will repeat this exercise a few times a week to see if this helps break his dependence on me.  I don't think it will, but maybe he will at least start getting used to other people being in charge of him.  That is what he needs, is trust.



The FedEx Man Returns

Today was herding day again.  I wanted to see if Decker improves again.  His first day was pretty nice, and I was impressed, did he have more to give me today?  I had been noticing that when I ask him to lay down, he would slither away and go to a wall, fence or couch to be against something before downing. 

Doing that while we were working sheep, was driving me crazy.  I don’t want him to leave the pressure he has on the sheep, go away to the far end of the round pen, and lay down there.  When I tell him down, I mean right there, where and when I said it.  So that was one of my goals today when working him on sheep.  I needed him to lie where I told him. 

Decker is getting more confidence on sheep.  As typical of the Aussie breed, barking is starting.  He is also starting to relax and enjoy what he is doing.  I like to see a dog come off of sheep, but on the other hand, when they like it so much, and they have trouble coming off, that is nice to see too.  You know that there is stuff in that head to work with.  Decker did have a little trouble coming off of sheep, but he is new at it, and not expected to just turn off when told like a light switch, at this stage. 

We worked on him lying down where and when I told him to.  He was not so good at first, but after a while I got him to lay down in the middle of the round pen with out too much difficulty. 

Toward the end of his lesson, I was able to walk to the left and then to the right, and with little effort on my part; he was keeping them with me.  Maybe this is beginner’s luck, but I don’t believe in luck, so I am hoping that he has some real talent!  Now I can’t wait to see how he does next week.

Just after the herding lesson, we were coming back up to the house and I saw the FedEx truck on its way.  I grabbed Decker’s collar and continued walking to the house.  As the FedEx man got out of the truck, I instructed him not to look at this dog’s face and that I was training on him at not being aggressive.  My dogs were all over the FedEx man, happy to have someone visit.  I had Decker with me.  Decker uttered a very slight growl, not even a half of a growl and that was all.  The intensity of my correction fit the intensity of the incorrect behavior.  Decker didn’t have to get corrected hard at all!  This is the first real progress at the house that I have see


Decker Goes To Dog Day


Today is Wednesday.  Its dog day.  Late morning, on Wednesdays, I take the dogs over to a friend’s house for socializing and some work.  There are anywhere from three to eight of us who bring our dogs to have a good time and train.  We usually meet in the agility field, which is an irrigated large yard with grass and a very large oak tree in which we huddle for shade. 

I arrived a little late. This morning I had a friend come from down south looking to buy sheep.  She was buying for several clients, and I didn’t have enough sheep for her alone.  I suggested that we go over to my trainer’s house and look at those sheep she had for sale.

When she arrived at the house, Decker was leashed.  He did his usual growl and got corrected.  He also growled several other times with additional corrections.  Man, I just wish he would warm up to people.  We sorted my sheep then got ready to go to my trainer’s house.

I contemplated what to do with the boy.  I had not left him since I had rescued him.  Would he jump our four-foot dog yard fence?  Will he bark the entire time that I am away and drive my neighbors nuts?  I could crate him, but hate doing that if I don’t have to.  I looked over at the kennel (with a shade cloth roof) and decided that would be the safest place for a short time.  He couldn’t dig out, as there were stall mats on the ground.  Jumping a six-foot fence, while possible, I guessed that he wouldn’t, because the kennel was real small and he couldn’t get a running start.  I put the girls in the house and Decker in the kennel with water and we were off. 

Upon returning, Decker was where I had left him, in the kennel.  He must have played in his water, which was empty and it was even snapped to the fence.  I left him in the kennel while we loaded my sheep into the trailer to keep him out of the way.  When we were finished, I leashed him and took him out of the kennel and closer to my friend.  Again he started growling, and again he got corrected, firmly!

Right after my friend buying sheep left, we packed up to go to dog day.  I wonder what we will be in for with a group of people and dogs?  The day was getting hot.  I got to my friend’s house around 11.30 am and the girls were ready to go.  They really enjoy going over there every week.  

A while ago, my trainer told me that she wouldn’t change anything that I was currently doing with Kate (real submissive, and working on building her up) as she was working sheep real well and strongly.  So dog day is for Kate. 

The girls and I entered the agility field and I secured them to a fence in the shade.  I let my friends know that I had rescued a people aggressive dog and would like to bring him in.  Everyone was fine with the request.  I instructed them NOT to look at his face when he came in.  I didn’t want him to think that anyone was challenging him. 

The entrance was as smooth as silk, and I put him into a crate for safekeeping.  I worked the girls in agility and all of my friends worked their dogs too.  We usually will train several of the dogs on sheepdog herding after “playing” agility, but the last several weeks, it has been too hot.

We will go have a dip in the pool instead.  Most of dogs at dog day just love to play in the pool.  And most of them eventually learned to jump in.  The pool is a standard rectangle built-in.  A real nice pool, unheated.  It was 80 degrees just with the sun heating it!  I let the girls in and go back to the crate for Decker.  He will have to be on leash for the swim.  I led him to the pool, and with no hesitation, he was in.  We walked around for several laps and then he came out.  I showed him where all of the steps are, just incase he might panic wanting to get out.  He was a trooper.  He enjoyed swimming a lot, got along with other dogs, and never growled at anyone the whole time he was at my friend’s house. 

Now he needs work at the house where he is on familiar ground.


Herding Starts with Decker and We Have a Close Call

Sheepdog herding with Decker went fairly well.  He respected my presence and gave to me when he was asked.  I put him in the round pen three different times, with improvement every time.  The boy is out of shape, but seems to like sheepdog herding more, than getting tired.  The third time that he went in with the sheep, we had the whipflag in with us instead of a training stick.  He responded well, giving when the whipflag was in his way or close to him.  Usually Aussies are a little more determined to get to the sheep than he was, so care will be taken not to be too strict with corrections.  I will make sure that he is really "hooked onto sheep" before putting too much pressure on him.  I feel that Decker has had a good start on sheep today.

My friend Roland came over with his young border collie (socializing her).  I had warned Roland about Decker on the phone before he came over, so he was prepared for him. He didn't give us any problems with aggression.  Decker sure liked playing with the young Border Collie.  They played and played and had the whole lawn, but chose to play right under foot where Roland and I were sitting.  It figures.  

When Roland was ready to leave, he had forgotten his leash around the back of the house.  Coming back from getting the leash, Decker alerted to his presence, and came off of the porch to the lawn.  I proceeded  to run after him and put him down on the ground with "bite" corrections, along with NO!  He seemed fine as Roland prepared to leave.

Around noon, the FedEx man came delivering a package.  I went to the door and said hi and thank you to the FedEx man as he was leaving.  I grabbed the package and Decker tore out of the house apparently after him.  I dropped the package and and was barely able to hold on to him.  That was a close call!  He got more corrections for that.  The way I see it, if Decker doesn't make any mistakes, then how can he learn what is acceptable behavior or not acceptable behavior?

Later in the afternoon my nephews came over for a visit.  I invited them in and Decker started in again.  I really got on him this time, and I was in his face, as he was being "bitten" and on his side.  He was scared!  He peed on the dog bed that he was on when I went after him to protect my family and correct him.  

So that seems to be a large part of his problem.  He is not "protective", he is scared and doesn't trust me to protect him.  Later during the visit, he did warm up to my nephews.


Rehabing Decker – Helping an Aggressive Australian Shepherd


While visiting with my Dad, I was made aware of a neighbor dog that might be put down.  Apparently he had already bitten people twice.  This blog, at least for a while, will be about my efforts to turn this dog around, making him into a well behaved, obedient, member of the community.  Good or bad, I will let it be known what happens and how it happens.

My history:  I have been training dogs for about 30 years.  I came from an obedience background, and like a lot of dog trainers, am a bit of a control freak.  I did quite well in the obedience venue; of course a lot of it has to depend on a willing partner.  I even dabbled in protection training, which my dog loved.

My obedience trainer had a pack of Border Collies.  As I got to know the dogs, I fell in love with the breed.  Someday I wanted to own a Border Collie and learn to herd sheep with it.

Later, my husband and I moved to Idaho.  Nice and rural.  He saw an ad in the local penny saver for Border Collie x Australian Shepherd pups.  The name Border Collie intrigued me, but I had just one good dog at the time and really didn’t think that I wanted another dog.  My husband wanted to go and see the pups.  And there we were, picking out a little pup.  She was real young and we told the breeder that we would pick her up the following week.  Giving us time to prepare for the coming pup, and also giving her the needed additional week with her dam and littermates.

Bonnie, we named her, was a pistol, and full of energy.  I had never owned a part or pure Border Collie before and was surprised at this bundle of energy.  I started her in obedience work, which she didn’t care too much for.  But we had to live with her and she was going to mind!  I also over did it with her in obedience as she had the sensitivity of a Border Collie and couldn’t take tons of pressure at that early age.  I backed off some and just taught her the stuff that I thought she had to know, like down, sit, here(come), and stay.  I think those are the Four Golden Commands for dogs.  They could save their lives! 

Like most Border Collies, Bonnie needed a job.  She decided that job was herding the horses.  This was dangerous for her.  She got kicked several times.  But she had that instinct to “work” livestock, and I wasn’t giving her a job, so she chose the horses.

After we moved back to the central coast of California, the horses got completely fenced away from Bonnie.  She could no longer go in and work them whenever she wanted.  After the final kick in the head and a concussion, she was no longer allowed to be with the horses at all.  Unless we were on a trail ride, which she was always rabbit hunting and leaving the horses alone, she would be separated, I didn’t want her killed.

What about herding sheep with the Border Colllie?  That thought was still in the back of my mind.  I really wanted to learn sheep herding.   I finally got around to contacting a trainer and we got our first lesson.

At first, Bonnie (6 years old) couldn’t take the pressure of herding sheep.  She left the round pen several times during the first lesson, and for a couple of additional lessons after that.  Eventually, she toughened up and was able to handle the pressure of corrections and working sheep together, and she quit leaving the round pen.

Bonnie and I did well in trialing.  Placing first and second most of time.  While she was not a natural out runner, she was wonderful at close in work, and did real well in the Australian Shepherd Club Assoc. (ASCA) trials.

After several years training Bonnie, I had learned quite a lot and it was time to get another dog, so I could venture in to field trialing in the United States Border Collie Handler’s Assoc. (USBCHA) venue.  I got my first purebred Border Collie.  As usual, she had to have her obedience work on her.  She did very well in obedience, but I had lost a lot of interest in it, while gaining more interest in herding.  Kate, the purebred, was a natural and super fast.  So fast, I felt that I almost had to learn herding all over again.  I couldn’t think or react fast enough.  At one year old, after a major physical setback with Kate, we won our first Border Collie trial.  Wow, I couldn’t believe it!  That class that she won was a novice-novice class, right where we should be.  Unfortunately, there are not many novice trials offered any more, and we moved her up into ProNovice soon after.  I have made mistakes with both Bonnie and Kate in herding training.  That is the learning process.  I believe it is harder for the human to learn this sport, than it is for the dog.  And humans and mistakes go together.

My next pup, Tam, has been the toughest dog that I have ever worked with.  Turning her into a housedog has been extremely challenging.  She didn’t want to do anything that I wanted her to do, she had her own agenda.  Bonnie and Kate were really easy, compared to her.  If she had had a middle finger, she would have given it to me a lot!

Tam’s deal was independence, and dominance.  Now, she has turned around.  The eight months of complaining to my husband that I was tired of being so hard on Tam, are over.  And I am glad that I persisted.  She is great, and a wonderful housedog.  She is always easy to train on sheep, and a total natural, she just didn’t want to conform to the house rules.  If she had been sold to someone else, Tam would have been a kennel dog.

I have been training in herding now for over eight years and am now teaching others.  What an addicting dog sport.  My life has changed dramatically since herding has taken over.  A clean and wholesome dog sport, I challenge the reader to try it.

The Aussie Transfer - I am waiting at my Dad’s house, as the neighbor comes over with Decker, I glance over and comment, “Wow, he is big!”  Then immediately I see Decker key on me and “Growl…BARK, BARK, BARK, I ‘m going to EAT you!!!”  I immediately reach for the leash, turn and walk off with him, keeping the dog out away from my body in order not to get bitten.  I continue to walk around keeping my head up and chest out and mind calm, but in control.  That’s what this dog needs, someone in control.

As I walk around, I started getting in his space, making him yield to me, insisting on it.  I claim the yard, always making Decker give to me.  After walking around and “taking charge” for about 7 – 10 minutes, Decker is calm and accepting me as the one in charge. 

He had never been in a crate before and knowing that he bites, I wasn’t going to push, pull or force him in.  We took the crate apart.  Then carefully coached him into the open bottom.  By this time I had Decker literally eating out of my hand.  No trauma for the dog, the top of the crate was then put on slowly and carefully, and we lift him into the truck.  

When we got home, the girls, Decker and I went for a four mile (1hour) power walk.  It was hot that day, but he needed this.  When we got home, I asked my husband to take the leash (that was the scary part for him) and walk around for a minute.  Decker did quite well. 

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