Posts Tagged ‘border collie’

In which we met some sheep

Posted: December 1, 2013 in herding
Tags: , , ,

This is rather late in coming, but it’s been a busy busy fall. Back in August, I took Jagger for his and my first herding lesson. It was quite fun and I learned a lot.

This will almost certainly be a one-off visit for a couple of reasons.  First, I believe in “go hard or go home” and don’t really do hobbies casually, so I don’t have time for a second dog sport. Second, Jagger made it very clear that he would not work for anyone but me. What a sweetheart. 🙂 However, this means there’s no chance of having someone more experienced work him directly. Which means I would have to really learn a LOT about sheep. I’ve been around sheep before in a limited way helping out on family friends’ farms, and I really have no interest in spending more up close and personal time with sheep. I like to wear their wool on occasion and lamb is delicious, but I think that’s as close as we’re going to get.

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I say this with love, but in his first couple of weeks with us, Jagger was an unholy terror.

BC puppy or demon spawn

He is the destroyer of worlds.

I hadn’t appreciated it at the time, but Copper had the classic Labrador “soft mouth” even as a puppy, so although he mouthed me all the time he never bit down. Jagger bit us so much I was able to develop several categories for his biting that ranged from normal puppy biting of everything in sight, to herding behaviors, to what a friend affectionately dubs the “puppy red zone” of over-excited, frantic, biting mayhem.  Ouch.

I knew how to deal with normal puppy biting.  Herding behavior was all right. After a few false starts, I realized I just needed to stop moving and eventually the 7-lb furball would detach itself from my pants leg and I could resume walking.  Attention-seeking biting was new for me.  Jagger would waltz right up to me, attempt the border collie mind-control stare, and when that didn’t immediately work he’d chomp the nearest available body part.  He got me right on the lower lip once.  I had to keep all sharp kitchen utensils out of my immediate reach for a while (just kidding… maybe) but Jagger did manage to survive long enough to learn other, more suitable, behaviors that would get my attention.  Trick training was fantastic for this!  So, I had a plan.  Except for the puppy red zone.

Jag contemplates chewing toy vs my foot

Chew the rope toy and not your foot, you say? I dunno...

As background, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually caught Jagger sleeping.  This puppy does. not. stop.  Copper would eventually tucker out and just flop down asleep after a few hours.  Jagger gets wild like one of those toddlers who get extremely hyper and crabby right before bed time, then he’s out like a light as soon as you put him in his crate.  He’s significantly better now that he’s older, but the first few weeks weren’t pretty.

Xmas naptime

Sleeping in my lap. Probably just a fluke.

The puppy red zone would rear it’s ugly head most often when Jagger was over-tired or frustrated.  If there was any possibility of activity happening, he just wasn’t going to settle down and rest, and I simply hadn’t expected that.  At one point I sent a somewhat desperate text to an experienced BC-owning friend to ask how I should detach the puppy from my arm long enough to get him in his crate to calm down.  I polled a few more friends for tips on the best grip to use on Gumby-puppy to keep him from continuing to bite me on the way to the crate.  I swear BC puppies have better reach than a Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab (For you folks raised inland, there is exactly one spot where you can hold those things and they can’t pinch you).

Eventually I learned to give him a rest period when I thought he needed it rather than waiting for him to get physically tired.  Physically tired doesn’t seem to happen, which is a little bit scary I have to admit!  I have a shot at mentally tired, and Jagger has been working for almost every piece of kibble from day one.  Here are a few of the early tricks I taught him:

We’ve been making steady progress on his frustration tolerance, and I certainly owe thanks to Izzy for teaching him some manners.  She wanted nothing to do with him for about a week and a half.  But, once she warmed up to him, I noticed that Jagger spent about 95% of his initial time playing with her on his back.  No yike-ing, though, and I only had to intervene once or twice for her being too rough.  Despite her many issues, Izzy actually does have very good skills with puppies and is fair in her corrections.  I noticed a big improvement in Jagger’s bite inhibition once Izzy started playing with him.  I can’t overstate the value of having a mature, yet fair dog around who doesn’t take any nonsense when you’re raising a puppy.  Copper is entirely too tolerant, and I routinely had to rescue him from the rambunctious puppy.

No one believes me about these things when I try to tell them, however.  This is because Jagger will love on anyone.  Profusely.  He does this adorable little snuggle where he’ll stick his head under the chin of a perfect stranger.  I guess he saves all the mayhem for his mother.

If I’d had my act together, I’d have written this post on December 15, 2011.  That was the day I drove to Maryland to meet Jagger’s breeder and pick up my new puppy.  “Why on earth did you get a puppy, Alex?” you might ask.  “You said you needed a third dog like you needed a hole in the head, Alex,” you might say. These are fair questions.  I didn’t think I was going to get another dog for a year or two when I started looking last fall.  Funny how that works.

I had decided a few years ago that once Copper (my 4-year-old Labrador Retriever and first agility dog) got to the Masters/Excellent level,  I would be ready to start looking for another dog.  Copper reached that very exciting milestone this past summer.  I knew that I wanted my next dog to have more working drive.  It is not that I don’t love Copper for exactly who he is, but I did want to have a different experience training my next dog.  I wanted a dog that always wanted to work.  I said things like, “I’d rather have to work on getting control of my dog on course than have to cheerlead him along.”  I’m sure this will come back to haunt me with a terrible vengeance in a few years.  Aaannnd… I got a hefty adrenaline hit from being fortunate enough to have a friend that allowed me to run her border collie in agility a few times.  Mmm, speed.  You’d think I might have changed my mind about a “high drive” dog after this one literally knocked me off my feet because I was too slow and in her way, but no, my reaction was, “Wow, I gotta get me one of those!”

I had also been considering getting a Malinois.  Many of my neighbors had German Shepherd Dogs when I was growing up, and the Malinois has a bit of that look while also being a much more athletic dog.  I still want one, and do plan to have one some day.  However, with my “special” fur-child Izzy in the house, I decided that the timing was not quite right for getting a breed that can be prone to reactivity.  Izzy’s behavior has come light-years from where it was when I rescued her, but she does have some issues that aren’t going to get better, and I knew I didn’t have the time or desire to manage more than one fear-aggressive dog in the house.  Making sure the new puppy wouldn’t follow her sometimes bad example was one of my chief concerns when I got Copper, and it remained a concern with the third dog.

So, border collie it was!  More about how I selected a breeder later, and why I chose to do that instead of rescue, but when I called to talk to Anne Devine at Eyespy Border Collies, it just so happened that the breeding I was interested in had already taken place successfully.  I decided to send a deposit “just in case.”  Low and behold, TEN puppies were born on October 20-21, 2011, so I was definitely getting one if I wanted one.  Right away, I liked this guy:

just born BC pup

The future Mr. Jagger, just born.

Of course, that was way too early to pick, but I was definitely hooked.

BC pup 2 weeks old

At 13 days old, he was already really darn cute.

I was able to see videos of the pups as they grew, and there was a group of several pups that were possibilities.  There were also two or three that seemed to be too much dog for me; one male pup in particular was pegged to the top with excitement in every video. He clearly went to eleven.  Fortunately, the male I liked seemed to be more in the middle of the activity scale of the litter.

BC pup at 4 weeks

Liking the ball already at 4 weeks.

Several of his sisters were in the middle activity-wise as well, and the girls were a bit larger and perhaps more obvious agility prospects.  But my gut said take the little male. So I did.  Follow your heart, right?

Jagger in crate on way home

Apparently he's a Steelers fan. Who knew?