Random Puppy Photos No. 2

I was explaining to a friend about the grooming top I use to start training and took some photos for her. Keep in mind these were taken with a cell phone and the perspectives are a bit off. But only a bit. . . Fix does sort of look like he was put together by committee these days. I’m trying to take the advice of many who show dogs — if the puppy had good structure at 49 days, the adult will have good structure – you just need to close your eyes while the puppy is growing up. Another friend saw him a couple of days ago and said he looked like “someone had grabbed his nose and tail and pulled.” And of course, since he is teething, his ears do something different every day.

 

From a sit. . .

. . . to a stand . . .

. . . then a down.

 

Farm Dog 101: Teething and Chewing

The first puppy teeth to emerge are the canines, followed by the incisors and then premolars. Puppies have 28 deciduous (puppy) teeth which will be lost and replaced by 42 teeth in the adult dog starting at about 12 to 16 weeks. By 16 to 20 weeks, the deciduous premolars have been replaced and by 20 to 24 weeks, the permanent molars have started to erupt. What many people do not realize is that chewing actually increases (and becomes more destructive) from about six to twelve months, until the molars have completely erupted.

Fix, like many young puppies who have been raised with their litter to at least 8 weeks of age, has a soft mouth. His litter-mates (and the adult dogs in his household) taught him that biting down too hard during play was not acceptable. While some puppies “unlearn” this lesson after being removed from the litter (or if removed from the litter prior to 8 weeks, never learn this lesson), there are several good reasons why it is important to continue to teach bite inhibition as opposed to a prohibition on putting teeth on a person at all. IMO, it is critical that a young dog learn how much pressure to use with its mouth and how to regulate that pressure because if a pup does not learn this by 4 months of age, it cannot be taught. In those instances one has to simply rely upon teaching a “no teeth” rule and then hope that the dog is never put into a situation where it bites. The likelihood of a serious bite occurring if the dog has learned to inhibit its bite is much less than if the dog has simply been taught not to put teeth on a person.

Fix has been allowed to continue gentle mouthing while being taught bite inhibition. However, now that he is teething, that pressure has increased in an attempt to decrease the uncomfortable feeling. Given the needle sharpness of his puppy teeth, it is now time to start teaching him that teeth do not belong on human flesh.

In addition to teaching puppies bite inhibition, it is critical to also teach puppies what is, and is not, acceptable as a chew. Without the use of hands to manipulate objects, puppies use their mouths to investigate and learn about their world. All too often, owners provide lots and lots of toys and chews and then wonder why the pup is more inclined to chew on that table leg, wailing that the pup has plenty of toys to chew on. In reality, the more toys and chews laying about, the greater the likelihood that the puppy is actually learning that everything is his to chew on. It is far easier to teach a puppy what are appropriate chew items if the number of acceptable items is limited. I try to provide three different types of chews – something fabric, something of hard rubber (such as a Kong®) and a real (not processed) bone. If I notice that Fix seems to be attracted to a particular thing, I try to provide a suitable substitute made of a similar material.

Teething is one of the most trying stages in a young puppy’s development and requires considerable supervision and redirection. But by being consistent in how this stage is handled, both Fix and I will emerge without me losing anything of value and with Fix having learned to moderate the use of his mouth.

Farm Dog 101: Starting more Formal Training

Fix turned 12 weeks old yesterday. He has a good start on basic manners and is exhibiting more self-control every day. He is still learning about his world and how to interact with it. Fix is a little precocious and many of his stages seem to be a couple of weeks ahead of what would be considered “normal” for a puppy. Generally, I would expect a puppy to start exhibiting the type of independence I am seeing in Fix at about 16 weeks of age. Right now, Fix is starting to become more serious about testing his boundaries. Consistency is the key word here. If a behavior was undesirable yesterday, it will be undesirable today and tomorrow and I am still setting the stage where I can make doing the right thing easy for Fix and doing the wrong thing harder.

As noted before, Fix is now wearing a collar and dragging a line while we are out doing chores. The line enables me to, if necessary, enforce a come and to prevent undesirable behaviors by being able to control those and re-direct Fix to more appropriate behaviors. The last few days, instead of crating Fix while Tuck and I move the remaining six sheep to pasture in the morning and back again in the evening, Fix has been accompanying us. I restrain his impetuous behaviors of wanting to “chase” after the sheep and encourage him to quietly follow behind the sheep whilst they are moving. (In this case, he is ahead of me and pulling at the end of the leash, but I’m allowing that at this time. He is not barking and he is learning he can’t charge madly forward.)

A few nights ago I swapped out the small wire crate Fix slept in for a larger one. Yesterday I retrieved a grooming top from the dog room and put it on top of Fix’ new crate. When possible, when working with puppies, I prefer to introduce new things with the puppy elevated. (It is also easier on my back as I age.) Fix and I did two short training sessions yesterday. The first session I molded the behaviors I was seeking: a sit, stand and down. After three repetitions we were done and Fix was placed back on the floor. Last night during the second session I used small pieces broken off of a salmon dog treat to lure Fix into those behaviors: sit, stand and down. I will continue to alternate between molding and luring for a couple of more days before eliminating the treats.

Fix already has a basis for “come” and has learned to wait for a release around food and so on so the foundation for a “stay” is in place. Both of those commands will start to be formalized this coming week.

Note: In the previous Farm Dog 101 post I mentioned a series of articles on socialization I had written, and I provided the link to the for interested readers. I also wrote a later series on training. These articles are archived in issues of the Shepherd’s Call and are only available to members of the English Shepherd Club. For those interested, if you contact me and provide an e-mail address I will send a pdf containing the six articles. These articles are copyrighted – please respect my copyright. While not required, a donation to National English Shepherd Rescue (www.nesr.info) would be appreciated.

Random Puppy Photos

Chores – watching chickens

No real post – just some random photos of Fix this past week. Today he turns 12 weeks old and we start more formal training.

Chores – trying to play with bucklings

Visiting a Friend – who is that doggie in the . . .

Uncle Tuck won’t you play with me?

“This is not happening”

Health Testing and Drawing Blood

I quarantined the new goats when they were brought to the Farm until I was able to draw blood and send samples off to be tested. The process of drawing blood is not particularly difficult but it involves attention to timing as it is not desirable to have the blood samples arrive at the lab late and sit over the weekend. In the past, when I have had veterinarians come out to draw blood, all of them have used the New Mexico State Lab. The State Lab is back-logged so test results were often delayed for several weeks. In addition, the charges were excessive. After doing some on-line research I discovered that WADDL (Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab) offered the same services much, much cheaper and that I could have the same tests run on four goats for what the State Lab would charge of a single goat. While I am not opposed to the idea of paying a veterinarian to draw blood, I discovered that none of the veterinarians in this county would ship samples to WADDL – even though it is a fully accredited lab recognized by the State of New Mexico – and one veterinarian even refused to draw blood unless it was sent to the State Lab.

Knowing I intended to start drawing blood samples myself, I had ordered the requisite blood tubes last year. In past jobs I have drawn blood on humans, dogs and cats so I was not unduly concerned about drawing blood on the goats. However, since blood draws on goats are done via the jugular vein and not the cephalic vein as is usual in dogs, and since it has been about 20 years since I last drew blood, I decided I would ask whether I could pay a veterinarian from a local clinic to come out and give me a quick refresher on drawing blood from a goat. (Yes, there are plenty of Youtube videos and step-by-step written instructions on the Internet, but I learn best by observation and then hands-on practice under supervision.)

I set up an appointment and earlier this week the veterinarian and her tech arrived. We discussed what I needed and she agreed to walk me through the process. As drawing blood is generally a two person job – one to restrain the goat and the second to perform the draw – we discussed that I intended to use the milk stand to restrain the goats. Therefore, after the first goat was done in the usual fashion, we did the remaining goats on the milk stand. I remembered there being a learning curve to draw blood on the first stick and therefore was not surprised to find that while I remembered the “how to” I had lost the knack of finding the vein on the first stick. I managed to draw the first and last goat I tried, but after three unsuccessful sticks, had the veterinarian draw the other goats.

Since some of the tests I run are not reliable on goats under 6 months of age, the two bucklings will have blood drawn for testing at the end of the summer. More practice for me.

The blood samples were duly packaged per WADDL instructions and mailed Priority Mail. Some of the tests are run on Thursdays and so will be run today. Other tests are run on Tuesdays and those will be run next week. I expect the test results to be mailed by the end of next week.

Since I have a closed herd I have been comfortable in the past just testing every three years (this is the first time in several years I have brought in new goats from an outside herd). However, if I draw blood myself and use WADDL, the costs will be significantly less than in past years and I may go to testing every other year, or even annually.

Farm Dog 101: Important Puppy Lessons

A friend asked me the other day about puppy classes. I explained to her that I was less than impressed with how most puppy classes were designed and run and that a bad puppy class could have a very negative impact upon a puppy that lasted its entire lifetime. Dogs do not learn good dog-dog social skills from dogs that do not have good social skills so I don’t understand why people believe it is a good idea to throw a lot of puppies into a setting where, instead of good dog-dog social skills, they are most likely learning a lot of inappropriate behaviors. From my viewpoint, puppy classes which have “free play” are simply arenas in which puppies either are bullied or learn to be bullies. A good puppy class, in my opinion, should be more about educating the owners about how to address mouthing, chewing, housetraining and so on and how to set the stage for developing a good relationship with the puppy as it grows. I also like to see a puppy class that, while not focusing on obedience, begins to lay the groundwork for later obedience training.

To me, one of the most important things a puppy needs to learn is how to accept handling and restraint. All dogs, regardless of coat type, need to be groomed regularly, which includes nail trimming. Frequent inspections are necessary to ensure the puppy or dog is free of external parasites such as ticks and fleas, and where foxtails are a problem, daily checks should be done.

Daily handling of Fix has demonstrated more clearly than anything else how rapidly his behaviors change from day to day. One day he will lie quietly on his back in my arms, with only very gentle mouthing, and the next, he will almost immediately begin protesting when I cradle him in this fashion. As I only release him and put him on the ground when he is being quiet and complacent, some of these handling sessions can be much less fun than others. Fix is getting big enough (he now weighs 19 lbs from the 11.1 lbs he weighed the day before he flew home) that very soon, these sessions will occur with me sitting on the floor and Fix on his back between my outstretched legs (this is how I currently trim his nails.)

While I am a fervent proponent of obedience training, the simple fact is that many dog owners are not going to invest the time and energy into training their dog for off-leash reliability. Simply teaching a dog self-control, basic manners and to accept restraint and handling, greatly increases the likelihood that dog will stay in its original home.

Note: several years ago I wrote a series of articles on socialization for the English Shepherd Club Newsletter (Shepherd’s Call). As part of its mandate for education, the English Shepherd Club has developed a website for breeders, prospective puppy buyers and dog owners. While, not surprisingly, many of the articles reference English Shepherds, the information on the website is valuable to any breeder, puppy buyer and dog owner. For those interested in reading about socialization, the four articles I wrote can be found at http://www.escbreederinfo.com/. Two articles (Puppy Socialization Factors and The Secondary Socialization Period: six to twelve weeks) can be found under the tab Delivery/Raising and the last two articles (Habituation: 12 to 20 weeks and Adolescence) are under the tab labeled New Owners.

Farm Dog 101: Self-Control and Manners

Wednesday Fix accompanied me to the office again. Overall he was quiet and well-behaved, though his behavior is changing daily at this point and it is unlikely I will bring him back to the office until he is older and has some basic training. Puppies go through developmental stages quite rapidly from about 3 weeks through adolescence. This is especially apparent in a working bred puppy like Fix. The first week Fix was home, he stayed close at heel while we were doing chores. However, at almost 11 weeks, now that he has been in this environment for a couple of weeks, he is more comfortable with his surroundings and starting to range further away from me. He is no longer as concerned when I am out of sight and more willing to entertain himself – and not necessarily in ways that I want to encourage.

Fix at Office – 10 1/2 weeks

As mentioned earlier, with a young puppy (or with any dog new to my household) I am initially most interested in the puppy learning rules and boundaries and manners through self-control. I will most likely not start any formal obedience training with Fix until he is 12 weeks old, though I judge the readiness to start training based on the individual dog and not on a specific time table.

It is important to me that dogs in my household learn to internalize acceptable behavior. To achieve this goal requires that I am willing to invest the time and energy into providing an optimum environment for the puppy (or dog) to grow. I do not puppy proof my house, per se. I will block off all the rooms except for the immediate area in which I am working, and I will initially crate the puppy at night while I am sleeping or on occasions when I cannot safely supervise (like last evening when I was spraying weeds outside.) At all other times, if I am home, I am supervising Fix and monitoring his behavior. It is not my goal to prevent behaviors except in cases where there is a serious danger to the health and well-being of the puppy. If Fix is never allowed to do the “wrong” thing he will never learn to discriminate between what is and is not acceptable. As a general rule, I don’t provide a negative consequence for actions I find undesirable until the dog has learned the appropriate behavior and has chosen to continue an undesirable behavior. For example, I don’t pick up my shoes as I want Fix to learn to not chew on them as opposed to training myself to never leave shoes on the floor. Quite frankly, it is a much easier task to teach Fix not to chew on my shoes than it is to try and re-train myself not to just kick my shoes off when I come in the house. If Fix starts chewing on a shoe, or other inappropriate object, I simply interrupt the behavior with a verbal “aah” and redirect him to a behavior I would prefer. If I simply stopped the behavior, Fix would find something else to do and the chances are good I wouldn’t like that behavior any better. By choosing the behaviors I want from Fix and redirecting him to those behaviors, both Fix and I are less frustrated and I have a better behaved puppy who is learning what is and is not acceptable.

Basically, teaching manners is no more than teaching self-control. Impulsivity and immediate gratification are hallmarks of young children (or young dogs). However, living in a social structure successfully requires that one learn self-control and how to defer pay-outs. This is a challenge for young animals, mainly because their brains are still developing and the synapses are not fully formed. For this reason though, creating those pathways at a young age, means that the behaviors are more firmly established as dog (or child) matures. At this age, Fix has a short attention span so I expect to have to repeat certain lessons. Consistency and repetition, regardless of training method, is the key to successful training. Perfection is not the goal when the pup is young – what is important is that the pup is developing the ability to learn and to self-impose limitations.

Fix with new toy

Fix will exhibit a behavior one day and then it will disappear only to re-emerge a few days later. All of the pups were pulling on pant legs when I was visiting. That behavior stopped when Fix came home but has reared its head again in the past few days. While Fix quickly learned the crate door would not open unless he was quiet, in the last two days he has started barking at me when he wants out of the crate. Needless to say, the behavior is not producing the results he desires. He is automatically sitting while I prepare his meals (he eats a raw food diet) and when he gets fed from a dish (usually in the mornings when he gets organ meats, yogurt, egg and a vegetable), he is now exhibiting a sit until released (about 45 seconds right now). He sits when I am putting on his collar and is learning to sit rather than jump on me when he wants attention. None of these behaviors have been taught other than to open the crate door, put the food dish down and leave it down, etc. when Fix is exhibiting self-control.

As Fix is now at the age where he is no longer following me closely when outside, it is now time for Fix to start wearing a collar and to drag a line when he is out. It is my responsibility to set the stage where it is easy for Fix to be ‘right’ and harder for him to be ‘wrong.’ Dragging a line gives me the necessary tool to ensure that I can help Fix be right when necessary and prevent him from practicing behaviors that I don’t want. Since I want my dogs (at least initially) to be within ten to fifteen feet of me when outside, I use a fifteen foot line which I can step on when the dog starts to range further. The dog will check itself and almost always will look back at me. That allows me to either verbally acknowledge the dog or to call him to me and praise for coming (even if I have to use the line to ensure compliance.) How long Fix drags a line will depend on several factors and it may be that there are periods where he is not dragging a line interspersed with periods where the line is used again. In addition to ensuring that the dog remains close to me when outside, the line also enables me to tether the dog if I am doing something where the proximity of the dog will either hinder my activity or potentially be dangerous for the dog but where I want the dog to learn that part of the ‘job’ is to stay out of my way and be quiet at times.

Fix dragging longe line

Farm Dog 101

To begin, some background. I have trained dogs most of my adult life and was a professional dog trainer for almost twenty years. Obviously this means that I have very definite opinions about the relationship I want to have with a dog and the training methods I use to achieve that goal. Having said that, as long as a handler is reasonably consistent with his/her approach to training, almost any type of training will eventually produce results. Training methods are a matter of personal preference. As I am inherently lazy, I personally choose to train in a fashion that consistently gets me the best results in the least amount of time, while developing the type of relationship I want to have with my dog.

First and foremost, I do not own pets – all of my dogs have been, and will be, companion dogs and then, hopefully, working dogs. My dogs are not relegated to the backyard (or kennel or crate) and only interacted with when I want to spend time with them. My dogs are part of my household and from day one all of my interactions with my puppies and dogs are with the intent that they will learn the behaviors necessary to become the companion I want without me having to micromanage what they do or when they do it. While at the current time I have the good fortune to work from home most of the time, I have, in the past, worked jobs away from home. As it was necessary for me to crate a puppy while I was away from the house, I had a hard and fast rule – if the puppy was crated while I was at work, the puppy was always uncrated during the times when I was home (other than when I was sleeping.)

Readers may have a different way of raising their dogs. My blog posts are about how I raise my dogs. Readers are welcome to raise their puppies/dogs how they please, but don’t waste my time trying to argue with how I am raising my dogs. If these blog posts are helpful, I’m very happy to hear it. If you don’t like what you are reading, please go read someone else’s writings. I am no longer in the business of training dogs and therefore do not have to (and won’t) deal with dog owners except on my terms.

I have lived with multiple dogs for most of my adult life and many of those dogs have been “second-hand dogs” which have found themselves homeless due to no fault of their own. My advice to prospective dog owners is that, with the exception of working dogs, obtaining an adolescent or adult dog from a shelter or through a rescue group is a great idea. With an adolescent or adult dog, you can get a pretty good idea of the temperament and characteristics of that animal. However, if the prospective dog owner desires a puppy, I do not recommend getting one from a shelter or rescue group. If a puppy finds itself needing a home the chances are very high that the “breeder” did not invest the time or energy in ensuring the pup had the best possible start in life and oftentimes it means that pup was removed from its dam and litter-mates too early and lost out on valuable life lessons. In my opinion, puppies should be obtained from a good breeder (not all breeders are created equal) and if a working dog is wanted, a puppy from a good breeder is pretty much de rigueur.

Fix, my newest companion/working dog, was obtained from a good breeder in Pennsylvania. He and his litter-mates were raised on a working farm and given the best possible start in life, from both their dam as well as the other canines and humans in the household. This start has enabled Fix to transition seamlessly into his new environment.

Today marks two weeks since Fix left his litter-mates and traveled far, far away – to what probably seemed like a new galaxy to him. In that time he has been asked to adjust to many new things. Having never been crated alone before, it took Fix three nights to learn to be quiet in his crate when I went to bed. He learned this, not because he was corrected for howling and barking, but because he was ignored when he did so and was only released from the crate when he was quiet. He has learned that even after the crate door is opened, he has to wait for a release word. While it is normal to have to take a young pup out to potty during the night, I have been extremely lucky with Fix that he has slept through the night from the beginning. He is learning self-control around food and that he needs to wait for a release before eating. The adult dogs Fix was raised with taught him appropriate behaviors around his elders and therefore his introduction to my other dogs went smoothly. I continue, and will for a period of time, to monitor the dogs but that is more to ensure he doesn’t harass my older dogs. So far the older dogs have disciplined him when his behaviors have necessitated a correction and none have gone over the top. Twice a day, at a minimum, Fix accompanies me on chores. Fix chased a chicken once early on, but it took only a quiet “aah” to interrupt the behavior and then praise when he came to me when I called “puppy, puppy.” He now watches the chickens closely but does not chase them even when they are flapping around. Fix spent a day and a half biting at the tires of the feed cart before giving up that behavior – not because he was corrected for it but because I didn’t focus on it. Some of the boundaries he is learning now, will be boundaries he starts pushing as he enters adolescence. However, by developing a relationship and instituting rules and structure now, the trials and tribulations of adolescence will most likely be short-lived.

These first two weeks have been about incorporating Fix into my household and teaching him the rules and boundaries while encouraging self-control. As Fix continues to grow, I will start more formal training with him. Future Farm Dog 101 blog posts may be weekly or monthly depending upon what Fix and I are doing. I hope you join us on our adventure.

Introducing. . .

Brandywine Fix.

A friend of mine who raises the (very) occasional litter of English Shepherd puppies had a litter planned for March 2017. Both the sire and dam (a niece of my working dog, Brandywine Tuck) had health clearances and the dam is operational as a search and rescue dog as well as working on her owner’s small farm, so the expectation was for a physically and temperamentally sound litter with the genetics to work. I therefore put in an application for a puppy and started making plans to visit and fly home with a puppy.

As with Tuck’s litter, the pups in this litter were all very nice and had a good balance of pack, prey and defense drives so making a choice was not easy. After six days, in which I evaluated the entire litter, puppy sat for two full days while my friend and her husband were at a conference, and spent hours overall just playing with and observing the puppies, I had finally narrowed my selection down to two puppies: a seal/white little female and a black/white male. My friend had made an appointment for a health certificate with her vet on the day before I flew home, so that morning I finally decided to bring home the little male.

7 1/2 weeks
Resting up from gardening chores

After a long, unplanned delay at the connecting airport, the pup and I arrived back in New Mexico in the early hours of the morning. He started his job as an up and coming farm dog a few hours later as he accompanied me on the morning chores.

8 weeks and 3 days
Resting at the airport

I have a two-week period of time in which I allow the pup to choose his/her own name. I usually have a list of names I like and will call the pup at some point while he/she is distracted to see if the name elicits a response. Generally I run through the first list with no clear preference for a name and have to start compiling a second list before finally finding a name which I like and to which the pup also has a strong response. In this instance I had spent the first week running through my first list of names and had one name which the pup had at least acknowledged. This would be my fall back name if the pup didn’t pick a different one before the end of the two weeks. With the second week half gone, I suddenly remembered Friday night that Sidhe had selected her name from a fantasy book series I had been reading at the time: Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files (if you are into fantasy, I would highly recommend this series about a wizard in Chicago – it is extremely well written as well as just a lot of fun.) So during Saturday morning’s chores as the pup was investigating something about ten feet from me, I stopped and called “Fix” – his head popped up and swiveled around to locate me and he came running, sliding into a sit in front of me. So the pup has chosen his name – “Fix” – the name of the knight of the faerie summer court.

9 1/2 weeks
Hard Day at the Office

New Beginnings

Several friends of mine took care of the farm for two weeks recently so I could travel out-of-state to pick up my next farm dog. I spent those two weeks back east – a week in Vermont and a second week in Pennsylvania. The shades of green in both places were truly beautiful and very different from home. However, things (mostly weeds of course) greened up here while I was gone and while the green may not be as vibrant it is nonetheless a very welcome change from the winter browns.

Before I left I had given considerable thought to where I wanted – and needed – to be with the farm to achieve my original goal of the farm being self-supporting. While I was willing to pay for fencing, maintenance, etc. I wanted the livestock to be profitable enough that expenses for hay and other items directly related to maintaining the livestock were not coming out of my pocket. After several years raising lambs, I finally acknowledged that the lambs were simply not paying for themselves and that my pocketbook was being steadily drained; hence the decision to sell off the sheep. At the current time, it hasn’t been determined whether or not the hogs will pay for themselves once I start selling hogs, although I suspect that the hogs, too, will be a money drain. The chickens are seasonal producers but because I really like fresh eggs, I’ll maintain a small flock of chickens.

In recent years, the only livestock pulling their weight have been the Nigerian Dwarfs. I am also addicted to their milk, another reason to keep goats. As I had started drying off my does prior to leaving on vacation, and expected my does to be dry when I returned, I made arrangements to buy a doe in milk on my return. The difficulties in finding a buck with an excellent milk pedigree whose owner was willing to let me health test and lease him resulted in me deciding to purchase a buckling. After considering the matter I decided to buy two bucklings, from different breeders and with different pedigrees but both out of excellent milking lines.

A well-known Nigerian Breeder was retiring and selling all of her breeding stock so, in addition to the doe in milk, when the puppy and I traveled to Tulerosa to pick up the doe in milk, I ended up buying the last two available does . Both does have been exposed to bucks for fall kiddings.

At the present time the three new does are housed in quarantine, and the two bucklings are also in separate quarters, all awaiting health test results. More information and photographs of the new additions will be forthcoming.

I am currently contemplating different arrangements for new pens which will give me more flexibility in separating dry does from those in milk, weaned kids and so on.

The new puppy has been home for just over a week now and has settled in very nicely. He is accompanying me on chores twice a day and learning the routine. He has also finally managed to get one of the older dogs to play with him a little.

If I just keep bugging her, maybe she’ll play . ..

Chase Games