Friday, December 28, 2012

Brockle Update --

Brockle is still wonderful. 

He has also begun to relax.

Which means there's some testing going on in the house.

He is still sweet, calm, gentle and obedient. In the house and when he's tired.

He's a ball retrieving, rabbit chasing goon outside and off-leash. 

Brockle is a cat burglur.

Once Jim and I leave he becomes something else. He becomes a sneaky little thief. He steals our stuff. Then he puts them some place where we'll find them. It's like a criminal's signature left during a crime spree.I'll find my boot in the middle of our bed. or Jim's back brace on the patio table. A single slipper hidden under the blanket in Charlie's favorite chair. Nothing is chewed, just placed gently in the middle of every single place he's not allowed to be. A piece of statuary from the table in the entryway sitting on the kitchen counter. I could go on.

"Wait!" I think. Maybe Charlie's doing it, of course Charlie isn't tall enough. How about a poltergeist? If the poltergeist has big giant feet and leaves muddy paw prints all over my furniture...

Brockle's heritage is constantly being brought under the gun. Nobody wants to accept the idea he just might be what I was told he is, GSD and collie. I guess they want him to be more exotic.

"He can't be GSD and collie, his color's all wrong," is the major one.

I was wondering if all of the armchair geneticists were right, and he was something more interesting, you know, cooler. But then I found these. So much for that theory.

It turns out, there is a gene, the pied gene, also called the white spot gene (I think). It's a recessive gene and GSD breeders are not happy when it shows up. But it took ten minutes on the Internet for me to find a Krazy Kolor GSD breeder who was doing this on purpose. So it's easy to see where Brockle gets his color.

I think I may have solved the puzzle though. 
I think he's a Lurcher.

Lurchers were developed by the Romanichals and Mouchers in England (the Norfolk Lurcher being the typical moucher dog) and other British countries during a period when hunting of game was reserved for the landed classes. The penalties for poaching were extremely severe, and greyhounds (as well as being very difficult to train) were also the dog of the aristocracy, so obviously a different dog was required. They were used for poaching rabbits, hares and other small creatures.  It is never bred to a specific standard and is not considered a breed, as the Lurcher is a crossbreed: usually three quarters sighthound but can have any amount of sighthound in them.  The most common combinations are the Greyhound/Collie and the Greyhound/Terrier.  The name Lurcher a is derived name from the Romany word lur, which means thief.  

 Lurchers are sometimes referred to as Gypsy Dogs as they were often utilized to steal chickens, etc. from the farmers.  Aptly named, nothing lying within reach is off-limits to these imps.

See? Born to be a thief. He's gotta be a lurcher.

He's making up for it though. He's about got fetching the paper in the morning down. He never, ever leaves my side by choice. I did a fairly serious PD pratfall down a hill last week. Brockle came off a rabbit he and Charlie were chasing and was standing over me, barking and nosing me, within seconds. He backed off nicely and gave me room to get back up too.

He's extremely fond of Snocone. He licks her face and gently sniffs her. In return she is beginning to play a little.

Charlie and Brockle are becoming fast friends. Brockle is even showing Charlie how to steal things. I'm so proud.

The crazy play never stops.

Charlie is turning into a lean, mean rat machine. He's lost five years of stuffiness.

On the training side of things, we've been doing good. I keep reading and watching videos and trying this, that and the other thing to see what works.

Treat rewards work well for some things, mainly if we're in the house and there's nothing better to do. He likes food, but he doesn't care enough to prefer it over some of his rowdiness outside. If he's seriously distracted, he doesn't care for treats, praise or even his favorite toy his tennis ball. 

For the moment, I'm working on a dog-version of my old Monte Foreman horse training techniques. 1. Ask for the behavior I want. 2. Tll him what I want. 3.Make it happen.

I'll use walking on the leash as a good example. If Brockle starts to put weight on his leash I make the hand holding the leash into a fist. If he backs off I relax my hand again.
If he doesn't respond I go to step two, give him a verbal Heh, re-position him and walk on. 
If he still doesn't respond I either turn suddenly and walk the other way for a few steps or bump him as hard as it takes with my foot until he's back where he belongs.

He only gets a food reward (a bit of chicken) if he does what I want at step #1. 

It's working nicely. Not great, still working. One reason he was turned into the pound was for pulling his owner over on the leash, now he doesn't go past step two anymore. 

His dog aggression is dwindling, we're passing other dogs on our walks like a couple of pros. We had seven dogs here for Christmas (missing two) and only had a very minor skirmish between Brockle and my step-sons notoriously aggressive Blue Heeler. It was mainly noise, the heeler was locked up in another room for a few minutes and everything stayed polite afterwards.

We spend an hour to an hour-and-a-half a day on walks. I can take him to the barn, tie him to an arena post while I ride and he lays down and watches with quiet interest.

Brockle's ball. We play fetch for a good thirty to forty throws every day at the dog park.

I'm not cast in stone on any of this yet, I'm still reading about different techniques, but Brockle is fast turning into a well-behaved companion in spite of me.

He lies at my feet and his intelligent eyes crackle with conversation and interest. Brockle can't wait for the adventure of the day to begin and he won't start it without me. This has the rumblings of something great.


  1. Fantastic!! It's in him, and you're helping it out.

    You're expecting him to behave to your standards but you're letting him be himself. Isn't that really the ultimate goal of training a dog?

    Or a horse?

    Or (sorry) a kid?

  2. By the way, speaking of what that dog really is, in terms of breeding... I have suspicions about my gelding's heritage. Sometimes I think his daddy was not an Appaloosa and sometimes I wonder if he himself is not an Appaloosa. He is coloured that way but not shaped that way. Doesn't matter - he's my guy and he's right for his job. I just wonder sometimes. Interesting research you did on dog breeds!!

  3. Well.... Having missed the point on the last posting, let's see if I can get it right on this one. :-) Some of the things you are doing are very consistent with a dog trainer I used to have. He was a very good one. One of the thing he had us do was, when the dog wasn't paying attention on leash, we walked off in another and bumped the dog. The eventual result is that the dog learned that humans are bad about wandering, and if you don't keep your eye on them at all time, they will go somewhere odd. He also insisted that your dog should respond on the first try. (Like your rewarding Brockle only when he gets it right on #1). That trainer was extremely good and he made a world of difference for my incorrigible husky shepherd mix. She was far too intelligent for her own good. Thanks to him, she went from being a horror onleash to being a joy to walk. I could even take her out with my bike - which made exercising her much easier. I guess what I'm saying here is that, as far as I can tell, you're very much on the right track. Clearly you're starting to reap the rewards.

  4. My first dog, Katie, in college, was a GSD/Collie (both parents in the home where I got her). Best. Dog. Ever! Smart as a whip but very well behaved. (I may have shared this before--my department gave her an honorary degree when I graduated, as she had accompanied me to most of my classes for 3 years.)
    Her coloring was something that would have gotten her drowned by any "reputable" GSD breeder: she was very pale cream colored. A GSD show judge said her conformation was pretty standard GSD, except for a slightly pointed Collie snout.
    And, Heidi, it was only because Katie came out pretty well that I decided I might make a decent parent some day. (I DON'T make the comparison between animal training and child-rearing to any of my current parent clients.)

  5. I could believe a LGD crossed with an English collie (lassie dog ) not a border collie. For bad pulling on the leash I make them stop and then back up a few steps making them turn and come to me and then turn again to be on our way. I am nice about it but as boring as I can be so it doesn't turn into a fun game.

  6. Yeah Heidi, it's easy to let him be who he is, he's kind of the Johnny Depp of dogs. His favorite role is thieving pirate of course, but when he makes his squinty love eyes at me, I get a little weak in the knees.

    Jenny goat -- yeah, he's supposed to be rough collie cross, not border collie.

  7. Yay Brockle!! I'm telling ya, that first picture you posted, those eyes. He's got a lot going on in those brains. :)

    It only took me a little over 2 yrs to get Brad to heel properly on the leash. My husband & I realize he's actually learned a lot with us. It's taken a looong time, but he's learning. repetition repetition repetition consistency for Brad. And then repeat again. Many times....

  8. Sounds like a friend of mine's Golden Retriever. Used to bring presents to visitors. I always rated a sock, usually balled up, which the dog retrieved from the hamper. I was glad it was a sock and not another form of 'underwear.'

  9. BCs can certainly be that mischievousness. (Ha ha, I've been where you told me not to go!) But lurcher works for me, too. You never know what's in the mix!

    A lot of dog noise is lack of confidence. You build up the confidence (as you have been) by letting him know what he can worry about and what you've got taken care of (as with the heeler) and he will continue to relax.

    I love love love watching the dogs in my classes 'get it' that they don't have to worry and then start to relax and have fun. The doggie grins at their handlers melt my heart!

    Really happy to see your Brock posts. I know only slightly more about dogs than I do horses, but I am reading your observations with a wide open mind, enjoying the conversation and contrasts/similarities to horse training.

  10. Oops. You think he's rough collie.

    You see my Agility dog bias coming out on that one. We see lots of Borders and Shelties, not so many of the Rough Coated.

  11. I think you're definitely on the right track with the way you're going about the leash walking.

    Why don't you teach him some things that would help you with the Parkinson's? You don't seem to need a full blown service dog all the time, but if he's that concerned about you, teach him how to help you get up. My ex's grandfather's dog would bump his legs with his nose to get him 'unstuck'. There are all kinds of things you could teach him!

  12. A lurcher/pirate! What a great description! Glad to hear that he's making terrific progress (muddy paw prints notwithstanding).

    Funny how a new dog can liven up previously stuffy dogs. Charlie looks like he is having a blast in that picture.

  13. Candy's Girl -- you are the first to see where I'm heading.
    We're starting with the paper.
    He waits until Jim and I are up or down the stairs before he follows (that's for all the dogs).
    He's nudging me when it's time for my meds. I forget them in spite of several alarms going off.
    That's all so far, I'm still working on not turning inside out when he sees other dogs play balll!

  14. Breathe - Charlie is having a blast. Ever since Brockle accepted Charlie's "rules" they've been best buddies. Charlie has good rules BTW. No rough housing - in the house- gentle approach to old dogs, me and Jim, no riling up visiting dogs, no fighting.
    Now they're ganging up on me. Charlie may want things orderly, but he has no moral code whatsoever. He thinks thievery is a fine idea.

  15. In my teens, my dad got the family his "dream dog", an irish setter. Now this particular strain of setter had been bred in Alaska and used as sled dogs - broad chests, block heads, and webbing between the toes. I was the chosen one to take Sheilah to doggy school. The trainer used the "dog must always be paying attention to where you are and what you are signalling" approach. Sheilah was the first irish she had graduate on the first try through the class. Almost blew it on final exam long sit-stay, as my dad was in the bleachers and called out to her "good dog". Sheilah looked at him and raised her butt, then looked at me and my hand was up in the stay sign. She put her butt right down. Good dog.

    Mugs, this sounds like a great team, building to support you and to give Brockle a job. We had a blind gentleman in our town who had a service mini horse - went into the grocery store with him even.
    Brockle sounds like a better match for your needs, and easier on the carpets!

    Happy Happy New Years!
    Barefooter, who can't seem to sign in anywhere.

  16. Awesome! I've known several service dogs who provided their owners with all kinds of independence they wouldn't have otherwise had.

    I'm not sure how far you're wanting to take this, but if you're intending to make him into a full blown service dog, I'm fairly well versed in the laws pertaining to it (though am not a lawyer). Feel free to PM me if you want additional info/resources if that's the route you're going.

    If nothing else, good training always makes for a happier, better adjusted dog.

  17. If you want to know for sure, they sell a kit on the internet for having your dog dna tested. They will give you his mix of breeds, and the percentage of each.

    He looks like he could be a GSD/Collie cross. I don't think lurchers are that common in this country, but I think they are still popular in the UK.

    I always think it's cool when a dog teaches the rules to a new dog. When my aussie was a puppy we had an older female GSD. She taught him that jumping on people was not allowed, and she taught him the boundaries of the yard. We don't have a fence, and when he was a puppy, he was not allowed within 50 feet of the road, nor in the horse pasture or the cow pasture. When he got a little older, she couldn't keep up with him, and he would get in the pastures. It's been 13 years, and he still doesn't go near the road unless I have him on a leash.

  18. you guys do get I was kidding on the lurcher thing, right?

  19. As far as DNA goes, I've thought about it, but guessing is so much more fun.
    So far the input has been:
    Border Collie
    Brittney Spaniel (loved that one)
    Great Pyrenees
    English Setter
    Belgian Tervuran
    English Shepherd
    ...and a very few who agree on the rough collie, which is what I was told he had mixed in with the GSD.
    The only thing anybody can agree on is GSD.

    All I know is he is definitely heavily linked to the herding breeds. I've never had a dog work so hard for eye contact before.
    He has a hard herding instinct, more of a circle and hold type over driving from the back.

    It's fun to guess and I'm getting a handle on who he is, so who cares what he is?

  20. For some reason, our dog walk park has gained several big lurchers in the past year - they're so lovely!

    I don't know whether this petition will do any good, but I thought about your post about your daughter wanting to go into therapeutic riding, and the setup in the picture looks professional / good horse care, so...

  21. Bwahahahah I didn't think that was a lurcher! I have a greyhound and she's just the laziest thing on earth (though the BEST!)
    Your dog(s) also look like the BEST!

  22. Whom ever suggested the Borzoi, I agree. I think that is where the color comes from, the more rounded back and leaner through the loins.

  23. Since you mentioned a fall: I have taught my dog to, upon the cue "Brace" to stand solidly so I can put a hand on his shoulders to help myself get up off the floor. He doesn't have to take all my weight, but it really helps.