Friday, April 4, 2014

Dogs - Observations and Questions

At the moment I am dealing with some interesting dog situations. I currently have six of the mangy bastards most interesting mix of dogs you could hope for.

I have my four, Brockle, the big hairy beast who is 2, Charlie, the rat terrier, 11, Dinah, a corgi/JRT, 16, and Snocone, a clinically insane, puppy mill surviving, Maltese, 10.

Then, I also have the, um, joy, of fostering my daughter's 1-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain dog, Bianca and 6-year-old sociopathic Italian Grayhound/Min Pin, Dobby.


I know this because I shout it at my neighbors every morning.

In order to function, I struck a deal with the Kidlette. She deals with her dogs and I deal with mine. I don't train, walk or take on their emotional health. In return, she does the same.

This avoids battles between us about training, exercise, or manners, and stops me from trying to pet six dogs at once.

It's not ideal, but it keeps things manageable.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not mean to her dogs, I feed them, make them part of our regular treks outside to pee and have cookies and tell them they are good when they offer behaviors I'm happy to see. I don't walk them, train them or snuggle them.

I tell myself this is a great opportunity to observe pack behavior and hierarchy, and am studying and thinking instead of sitting in a corner staring off into space. Besides, that's Snocone's job.

I'll write about the pack stuff at a later date, today, I'm hoping some of the dog people out there will help me understand a few things that confuse me and hopefully give me some insight on a few training issues.

One surprising thing I've learned -- if you completely ignore a dog it will go out of it's mind trying to figure out what you want and try to do it. Well, except Dobby, he will only take so much ignoring, then he starts to shake and pee on stuff. Afterwards he sits with Jim and glares at me.

Bianca has cut back on mindless barking because she gets a rare scritch on the butt and a "Good quiet!" when she stops. She has learned to lay down quietly and quit ravaging visitors (she's torn between barking with her hackles up and insane wiggling, wagging, mauling) just to get my approval. She has stopped counter surfing --when I'm home. She no longer walks across the smaller dogs, knocks them over to beat them out the door or sits on them to get their spot. Her general anxiety has dropped. This has all come from her watching what earns approval for my dogs and then emulating them.

Dobby has learned to poop outside, unless it's cold, windy, snowing or wet. He will sometimes make an effort  if I have the good gooey treats. He has learned to stop snarling and snapping when it's suggested he move out of a chair by getting dumped on the floor. His preferred method of coping is to hang with Jim because he lets him eat off his plate.

So. On to my questions. 
First, let's tackle Brockle.
Brockle likes to line stuff up.

Weird huh?

Does anybody have a clue what this is about?

He did this quite a bit during the first few months I had him. He would take shoes, toys, sticks, towels, the TV remote, garden stuff I had left out...and line them up. As you can see, we're talking a pretty straight line, and the spaces in between are close to equal.

Then, he stopped.

Over the last month or so, things have been intense around here and my stress levels are high. He started making lines again. Except now, it's only things of mine, or things I handle and a few sticks to fill things in. So, he takes my shoes, bath towel, socks, the remote, my phone, the spatula, things like that.
Also, during periods when my illness is really beating the crap out of me, he has started making a line along the length of my bed while I sleep. Except then, it's all his toys.

It seems to be a reaction to stress.

He guards his lines ferociously from the other dogs. You can see from the photo he wasn't pleased I was looking at it. He knew I was going to take my stuff back.

He doesn't chew anything up. I never get upset with him.

The conversation usually goes like this:

"Brockle? Do you have my shoe? Whoa, dude, now that's a work of art. Sorry buddy, I need my stuff back."

Brockle, looking miserable, follows me while I get my stuff. Then he sniffs each item as I put them away or on.

The lines aren't always in the same place in the yard, but they are always very straight and even. I've never seen him build one, but I have watched him fill in gaps and move things to make them straight. He lays in the yard, head between his paws, and watches it. Then periodically gets up and moves stuff. He makes them anywhere from ten days apart to twice on a slow afternoon.

I don't know if this is connected, but the other night, Charlie was running around the house with something gray, floppy and about 3 inches square. The other dogs were really interested, he was doing a cross between making sure they all knew he had it, and trying to find a safe place to chew on it. 

I went to see what he had. It was a very old, recently dug up piece of rawhide. Since I quit giving my dogs rawhides two years ago, it was pretty gross. Unlike my other dogs, when I tell Charlie, "Drop it" he thinks it means "Clench the gross thing between my teeth and run like hell," which is what he did.

I was tired, he had disappeared out the dog door, and well, I was tired. So I went to bed. I heard some running, growling and complaining from the dogs during the night, but no actual murders. The next morning, the rawhide was laying on the floor next to my bed. 

Charlie was pacing and upset. Brockle kept staring him down to keep him off, the other dogs were staying clear.

Charlie doesn't share, so Brockle must have put it by me.

Was he taking care of me or did he give it to me to stop the arguments? Or is all of this some weird dog ritual sacrifice? Any ideas?

My next Brockle question.
He guards me. Not violently, but diligently. If someone is at the door, he runs and leans against/between me and the door. He gets between me and any person or dog who is focused on me. He blocks my access to all major appliances and the kitchen sink (but not the bathroom) when I'm too tired to be working.

He won't eat unless I'm actively engaged in an activity that tells him I'm not leaving the house.

There was some minor aggression to a friends dog, at her house, when her dog crossed his perceived line of protection. Not cool.

I need him to curtail it. But, I don't want to stop his need to care for me. He is becoming a crackerjack assistance dog, and I don't want him to question his role. He helps me up stairs, to get out of bed, leans into me to help me balance when I'm off, and some other stuff I haven't decided to write about yet.He can tell my BP is dropping before I can, and I'm just now learning to read him and listen. 

So, how do I get control of his overzealous side, ease his anxiety, but keep developing and benefiting from  the positives?

I've been debating using the "place" command. Then I could park him and he could be relieved of his job as my shadow. 
Would that help control the misplaced aggression?
Except, from  what I understand, once a dog is parked, they have to stay that way until released. I need him to make executive decisions. When I'm tired or overdo  I don't always think clearly. Brockle will nuzzle and push until I stop and either sit or lay down. 

Any thoughts?

Next question.
She is still emerging from her internal tangled ball of yarn brain, 2 1/2 years after we adopted her. She just offered her first communication cue. 
I have learned that when Snocone makes tiny little circles (like a dog about to lay down), she needs to go outside NOW.
A few months ago, she began coming within five feet or so to make her circles. She was actually coming to find me when she needed to go out.

When I take her out, I pick her up and carry her, we don't have enough time for her to robot walk out, plus, she forgets she's following and wanders, anyway, I always take the opportunity to give or get a snuggle from her on the way out the door.

Recently, like in the past two weeks or so, Snocone started to come within five feet, do her circle, then, when I picked her up, just melt in and give me the coveted Maltese hug. She started using the "I gotta pee" cue as a "I need attention" cue too. Trust me, this is huge. 

Then, just last week, she has started whining when she's hungry, or when she wants me to come find her.

We are communicating!

My question is, how do get her to expand the cues? It would be great if she could actually approach us in a straight line when she wants attention. 

We play "Find it." I'll make a trail of tiny little bites of food and let her follow it to her dinner bowl, or a treat. She doesn't respond to the command, but she love, love, loves playing it. She will follow the food trail everywhere, and it doesn't have to be food she even likes. I think she's just having a blast following her nose. That is her only game.

Can I use it to get her to come to me without the circle?
Does it matter?
I would say no, but I can't explain how excited she becomes over each breakthrough. I'd like to get more.

So, there's my questions. Please, please, give me your thoughts, training tips, anything.



  1. Have you thought of contacting an assistance dog program for suggestions? There is Canine Companions for Independence, also there are smaller groups like Summit Assistance dogs in Anacortes, WA. Their trainers might have some suggestions for Brockle. Sorry I don't have any suggestions to help. Good luck, I will be interested to hear how things progress. I love reading your blog no matter what you write about, it always makes me think. Melinda

  2. That's a good idea. I always worry they'll tell me he's not appropriate, or I should turn him over to them...yes, I know I should ask first and be paranoid after...

  3. Try summit (no space), they don't have a breeding program. They use dogs that fail other programs (like guide dogs for the blind) and rescue dogs. So I think they would be a good place to start. I hear the hearing dog associations also use rescue. I can find a link for them if you like? The big programs that breed their own dogs use retrievers, so I would start with the smaller ones that don't have breeding programs.

  4. Yes please Melinda, thank you.

  5. Could Brockle's behavior be fear that the approaching person or dog is going to take you from him? I had to deal with that with one of my dogs - at first I thought he was protecting me, but when I switched that to seeing it as him protecting his interest in me and handled it as such, I was finally able to fix the behavior (growling and air-snapping at approaching dogs). The behavior has never extended to people, only other dogs.

  6. The lining things up sounds similar to a herding dog at work. When stressed, herding dogs are likely to re-arrange the furniture to their liking.

  7. Man, Brockle freaks me out -- in a good way. The look on his face in that picture...

    "What, it's my ART."

    Amazing. And so happy to hear about Snocone's progress. I have no tips or advice, but I always love reading about behaviours.

  8. · Dogs For Diabetics

    · Assistance Dogs of Hawaii (in the Pacific Northwest)

    · Oregon Dogs for the Deaf

    · Paws’itive Teams

    · Discovery Dogs

    · Pacific Assistance Dogs

    · Early Alert Canines

    · Summit Assistance Dogs

    · The Hearing Dog Program (California)

    · Paws Assisting Veterans (PAVE)

    I hope this looks okay when I hit send, I copied/pasted out of an email. So you know where I got these, I am raising my first guide dog puppy and these are all organizations that Guide Dogs for the Blind allow their pups that don't make it as a guide dog to be placed with. I think most of them are small organizations that use whatever dogs they can get. I hope this helps. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job on your own, I hope someone will help support you. Melinda

  9. NotaFollower- I'm not sure. Protection training has done wonders with his people issues. He has learned to look to me when he questions somebody, and a simple "Leave it" puts him back in neutral. But the dog thing, I'm not sure. He draws boundaries, then gets really defensive if his chosen line is crossed.
    What your saying makes sense.If I handle it right, I think the difference would be clear between taking the initiative when I need help and being told how I expect him to behave...hmmmm. Am I on the right track?

  10. I love the idea of herding instinct being behind his lines. It ties in with how he is with me...

  11. Looooong time lurker, rare commenter. I have been so excited about all the dog posts and am really enjoying them. We recently got into the herding breeds (collies) and I am completely fascinated by them and the way their brains work. They have a very different mentality than retrievers, which is what I have always had. Very conceptual in their thinking and much more able to take commands in context, think freely. I suspect his lining things up is a comfort behavior and that he dislikes you disrupting it because it gives him some control. These dogs gain a lot of security in feeling that situations are always under control and are more than happy to step up to make that happen. There is so much about your diagnosis that he cannot control and I think the lining up inanimate objects is one thing he can be completely in charge of, particularly as they don't run the risk of running away and stay where he puts them. I have a 4 month old puppy who is not as smart or devoted but reminds me in a lot of ways of Brockle. I am struggling with knowing how to train him without stifling his intelligence, curiosity and creativity (that sounded completely hippy dippy, but I think you know what I mean). He's got way too good of a brain to turn him into a robot.

    As far as Snocone, I have no experience with puppy mill dogs but have rescued two cats out of hoarding situations and there are some interesting similarities. Am curious to hear what others have to say. In my experience with these terribly crushed animals, less is more. They need so much time (my Siamese cross started to be more "normal" after 6 years. 6. years.) to come around and benefit from stability, consistency and safety. It may not seem like it when they are staring at a wall all day but I think internally they are doing a lot of work. The trail game sounds great and with your "trainer brain" I suspect more innovations will come to you.

    Sorry for the novel, can't wait to hear others chime in as well.


  12. I'd definitely vote for Brockle's art projects being connected to his herding instinct. When I leave my pup in a room without me for a chunk of time I'll come back and he'll have piled up everything that smells like me into my 'spot'. My vet feels like it's an anxiety issue and because his 'job' is play fetch he's playing fetch alone.

    Rehabbing shy/nervous dogs we had a lot of success with bribing them. As in, they look at you they get a treat. They come into the room you're in and they get a treat. Eventually because most dogs are actually furry little pigs we'd have the nervous dogs coming closer to us, and then we'd give treats for them sniffing at us. Then it would progress to when they touched us we'd pet them + treat. The bribing was a kinda double hitter, got them realizing we weren't going to eat them and then got them close enough that we could show them if they wanted affection they could get it.

    Maybe with Snocone's game she likes to play instead of having her food dish or a treat at the end you had yourself or Jim as the prize at the end of the line. Then reward with super snugglepets if she wants instead of or in addition to a treat?

  13. Bringing you a rawhide to "check it" is a direct reaction to your telling him "leave it", and he made it a point to.

    I caught my Schnauzer with a reese's mini in her mouth one time, right about when we were learning "leave it". Out of instinct/fear/knowing chocolate is bad, I hollered, "leave it!" Allie spit the whole peanut butter cup out. For a few days after that, if I caught her nibbling or gnawing on something, I'd ask her to 'leave it' or 'show me', pick up the item, look at it, then give it back to her, 'okay, your turn. go ahead."

    Ten years later, that dog still brings bones to me so I can "check them and approve" before she'll chew on something.

  14. Mugwump - my silly beast was never concerned about people, only dogs. For a long time, I thought it was an aggression or protection issue, not a fear issue.

    From what you've said of Brockle's behavior around you, his issue may be more fear for you than fear of another critter taking you, but my solution might be worth a try. Whenever I saw another dog approaching, before Fooldog (not his real name) could get tense, I started talking happily and feeding him treats. The moment he tensed up, the treats stopped and we left.

    I used the word "friend" a lot whenever I did this, and that ended up being a cue for Fooldog to look for a treat. Over time, that turned into him really not caring much about another dog approaching. He'll sniff, let himself be sniffed, then pretty much ignore the other dog.

    A similar set of steps might work for Brockle and people - a keyword and treats from you when you know the person is okay.

    I can't claim the outcome is exactly what I was looking for - my goal was just to get him to stop being tense and growly about other dogs approaching me.

  15. Oops...reread.. you're okay with the people, but need work with dogs.

    Yes, I think you're on the right track, and that the method I used with Fooldog is at least a good starting point with Brockle. A keyword and treats (or other reward) when you want him to not worry about another dog.

  16. A nice side-effect of the 'friend' cue is that if I'm not quick enough to head of tension, Fooldog will respond to the 'friend' word by relaxing enough to earn a reward and give me time to assess the situation and either keep him in it or remove him.

    Amazingly, he's now become a nicely non-reactive dog around dogs that are fearful or pushy. Too pushy, and he'll grumble at them, then look to me to solve the problem.

  17. Regarding teaching Brockle a "give me some space" cue. I agree that 'place' might not be quite right. You want him to move aside a little bit and let you do things, but stay close. I'd decide behavior what you want, then assign a cue to it. If you need to work in the kitchen, but he needs to keep an eye on you... hmm....

    My older dog learned that "thank you" means he'd done what I needed, but more might follow. My younger guy knows that "back up" means give me some room. Perhaps you could put something like that together for when Brockle tells you you're too tired, but you need him to give you some room.

    "Thank you" means "yes, I know you're worried, you did good". "Back up" means "step away a little bit, but you don't have to leave."

    I'm not sure how to explain shaping that...I did it by body language, tone of voice, and repetition. Not any conscious effort.

  18. I'm going to give another vote for lines being Shepherd/herding related. My Shepherd/husky will reorganize my belongings if I'm gone from the house, and has been known to line things up. He's nowhere near that obsessive, though. Maybe Brockle's reaction to stress is to fall back on his herding instincts?

  19. Brockle sounds fun! I agree the lining up is a herding instinct. When you are stressed or sick, he feels it and wants to do a job to 'fix' you. If you don't give him a job, he will make up his own.
    I would suggest coming up with a couple of 'jobs' he can do, when you need space, or things are stressy, or strange dogs approach.
    You can teach him to 'watch' an object. That is directly related to the herding, but also can be used to put him in a spot for a while. He has to watch the ball or whatever, and keep it in it's spot. (start with tape on the floor) If it rolls away, he herds it back. If other dogs come over, he body blocks them away. Another game would be fetch and place the object. Get a laser pointer, and teach him to retrieve whatever the laser pointer is on, bring it to you, and then put it where ever you ask him to. (also a good assistance skill) This is a low impact for you, but high utility work for him game.
    As for meeting strange dogs he is growly about, time for dancing! Have treats, and have him heel and follow your feet. teach him to go around each way, and follow your movements back, forth sideways. Rally exercises are excellent for this. (this is the dog version of move the feet) He will have a job, he is focusing on you to see what you are doing next (and where the next treat is), and will have less thought of the suspicious newcomer.
    Just my thoughts...

  20. Brockle is not a treat kind of guy. When we learn a new thing, if I can be sure it's just me and Charlie, and the treats are really smelly, then he works.
    What he really works for is a ball.
    "Watch" means he looks at me, which he does, straight and deep eye contact.A little unsettling when he's upset.
    He will lock on his ball and the world goes away. So our "watch" is about bringing his focus back to me.
    Talking in a bright cheerful voice and feeding him a continuous line of treats puts him in high aggression overdrive. Now he's guarding treats AND me.
    Same with his ball. He will and does ignore other dogs unless they are out of control and charge into his space. Then God help them.
    I've gotten really good at blocking oncoming "don't worry, he's friendly" dogs--and their owners.
    My problem at this point, close quarters with dogs he doesn't know. Like my friends house and her dog.
    How does a therapy dog handle this? I know they have to be quiet and non-confrontational. No matter what.
    That's what I'm looking for.

  21. If a happy voice and treats are too exciting, find another option. The goal is to distract him from his worry, then reward the change of focus. Eventually, the source of worry will become a neutral or even a good.

    Dogs that aren't food-motivated are more challenging to train, but it's not a problem I've ever had to solve. Clicker-training comes to mind as a good way to let him know he's done the right thing, but will take extra work to "load" the clicker as a reward.

  22. I don't know anything other than a passing knowledge of Schutzhund training and competitions so I don't know much, but isn't there a 'guard' command? Instead of 'watch' perhaps 'guard' could work. I have no clue how aggressive you and HMT would want Brockle to be while guarding but maybe a version of that command could be a good job for him to have when he starts making his line art.

    If Brockle isn't a dog that's good with treat rewards you could try the opposite. A lot of times people don't like negative training and I obviously don't know your dog so I'm not assuming it would work for him. You say he has his bubble around you so if he had a 'tell' before the aggression you could push him out of your bubble for a moment. A combination of watch>sit>stay and then you taking a few steps back? Your attention would be on him so there would still be the contact but it would a redirect of his attention. You'd kinda be telling him basically that if he can't be calm in your bubble he's going to listen to your commands and park his butt outside of it. Even if you didn't step back from him at the stay it could work as a reminder that you're boss and he doesn't need to protect at that moment and give him a redirect and make him turn his energy towards working on what you said instead of being aggressive towards the dog heading into your space.

  23. I don't know that I have any training advice, but what Brockle does reminds me a lot of something my Border Collie, Tanner, does. He has "treasures" that he collects, stores and monitors with great attention to detail. He is now 11 and he has done this all of his life. For example, some years ago he had a collection of old marrow bones. One day he brought all of them into the bedroom and built a pyramid with them (and I do mean a pyramid, the Egyptians would have been jealous). I was curious to see what he would do with them so I left them untouched. They sat there like a piece of furniture for 6 months. Then, one day, a friend got a new puppy and stopped by with him to visit. They were looking for chew toys for him and, while Tanner was distracted with the puppy, I sneaked in and stole one of those bones for the puppy. The next day, Tanner moved and hid every one of those bones. The really amazing thing is that I never saw him do any of it. Quite a feat for a dog who never gets more than a couple hundred feet away from me. How he managed to sneak off and hide 20+ bones without being gone from my side for more than a minute at a time still leaves me baffled.

    He does this kind of thing any time there has been a stressor in his life or if one of the treasures accidentally gets moved. He also has several balls and frisbees that he arranges in patterns on a regular basis. Sometimes they are circles or lines. He got particularly obsessive about it about it all 18 months ago when I had a baby donkey born here. I think it is his way of trying to maintain order even when things get crazy. Sometimes I will play around with his toys just to give him something to do and when I can make a game out of it. However, I never do that if he is under real stress as that compounds it and makes him worry.

    I have found that if I give Tanner a few things of my own for him to keep and look after, it helps him deal with stressful situations. I make a real ceremony out of it and he gets all proud and happy to have something to tend to.

    As for your little Maltese, I wonder if she is figuring out how to communicate all of a sudden because she has to. Perhaps you have done such a good job of anticipating her needs that she has not had to learn to express them? With so much going on, maybe she is having to work harder to get what she needs.

  24. Brockle sounds like a very interesting dog that apparently cares very much about you. As someone suggested, maybe his lining things up brings him comfort and a sense of order when he feels he can't "fix" you when you are tired or feeling poorly. He takes his "job" very seriously. He needs his play time or off time. If you could somehow teach him "you're free" meaning that he is off duty and can play a bit or go visit with the other dogs. It is wonderful to read about how he helps you, and I hope that you will continue to share those experiences with us. Do you know what his breeding is? You have a heck of a dog with that one.

    You all have brought Snocone a long way (love that name). She is so very fortunate to be with you.

    As always, reading your posts is enjoyable. Your venture into dog training has been enlightening. And your injection of humor always makes me smile.

    You take care.


  25. Snocone: I don’t think it matters. If it was me I think I would just let her work out her own thing over the years and spend training time with Brockle. On the other hand if you both like it why not? She likes the attention.

    When we tell them to do something it is us imposing something on them, with the dog as the passive subject. I think the dog asking us for something is very different on a number of levels, they have to feel confident in themselves, they have to feel that their behaviour is not challenging the persons place in the heirachy and thereby challenging us – ie how to take initiative without dominance. Also they must have quite a different view on what is important or motivating. For Snocone with her earlier limited choices it is obviously a big learning experience that she can interact with the world around her, let alone change it.

    So – how to train to show initiative? Probably easier with a motivated breed like a herding or hunting breed around their breed obsession. A bit harder with a withdrawn lap dog.

    We had a JRT who took some time to show us what she wanted around the house. One thing she worked out over the years was to ask to go in and out of rooms by staring at the door knob. I think she worked this out from wanting us to lift things up to chase rats and rabbits. It was funny when she would be there going “lift this 20 ton boulder – there is a rabbit under it - lift up this one!!”

    The dog has to understand that the world can be different and what has to happen for it to be so. Then that they cannot make that change, but their human can, then that they can ask the human to do the thing they cant without offending the human. It is so good when they do.

    I sort of get the feeling that the dog asking us for things is a fundamentally different thing than a person training a dog to do something. From my limited experience it can take some dogs years to offer and ask for things personal to them (as opposed to their work, ie sheep herding).

  26. I found it I found it - Im really excited. I have been on this all day (it is wet and Im supposed to be book- keeping)

    He is doing what he is bred to do – yes, like the others I reckon it is herding behaviour. He is a “Boundary” dog, which is the type of herding dogs German Shepherds and Schutzhunds are. I think the Schutz in the Schutzhund might have originally come from guarding sheep, not people. The “Grip” (bite) is bred in for controlling the sheep without injuring, and is now used in human work.

    I started looking it up because I know a lady with a Briard, a French Breed that is also a boundary dog. In Europe where there are lots of small fields with crops in them and sheep and cattle grazing the dogs job is to act as a mobile fence, and keep the sheep in, and the predators out. The fence is moved as needed.

    I just went back and re-read what you wrote about Brockle after reading what a boundary dog does, it just brings tears to my eyes, the instinct and dedication of these animals. He is making lines, and keeping you on one side and the other dogs on the other. He has lines in the brain.

    from which comes the following quote
    “A working shepherd must have a dog that will maintain its concentration all day long, day in and day out. This level of intense concentration can only be achieved by a German shepherd with the highest degree of natural instinct and attraction to sheep or livestock and make excellent herding dogs.”

    Which seems to sum up Brockle.

    Here is an article I have not fully read on working styles of different herding breeds.

    Here is a Briard working his borders

    Well Mugs, how does it feel to be inside that perimeter?

  27. Just to say where my comments come from: I use herding dogs to run the sheep and cattle farm and came to dogs late in life. So I have ideas/observations on dogs but know my ideas might not be right so I don’t mind correction.

    I just would like to ponder on the mental breeding of dogs, as a counterpoint to the physical characteristics that were looked at in some of the earlier threads.

    I think the exaggeration of the physical characteristics in dog breeds might even be dwarfed by the exaggeration in mental characteristics we have bred into some other breeds.

    While physically robust, the mental state of working herding breeds is highly selected for fine gradations of obsessive compulsive disorder.

    My first working dog and my first own dog as an adult was my trained Border Collie. After working with what these animals can do I think many people have an eagle in their back yards and they just don’t realize how it can soar and fly. I cant see someone’s pet working dog without thinking they have no idea what they have. It almost feels like a crime to keep a dog with those sort of capabilities running around a backyard all its life and not fulfilling its ultimate destiny.

    Details on how they work, how far they cast, how careful they are, how forceful, if they will bite “grip” and if so then wether head, heel, nose or ear, if they will or wont bark while working, do they back freely or not, are all highly and heritably bred into them. Top working dogs are more bred than made and while two dogs might look similar on the outside their mental characteristics which make them more or less useful in a professional working situation can be very different.

    “Heading” dogs, on a gross level, have “balance” which means they are driven to go to the point on a mob where they move the mob to the handler. Wanting to get to the balance point means border collies and kelpies and similar breeds have circles going around in their heads.

    I am still really thrilled to read in what you wrote about Brockle at home the behaviours of a perimeter dog, and to find that that is what a Boundary dog has, which is lines in the head.

    It also says that the working instinct has not been bred out of all of them yet either which might be expected maybe a century since Brockles ancestors last patrolled the sheep fields in Germany.

    I have been told that someone somewhere gave Prozac to working dogs to see what it did and supposedly it reduced their working drive. Some herding dogs are just loony and the program has gone wrong and they just run around and around and are sort of insane and probably better put down. One has to admire their drive though.

    I think your dog could benefit from an OFF button. He is obviously a very conscientious dog and is currently working full time with no time off. The simple answer is to have a nice den that he does not have to defend from anyone or anything where he cannot work – ie on a chain or in a den/box. He needs to be put in a position where there are no choices for him to make. It might take some getting used to for him at first. In theory you could train a spot, but that is a lot of work for you and him to start with and you are trying to reduce his (and your) workload. Perhaps ask your dog guy what he thinks about a den for Brockle. I have a very conscientious Border Collie and she really needed her den when she was younger. It has taken years before she has learned NOT to work and can be left off chain

    If you are interested I can read my books on working stock dogs for advice on how to maintain them when they are not working.


  28. I am also really really impressed at Brockle looking after you so much.


  29. On Schutzhund work vs GSD herding

  30. lil peanut...I love that ! Love, love, love it...the bubble then becomes the reward!
    Plus, that might help me gain control of the size of our bubble!
    You far as clicker training goes, I only have one hand...two leashes, ball, treats (Charlie is a treat dog)...think about it.
    Back to Brockle, aggression and HMT. The Schutzhund bred shepherds are so very, very different from the GSD dogs you meet on the street, and polar opposite of Brockle. They are so serious! My own needs are that he become 100% reliable in every situation. I don't want him to be a threat to dogs, or their for now, my goal is for him to look to me. He can be such a bastard...when he wants the ball, and knows we're not using it at that moment, he will jump Charlie, irritate him into snapping at him, then run to me at the "Leave it!" waiting for his ball. Cute huh? Of course he doesn't get it--but you can almost see him laughing at my grudging, "Good leave it."

  31. kbryan- Brockle's ancestry is a fun discussion with other dog people. He was labeled a Shepherd/Rough Collie mix. The GSD people swear he isn't. From his legs, to his build, to who he "is" it just doesn't quite ring true.
    He has these giant alligator jaws and huge teeth...fairly serious jowls, he's kind of drooly, almond eyes, long, elegant lines,an extremely thick coarse coat that he blows out twice a year, doesn't shed much in between.
    He runs and moves like a sight hound.
    So far, the Belgian Shepherd folks have claimed him, and the Borzoi fans see their dogs in him.
    He's 27 inches tall and weighs just under 70 lbs.
    Border collie is still a strong contender in my book, maybe heeler, we call him a "Bordzenoi."

  32. kbryan- Brockle's ancestry is a fun discussion with other dog people. He was labeled a Shepherd/Rough Collie mix. The GSD people swear he isn't. From his legs, to his build, to who he "is" it just doesn't quite ring true.
    He has these giant alligator jaws and huge teeth...fairly serious jowls, he's kind of drooly, almond eyes, long, elegant lines,an extremely thick coarse coat that he blows out twice a year, doesn't shed much in between.
    He runs and moves like a sight hound.
    So far, the Belgian Shepherd folks have claimed him, and the Borzoi fans see their dogs in him.
    He's 27 inches tall and weighs just under 70 lbs.
    Border collie is still a strong contender in my book, maybe heeler, we call him a "Bordzenoi."

  33. Oz - you just very succinctly spelled out what I've been feeling about Snocone. There really is no reason to train her, except for the 10-second wild puppy dance she gives us when something breaks through.
    It's the communication I want to encourage. To have her whine when she is hungry, or tilt her head and drop it into my palm for a neck rub (she has a blown disk)is amazing. She has started seeking eye contact. Absolutely fricking wonderful.
    I'm clinically interested in her, and emotionally invested. The little rag has completely won me over.

  34. Oz - it makes me feel safe, which is not a place I'm used to being in.

  35. Oz - this is really exciting information. I would willingly read anything you've got and am going to be happily following your links this morning. I too, am getting into this dog business late in life, as far as exploring their minds and capabilities.

  36. Oz - I am still reading, but have just realized what Brockle has been doing to poor Charlie...he is keeping him in a boundary. Charlie, being a hunter, doesn't appreciate this at all!

  37. Mugs-

    Your post jogged a memory of a time when I saw this video on National Geographic about a dobie that "organized" his stuffed animals. Here's a link to the video -

    He too was a rescue and it's somewhat interesting to see what they say about why he might be doing it. I thought I'd share in case you were interested.

    Animals are fascinating. I love watching their interactions.

  38. I had never heard of a 'boundary' herder, but it makes perfect sense. I would also not discount the sighthound possibility in the mix. My wolfhound protects me the same way, by keeping between me and anything he thinks is suspicious. He isn't as intense as Brockle is, but the perimeter is there. Very interesting! Always learn something good here!

  39. You don't need a 'clicker' to do clicker training. All you need is a sharp, clear, unmistakable sound that you, 'mark' the desired behavior with. Dog does the right thing, you make the sound. It can be a tongue click or a quick "yes!" (or other one word cue).

  40. Not a follower is right. You don't need a clicker (or treats) to do clicker training. All you need is consistency and a plan. Use a consistent word or cue that means "yes that is what I wanted" and a reward of appropriate size that is something the animal likes. Have a plan on how to chain small behaviors together to get what you want.

    I don't think clicker training does this next part, but I also have a sound that means "No, that is not what I want." It doesn't have a consequence anymore, but it did. It is leftover from when she was a puppy and I had to stop her from biting us. We had already tried the puppy yelp noise. Anyway, it is valuable to help guide her to the right answer when I can tell her yes or no.

  41. ozhorse, thanks so much for those links - i read every article including some of the german versions. "obedience is genetic" and the instinct vs training theme, wow. how overtraining/correcting removes the drive and creates an animal who will just do exactly what you ask, and nothing more, with no joy, it's like those forcemanship horse trainers out there.

    in my area of germany, shepherds move their flocks with mutts and border collies. the shepherds don't use boundary dogs here - they use electric mesh fences and leave the flocks overnight unattended. the dogs are just used to move the sheep, and it is really fun to watch them, but i'd love to have seen one of manfred's dogs running the boundaries! manfred's dogs probably wouldn't have let the sheep eat quite so many of my roses.

    one thing that confuses me - the dogs must see the sheep as the subordinate part of their pack, but they must also have a strong prey drive toward the sheep. to me, that is contradictory. i guess it makes the task that much more difficult for a dog to do well; his prey drive will keep him vigilant, but his protection of his "pack" keeps him from biting incorrectly?

    the articles say you can't use video to capture boundary dogs because they work such a large area, but i did enjoy this one of a dog simply moving sheep:
    (happy dog!)

  42. Lytha - ""obedience is genetic" and the instinct vs training theme, wow. how overtraining/correcting removes the drive and creates an animal who will just do exactly what you ask, and nothing more, with no joy, it's like those forcemanship horse trainers out there."

    This is a theme I've been wanting to write about horses for AGES. Can you give me some links? It's fine if they are dog related. This ties in to so many of my wiggly trails of thought...

  43. mugwump, it seems i keep coming across this theme lately.

    from a blog i like:

    from ozhorse's links:

    a great tale of one dog teaching another, and the section titled Intelligence has the part i referenced earlier:

    on respect:

    i got a lot from mark rashid's books. soft vs. light isn't exactly genetics vs. training, but a fascinating topic nevertheless.

    soft vs. light. lightness being precise performance based on obedience, and softness being a state of mind where the horse is willing to offer more.

    “If we are looking for lightness you are looking only on the outside of the horse so you never get to the inside. The really good stuff is when the horse gives you everything from the inside out; this is where anything becomes possible. I want to bring the inside of the horse out. It is the inside that they are born with when they are running around the field and having fun.”

    he's against roundpenning a horse to tire it, instead the roundpen is for allowing an escape if the horse needs it. he also teaches the value of doing nothing, or doing less, to allow a horse to decide to make the right decision; over the years he's moved away from the popular "make the wrong thing hard" philosophy.

    "Once you get to a certain
    stage, riding is not about technique. Technique will only take you so far, then you have to be a student of the horse. A student of technique will only get so far, just like martial arts, you can be really good and a master of technique but the art is what you study, there is more to an art than just technique. You are looking to reach the inside of the horse, to find the brightness, so that you can put a foot anywhere and the horse is right there. You can’t technique that into working.”