Articles

Past Articles from the CNASA Quarterly

On this page you can see a sample of the kinds of articles that fill the pages of the  CNASA Quarterly…

Read on for a variety of performance training tips and techniques, recipes for treats and other topics of interest to Aussie owners – all submitted by our members and all from past issues.

And if you’d like to see more please join the ranks of CNASA members so you can receive the full version of the CNASA Quarterly!

Teaching Weavepoles using the Channel Method (My Story)

by Joyce Roessner

First, a disclaimer. I am not a professional dog trainer, I don’t teach agility classes, but I do love agility and have been fairly successful at it. This is a description of the method I used to train my youngest dog to weave.

Weavepoles are one of the most difficult pieces of agility equipment for a dog to learn. Weavepoles make no sense to a dog. Most of the other behaviors required in agility are somewhat natural for dogs and could be found when a dog plays – jumping over obstacles, climbing along things, even footing that moves when they step on it. But reliably weaving in and out of poles stuck into the ground in an even pattern is not something a dog would ever conceive of doing on its own. This makes it one of the more difficult pieces of equipment to teach. It also happens to be my favourite piece of equipment! When it is performed well, it is very fun to watch.

There are any numbers of ways to teach weavepoles. Some will work better for your dog than others, and what works for you may not work as well for someone else. Clean Run (an agility magazine) has devoted entire issues to the different methods of training weavepoles. There are gates, guidewires, clickers, harness work, 2 by 2’s, luring, footwork and so on.  You have to decide which equipment is available to you, and which method seems to click (no pun intended!) with your dog and you.

For some reason, weavepoles seem to cause a great deal of stress to dogs and handlers alike. This can cause performance problems for dogs as well, because they sense this stress as they approach the weavepoles. The handler is thinking of any number of ways for things to go wrong – is the dog going to hit the entrance, is the dog going to do all 6 (or 12), is the dog going to run past them and pretend they don’t exist!! This stress is translated to the dog. I quite often see dogs shut down around weavepoles in competition, refusing to do them, running past them or doing them very slowly. You don’t want to see that – weavepoles need to be performed happily and with speed!! Weavepoles also need to be treated by your dog as one piece of equipment, not 6 or 12 different pieces of equipment, and that is difficult as well.

I started working weavepoles with my youngest Aussie when she was about one year old. Because I had decided to try the channel method with her, initially there was not a lot of bending required so I felt this was a safe time to start.  My other two Aussies had learned with guidewires, and gates & harness work, but this time I wanted to try something different.

The equipment I had available was a set of 12 fold-up weavepoles sold by Paul’s Agility Works in Edmonton (http://paulsagilityworks.com/) and a set of flexible guidewires sold by Tuff Mutt Agility equipment (http://home.comcast.net/~tuffmutt/). This is not a sales pitch for either company; I am just trying to give you an idea of the equipment I was working with. The weavepoles are not true channel weavepoles but their design allows you to use them as a modified channel.  The guidewires are very soft tubing with clips on the ends that snap on to the weavepoles.

When I started training the weavepoles, I set them up in a straight line so there was a chute down the middle. Envision a large W and that is what 5 weavepoles would look like, one at each point, and extend that to 12.  I always used 12 weavepoles, I did not start with 6 and later increase it to 12. I started by setting her up directly in front of the entrance, and calling her through the channel to me with a toy as a reward when she got to me. I wanted her to run as quickly as she could straight through the line of weavepoles. Did I mention she is EXTREMELY toy motivated?? She will turn herself inside out for a toy, which makes training very easy. If your dog prefers food, a food tube works well. We did that maybe 5 or 6 times a day for a week or two. I gradually changed that to leaving the toy at the end, and running beside her as she ran down the channel. As she became comfortable with that, I moved laterally away from the weavepoles so she was used to me not being right beside her, and I made sure I ran on both sides of the weavepoles. Once she was happily doing that as quickly and self-confidently as I wanted, I started sending her through the channel with me just standing at the entrance. I would change positions while doing the weavepoles, working from either side and working from either end. I wanted her to get the idea that no matter where I was her job was to get to the other end of those poles as quickly as she could, and all the way to the end. If she popped out of the poles and did not go right to the end, she didn’t get her toy. No corrections, she just didn’t get the toy.

I also started to narrow the channel out as much as I could by starting to pull the weavepoles a little straighter. This was done very gradually, there was still room for her to run straight down the middle. I went back and started again as I did originally, by calling her through the poles to me, then running beside her, then sending her through, and mixing it up as well. You need to be aware of your dog, watching to see if they understand what they are being asked to do, making sure they are not stressing over anything, that they are happy and enjoying what is being asked of them. If at any point things are not working, you need to take a step back and do what you have to do to make your dog successful. I was always looking for speed, excitement and confidence from her. We trained maybe 4 or 5 times a week, but never doing more than a few iterations each day, always ending on a good note.

As I narrowed out the middle chute, I added my guidewires. They are flexible, so would snap on the poles no matter what angle they were at. The guidewires provided some extra insurance that she could get the correct performance and be successful again. They provide ‘corrections’ to her by showing her the required performance so I did not have to be nagging at her. Muscle memory patterning was starting to happen. Again we did the same iterations – calling her to me, running on either side of her, sending her through.

Next I straightened the entrance pole out slightly so that she had to work a little to find her weavepole entrance. For those who are not familiar, weavepoles always have to be entered with the dog on the right side of the first pole. No matter what angle the dog comes toward the weavepoles, that is the correct entrance and must be performed or the weavepoles are faulted. Again, the guidewires helped her with this performance. I started setting her up at angles at the entrance, so she had to work the entrance from different positions, and had to think about what her job was here. It was very cool to see her mind working, figuring out what she had to do to get that toy.

This entire process took several months. By now the weavepoles were almost in a straight line, with guidewires on them, and the first pole angled so it showed her the correct entry.   She was starting to have to bend around the poles, rather than running straight down a channel. I didn’t want to see her physically hitting the poles, as that is much too hard on a dog’s body.

Next step was to completely straighten the weavepoles, but leave the guidewires on. Again I varied my positions while she performed the weavepoles, running on either side, calling her through to me, sending her through away from me. The guidewires helped her be successful.  As she began to understand the poles, I gradually removed some of the middle wires, leaving on the entrance and exit guides. I also started adding tunnels and jumps before and after the weavepoles, teaching her to hit the poles at speed but always find her entrance.  The tunnel or jump might be set within 10 – 15 feet of the weavepoles (which is a shorter distance than normal in the venues I trial in), so she had to collect to find her entrance. The tunnel after the weavepoles also added a distraction for her (most dogs love tunnels) but the guidewires ensured she finished the poles before she could take the tunnel. I also took my weavepoles on the road with me, taking them to work her in different places, so she was comfortable with them no matter where we were.

I carried my guidewires with me for a good year or so for training, so if we ever had problems where things were not going so well, I would just snap them back on as required, so I was not on her case, I was not nagging her or correcting her, I was just helping her see what was required and helping her be successful.

I am very happy with Shelby’s weavepoles. She one-steps through them, she loves them, she is not stressed about them at all – only in the sense that she can’t perform them nearly as fast as she would like to!

Does she perform them perfectly every time? No she doesn’t, but she is pretty reliable for a young dog. And her and I are in complete agreement – they are our favourite piece of equipment!! So I feel our channel training has been successful.


Joyce Roessner lives in Calgary, Alberta with her 3 Aussies, and has been training and competing for 7 years in NADAC, ASCA and CKC Agility. Her dogs have 10 NADAC NATCH’s, 4 NADAC Versatility NATCh’s, 5 ASCA ATCh’s and 2 CKC AGMX’s, and they all like to weave!!

 

What about Rally-O?

by Laurie Albright
Now that the Canadian Kennel Club is jumping on the Rally-O band-wagon, we’re seeing a real surge of people becoming interested in the sport. And why not? It’s obedience and it’s FUN! If you haven’t tried it before, you should check it out. And now, I’ll share the most important thing you need to know in Rally-O… okay, the two most important things…
#1. You should be having fun. Your dog should be having fun. It doesn’t matter which club you participate in, there are absolutely NO corrections allowed in or around the rally ring. If your dog has learned how to work with you using positive methods, this shouldn’t be a problem.
#2. It’s all about heel position. Your dog really needs to understand where “heel” is and how to get back there if things go wrong. In the novice levels of all the clubs, the vast majority of the points are lost in poor heeling. Tight leash – PING, Out of Position – PING… those nasty points can add up in a hurry!
So, how do you teach a solid heel position without correcting the dog? It’s not hard, but it takes some patience to start with. The basic idea is: reward when the dog is in the right place, ignore when the dog is not in the right place. Many people give up just before the “light bulb moment” for the dog. But once they have the idea that THEY can influence the receipt of cookies or play or praise, they start trying to figure out what makes you pay up. Then you’ve got it made. You end up with a dog that prefers to be in heel (that’s where all the good stuff comes from).
One of my favorite training exercises is “doodling” – I don’t know who first coined the phrase, but it’s a good one! Start with your dog sitting in heel position. Take one step forward “up sit”. Reward when the dog is again sitting in heel. When you first start, you can lure, hold a treat in your hand just ahead of the seam of your pant leg (where you want the dog’s nose to be), as you move forward, so will your hand, so will the dog. When you can do “up sit” easily, start doing a one-step turn to the right, then a one-step turn to the left (this one is harder, since the dog has to scoot back to stay straight in heel position). One step to the right. (Oh, look! You’ve just taught the side step right!) One step backwards. (Okay, that’s an Excellent level move… but why wait to add it to your list of accomplishments?)
When your dog can “doodle”, start adding a second step, then a third – presto! You’ve got a dog who heels! Once your dog is doing multiple steps and sitting when you stop, start being inconsistent. Wait a minute! INconsistant?!!! Yup. Sometimes you give a reward while you’re still moving. Sometimes you’ll stop after 3 steps, sometimes 30. Sometimes you’ll throw a toy and race the dog to it. Vary your reinforcement both in what you reward with and when you reward, this prevents boredom – nothing encourages lagging like boring heel work, and it’s a LOT of work to fix that problem!
Oh, the other bonus to doodling? You can teach heeling in your kitchen when it’s snowing outside. Then when you’re done your training session for the evening, you can go to your computer and look up the various rally association websites and see what else you can train while you wait for spring!

Before grabbing my training bag…

by Helen Ferguson 

Let me introduce myself: I earned my first obedience title in 1985 and since then I have earned more than 75 titles in obedience and agility, including many HITs, 7 UDs, 2 CDXs, 2 CDs, 2 ATCHs, 2 MX / MXJs, and 2 AgMXs in CKC, AKC, ASCA, and AAC. I have also earned CKC CHs on 2 dogs, and an ASCA A-CH on one. I have been blessed with wonderful dogs: 2 Border Collies, a Lab, and my current 3 Aussies – Bungee, Archie, and Taxi.
So you can see a) I have been around a while, and b) I really enjoy training and competing with my dogs. I have learned a lot over the years from great teachers, fellow trainers and competitors, and friends. I hope I can share some of what I’ve learned with you.
Many things in life and dog training are beyond my control, but there are things I have total control over. As a trainer, I want to do everything I can to make sure that I start my training session with a healthy, willing partner.

I thought I would share my perspectives on health and soundness, temperament, and grooming.

Good health and soundness
There is nothing more heartbreaking that having to deal with health or soundness issues in your Aussie. There are no guarantees in breeding, but for me good health is a priority. Longevity is important to me as well. Obviously I want to have my Aussie for as long as possible as a companion, and after investing years in training I want a dog that is able to compete for years.

I have to do my part as well, by ensuring my Aussie is well nourished and receives appropriate healthcare. As an owner, one of the things I have total control over is making sure my Aussie is lean and fit. That means close attention to diet and lots of exercise – it’s not fair to expect a fat and frustrated dog to learn well or perform well. I think I can honestly say that I have never gone training unless my dog has first had a good run – that’s more important to me than any training session.
Good temperament
This is another area where breeder and owner both have a role to play. Again, good temperament is a priority for me. Without getting into a debate around what constitutes correct Aussie temperament, I need a dog that fits my lifestyle: one that is accepting of other people, especially children and seniors, and one that will accept other dogs.
One personality trait that I value highly is resiliency. Some people might call this type of dog stubborn – this is the kind of dog that will take a setback and keep on trying. It’s just my experience that after sharing my life with 4 dogs and 2 bitches, I’m more likely to find this characteristic in a bitch.
My responsibility around temperament is to socialize my puppy, and throughout my Aussie’s life I need to make sure my dog understands the bounds of appropriate behavior. I consider this type of everyday training basic good manners — things like not barking when I tell them to be quiet, not stealing food from another dog’s dish, not mobbing the door when someone visits, not leaping out of the car without permission. I have a mental list of ‘no-no’s’ that seem to need frequent reminders.
I also believe that as an owner I need to prevent situations where my Aussie’s natural temperament and exuberance could get them in trouble. Bungee, for example, loves children but she does not like to be hugged by anyone, even me. So I am happy to let little girls hold her leash and pat her, but I have to warn them not to hug her. I’m pretty sure she would just wiggle away, but it’s not worth taking a chance.
Good grooming
I enjoy living with a well-groomed Aussies. I’m not talking just-out-of-the-bath-and-ready-for-the-breed-ring every day, but a dog that has its toenails trimmed and paws, butt and ears tidy. No matts, undercoat brushed out. I am as guilty as the next person at letting this slip sometimes, but again it’s unfair to expect a dog with long toenails to enjoy agility equipment or heeling, and matts in the armpits and groin area can prevent a dog from moving comfortably.
Of course, not all of our dogs turn out to be perfect specimens in terms of health and temperament, and real life often intrudes on our plans for training and dog time. (And I’m sure my dogs have noticed that I am not the perfect physical specimen either!). I’d like to think though that before I get out my training bag I’ve done everything I can to make sure my Aussie is in good shape to enjoy our training and competing together.

Heeling Games

by Gin CummingsIf a handler doesn’t have a dog’s attention, then the handler doesn’t have anything. As a result, it’s important to build up a dog’s attention while at the same time defining, through games, proper heel position. Training can be boring. It’s important that we always try to be interesting and fun when we are working with our dogs.
GAME # 1    Keep your eyes on me – I’m sneaky!
Play with your dog. You can use a tug toy or a ball or nothing more than quick movements. Once your dog is fully engaged in the game, quietly tell your dog to “lie down”. If she doesn’t lie down, gently push her into a down. At this point of time, a quick down isn’t the goal. You can work on a fast down at another time. Once she’s in a down, stand up and just look around. Don’t say anything to her. Keep her in your line of vision or use mirrors. Don’t lose sight of her for a second. Eventually, she will move her head in order to look away or sniff, when this happens, suddenly jump into play mode again and engage her in play.
Keep doing this and you’ll see that she will begin to keep her eyes on you for longer and longer periods of time.
GAME # 2   Find Heel
You’ll need a helper for this one.   Take off the leash and ask your helper to gently hold your dog either by the collar or by wrapping her hands around your dog’s chest thus gently restraining your dog.   Hold a small piece of food in your left hand. Let your dog know you have it. Step a stride or two away from your dog and give your heeling command and continue to stride away in a straight line with the food held at waist level and in proper heel position. When your helper hears your heel command, she should let the dog go. When your dog reaches you and begins to trot beside you, mark it (clicker or positive training word such as “Yes!”) praise and release to the food.
GAME # 3     Push Off
Heel randomly with your dog (off leash). While you and your dog are heeling straight, push your dog away from you with your left hand. Move quickly in the opposite direction. Encourage your dog to follow you and find heel position. The very second your dog is in heel position, mark it, praise, feed and continue to move around in a random pattern. Use your voice to rev up your dog both before and after pushing her out of position.
GAME # 4      Get it quickly and get back to Mum
You’ll need 2 pieces of food for this one. Use a light coloured food such as Charlie Bears or cheese. Hold a piece in your left hand and one in your right. Begin by heeling with your dog off leash in a large circle. The dog should be on the inside. When your dog is heeling, toss the food from your left hand toward the centre of the circle. Make the toss big and bold so your dog follows your hand and sees the toss. As you are tossing, tell her to “Get it”. Continue to walk at a brisk pace in the large circle. Transfer the 2nd piece of food from your right hand to your left. Once she has gotten to the tossed food and has eaten it, encourage her to get back to you and into heel position. You may repeat the heel command as long as you use a soft, non-threatening voice. Don’t look back at her. Keep your eyes straight ahead. When she is in heel position, mark it, praise her and feed her and break off the game.
GAME # 5     Baggie Heeling
This is a proofing exercise for a more advanced dog.
Write or type 0 to 60 on a piece of paper. Cut each number out and place them in a sandwich bag. Shake them up and then take out one piece of paper ~ that’s the number of steps your going to take before rewarding your dog. If you draw “0”, reward the set up for the exercise. We will call this the “numbers bag”.
Make another bag with the various elements of the heeling exercise, i.e. slow, halt, fast, right turn, etc. We will call this the “elements bag”. Take out one of the pieces of paper from the elements bag and then take out a number from the numbers bag. That will tell you how many steps you must take before performing the element.
Praise and release your dog to play or treat each time you complete an element.In order to up the training bar …

Try taking out two pieces of paper from the elements bag and two pieces of paper from the numbers bag. Put the two together. By way of example, let’s say you pulled out a 6 and a 21 from the numbers bag. From the elements bag you pulled out a right turn and a fast.
Start walking (you don’t have to always set up with your dog sitting before you begin). When your dog is in heel position begin to count steps. When you hit 6, make a right turn. Proceed 21 paces and go into a fast. Break the dog out of the fast with praise and a cookie or a game of tug.

 

 

Adventures in Urban Herding

by Cathy Kudryk 

About 7 or 8 years ago I decided it would be great if I could do some herding with my young aussie, Ceilidh. She was training and trialing in obedience and agility; she was a very willing and biddable partner in these events, but had never seen stock. I read as much as I could, found the odd video on training a border collie, contacted the provincial stock dog club and eventually found someone just outside of the city willing to let us come out to work her sheep.

I went out with a friend and her young border collie, who was also just starting. We started in a 20 acre field –great in that there were no fences to run sheep into, not so great in that, well, it was a 20 acre field for heaven’s sake! After about 10 minutes on sheep each, I noticed a distinct difference in our breathing patterns. My friend wasn’t even out of breath despite her having had a double lung transplant, and I still couldn’t catch mine, some 10 minutes after Ceilidh had ‘worked’. Her dog hadn’t split the sheep more than once or twice, and after about 30 seconds, was flanking nicely well off the flight zone. After 10 minutes Ceilidh was still sheep bowling, splitting and creating general havoc. And truthfully, 8 years later she still is….
That first working session showed me that there seemed to be certain inherent differences between border collies’ and aussies’ working styles. At least my aussies. Then again, on further thought – breeds aside – there simply seems to be certain inherent differences in working styles between all other working dogs, and my aussies.
In thinking back, I’ve certainly learned a lot over the years, and had some memorable experiences in doing so. They say one learns most often from their mistakes… if that’s the case, I have most certainly had an awesome education.
I convinced Linda, the sheep owner, that it may be best if we worked in the paddock, rather than the 20 acre field. That worked somewhat better, except for when the sheep stuck in the corners or squished between the horizontal cross panels out into the yard. I recall this happening one session when Linda was out of town and I was working by myself. There I was, a city slicker who had gained some confidence –I had bottle fed Linda’s triplets by then, fed the ewes, cleaned the barn… I was figuring this farming thing out -until the sheep were suddenly in the fenceless farmyard, with only my dog and I around to bring them back in –through a narrow zigzag type gate. I spent a few frantic moments before I realized the sheep didn’t seem to be interested in leaving the general area of the paddock. Then with Ceilidh at my side I got the three ewes heading in the right direction, noses in the narrow opening, when Ceilidh flew around to the head, and turned them back over top of me. I physically hauled her back, and together we (okay, I) pushed the sheep back to the opening only for her to flip them back once again. I would physically push them into the opening, as Ceilidh didn’t have the confidence to push. She had the presence of a stuffed dog at that point. Funny enough, she sure had the confidence to go to their head and turn them back though. This went on for what felt like a month. With me throwing every bit of my loose clothing at Ceilidh in an attempt to keep her down, or at least at the back…each mitten, my toque and a snowball had flown in her direction to no avail. I couldn’t hold her and push the sheep at the same time, and she just had to go to head to turn them back as soon as they had their noses in that gate. Getting worried that Linda would come home a day later to find me there, still at the gate trying to push the sheep back in, I was stressing. Of course, as I stressed, the more frantic Ceilidh got. It wasn’t looking good. I stopped for a rest and finally, it came to me! I put Ceilidh in the car, got a bucket of grain from the shed, and led those three ewes right through that zigzag gate. Took about 1 minute to get the job done. Yep. City girl and her city dawg.
When I brought Jypsy, my second Aussie, out for the first time I had learned my lesson and started her on a long line –real long, about 25 feet. Well, as we walked calmly toward the flock of about 30 head of big woollies, she bolted out in front of me. Worried that she would hurt herself when she hit the end of the line (yes, that statement alone explains a lot about why my dogs are still incapable of working calmly 7 years after starting their training), instead of bracing myself for the impact I began running too. She hit the end, the rope snapped forward and so did I. Full impact face plant from a full speed run. The only saving grace was that it was not into sheep doo, although, that may have at least softened the blow. My knee still swells after a workout to this day.
Jyp actually worked very well that day – went to balance around the large flock, worked calmly and didn’t split at all. Good thing because I could barely walk on my sore knee by then. That big flock kept everything slow and calm but, when I wanted to quit, I couldn’t make it through the huge flock to catch her and she would not down or stop (that seems to be a reoccurring theme amongst all of my dogs). I finally just walked away, and left her there all alone with the sheep. She brought the sheep to the gate, and finally, came off them to come to me on the other side of the fence. It was all so calm and civilized, just like I dream it can be. The very next day Linda took those sheep to market since they were too dog broke for her dogs and bought some nice light sheep for the summer. That was the beginning of the end… Jypsy never worked that calmly ever again.
Later that summer I was assisting with a stock dog clinic in which Jypsy and I were entered. The attendees (other than myself) were all local experienced ranch folks. I decided to take the ATV to water the sheep before the clinic started, and also take Jyp along to wear off some excess energy at the same time. She had never seen an ATV before but I figured dogs just naturally ran along ahead or beside it –like on TV. With all of the ranchers watching, I loaded up the trailer with the water and fired up the ATV. As I did, Jypsy suddenly bolted in and nailed the rear tire in a perfect low heel, hard enough to raise the rear of the ATV. As the ranchers all smirked in the shadows of their cowboy hats, I calmly shut off the ATV, took Jyp back to the car, and returned to water the sheep without her. My face was only slightly red, as I was already getting used to the humiliation that seems to be associated with my aussies and anything resembling herding or farm work, and myself.
Unfortunately, during our turn in the clinic, we didn’t do much to redeem ourselves. Once again in a 20ish acre field (I’m so a fan of small round pens these days!), Jypsy chased the sheep (those nice new flighty ones, with a flight zone the size of Newfoundland) to the far end of the field where there just happened to be a small herd of young steer grazing. With Jyp in hot pursuit and me in chase of her, the sheep headed for those steer like they were their salvation. And they seemed to be… watching from a mile away we saw the sheep disappear into the group of steers, and then the black barking dot that was Jypsy follow a second later. Before we could blink, that black dot came rushing back out from within those big black steers, racing back to us even faster than she’d left. Jypsy had never seen cows up close before, and obviously that was not a great introduction. Jypsy wouldn’t look at the sheep -wanted nothing to do with sheep- for the rest of the day! ‘Those cute fuzzy sheep turn into big black monsters at the far end of this field!’ My big tuff aussie.… In return for stock time at Linda’s farm, one of the jobs was looking after the farm if Linda went out of town to trial. One chore (never really much of a chore) was taking the dogs left at home out for a daily run. Two of us were doing this one Saturday after we had worked, and along with Jypsy, and Mike’s 2 border collies, we had a good flock of black and white dogs we were exercising. At the end of the run, as we were nearing the kennels, the young dogs in the pack took off toward the field containing the young steers. Somehow, I managed to call Jyp back and she actually came –she still didn’t want anything to do with those cattle I figure. I tied her up, then raced off after Mike and the pack (and the cattle). He climbed the fence that the dogs had run through, and after calling his older dog, and catching up his younger dog, went to work on collecting the younger pups (a year or so in age) who were happily chasing the steer around the field in their impromptu working session. One by one Mike would tackle a dog, pass it to me over the fence, and I’d run it back to the kennel before running back for the next to be caught. After about 15 minutes of exhausting work we finally had all but one, who was working nicely now that she was on her own, but refusing to stop. A few minutes later, she’d finally wore herself down, listened to the ‘that’ll do’ and we got her firmly placed back in her run. Quite the experience that was, seven young border collies running crazy in a field with a herd of Black Angus steers. The only thing scarier would have been seven green aussies in a field full of steers! But, for how crazy it was, they never really were all that ‘dangerous’ to themselves or the cattle. The dogs got a little more exercise than we had bargained for that day, and I learned why when I move out to my dream acreage, the fields will have relatively dog proof fencing.
Speaking of fencing… a few years ago another friend and I decided to build a round pen. I was helping with fencing and chores around the farm at that time in return for sheep time, and was really looking forward to a round pen, as by then I was very tired of huge fields, flighty sheep and crazed aussies. Well, we were both not too financially stable, so after the frame of wooden posts was in, we decided (after obviously not much thought) to make it out of snow fence. Yep. Orange plastic snow fence. Yep. It lasted approximately the time it took me to holler at Jypsy to “Lie down!” The next day I splurged and went to Home Depot to buy some cement wire, which thankfully has stood up very well over the years.
Now I’m starting my third aussie, Spyder, and despite the lessons Jypsy and Ceilidh have taught me during their training, I’m finding things still aren’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped after all those lessons learned. One of Spyder’s first times on sheep was at a clinic with Ken McKenzie and Norm Close, two very experienced trainers. Once again (what is it with these big hat trainers?) the field was as vast as Kentucky. But, the sheep were dog broke and Norm was there with me, along with one of Norm’s dogs as a backup. Unfortunately, it was his young dog. Yahoo… Spyder and Robbie had a blast! Norm and I didn’t. Finally, we got the rodeo stopped, put away the young gun and brought out his steady old boy Joe as backup, and although we still worked up a sweat, things were much calmer than the days when it was just me, Ceilidh and a huge field with sheep.
Spyder still doesn’t have a solid down, and will not recall off of sheep. She was nicknamed ‘the heathen’ at a recent clinic. She is twice as keen as Jyp and Ceilidh ever were, but she seems to have a little more stock sense, and I’m hoping I do too. I’m sure that we’ll continue to learn and grow together. No more snow fence round pens, or gripping ATV’s. That said, I know she and I, the city girl and her spoiled rotten city dawg, will find other unique, new and improved ways of humiliation. It wouldn’t be herding without the humiliation, would it?

Dog Treat Recipes

Salmon Treats1 can salmon with juice – 8 oz.½ cup chopped parsley
3 eggs, shells included
½ cup sesame seeds ground up in coffee grinder
½ cup flax seeds ground up in coffee grinder
2 cups potato flour

Put these ingredients into a food processor, mix VERY WELL. Pour potato flour through the opening while the motor is running. When the dough forms, like a pie crust,, and rolls into a ball, it is ready to take out.

Dump onto potato floured counter or board. Knead more flour into this and when it is a rolled out cookie consistency, it is ready to rollout into about ¼ “ thick. I use a pizza cutter to roll out long strips then cut crosswise to make small squares. Bake on cookie sheets, sprayed with Pam. Bake at 375º for 15 minutes. Turn and bake about 10 minutes more, less if you want them softer. If you want them harder, leave in oven after oven is turned off.
Keep in fridge, or freeze.

** I don’t have a food processor, so I blend the salmon, parsley, eggs, seed in my blender, Then I mix in the flour by hand, just like we used to make bread.

Barley Liver Biscuits

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
½ cup chopped parsley
2 cups liquefied liver
2 cups barley flour
3-4 cups rye flour

( I change this recipe, depending on what I have in the fridge. Sometimes I add:
3-4 Tablespoons ground egg shells
½ cup yoghurt
3-4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sea kelp
1 capsule vitamin C
½ cup ground flax seed)

Use blender to liquefy liver, add oil, garlic, parsley and any extras that you want and blend well. Put mixtures into a large bowl.

Mix in barley flour, 1 cup at a time. Then start adding rye flour. Finish the process by kneading on a counter or board, adding more rye flour. When dough is ready, i.e. not sticky any more, roll out and cut into small squares. Spray cookie sheet with Pam or sprinkle corn meal in bottom of cookie sheet. Put squares on cookie sheet, as many as will fit. Some times I press the dough out in the cookie sheet, then cut into squares. Cook at 375º for 15-20 minutes, then flip and cook for 15-20 minutes more. You can adjust cooking time, depending upon whether you want soft or hard treats.