It’s nice having people who are close to you to bounce ideas and feelings off.  I have been extremely frustrated with Kessie’s unwillingness to play the “game” of agility.  While you can train an agility dog using only food rewards, and there are times when you need to use food rewards, having a dog that is willing to tug and retrieve makes training a whole lot easier.  You can build up a lot of drive through tugging.  Early on, I had issues with Gel tugging.  He’d much rather retrieve and while throwing a reward has its uses, you need to be able to reward the dog close to you.  It’s taken me a long time to get Gel so that he’ll really tug.  Fern is a tugging fiend and I plan to keep that drive going.

Kessie will tug, but only for a minute or so and usually very half-heartedly.  As soon as she decides that she’s tugged long enough, she’s off looking for her own form of excitement.  Yes, I could put her in a Ruff Love program and keep her up, only allowing her out to play games with me and go for potty walks on leash, but (1) I am not that commited; and (2) I don’t think that type of program is appropriate for a dog bred to work like a Border Collie.

For a good part of her life, Kessie lived as Queen Kessie (Wally’s words) and was allowed to do pretty much whatever she wanted, when she wanted.  Now that she’s here, she wants to continue in that pattern, but I won’t allow it.  Don’t get me wrong, my dogs get time to be just dogs.  They get plenty of exercise as well.  What I try to keep them from doing is things like fence fighting, working stock through the fence, digging holes, etc.  Kessie’s favorite activity is flipping back and forth in front of the fence where the goats and sheep are kept.  She’d probably do that all day if I let her.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth she goes.  Why in the World would she want to play tug with me when she can pace in front of stock to her heart’s content?

I kept her up a good part of yesterday, taking her out for frequent play sessions and it didn’t go well.  After dinner, I decided to take her down with me to get the sheep and use that as a training exercise.  She did really, really well.  She’s getting solid on her flanks, her out running is phenomenal and she’s getting enough confidence so she is able to lift the sheep easier than she could before.  I did a little bit of driving with her as well.  Again, it’s nice to see Kessie shine.

So, the game plan is to work Kessie on just stock for now, no agility training and build a relationship with her.  Fern is telling me that she needs a break from stock work and right now agility is her game so with Fern I’ll focus almost completely on agility and put stock work on the back burner for now.  Because she was still two years old at the beginning of this year, I can still run Kessie in Nursery.  What I might try to do is to get her running at the Pro-Novice level and run her in Nursery as well.  I still plan to run Gel in Open in the next trial we do.  The entry form came out for the local trial at Dr. Ousley’s farm.  I have mixed feelings about going to that trial.  It is close, but the sheep are incredibly, notoriously difficult.  I have time before I need to make that decision.  Gosh, trials have become extremely expensive.  One Open run is $37.  If I were to run Gel Saturday and Sunday in Open and Kessie on Pro-Novice and Nursery, it would cost me $121!  I don’t know that I can spare that kind of money.

I was woke up this morning by thunder, lightening and of course rain.  Lovely.

Until later …

5 Replies to “Decisions”

  1. Our lab wasn’t a tugger in the beginning either. But, she was clicker trained and food driven. Quit tugging/click/treat before she ends the game. Gradually work up to a few seconds longer and then a few seconds more. Up the ante (I don’t know if that’s possible with raw eaters?) Is it?

  2. Michelle – I’ve been thinking a lot about your situation with Kessie and I think you are making the right decision. I agree with you that Ruff Love is not appropriate for a dog like this. I have advocated it in the past, but whenever I try to implement it, I can’t keep it going. In part it was a lack of stamina on my part, and in part I felt bad leaving the dog locked up all the time. I’m reading Suzanne Clothier’s Bones would Rain, and in it she points out that sure a bored, hungry, lonely dog is more likely to do what you want. But is this really the best way to train?

    Suzanne talks a lot about the importance of building relationship at a deep, spiritual level first and foremost, and then building in the mechanical stuff. I have noticed that my Kess is losing her cat obsession very quickly as our relationship strengthens; I only managed to keep her isolated from them for one day before I gave that up. And for you and Kessie, what better way to bond at a deep spiritual level than to work sheep together. You’ll get there!!

  3. I read your post about Kessie with interest and sympathy, since I have had similar experiences with my dogs. Neither of my border collies have been interested in agility, perhaps because they were both exposed to herding first. One of them was never really interested in playing with toys at all.

    I like your plan for focusing on herding, and working with what Kessie can give you at this point in time. I think you are right; once you have the relationship, more will be possible. And, if the agility doesn’t ever work out, you will have had fun herding together.

    One of my dogs turned up her nose at ducks initially, so I stopped asking her. When she was 11, I gave it one more shot, on a lark. She was awesome, and we had two wonderful years working ducks. I should have tried again much sooner.

    So, I guess the moral of the story is give Kessie some time, but not too much, before you try agility again.

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