Read-a-Bull

Reading books is one of the top ten things that I enjoy.  Dog books are among my favorite reads, and if you give me a dog book featuring any of my favorite breeds I am a happy camper.  Since my heart (and couch) is owned by Molly the Pitbull, I do love to smile (and sometimes cry) over good books about pitbulls.  Here are some that I have read and enjoyed!

onegooddogOne Good Dog by Susan Wilson. 

Great little novel about a businessman (and non dog lover) whose world is turned upside down when he loses his job.  His life takes a dramatic change in every way possible and that includes having his heart stolen by an down-on-his-luck pitbull.   It is a sweet, can’t-put-it-down quickie that was recommended to me by a dog loving coworker.

 

220px-Book-IncredibleJourneyThe Incredible Journey by Shelia Burnford. 

The bully-type dog in this book isn’t properly a pitbull, but I appreciate enough “pitbull” characteristics out of his character that I wanted to include this classic.  Bodger the Bull Terrier is a member of a mismatched band of three pet animals who travel the wilderness in search of their master.  I have to be honest that it has been many many years since I cuddled up with this book and I may have to remedy that in the near future.  Of course worth mention is that the famous Disney movie Homeward Bound was based on this book (though Chance the American Bulldog was far different of personality than Bodger.)

 

wallacethepitbull2Wallace by Jim Gorant.

I absolutely adored this book, it is everything that a pitbull lover could want.  Wallace is a pain in the ass, higher than high drive pitbull who ends up in a shelter.  Fortunately, he captures the hearts of Roo and Clara, married couple and shelter workers.  Through their dedication, a dog who was headed for euthanasia in a no-kill shelter not only finds his place in the dog sport world, he excels there in a big way.

 

imagesCA9KG75ESalvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.

I spied this one advertised on Amazon and picked it up for my Kindle.  The book is about a poor family in Mississippi whose home and lives are threatened by an impending hurricane, and it is moreso about their lives than about pitbulls directly.  I list it on here because ever present in the family’s lives is puppy momma and fighting pitbull, China.  This was in no way a feel-good book about pitbulls, but a realistic portrayal of the (regrettable) lives that some pitbulls live.  It was interesting and a quick read, though it left me feeling a little bit sad for both human and dog alike.

lostdogsThe Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant. 

Caution: will bring tears to your eyes.  Gorant writes a no nonesense account of the seizure and rescue of Michael Vick’s pitbulls from beginning to present day.  I felt like I learned a lot while reading this book, I felt a huge variety of emotions, and I felt so very proud of the resilience inside the heart of so many pitbulls.  This story needed to be told and Gorant has delivers in a big way.

 

And on my ‘to read’ list are even more pitbull related books:
The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression by Karen Delise.  I have not read this yet, but TU member Michelle has written an excellent review of this book (click here to view!)  The book details how pitbull (and non-pitbull) attacks are poorly represented and sensationalized in the media.
Love Like a Dog by Anne Calcagno.
Four Feet Tall and Rising: A Memoir by Shorty Rossi. Rossi is known for his Animal Planet TV show Pit Boss.  I was excited to see this book on my library’s New Release shelf, and mentally promised to read it.  I love a good memoir, especially one written by a pitbull lover.
The Dog Who Spoke With Gods by Diane Jessup. Fiction story about a pre-med student who happens upon Damien, a “lab rat” pitbull.
The Angel On My Shoulder: My Life with an American Pit Bull Terrier by Jolene Mercandante. 

Studious Molly

Well, what are you waiting for? Get reading!

Summer Homework!

If you are in North America, it is official: we have hit the dog days of summer.  Frankly, I’ve never been clear why we even use the term ‘dog days’; I live in Arizona, where it is hot, and thus my own personal dogs are probably at their least doglike right now.  During most of the year, their major life goals are ‘frolic!’ and ‘find illicit things to snack on!’ and ‘make the humans throw my ball, infinitely!’, but in the summer, those goals shift to ‘find the coolest patch of floor to stretch out on’ and ‘occasionally shuffle over to the water bowl and drink it all in two big gulps’. And I’m no better: to paraphrase my illustrious colleague Bex, all I can bring myself to do right now is sprawl in front of the fan and weakly chuck ice cubes in the direction of the dogs. And when I can marshal my will to live enough to actually work with my dogs, you can bet that the only stuff we’re practicing is the stuff that’s fun and flashy and gives me that sense of instant gratification that, in the summer, I crave as much as lemonade.

If you’ve got dogs who you enjoy training–and really, why would you be reading this blog if you didn’t?–you are probably aware of the distinction between Fun Stuff and Other Stuff.  I, personally, live for training Fun Stuff: right now, I’m teaching Lucy the basics of treiball, working on some of the flashy Level Three rally moves with Nellie and shaping Widget to raise each of her paws off the floor independently (why? why not?) But every time I work with my dogs, there is always the looming specter of Other Stuff, the stuff that I should be working on but that I have put solidly in the category of, “Ugh, I’ll get to it sometime.”  But Other Stuff is hard to ignore: I am reminded of it every time Nellie levitates up to lick the nose of a guest or Lucy’s selective deafness kicks in when I ask for a recall or Widget does….well, anything (*shakes fist at puppy).  Other Stuff is like nothing so much as the summer homework you were assigned as a kid. During the school year, I often enjoyed homework (hey, I’m an academic, what can I say?) but I never remember summer homework as being anything but a long slow slog through multiplication tables and Johnny Tremain. And there’s never a good time to do it: no matter how bored you are, there is always something more fun to do than homework in the summer.

And that brings us to our newest project here at TU: we are going to walk away from our air conditioners, put on some pants for a change and embrace the summer doldrums by forcing ourselves to get some of that Other Stuff done. You eventually did your summer homework, even though you didn’t wanna, because you knew you were going to have to turn it in; in that spirit, we are going to use the collective power of the Internet as a source of motivation-slash-shame! Below the cut, several of us have posted a goal for our dogs and a little bit about how we (hope we) are going to achieve that goal.  We’re also joined by several brave souls from the TU Facebook group who have posted their own goals for their dogs.  Right around back-to-school time (say, early September?) we are going to have a TU Turns In Its Summer Homework post, where we all debrief on how we did and let the internet revel in our success/laugh at our failures. Either way, it’s good motivation to go out and get this stuff done (finally!)

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Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

 

 

 

That’ll do, puppy: Widget takes the herding instinct test

A week or two after I got Widget, it seemed to click on in her little puppy brain that she was, in fact, a baby herding dog.  The results of this were threefold:  1) She started getting very bossy about motion (me, the other dogs, random strangers on the street), 2) when we would take walks, she developed a delightful new habit of waiting for my feet to start moving and then pouncing on them and biting on them with her sharp little puppy teeth, and 3) when she wanted everyone to be together, she would do these little baby outruns and bark obnoxiously to try to get us to move.   Luckily, thanks to my first dog, Lucy, I had a sense that something was going on with her beyond general puppy brattiness.  Lucy, who I always describe as my North American Muppet Dog and who is registered as an Airedale mix (hey, anybody’s guess), looks nothing like a herding dog, and so it never occurred to me to attribute her ridiculous sensitivity to moving things and general pushiness to herding instincts.  What made me finally get it was the day at our old dog park where she spent the whole afternoon moving the cows that grazed in the pasture next door up and down the fence line. It was only then that I was like, “Oh. OH! Wait, really? Huh!”; after that, I started doing some herding training with her and all was well(ish.)

So when Widget started getting all herdy with me, I knew what I was looking at, and I eagerly called up a local trainer to see if I could get her herding instinct tested. And it turned out I could! But not until she was six months old.  So I spent several weeks metaphorically tapping my feet as the puppy got more and more interested in All Things Moving. I circled her official half birthday on my calendar, ticked off the days, and the minute June 30th came, I called up the trainer again and scheduled Widge for her instinct test.  She was officially tested the following Saturday, and you guys, it was awesome.

But before I brag about my puppy, let me try to make this post a tiny bit useful and explain what the herding instinct test actually IS.  In the broadest terms, the point of a herding instinct test is to see if a) a dog is interested in livestock in the first place, b) to separate dogs who want to herd from dogs who just want to chase sheep around and c) to gauge the herdy dogs’ innate talents for balance, distance and pressure and to get a sense of how they instinctively want to herd (do they give the stock the spooky eye, common in border collies? Do they get in front of the handler and attempt to drive the stock forward or do they pull back and collect the stock? Are they barkers or nippers?) If you decide you’d like to take your dog to an instinct test, no matter where you go, this will be the core of what you do.

Beyond that, it gets a little more specific. Like many dog sports, there are a whole bunch of certifying organizations that administer trials and instinct tests; in the US, the big ones are the AKC, AHBA (the American Herding Breed Association), ASCA (the Australian Shepherd breed club) and USBCHA (the US Border Collie Handlers Association) [note, herding people: let me know if I've forgotten something. This is new stuff for me!]  The rules for the instinct test are a little different based on which organization is administering the test.  The AKC for example, only allows specific breeds to test and does not allow mixed breeds (even mixes of herding breeds) or dogs with any kind of physical irregularity (oh AKC, you keep giving me more and more reasons to hate you.) Their test (*note: PDF) requires the dog to be on a 6-15 foot long line and requires that the dog demonstrate a stop, sit, down and recall while in the pen with the livestock prior to engaging with the animals; beyond that, they just have to show “sustained” interest in the stock. The other organizations tend to be a good bit looser with their eligibility requirements, but also, they tend to be a little more specific about what ‘sustained interest’ in stock means.

As both Lucy and Widget are shelter mutts, all of my experience has been with AHBA; AHBA restricts the official herding instinct test to certain breeds of dogs and their mixes, though they allow any dog to compete for titles (and the list of who’s eligible to take the instinct test is broader than you’d expect: it includes poodles, Dobes, Rotties and several terrier breeds). ASCA does the same (I have no experience with USBCHA, and their website is not forthcoming). Unlike the AKC, AHBA has no obedience requirements for the first part of their two-part instinct test, though they do recommend that dogs who take the test have some good foundational recalls and a down-at-a-distance; especially for young dogs who’ve never met stock before, it’s nice to have a little bit of control before you go in, just to help ensure nobody gets kicked or eaten. The first part of the test primarily gauges how the dog moves with the stock and makes a strong distinction between dogs who are actually trying to herd and dogs who are chasing or playing with the stock (the former passes, the latter does not). Following a brief “Hey dog, these are sheep!” introduction period, the dog also needs to attempt to work the stock for between 6-8 minutes. In the second part of the test, dogs are asked to move the stock in a particular direction or along an assigned course. They begin on a long line and must demonstrate a drop and recall before the line is removed; this helps gauge whether or not they are able to keep their brains in their heads around livestock. The dog needs to test for two different judges and pass both tests to officially be awarded their instinct title.

In practice, here’s what the test looked like for us when Widget and I showed up at our tester’s beautiful ranch this weekend. What Widget knew prior to taking the test was….not much. As part of my slightly manic attempt to socialize her during her first few weeks home, I’d introduced her to horses and cows; however, we were going to be testing on sheep, and she’d never met sheep. Strike one! As far as obedience-style stuff, in the week before the test, I spent a lot of time imagining her tearing around the arena attempting to swallow the sheep whole, and to make myself feel better, I started working on her distance downs. We also worked on the moving down, which I figured she’ll need for Rally anyway, and I tried to fade my hand signal and get her responding to only a verbal. When we worked on things alone together in a nice boring environment, this went very well; I got her doing downs about 15 feet away from me, she thought the moving down was awesome, and I got the hand signal pretty well faded. However, add in simple distractions like a bird landing on the feeder or–gasp!–my other dogs barking from inside the house and a lot of our work went out the window. This did not, shall we say, inspire much confidence that she would be able to keep her head together in the presence of Exciting! Sheepies! Strike two! She also had nothing like a stop, which is to say an immediate stand-stay at a distance in the presence of lots of running sheep; this is a really hard skill to teach, and all I’d managed to really solidify with Widget were the outlines of a down-stay and a cued stand. Strike three! Needless to say, my heart was thumping pretty hard as I drove up to the gate of the ranch as I mentally calculated how many sheep my bad baby cattlejack could eat before I went broke.

When we got inside, we met the tester, who chatted with me for a while about the kinds of herding I wanted to do with Widget. Once he’d reassured himself that my interest was purely recreational and I didn’t have any sheep at home that desperately needed herding, he got down on the floor and interacted with Widget a little bit (“that is a weird mix!” and “she’s a cute little shit, though, ain’t she?”) Widget mercifully managed not to pull out her favorite greeting maneuver (peeing all over the new person) and after they’d hung out a little bit, the trainer removed her fancy new harness (which he deemed silly), clipped a lightweight long line (maybe 10-12 feet) to her collar and walked her into a medium-sized round pen which contained three mellow, dog-savvy sheep. For the first 30 seconds or so, Widget was mostly like, “Yay, sheep poop!”; from the outside of the pen, I said, apologetically, “If she doesn’t have anything, it’s no big deal.” Right as I was saying that, however, Widget spotted the sheep at the edge of the pen, and then, like a miracle, for the next few minutes, my goofy little maniac of a puppy turned into a calm, focused, attentive Real Dog. The first thing she did upon seeing the sheep was to do a long, looping circle that put her behind the sheep, at which point she attempted to drive them forward a little bit. She stayed at least a few feet from the sheep at all times, which the tester later told me was a very nice respectful distance; she did not bark, she did not attempt to bite anyone. I’m so used to seeing the border collie crouch ‘n stare that I actually am not sure what she did to get the sheep to move; the sheep, nevertheless, moved. As they pulled ahead, Widget did another big looping run out in the other direction, caught up to the sheep and again, from about four feet away, managed to stop the running sheep and move them back to the part of the pen where they’d started. As she was doing this, the tester was simultaneously moving around to see her work and talking to me about what she was doing. “You see the way she’s moving along with the sheep; that right there is balance.” “She’s not spooking them, but she’s making sure they go where she wants them to be, see that?” “Oh, and that right there, where she took off in the same direction as them, that’s just inexperience talking. Oh, see, there she goes, she corrected it. Goooooood girl.”

After a few minutes of this, he dropped her long line and interjected himself between her and the sheep. He spoke very softly to her, so softly that I couldn’t hear what he said, and Widget immediately dropped into a down. Then he put the point of his stick on the ground and verrrrry subtlety turned his shoulder in to block the space; Widget quickly pulled off in the opposite direction of the stick, ran around the pen to where the sheep were, picked them up and brought them up to the point of the stick. And then, either by chance or by a cue from the trainer, one of the sheep peeled off from the group and took off into the middle of the pen. At that point, Widget–who acted like she knew exactly what she was doing, no big deal–pivoted around, circled out around the runaway sheep and moved her back to the rest of the flock. The tester turned to me and said, “Welp, if you want to know whether she’s got instinct….I guess there’s your answer.” At that point, he said, “That’ll do” to her, and Widget immediately left the sheep and went off to lay in the shade and eat more sheep poop. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed it.

I was pretty blown away by this whole thing. I really need to stress how little of it had to do with my own training; besides the whole…sheep thing, we’d never gotten a distance down that quick and that good, our work with “run out to the left” and “run out to the right” had been hurried, sloppy and had depended a lot on my new Manners Minder, and she definitely, to my knowledge, did not know what “that’ll do” means. Widget’s a six month old puppy; she spends a lot of the day biting things and stealing my shoes, she is (real talk!) not even reliably house trained yet, and I have certainly never seen that level of immediate and precise responsiveness from her. But put her in a pen with some sheep and a guy who knows how to very subtly use pressure and a whole other dog emerges. I have three mixed breed dogs and consequently don’t spend much time thinking about what any of them are ‘supposed’ to do or be like.  Because of that, I generally underplay the power of basic, conditioned-for-centuries instinct, so when I see it in full-blown action like I did at the herding test, it kind of blows my mind.

After Widget’s first go-round with the sheep, we gave her a good long breather while we talked about what he had seen in the test. After that, he asked if I’d like to have her go out again so she could practice moving on his cue. I said Yes Of Course and asked if I might be able to take a picture of the two of them working. He grimaced like I’d asked to steal his soul, let me take one lousy picture (where she’s actually hanging back away from the action) and then had me come in the pen with them to practice my own movement vis a vis the sheep. So there is basically no photographic evidence of this amazingness, to my deep sadness.

I’m going to go back next Saturday and try to get a repeat performance for another judge, and after that, the tester–who’s also an instructor–is going to teach me how I can get her moving in some specific directions (required for Phase II of the AHBA test); hopefully after that, Baby Cattlejack will bag her first title. Beyond that, I am not sure. The responsible part of me wants to wait until she’s a year old: less psychologically impressionable, joints more fully developed. The less responsible part of me, the part that wants to Herd All The Things, wants to start lessons like yesterday (“Hey, it’s just running around on dirt! She does that all the time anyway!”). So we’ll see. For now, I am basking in the knowledge that my puppy is OBVIOUSLY some kind of a sheep savant and trying to read up on as much about herding as I can, just so I know I can hold up my end of the bargain. I loved herding when I did it with Lucy and am loving it even more with Widget, so I’m really excited about this fun new pursuit.  Even more important, though, is that I know that my baby puppy had a great time.

Here’s my one bad picture–I promise to get some better ones next week! What is happening here is that Widget has just lined up the sheep and is hanging back making sure they don’t go anywhere. The trainer is going in front of the sheep to see if he can get Widget to come around behind them and drive them forward (which she did, right after I snapped the shot).
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ETA: This post went up later than I thought, so have some more pictures from Day Two of herding!

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She’s cutting in too close here–see how that one sheep is breaking off from the group? It’s just lack of experience talking.
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But here at least she’s able to correct herself and go out to pick up the errant sheep.
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Itty bitty drive
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And here she is attempting to climb into the sheep’s water bucket to cool off, but failing, as she is extremely short. I just put this picture up to embarrass her.
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Meet the Puppies of TU!

You may have noticed a few new faces showing up in Wordless Wednesday and a few new names dropped here and there. That is because Team Unruly has an everpresent case of Puppy Fever, and several of us have recently succumbed. We are very excited to formally introduce our newest, tiniest and occasionally most annoying members!

Meet River!
aka Amelia’s Impossible Astronaut (once I register her!)
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River is a: Six month old Australian Cattle Dog. I am certain that she is purebred, but is more of a “ranch bred” type that is less stocky and taller than the average AKC line ACD. More fun that way! She came from the same shelter that Kelsey’s Widget did and was found wandering around the desert at ~12 weeks old. Don’t ever go to Arizona to visit K*; you will leave with a puppy you weren’t planning to have at exactly the wrong time!

[*note from Kelsey: No, seriously, come! I have so many dogs to show you!]

Tell us about her! River is, in a phrase, a whole lot of dog. She is very high drive and loves to work. She will ask to train long after the session is over, she will go hiking for miles without slowing down, and she keeps Owen the Cardi EXTREMELY busy. I’ve had a great time training her so far because she just loves to problem solve and work it out. Once she knows what is expected of her, she will know it. Everything she does is with intensity and a complete lack of self preservation – watch out for your knees if this dog is running near you! She is sometimes hard to live with, but always fun. Recently she learned that snuggling with her humans isn’t so bad, and she is turning out to be a sweet girl when she wants to be… which is mostly when she has been exercised and trained all day long!     

What are your plans for her? She started nose work foundation while we were still in Arizona. Since that is my main sport and the one I teach, it is what we will play the most. She loves searching and is showing great promise already even this early in her training. I have no doubt that she will start her competition nose work career soon after she turns a year old in December. Very few environmental factors distract her from working, so she is an excellent sport prospect puppy for basically anything I’d like to do with her. We have also started a little bit of agility foundation skills and she thinks it’s great. Anything that is exciting and active, she’s all in! She is my wild girl and I love that about her, so we will probably stick to sports that are less structured (probably no obedience championships in our future, for example).

OK, OK, one more picture:img_0080-copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Rumor!
aka GSR Top40 Keep Em Talkin

Rumor at 5 months old

Rumor is an AKC/UKC purebred, showbred, and registered Golden Retriever

Tell us about her! Her mom is a UKC champion and dad is an AKC & Canadian champion. She will be 6 months old on July 6th, but won’t hit the conformation rings for at least another 6 months. She is all go-go-go, but has a heart of gold and a soul full of try. Her favorite activities are napping in the sun, chasing a ball (though we are still learning how to bring it back), chasing the barn cats, and using her pit bull big brother as a chew toy.

What are your plans for her? Rumor and I will do everything together! Before we hit the conformation ring, we will be working on fun tricks, obedience, weight pull, and agility. We’ll start nosework and therapy work, too. In short: We’re gonna do everything!

OK, OK, one more picture:

Nosy Rumor!

 

Meet Widget!
aka Four Forces Wingardium Leviosa
DSC08055Widget is a: Bad baby cattlejack! She is 24 weeks old, an Australian Cattle Dog and Jack Russell cross, and came from the shelter where I volunteer (where she was adopted as an eight week old, then returned because of the aforementioned Bad).

Tell us about her! Oh, she’s ridiculous. She’s so much fun, such a little monster, constantly moving, constantly dirty and smart as a whip. She’s this itty-bitty little thing: I had assumed her ACD genes would kick in and she’d get leggier as she aged, but apparently she’s only gained six pounds since she was eight weeks old, and I think she is destined to be a shorty (I had to buy her an XS harness. EXTRA SMALL! WHAT?) She is precisely half the size of Nellie, who is half the size of Lucy: I think that means that my next dog is going to have to be some kind of teacup something. Anyway, she’s got a great smile, she is constantly laughing and she is absolutely 100% convinced that she is the queen of all she surveys. I am having more fun training her than I think I have ever had in my life. Her other hobbies include barking constantly, splitting up pairs of shoes and hiding one somewhere in the house, getting spooked by her own tail and biting everything that moves. My new life goal is to encourage her to develop better hobbies.

What are your plans for her? Everything. EVERYTHING. She loves to work, she thinks shaping is a blast, she is impossible to tire out, and right now, seems like she’d be good at most things, so I am trying her out on everything and am waiting to see what sticks. I’m having her herding instinct tested this weekend. We start Puppy Agility Camp in about two weeks. I think she’s going to be a stellar flyball height dog, and when Nellie’s flyball team starts up again, she’s coming with. I am finagling a friend’s pool next week so I can teach her to swim. We’re working through Pam Denison’s Click Your Way To Rally Obedience, and she is already doing fronts and finishes like a boss (though heeling is another matter.) I just introduced her to nosework a few days ago. I have thoughts about treiball and lure coursing. There is just nothing I don’t want to try out with her. I am trying hard not to turn into one of those Toddlers and Tiaras moms. SPARKLE, BABY!!!!

OK, OK, one more picture: The sweet posing picture was a ruse. This is how she is 90% of the time
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Meet Firefly!
aka “Can’t Stop the Signal”, aaka “Fly.”
Fly's happy smileFirefly is a: Curbside calamity? The animal shelter had her listed as a Jack Russel/Bull Terrier mix, which sounded delightfully insane. Delightfully insane she is, but I’m not sure I see any Bull Terrier in her – APBT would be a better guess, I’d say. She has a Jack-y face on the body of a small, athletic pit bull. As far as we know, she’s somewhere in the neighborhood of one year old and she was picked up as a stray. We don’t know much else about her life before I spotted her on PetFinder and decided to go and meet her.

Tell us about her! She is a jackalfaced terrorpuppy of the highest order, but other than that, she’s pretty awesome. I went looking for a second dog because I wanted a competition/sport prospect, and Fly is shaping up to be exactly that (though, admittedly, I’ve had her for about ten days so far…). She’s scary-smart and it’s really fun to play shaping games with her, because she picks stuff up so quickly. If Cerberus is a Mack Truck, Fly is more of a Ferrari – she’s very light-boned, lean and sporty. It’s obvious that nobody has really taken any time to work with her, though. She doesn’t know how to fetch or tug (we’re working on it!) and she still has a lot of really obnoxious puppy behaviors – she’s bite-y, jump-y, chase-y and a world-class face-licker, no matter if your face is on the ground or six feet above it. She has the happiest happy-face I’ve ever seen and I’m constantly worried she’s going to break her tail off because she wags it so hard. She’s awesome in her crate, awesome in the car, and generally just a really happy, fun, smart little dog.

What are your plans for her? Not to hammer on a theme here, but, well: Everything? As I mentioned, I wanted a second dog as a sport prospect, as Cerb gets worried about strange things in his environment and it can make competing very stressful for him (and me, for that matter). As much as I love training and working with Cerb and will continue to have fun with him, I wanted a dog who wouldn’t be quite so stressed in trial situations. I think Fly will be that dog! We’ve already started installing the basics like heeling, sit, come, etc. She really didn’t have any of these behaviors when I adopted her. We’re also starting some Control Unleashed games like learning to target her mat and play “Look At That.” I think that our first task will be her CGC, which isn’t a performance title but will motivate me to work on her lack of manners. Then I think we’ll make our performance debut in Rally, and from there I’d like to get her doing some Agility and possibly formal Obedience. I’ll definitely be fitting her for a weight pull harness so she can follow in big brother Cerb’s pawprints, and if I can track down a good place to do Nosework and Dock Jumping, we’ll try those, too! The world is Fly’s stinky, slimy oyster.

OK, OK, one more picture:

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Meet Perri!                                                                                                                         aka “Rip Van Periwinkle”

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Perri is: hardly new to TU – I adopted her from her previous owners last August, but I couldn’t resist jumping in and introducing her formally!  Perri is a parti-colored standard poodle on the very small end of the size spectrum at only 39 pounds.  My “big poodle” search ended abruptly when I found a Craigslist ad with the simple phrase, “5 month old female standard poodle puppy.  Does not get along with chickens.”                And that’s why we call her the Craigslist Chicken Killer.

Tell us about her!  I remember the day that I brought Perri home and got her settled in, I was afraid of letting her alone.  She was a puppy, after all.  But instead of peeing on my floor and eating my walls, she was happy to snooze on my couch and watch my every move.  I thought there was something wrong with her!  She integrated almost seamlessly into my “pack”, aside from a maddening but short lived few months of horrible crate anxiety.  Perri is the most mellow of my dogs, but she still has a playful streak.  She terrorizes Ein and Molly with pouncing, herding, and leg biting.    As young as Perri is, I find that she is my easiest “take anywhere” dog.  She is not afraid of people, and she does not jump all over them.  She is a sweet, silly and fun dog to live with.  She can rest and sleep all day with no consequence, but she can also keep up with a long hike and busy schedule.  Perfect Poodle.

What are your plans for her?  Trail Dog most importantly.  She will learn from the best (Ein).  Our sport focus will be Obedience and Agility.  Rally Obedience as well, and I would like for her to be a therapy dog (I am having a difficult time finding TDI testing.)  Perri lacks confidence when it comes to working hard and training, and she is teaching me HOW to teach her.  Much like Molly has helped me grow as a trainer (and how), Perri is also helping me as well, and reminding me that dogs have as much to teach me as I have to teach them.  Maybe more.

OK, OK, one more picture:

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Wordless Wednesday

The Team Unruly Review of Puppybooks, Pt. II: The Puppy Primer (Patricia McConnell and Brenda Scidmore)

[Review of what in the what now? See here for more details and here for the first installment]


After reading Leslie McDevitt’s Control Unleashed for my last review, a book which is resolutely NOT geared towards the first-time owner or newbie trainer, reading McConnell and Scidmore’s Puppy Primer was a pretty profound change of pace. This is a book–and I mean this with absolutely zero disrespect–that you could comfortably give to, say, your awesome aunt who hasn’t had a dog in twenty years, is not too clear on this whole ‘training’ thing, and is bringing home a new puppy next Tuesday. While some of the information in The Puppy Primer might feel a little bit elementary for experienced owners, it is one of those books that I think will be a godsend to new owners who really do want to learn and do things right with their new pup. Brand new owners who are sussing out the right way to do things can find themselves accidentally drifting into Cesar Millan-land: they are people who find themselves suddenly buying a choke collar and practicing their alpha rolls, not because they are bad people but because they are worried that their puppy will otherwise become a juvenile delinquent and they start thinking that this is How It’s Done Now. If you have one of these people in your life and want to gently steer them in a more dog-friendly direction, McConnell and Scidmore’s Puppy Primer is the book you want to pick up  [and I am putting my money where my mouth is here: my dad just adopted a 10 month old Papillon and a copy of this book is currently flying across the country to him]. The tone is light and friendly and engaging throughout: McConnell and Scidmore aren’t afraid to be funny, they’re not afraid to admit that puppies can be horrible little hellions occasionally trying, and while they resolutely encourage positive training (with only minor, well-contextualized forays into the language of corrections) they are never hectoring or dogmatic about it (as some books absolutely can be: Ian Dunbar’s Before You Get Your Puppy, I’m looking at you.) The way information is presented is, in fact, the book’s strongest suit. I am, YOU WILL BE SHOCKED TO HEAR, nobody’s Cesar Milan fan, but I think his books’ most seductive aspect are their friendliness: generally, I think they read like, “Hey, you’re a good person, you’re trying hard, your dog’s a little bit of a monkey, let’s work together to fix the situation!” The Puppy Primer reads the same way, except that McConnell and Scidmore’s solutions are focused around early socialization, training and play, whereas Millan’s are focused around poking your dog in the side a whole bunch. [Yes, I am being reductive about this. No, I do not care. Ain't nobody claiming to be objective around here.]

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