Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Versatile Collie - K9 Nose Work

Today we are sharing our second guest post, in our new series, The Versatile Collie.  We wanted to share some of the amazing sports and activities different individuals are doing with their collies.  This will hopefully show the versatility of the wonderful collie breed.  Michelle Doram is our second guest, and she has trained her collies to compete in K9 Nose Work. What is K9 Nose Work? Read more to find out!

Playing a Dog's Game with K9 Nose Work

by Michelle Doram, CNWI

The activity and competitive sport of K9 Nose Work® was founded by professional trainer and K9 Detection handler Amy Herot, Ron Gaunt, a former police K9 and private Detection K9 trainer and handler, and Jill Marie O'Brien, who was at the time the Animal Behavior & Training Department at the spcaLA. The initial objective of the team was to create a class for companion dogs which would re-create the fun and energy exertion which K9 Detection dogs experience each day in training or working. Detection dogs are notoriously high drive, ball crazy, and not suitable for pet homes. Yet, detection K9s have a blast with their games, are quite bonded with their handlers, then sleep soundly in their kennels. How could companion dogs have this sort of satisfaction in their lives - and possibly help with behavior issues linked to excess energy? Wouldn't it be amazing if all dogs could have this much fun, Ron and Amy wondered? The original 'students' happened to be mostly dog trainers excited by this activity, and are now referred to as "the Original 7", as they became Instructors themselves as the activity caught fire in Southern California. A Fun Match grew into a Competition, and soon was born the National Association of Canine Nose Work (NACSW), the governing body and Titling organization of the sport.

Michelle's boy, Cedar, looks like he found something!

Nose Work as an activity or sport is played by all sorts of dogs, not just scent hounds or working breeds. Puppies use their sense of smell first, before eyes and ears are open, and process their worlds via their olfactory system foremost. Whether searching for food, locating a favorite toy, or investigating interesting smells, dogs use their noses for survival and fun each day. Nose Work gives us, the human part of the equation, an opportunity to participate in their activity as handlers. What a blessing to be able to participate in their favorite game!

Michelle's sweet boy, Nate, searching for the scent

Dog sports as a whole involve a great deal of training, teamwork, and trust within a team. However, Nose Work invites the human to play a dog game, not vice versa. Consider for a moment - Agility, Flyball, Frisbee, Obedience, Rally - all fun games for the dog and human team, yet are the human's game in which the dogs participate. There is no obedience training involved or behaviors being taught in Nose Work. Lure Coursing is an instinctive activity, but all our dogs really want from us in regards to Lure Coursing is a ride to the practice field. Detection and Nose Work are basically the same game, based on what a dog already does instinctively. Tracking involves a great deal of training and observation from the handler as well, but I believe that the level of interaction between the teams is higher in Nose Work, mostly due to the variety of elements in which we work. As we progress through the foundation of Nose Work training, we are learning from our dogs, while facilitating their searching opportunities to learn how odor works. It is us, the humans, who are being trained in the big picture. We must be trained how to be a savvy handler.

Michelle's girl, Clover, during a Nose Work competition

As our dogs learn to detect their target odors, our task is observing the way they work. We learn how they behave when they are "in odor", listening for breathing changes, watching for subtle body language changes, and need to be ready to reward quickly at the source of the odor (location of the hide). New environments and search areas are introduced - exterior (any outdoor) areas, vehicles, containers or luggage of all sorts, and various interior rooms, each with a bevy of distracting smells to work through. As training advances, multiple hides are introduced, so the puzzle is layered by the convergence of more than one odor. Inaccessible (unable to be nose touched) or high hides reveal new communications from our dogs as they work these complex situations. Our observations and understanding of our dog's working style must become more acute as training advances. We also have to remember to remember what we have learned about the way weather, wind, HVAC, and building construction affects odor movement, and what we may need to do or change to accommodate these factors. There's as much mental energy exerted for us during a search as with our dogs!

A major part of the learning curve in training as a team is how significantly our behavior can affect the dog's ability to succeed in a search. Many factors on our part can interrupt the flow, such as our mood, leash handling, body position, even footsteps. The dog knows how to search for odor, but is significantly connected to us in a way which can affect the outcome of a search. By the time we reach title level competitions, advanced especially, any errors are usually ours. The hardest part of competing at the NW3 title level is remembering to let our unconscious skill perform as our conscious mind connects with our dogs.

The adrenaline of a competition with our dogs, particularly at the NW3 level - in a new area with an unknown number of hides and a time limit, is an incredible feeling. Some days, luck is on our side and we squeak through with a Title. The days in which it goes very well, the Title seems to have come easy. To the spectators, the search looks like an effortless, synergistic routine between experienced partners gliding elegantly across a dance floor. For the team, it is a combination of the aforementioned unconscious skill and strategy with subconscious trust and communication. It does feel like dancing, though, elated, connected dancing - with eyes twinkling and pretty music playing. Those days are imprinted on the memory forever, a highlight of a lifetime shared with our dogs to whom we are now incredibly connected. The ribbon is simply a memento of a cherished experience! Our favorite memories are those which have been shared, especially by one to whom we are very close. Sometimes, the loved one with whom we share our most cherished moments, is our dog.

There are days when competitions or training days don't go as well, and the dance is clumsy or had some forgotten steps. Remember what they say about fishing?  A bad day fishing is better than a good day working? A "bad day" in Nose Work is still playing a fun game with our extraordinary dogs, so really is not so bad at all, and probably a good learning experience for us. Along the way, we've made new forever friends, embarked on memorable trips and adventures, and most importantly, developed an unparalleled bond with our dogs. We have the opportunity to create this connection simply by participating in their game. 

Nate has earned the Elite 1 title. In Elite Division, one acquires points to the next level, somewhat like agility. Cedar has titled at NW3, and Clover at NW2. Ranking is: All titles earned by 100% scores until Elite Division, which earns points. NW1 NW2 NW3 (100% three times for Elite) Elite 1 , 2, 3, 4, CH
Thank you Michelle, your love for your dogs is very evident, and  you are inspiring many others to try K9 Nose Work with their dogs too!  And thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures with us!

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Versatile Collie - Sulky driving

We are excited to share our very first guest post. We wanted to share some of the amazing things different individuals are doing with their collies.  These posts will hopefully show the versatility of the collie breed. In the upcoming weeks, we will be sharing just a few of the sports and activities in which our wonderful collie breed participates.  Daphne Lewis is our first guest, and she has trained her Collie, Tug, to pull her sulky. What is a sulky? Read more to find out!

Hello! Greetings from Daphne Lewis, the Dog Sulky Lady at the bamboo farm in Hawkinsville, Georgia.

Today I hitched my smooth collie Tug, along with my other dogs, to my sulky made of bamboo. First we trotted here and there on the bamboo farm. We practiced right and left hand turns as we navigated the farm. I find that Tug, with his long nose and long legs, is less bothered by the heat than the other dogs: labradoodle, shepherd mix, and two bulldogs. After about a half a mile we crossed my road and cruised beside the fence of the neighbor’s cow pasture. My collie strode into lead even before we reached the fence. He was excited by the cows. He sees that we will be going beside the pasture. He used to charge the fence which was terrifying. Now he just speeds up and cruises along at around 7 mph. The bamboo sulky allows me to exercise all my dogs at once. I ride and the dogs trot. Sometimes they gallop, but mostly it is a trot at their cruise speed. We do practice “WALK!” sometimes, but they don’t like to walk when they can trot.

It would be difficult for me to exercise them enough without the sulky. Dogs trained to pull a sulky can pull wagons and carts as well. One of their jobs is to haul tree chips. They learn to wait quietly while I load the dump wagon, and while I spread the dump chips. Amazingly, I can leave tug and the other dogs in a down-stay, while hitched to a wagon or sulky, while I return to the house for something I forgot. When we finish our work, I kneel in the wagon and the dogs trot back to the garage where the wagon stays. Last weekend, Tug and my other dogs spread a lot of chips to mulch around the bamboo. It is hot here in middle Georgia. I bought CoolCoats from RuffWear. They keep the dogs cool. You wet the coats down and evaporation keeps them cool. (Which is important when your dogs are working) The coats reflect the sun light. I keep my dogs groomed short in summer which makes the coats even more effective.

 Sometimes, Tug and my other dogs trot on sidewalks in my town. It is fun saying hello to people and the dogs do a great job of navigating street corners, traffic lights, and cross walks. Sometimes we go the drive-up window at McDonald’s for sausage. What a treat for the dogs that sausage is.

I sell dog sulkies at On that site is a page called “How to Train”. If you are interested in the sport of dog driving, take a look at my site and Facebook page for Chalo Sulky. I have many videos on YouTube under Daphne Lewis.

Thank you Daphne, it sure looks like fun, and Also a great way to exercise your dogs!  Please click on the link above to learn more about Sulky driving, and the benefits for your dogs.  I'm sure most people would picture a husky pulling the sulky, but as you can see,collies excel at this sport too!

photo courtesy of Nancy Greenwood
photo courtesy of Nancy Greenwood

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer is here, time to kick back & crack open a can of Taste of the Wild dog food!

Summer is here, and sunny days are meant to be enjoyed to the fullest!  The summer months are the most fun, with swimming in the pool, watching a baseball game or taking a trip to the beach, there is always some diversion to enjoy.  So this month when our friends at sent the collies Taste of the Wild canned dog food, we knew we would be taking this review outside!

We were sent the Sierra Mountain Grain Free variety, but Taste of the Wild makes many others.  With multiple varieties to choose from, you are sure to find a protein source that will meet your dog's needs.  We have fed our collies Taste of the Wild kibble, but we never tried the Sierra Mountain canned dog food before.  And the first thing we noticed is that these cans have easy to open pull tabs, which makes them easy to use for collies on the go!

With the cans being easy to open, you can take them to the pool, the beach or as a snack at the baseball game!  We usually add a little canned to our collies' kibble, just to make the dry food a little tastier and a little less boring.

Holly is ready for Summertime fun!

The Sierra Mountain variety is made with lamb, which we thought was the perfect choice for collies!  It is also a great choice for dogs who may have allergies to poultry.  The collies love the taste, and when they see me spooning it onto their kibble the drooling begins!  But you can use the Taste of the Wild canned dog food alone, as it is a nutritionally complete diet.

Key Benefits:

  • Grain-free complete and balanced formula can also be fed as your pet’s sole diet
  • Made with sweet potatoes and peas for highly digestible energy for your active dog
  • Supplemented with vegetables and fruits, this formula delivers antioxidants to help give your friend a healthy lifestyle
  • Made right here in the USA!

Winter loves catching a Summertime baseball game, and she brought along a snack!  

Lamb, Lamb Broth, Vegetable Broth, Lamb Liver, Dried Egg Product, Potato Starch, Potatoes, Roasted Lamb, Peas, Guar Gum, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Inulin, Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Raspberries, Choline Chloride, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate, Cobalt Amino Acid Chelate, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid.

Playing baseball can sure make a collie hungry!

No matter how your dogs enjoy spending their summer - at the baseball field, pool or beach - they are sure to love Taste of the Wild - Sierra Mountain canned dog food.  The collies love the taste of real lamb, savory gravy, fruits and veggies.  I love that the food is made right here in the USA.  The collies give this dog food four paws, way up! sent us the case of canned food for free, in exchange for the collies' honest opinion.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - gone too soon

My mother lost her sweet boy yesterday.  Chase was a gentle, beautiful boy, and we'll miss him greatly.  He would have celebrated his 12 birthday this summer.  I have been helping take care of him since he was born, and we all loved him.  He was a half brother of my collie Lad, who I lost 5 years ago.  I wish our dogs lived longer, they always leave us too soon.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I'm her person...part 4

Dogs, because of their close relationship with us, have been widely studied by humans.  Many profess to be experts in canine behavior, but I do not claim to be an expert in any way, shape or form.  While I am not an authority, I am fascinated by my collies and how they develop their unique personalities.  I’ve watched as our litters grow and change, and I’ve seen each puppy develop his or her own distinct likes and dislikes.   While I agree there is a definite impact on how a dog is raised and trained, some of their behaviors are just the result of their own individual characters.

Abby is one of the sweetest dogs I have ever known, and her son Ryder, is just like her.  She is so calm and gentle that fearful dogs and puppies, who shy away from other dogs, tend to gravitate to her side.  She is friendly with most people she meets, and always hopeful they will give her some attention.  But while she seems happy to meet them, she only has a few “favorite” people in her life.  There is a marked difference in the way she greets my mother, sister and daughter, and you can see that these are people that matter to her.  And there is an even greater difference in how she responds to me, as she has chosen me as her “person.” 

My daughter was her handler at dog shows, and most evenings she feeds the dogs too.  So she has been a big part of Abby’s life.  Abby definitely loves her, but she has some odd quirks when it comes to her relationship with my daughter.  Abby will sit on the couch with me, content and happy to be by my side.  But if my daughter comes and sits down on the other side of Abby, she will get up and leave the room.  Abby will not sit next to my daughter on the couch, and she will not sleep on her bed.  And when Abby, now a senior, decides she wants to play, she will find a toy and stand in front of me with her tail gently wagging an invitation.  My daughter finds it funny, and always asks Abby, “what did I ever do to you?”

Abby has her preferences in toys, and she will play with any of them when the mood strikes, but she has one favorite toy.   She won this toy at a dog show years ago, and she loved it so much that we saved the toy just for her.  No one else is allowed to play with it, in case it gets damaged.  We have tried to find others, as back ups, but they stopped making it. 

Abby also has a particular affinity for stinky things.  I realize this isn’t unusual, and many dogs like malodorous things, because what smells awful to us may be highly pleasant to them.  But Abby carries this enjoyment to an unusual degree.   We live near the beach, and she doesn’t roll on things she finds there on our walks.  She doesn’t try to roll on the occasional dead animal we pass on the road.  She prefers to rub herself all over people who have body odor.  Fortunately they don’t realize why she is winding herself around them, rubbing back and forth, they always exclaim that “she must really like them,” and “what a friendly dog!”  We just smile, and thank them for indulging her silly behavior.

We had a couple close calls over the years, the first when she had to have an emergency spay.  Then last year she developed an intestinal obstruction, and became critically ill, almost overnight.  Fortunately we didn't  hesitate and rushed her right to the animal hospital, it was a very scary experience.  Abby has done so many things for me.  She was my first champion, dam of my first two litters, and she is one of my best friends.  Abby is everything a collie should be, and has the beauty to match.

For Abby's full story:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Caring for senior dogs

Too often we take those we love for granted, and we need to be reminded to treasure each and every moment.  If you have been reading my posts over the last few weeks, you may have noted that this has become somewhat of a running theme.  But each time I notice my seniors displaying the signs and symptoms of old age, I feel a bit of panic, because I am not ready for them to leave me.  And while I know I may still have them with me for a couple more years, it’s heartbreaking to imagine a time when they won’t be by my side.  I’ve written about celebrating our time with our seniors, and trying to find activities they enjoy, but what else can we do for our special seniors?

The first thing we can do to care for our seniors, is to make sure they visit their veterinarians frequently.  Senior dogs, like senior humans, may develop health issues as they age.  Allowing your veterinarian to run senior blood panels enables them to catch diseases or problems before they progress and become life threatening.  You live with your dogs, and you may not notice a change in their weight, gait or personality if it is gradual.  By taking your senior for regular check-ups, the doctor may catch changes that you might have missed.

Dogs can lose muscle as they age, and to help prevent the atrophy of those muscles, you should walk your dogs as often as possible.  Keeping them at a healthy weight, and keeping them moving, will help them not only live longer lives, but also to have a better quality of life.  Don’t rely on the backyard for their needs, get them out walking, it’s good for both of you!  You will keep their minds active, by giving them new sights and smells to explore.  You will keep their bodies’ healthy, and you will spend time focused on them, away from the distractions of the internet, television and phones.

Play with your dogs, they may no longer demand playtime like younger dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still enjoy it.  When I get down on the floor and grab a toy and initiate a game of tug or catch, Abby and Holly just light up.  You can see the happiness in their eyes, in the wag of their tails and by the little prance that returns to their step.  They may not be able to run and play like they used to, but short bouts of gentle play can really brighten their day.

Some seniors love to sleep on the couch or your bed, but they may no longer be able to climb up on higher surfaces.  Remember they may suffer from the aches and pains associated with aging, so make sure to provide them with a comfortable place to sleep and rest.  They make ramps and stairs for dogs, and they also sell orthopedic dog beds, which are designed for senior dogs.  They may cost a bit more than regular dog beds, but the added expense is worth it.

As they age, dogs can also develop dental disease, so get their teeth cleaned by a veterinarian.  Dental disease can lead to infection and can cause health issues in other organs.  Also, pain from tooth decay and abscesses can make eating painful for seniors, and cause them to lose weight.  Try brushing their teeth every day, it will help keep their teeth clean after the veterinarian does a professional cleaning.  Just be sure to use products designed specifically for dogs, human toothpaste should not be used on dogs.

Consider giving your senior a joint supplement, which can aid in relieving joint stiffness and pain.  Your veterinarian can help you choose the best supplement for your dog, as not all supplements are created equal.  What might work for some breeds may not be what’s right for your dog.  Your veterinarian can advise you on what works and what doesn’t.

Consider changing your dog’s diet, as your senior doesn’t have the same nutritional needs that she had in her youth.  They make dog foods to cater to the needs of senior dogs, with added glucosamine and chondroitin for their joints.

And last, to enrich your seniors’ remaining years, consider creating a bucket list for your dog.  It may sound silly at first, but it can be a fun way to spend time with your dog.  You can add new places to visit and new things to try.  You can add favorite pastimes too, like long car rides, walks in the woods, swimming in the lake, camping or playing fetch - the sky’s the limit.  But you want to start doing these activities while your senior is still able to enjoy them, there is no better time than today.  Hug them often, give them the best care you can, and when it's time to let them go, stay by their side so they aren't scared and surrounded by strangers.  Remember, you have family, friends, work and hobbies...they only have you.