Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Sophie learns how to find a rat in a haystack!

This weekend was quite chilly and rainy, thanks to Hurricane Ophelia.  But the brunt of it missed us, so we still managed to have a fun weekend.  This was the weekend that Sophie and I tried Barn Hunt for the first time.  There aren’t any trials being held near us, so I had to drive out of state for Sophie to give it a try.  It sounded like something she would enjoy, as she has always loved our Nosework classes.

The first thing I learned was that we really should have attended a clinic or taken some training classes before entering a trial.  Sophie did great, proving yet again the versatility of the collie breed.  She caught on right away, and found the rats each time.  I was the one who needed the training!  I had read the rule book, and thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t.  There are so many rules to this sport, and some of them are counterintuitive, at least in my opinion.  The first rule, which I repeatedly broke, was to remove the dog’s collar and leash and place them on the ground as soon as you enter the search area.  I got the removing part easily enough, but I couldn’t seem to remember to put them down.  The reason I struggled with this rule is actually an easy explanation.  Sophie is always on leash when we are out in public.  I never let her off leash if we aren’t in our house or yard, I just never want to risk something happening.  So removing both her leash and collar, and letting her run free in a place I am not familiar with, makes me very nervous.  And many of the other activities we do, like the therapy visits, require that I never let go of her leash for even a second.  Even the Nosework classes are typically done on leash.  So it was instinct that kept me gripping the leash and collar, even after reminding myself to put it down.  Once I can get over that compulsion, Sophie should do really well, as all the errors were human errors.

The first class we tried was the instinct test.  They set up three tubes.  One is empty, one has the rat’s litter, and one contains the rat.  The dog is given one minute to correctly identify the tube with the rat inside, and the handler has to pick up on the dog’s individual alert when she finds the rat.  Sophie definitely would have passed the instinct test, she found the rat immediately, but there I was still gripping her leash, causing her to be disqualified!  I was actually really upset with myself, and had to remember that Sophie didn’t know she was disqualified, she was having fun either way.  That’s one of the wonderful things about dogs, it’s not about winning or losing, they just want to spend time with you and have fun!  With that in mind, even when we lost, I praised her like she had just won high in trial.  She was doing her very best, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t spoil it for her.

We were also entered in the Novice A Barn Hunt class in both the first trial and the second trial.  In this class the dog has two minutes to search for the tubes, which are now hidden in the hay bales and loose hay.  And during their search the dogs also have to climb up on a hay bale, and go through a tunnel. The handler can talk to the dog as much as they want, encouraging them and directing them to search different areas or go through a tunnel.  Sophie climbed on the bales, and found the rat, but she wouldn’t go through the tunnel, and we ran out of time.  But it didn’t matter….because I was once again holding her leash!  Fortunately, by the second trial I remembered to put the leash and collar on the ground, Sophie climbed, did the tunnel, and successfully found the rat!  This earned her the first “leg” to her Novice Barn Hunt title, RATN.  She needs to qualify three times to earn the title.  

I’ve found a Barn Hunt clinic that is being held about an hour away from us, and I hope to enter it next month for some practice.  The tunnel is made from stacking hay bales, which is very different from our plastic tunnel at home, which Sophie loves.  I think she needs some more practice with the hay tunnels, and I need more practice with just about everything else. I was really impressed by how incredibly nice and welcoming everyone was, and all the dogs and people were having so much fun.  It’s definitely something I want to try again.  Sophie absolutely loved searching for the rats, and I know she’ll enjoy doing another trial, so if you get the opportunity we both recommend giving Barn Hunt a try.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Wordless Wednesday…Love is

 Carrying the load when their bodies grow old.

This past weekend we took our two oldest collies to a dog fair.  It was a nice event, with lots of vendors, fun activities and contests for the dogs, and all the money went to dog rescue.  But Ryder and Kori just can’t do all the walking that an event like this requires, so we pulled out the wagons and pulled them around the fairgrounds.  

They really enjoyed attending the dog fair, and competing in some of the contests.  They both won the marathon down, it was a tie, as they are very good at lying in the soft grass for long periods of time.  And Ryder won the pie eating contest, with their collie friend Kelsea winning second place, and Kori coming in third.

I only took a couple pictures, and didn’t get any of the contests, I was too busy enjoying the moments with my sweet collies.  For us, it wasn’t about the pictures, it was just about making memories, as you never know how much time you will have together.

They seemed to really enjoy the “pie” so I think I will recreate the contest at home, so all the collies can try it.  I will make sure to get a video if I do our own pie eating contest.

Hopefully everyone will spend a little time this week making memories and spending time with your loved ones, both four footed and two footed alike.  After all, that’s really what love is all about!

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Titles, history, and enriching your dog’s life…

Some people are history buffs.  They may be fascinated by the Civil War, or Ancient Rome, still others may be obsessed with prehistoric times or the Salem witch trials.  There are endless time periods and subjects to study, and with all the resources we have at our fingertips, almost anyone can do research on whatever passion drives them.  For me, it’s the history of the collie that keeps me captivated, and also keeps me trying new things with my collies.

I enjoy pouring over the many volumes of the Collie Club of America’s Library of Champions.  I am always excited to find new sources of information about the collies and breeders of the past.  And one great source for collie historians are the older CCA Yearbooks.  Not everyone may be aware that each year the CCA publishes the collie yearbook for its members.  And if you aren’t a member, or if you are a newer member, some of the older yearbooks can be found on EBay and other websites.  While the Library of Champions is a wonderful record of all the past collies who earned that title, the CCA Yearbook also includes and celebrates all the other titles the collies have earned each year.

There is a great saying, “A well balanced dog has titles at both ends.” (Of its name). I know the American Kennel Club, or AKC for short, believes this to be true, which is why they created the title “AKC Breeder of Merit.”  Earning the coveted “CH” before a dog’s registered name is a cause of celebration.  Becoming a conformation champion means that a dog conforms to the breed standard in both appearance and structure.  But equally important, in my opinion, is that the dogs we breed are also capable of earning titles that appear at the end of their names.  That’s why the CCA Yearbooks are equally valuable when learning about the more recent history of our beloved collies.

With the CCA Yearbooks, you can look back through the years and see which breeders have produced collies that have earned herding, agility, obedience, Farm Dog, Scentwork and other performance titles.  The ability to earn these other titles demonstrates the soundness of mind, body and temperament of the dogs we are producing.  Our collies should be more than than just a pretty face, they should be able to perform the work they were originally bred to do.  That doesn’t mean the champion title before their name isn’t valuable, it is a huge honor to earn that title, but I think the other titles are just as important.

I’ve mentioned before that when looking for a reputable breeder, it’s important to find one who has earned the title of AKC Breeder of Merit.  But many may not realize how a dog breeder earns that title.  To qualify for this title, the breeder must meet all of these requirements:

  • Has a history of at least 5 years involvement with AKC events.
  • Earned AKC Conformation, Performance or Companion* event titles on a minimum of 4 dogs from AKC litters they bred/co-bred in each breed applied for.
  • Member of an AKC club.
  • Certifies that applicable health screens are performed on your breeding stock as recommended by the Parent Club.
    Health test requirements can be found on the Breed Health Testing Requirements webpages.
  • Demonstrates a commitment to ensuring 100% of the puppies produced are individually AKC registered.
Our Kori, herding ducks

There are so many fun and exciting things to do with your dogs, and your dogs will love all the individual time and attention.  When deciding which sport to try first, or which title to pursue, I think researching your collie’s own ancestry, and all that those dogs have accomplished, is a great place to start.  If you see many collies in their pedigree earned herding titles, you may want to consider giving herding a try.  Or maybe when researching your collie’s own history you discover that many of the collies have earned obedience or agility titles, try taking a class to see if you and your collie enjoy that type of competition.  The collie truly is a versatile breed, and the sky’s the limit for activities you can try together.  And when your collie earns a title, they will become a part of the breed’s history!  My Sophie and I have decided to try Barnhunt next month, not sure how it will go, but I bet we will have fun while doing it!

Friday, September 8, 2023

Happy World Literacy Day!

We just learned, thanks to our friends at the Five Sibes, that today is World Literacy Day! Since I am an avid reader, a book-a-holic, a bookworm, a bibliophile….I had to quickly write a post in celebration for book lovers everywhere! As I didn’t have anything planned ahead of time, this will be short post. If you’ve read some of my past posts about Terhune, you know what his books mean to me. (Click here to read more)  Books and reading, along with writing stories, are a passion of mine.  I hope, through World Literacy Day, more children and adults can discover the magic contained within the pages of books!

Since this is a collie blog, and since I am a long time Terhune fan, I wanted to share the news that his book, Lad: A Dog, is available for free on Amazon kindle.  You can get your copy here!  Happy Reading!

***Also, if you want to see a carefully preserved clip of Terhune and his collies at Sunnybank, please watch this video.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

 During the height of the pandemic we spent a lot of time isolating at home.  Many of us began working from home, and travel restrictions were put in place.  Even going to the movies or grocery store was considered a risk.  It was a time of constant worry and stress, and for many, a very lonely experience.  But for those of us with companion animals it wasn’t quite as bad, and for our pets, it was a very happy time.  All the activities that typically separate us from our animals, such as work, school, sports and vacations, were no longer an issue.

I know my own collies were never happier, as I was home with them 24/7!  And the bonus of my being home all the time, was all the walks we took, just to get out of the house.  Unfortunately, one of the activities we all enjoyed was also canceled.  There were no dog shows!  One thing the AKC did to help mitigate the loss was to begin allowing the Trick Dog test to be performed by video.  With unlimited time together, my collies and I began to train and learn dog tricks, so they could earn a new title.  It was a unique way to bond and have fun with my collies, and it kept us all from becoming too bored.

With the slow, gradual return to “normal,” AKC is now allowing the test to be done in person or virtually, it is the individual’s choice.  If you want to do the test virtually, you can find a trick dog evaluator on the AKC website or by joining the Facebook group, Trick Dog Titles. To do the test in person, you can search for upcoming tests here.  To earn the Trick Dog title your dog must perform each trick twice.  There are five levels of Trick Dog titles, we have only passed the Novice level so far.

  • AKC Novice Trick Dog (TKN)- Your dog performs 10 skills from the Novice list. (see link to “Application” below for lists of skills). If a dog has a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate or title on record at AKC, it can do 5 Novice tricks (CGC + 5) to earn the Novice title. See the list of tricks here.
  • AKC Intermediate Trick Dog (TKI) – Your dog must have the Novice title, plus perform 10 Intermediate tricks. See the list of tricks here.
  • AKC Advanced Trick Dog (TKA) – Your dog must have the Intermediate title, plus perform 10 tricks from the Advanced list. See the list of tricks here.
  • AKC Trick Dog Performer (TKP) – In this title, handlers perform a short routine with at least 10 tricks with at least 3 tricks using props. See the requirements here.
  • AKC Trick Dog Elite Performer (TKE) – In the highest level of Trick Dog, the Elite Performers perform a routine that has a story/script. At least 5 props are used. See the requirements here.

We had so much fun earning the TKN title, and I think we are going to try earning TKI next!  The collies all strongly recommend you give this a try with your dog, and if you do, please come back and let us know  in the comments.  As this is a fun activity the collies easily mastered, we decided to add it to our Versatility series, to show the amazing versatility of the collie breed. Want to see the other posts in our Versatile Collie series? Click on the links below:

Therapy dogs
Service dogs
K9 nose work
Pulling a Sulky (AKA Carting)