Oh, the DRAMA

Sofa is such a drama queen.

“Oh! You gods, why do you make us love your goodly gifts, and snatch them straight away?

Yeah yeah. Tell it to the judge.

I am Cashew. I am the judge.

See how serious looking I am?

As you can see, Sofa has recovered perfectly from his near drowning of last week (:eyeroll:).

However, he has lately come to display a brand new behaviour that neither Mr. Pickles, nor anyone else at the park, appreciates. It’s kind of complicated, so I’ll see if I can explain it in simple terms …

Oh yes, here we go.
The Sofa is an asshole.

He has taken up a new hobby of being a randomly aggressive nincompoop and getting quick tempered with other dogs. As near as I can figure it appears to be a form of ‘possession aggression.’ The things he found valuable enough to aggress over today include: dad’s truck, a stick, my pocket (where cookies sometimes live) and occasionally whatever dog he was currently playing with. Normally the Sofa is a very goofy guy who enjoys playing games my dogs find abhorrant, like ear tugging and wrestling, grappling over toys and “chase me” games.

This is the “normal” Sofa, playing gently with an 8 week old Lab puppy (so cute, right?)

But as of just lately, he has been fighting with other dogs (never people) over resources and perceived insults. Is this common in dobermans? Is it a function of his oncoming maturity? Any suggestions for nipping it in the bud, so to speak?

You all were so helpful with the recall issue, maybe you have some insights for Mr. Pickles.

Who needs to GET OUT OF THE SHOT, PICKLES!! Yeesh. He’s as bad as Tweed!

Speaking of the recall, I was interested to hear all your suggestions and insights. Someone asked how The Food Lady would work on this problem, and I was sort of surprised that nobody offered anything similar to the approach I would take.

Liam’s recall issue is not a “fear” of coming when called, nor is it a communication problem – eg., it’s not that Liam does not understand his recall command, but rather that he chooses to disregard it in favour of his freedom. To me, this makes Liam a very smart dog – one who can make decisions on his own. But it also makes him a frustrating dog, especially if you’re in a hurry, or he escapes the leash in a dangerous situation. That’s why in my world, “come” is not negotiable*.

*unless you’re Mr. Woo. Because if you are Mr. Woo, you look like this and therefore, are immune to all directives:

Over the last decade, I have fostered a couple hundred border collies, and I have without fail taught every one of them a fairly reliable recall within about two days. And I have done this using the age old art of putting pressure on the dog.

Pressure is the language that a working dog understands. There’s a reason Open handlers don’t clicker train their sheepdogs – for centuries, shepherds have used pressure to make their dogs understand what they want and need them to do. When a dog is working sheep, he is putting pressure on the sheep, and the shepherd is putting pressure on the dog, and the dog is constantly adjusting his stance, pace and position in relation to the pressure of the environment he’s working in – gates, fences, escape routes, panels etc. Border collies are very sensitive to pressure of all kinds, and it’s pretty easy to make it work for you.

When I teach a dog a recall, I loose him somewhere and let him do his thing for a bit, and then I call him, ONCE. If he does not immediately respond, I then proceed to “walk the dog down.” Purposefully, and silently, I walk straight toward the dog – I do not run, I walk. I do not change my pace, and I do not get angry and I do not yell – I simply walk. If the dog goes left, so do I. If he skips off to the right, so do I. If he takes off in the other direction, so do I. I am relentless in my pursuit of the dog. But usually I only need to be relentless for a couple of minutes, because pretty soon, the dog always – ALWAYS – stops. Usually he lies down and waits for me to reach him. This is pressure – the dog feels the pressure of me coming for him, and succumbs to that pressure. Border collies were bred to be very sensitive to this.

When I reach the dog, I take his collar and say nothing. I lead him back to where I originally called him from, sit him down and look him in the eye, and quitely repeat “come.” Then I loose him again. Almost without fail, the next time I issue the recall, the dog comes flying back to me as fast as he can, to avoid the pressure of being “walked down” again. Then I throw a party for the dog’s success and rewards aplenty are issued – praise, food, a toy or whatever it is the dog likes.

I’ve found over the years that this only takes 2 or 3 repeats over 1 or 2 days before I can reliably have the dog coming to me on the first command every time. They are smart dogs, and they learn quickly how to avoid the consequence of not coming when called. I suppose that in the vogue of positive reinforcement, this would be something negative, but I have to stress that it is not punishment. My dogs LOVE to come when called, and they LOVE the praise they receive for it. But they instincitvely understand pressure, and yield to is appropriately, as they were bred to do.

Interestingly, toward the end of our photo shoot, Liam’s mum got annoyed with her dancing-out-of-reach wayward canine and without knowing she was even doing it, she walked him down. She walked him down straight into the Fraser River, where he sat down, and then he lied down, and then he walked up to her and did a *perfect* front-finish sit and let her put his leash on.

Oh Liam knows what a recall is, there have just been too many rewards for ignoring it, and not enough consequences for disobeying it ;-)

Did you call me?

You know, faces like this:

…do NOTHING to abate my puppy lust. NOTHING.

This one didn’t help either.

Oh and look what else I saw! An Irish Setter. I didn’t even know they made those anymore.

Thanks to you all who offered to help be Cataxis for a day to get Donut’s American cousins over the border. It looks like we have all the legs in place and as of Saturday night, the kitteny goodness will be upon us!

Donut has her own song (as do all my pets). It goes:

You’ve got kitteny goodness
So much kitteny goodness
You’ve got kitteny goodness
In those kitteny eyes!

I realize it makes no sense, but she likes it when I sing it to her. I think. It’s hard to tell with these damn cats.

I hope you’re all ready for some kitteh pictures!!

Also, on Saturday I hope to be in Laidlaw, BC (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say!) at the ASC of BC Stockdog Trials. I’m hoping to take photos of Aussies doing their thang. There’d better not be any puppies there! Come on by if you’re in the area and say hello! The Trio Of Terrible will be with me. Mr. Woo wants to get in touch with his Aussie roots.

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