It’s raining puppies…

You would think that life with a bazillion dogs was crazy enough, but I seem to be a glutton for insanity.  My household includes my newly adopted 7 month old tri-pawd border collie, Spree, my 5 month old home-bred koolie keeper puppy, Brilliant, and a new addition: a 8 week old belgian malinois puppy.

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Creature (yes, that’s his name) and his litter came highly recommended. I have been on the hunt for a malinois that fits the sport I want to compete in (mondioring) that would not only tolerate living in our crazy house, but enjoy it.  I chose Creep with natural handler focus as a top priority, as well as the typical bitey-sport criteria.  In the short week that I’ve had him, I’ve been overly impressed.  How could I not be, did you see his face?

Because I know that you are curious about how I manage a household full of high drive, high energy working dogs as well as three puppies, I thought I’d give a brief view into a day in our lives:

3am: Wake up and potty Brilliant and Creature. Brill has a weak bladder and will leak urine in the morning on her way outside if I don’t potty her through the night. Creep just goes along because he’s a wee-thing.

6am: Wake up and potty Brilliant and Creature. Fill treat dispensing toys with their breakfast and leave them in individual runs to work. Why so early? Because I want to be able to focus solely on their needs in the morning rather than expecting them to be successful while I’m juggling the needs of twelve other dogs.

7am: Wake up and potty/feed four separate groups of dogs.  Zuma, Zinga, Nelli and Spree are the first group. They go out into the play yard after pottying to wait to be fed. Next, Brilli and Creep go back out to potty and get their food dispensing toys filled again to keep them from developing bad barking habits.  Then Famous, Pony, Rush and Edgar head out to potty and into their crates/runs to be fed. Zip Tie, Kickstart and Taboo are next. Once everyone is content with breakfast, Daphne gets to hang outside until we all load up to leave for work.

8am: Load dogs up for work. Brilliant and Creep go in last, otherwise they like to bark like crazy puppies from the excitement of the other dogs loading into their crates. Management is the key to keeping these bad habits from sticking around!

8:30am-4:30pm: We work. Most of my dogs participate someway in the shows. The shows themselves, along with the necessary warm up and cool down, are all the exercise those dogs typically need, especially if they are in reach of the public all day as well.  These dogs also get to swim, chuck it and hike a couple of times a week during the show season.  Brilliant, Spree and Creep are all getting at least one play session a day at work, generally focused on building engagement and drive, as well as productive exposure to the public through out the day.

4:30pm: Drive home and unload the dogs! Puppies are first, they are unloaded individually so that I can do some recall work or another toy session without distractions from the other dogs.  Then they each go into crates/ex pens with frozen kongs so they can learn to relax as the other dogs are unloading.

5:30pm: Dinner time! The main dogs are fed in their various areas. To prevent resource guarding and to ensure that each dog is not stressed by other dogs being too close, they are all fed in their crates/runs. The puppies work for their dinners in individual sessions. What we work on varies by the day, but these sessions are focused on skill building.

6:30pm: Everyone goes outside to potty and then back inside where we relax for the day. Brilliant and Creature generally hang out in crates in the living room so that they can learn to chill without pestering other dogs. Spree already gets to be loose with the big group.

Wait. There’s two and half hours here…. This is the time that’s reserved for cleaning, laundry, office work, shopping and all that other necessary adult stuff. Oh and I eat dinner at some point too (ice cream counts as dinner, right?).

9:00pm: Last outs and last play sessions for the puppies. Once the dogs are in the bedroom for the night, the puppies each get one last play session. This is my favorite session of the night usually. Criteria is low, we’re focused on just having fun. The games can range from two-ball to flirt pole or grip work for Creature. There is no time limit, nothing else that needs to be done for the day. We get to just enjoy each other and build our relationship.

The schedule is tough. Days off aren’t days off anymore. They are days spent carting puppies around on different socialization trips, swimming adventures or more at home training sessions.  It will be worth it when these puppies turn into partners that enjoy every minute of their jobs.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying this crazy ride.

Decisions

 

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We are told that decisions can be right or wrong. We fixate on making the correct decisions in our lives and in regards to the well-being and training of our dogs.  We analyze, make lists of pros versus cons, fret over the consequences at stake.  After the decision is made, we idolize the alternative choice, did we choose correctly? Could we have done better? Would our lives and our dogs lives have been happier if we had chose differently?

Decisions are pathways, you turn right or left and find yourself on a new road.  A new adventure.  Taking one direction will present different challenges than taking the other, but both will have difficulties.  There is no such thing as a right or wrong decision, because at the time of the choice, it is impossible to know what lays ahead. A decision is a decision, how you interpret the consequences is what determines if it’s right or wrong.

I recently chose to place two of my dogs in new homes, both for very different reasons. One was difficult throughout the decision making process, the other easy.  Mighty Mouse has been retired from work since last season, she was reckless to her aging body and I was concerned that she would end up crippled in her final years.  The decision to retire her was easy, she’s not a dog that needed constant work to be happy, as long as she had a couch to lay on at the end of the day.  Eventually though, being at work wasn’t enjoyable to her anymore. I adapted our schedule the best I could; she would join me for lunch, I’d throw chuck it for her on a regular basis and would always make sure there was room on the couch next to me at night.  I did my best to ensure she was happy, and she was that.  Then I learned of a husband and wife in Minnesota who had recently lost their beloved greyhound. They were on the search for a whippet, a dog to be spoiled, pampered and who wouldn’t have to share the couch with any other dogs.  I hadn’t planned on rehoming Mighty Mouse, she was to stay with me forever.  That was until I saw a different path for her and the decision was easy.

If Mighty Mouse had stayed with me until retirement, that would have been a good decision.  She was not unhappy here, I would have continued to adapt our schedules until all of the unhappy parts were gone.  The choice was between two different paths, neither right or wrong, just different.  Both would have been the correct decision. I feel good about the decision I made, I believe I made it with Mighty’s best interest at heart and I know from the updates that I receive that she is truly happy with the path I chose for her.

The second dog was Mega, my young malinois.  The decision to rehome her was and still is difficult.  I’ve known for sometime that she was not a good fit for this lifestyle. Too many other dogs pulling my attention and time away from her and  it showed in our training and our relationship.

That happens. This lifestyle is not for everyone or every-dog.  It is difficult to live with a large group of dogs, it is difficult to maintain the same relationship and connection with many dogs as you would if you only had a few. It is difficult, as well, to co-exist peacefully, or if that doesn’t work, at least be content in a life with limited free-time.  Mega was not the dog to thrive on this path, this decision I made for her to live here.

It took me a while to understand that.  That’s the beauty of decisions. Ultimately, a pathway will lead to another pathway, and another.  It was not a wrong decision to add Mega to my house, I had no clue what the adventure would be like when I chose to fly her here.  But it did lead me to a different path, to go right or left. To continue to push forward, forging our relationship and lifestyle to fit as well as I could or to go another direction and find a pathway that would give her the attention and one-on-one time that she craved.

There is no point in me dwelling on whether these decisions were right or wrong.  Life moves forward, always.  The decisions I’ve made for all of my dogs, no matter how major or minor, will shape our futures.  I write this with another life-changing decision looming overhead.  Daphne, my elderly forever-foster, is coming to a new pathway, one  completely unknown with only hope and faith shining the way. I know the pathway that she must take, I just hope that I’ll be ready for her to take it when the time comes.

 

 

Australia

 

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Summer is a busy time for people in my line of work.  Summer means shows, crowds, sweat in the eyes, tired dogs and exhausted trainers. The past three seasons, I’ve dutifully limited my time off, ensuring that I pull my share of the load at work.  This has led to a bit of a burnout much sooner in the season than I’d like.  This year (2017), I decided to be proactive and thus was able to secure a couple of weeks off during the hottest time of the year.  Tim and I packed up and headed to Australia to meet friends, play tourist and teach about disc-dogging.

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Yup, we went whale watching. 

After 36 hours of travel, we arrived at our AirBnB outside of Brisbane. We spent several days checking out the local attractions including watching the crocodile show at Australia Zoo.  As you can imagine, I am pretty interested in watching other animal shows. It gives me a chance to see how others have problem solved common issues with working with animals in front of a large audience as well as how they engage and inspire that audience.  Australia Zoo knocked it out of the park. Not only are they working with wild animals that are not easily trained (alligators and crocodiles), but they are doing so in a way that doesn’t force these animals outside of their natural tendencies and behaviors.  They keep the audience engaged while teaching about animal conservation, I left the show feeling inspired to get involved and do my part to help. It  was also pretty cool to watch Robert Irwin (AKA Mini-Steve) having a large part in the show.

It was great playing tourist, but I was itching to get my hands on some dogs, especially Australian Koolies. Luckily, there were plenty signed up for both the Brisbane and Melbourne seminars as well as the Koolie Club of Australia herding day. Two of my dogs, Bazinga and Zip Tie, are koolies who were imported from Australia as puppies.  Having just entered the world of breeding (their first litter was born just over 5 months ago), this trip served an additional purpose of allowing me to do hand-on research of various koolie lines.  I knew prior to our trip that koolies are a highly diverse breed not only in looks but temperament as well, this trip solidified that information.  I had a skewed impression of the breed as a whole prior to the trip because my two are pushy, hard-minded and intense, but the majority of koolies seem to tend towards the softer and more sensitive side.  As far as future litters of koolies goes, this trip was incredibly valuable to my education as a koolie breeder and it will play a key role in future pairings.

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Our view every morning from our cottage just outside of Brisbane

While those two experiences were incredibly important, here is a list of other note-worthy observations of Australia from this American:

  • It gets cold in Australia. There was ice on our car in Melbourne and the kangaroos were adorably fuzzy with their winter coats on.
  • Even though it was frigid, there were still parrots of various kinds flying around. It was mind boggling to see a group of cockatoos flying through the sky while I was wearing a winter coat.
  • Male kangaroos are creepy. Female kangaroos are adorable.
  • It is ridiculously difficult to find normal iced coffee.  Iced coffee apparently means “iced milk with a splash of coffee”.
  • Driving on the left hand side of the car is terrifying while going up curvy mountain roads bordered by cliffs.
  • There were exactly zero spiders and snakes even in Brisbane where it was 70-85 degrees. We even went hunting for them and turned up empty-handed. My theory is that they don’t actually exist and Australians just fabricated the idea of them to keep other people from realizing how amazing Australia is.
  • There were very few obnoxiously large trucks and SUV’s. Drive what you need, no more than that is necessary.
  • Australians are pretty much Canadians with cool accents.  Everyone was so friendly and enjoyable to talk to even after they knew we were from America.
  • The dog trainers in Brisbane are easy-going, loads of fun and very talented with their dogs.
  • The dog trainers in Melbourne are crazy and dedicated. Freezing temperatures and 20 mph straight line winds couldn’t stop them from playing with their dogs!
  • The brewery business is alive and well in both Brisbane and Melbourne.

Blog Updated

It’s been awhile.

My goal for the next six months is to maintain this blog in a more active fashion. In order to meet that goal, there will posts more of what I’ve done in the past as well as some creative topics. I will say that the majority will be dog-related, because let’s be honest, I don’t have much of a life outside of dogs. There will be posts about training theory (of course) and posts bragging about my awesome dogs. There will also be posts about the reality of living with a bazillion dogs and using those dogs to make a living.

If you there is something you’ve been itching to read about, please let me know in the comments. I’m going to need help coming up with ideas!