June 2014

Managing the little sheepdog

Wilco is really a very easy puppy to raise. He loves both play and food. He relaxes really well. When he doesn’t feel like sleeping, he plays with his toys and leaves the furniture alone (he didn’t do that a month ago, but now he seems happy with his toys and bones). He doesn’t go crazy over other dogs running, playing or working. This is such a good trait in a border collie puppy. It makes having him with me everywhere so much easier.

There is really just one annoying problem. He loves herding sheep and he’ll go in the sheep field on his own to push the sheep around (really nicely, but still not a good idea). He won’t run away when we’re training (sheep are just across the driveway from my obedience/agility field), but he will if he’s just hanging out in the garden, or when we come back from walks. And the more you try to stop him, the more determined he is to go. He’s been on a leash around the farm for weeks now, but I miss having him just hanging out with me outdoors.


Wilco 4 months

Caught in the net:

Wilco caught in the net

Wilco in the woods

It’s been a while since I updated about Wilco. I’ve been teaching abroad for a couple of weeks, leaving my dogs at home with Thomas. I really missed them, and it was especially hard to leave Wilco. Things happen all the time, and a lot happened during the weeks I was away. Mostly good things! Wilco turned 4 months old yesterday, and I really, really like him! He is so easy going. He can relax ringside at agility competitions, he has such great skills with both dogs and people, he loves training with me. He also loves herding, and when I got home he started to go into the sheep field on his own. I had to keep him on leash around the farm for a while, but he seems to have better thoughts now and is more allowed off leash. His herding looks really good, I can’t wait for him to grow up so that he can be trained!

Yesterday, we went to the woods for some fun. I usually don’t take Wilco on my longer walks with the grown up dogs, but take him out on his own for 10-20 minutes before or after I walk the others. Our adventures in the woods are both for his physical development and for building our relationship. For relationship building, I try to do a lot of recalls and play fun games with him, like hiding his toy and letting him find it with his nose. Sometimes we just walk and he can sniff and explore. Other times, we do things together. I want to have a nice balance between the two.

For his physical development, I like him to work in different speeds. When we’re just walking, I love that he chooses a relaxed trot. Trotting is great for recovery. For strength and coordination, I like to walk my dogs slowly in brush and on uneven ground. In a slow walk, the dog has to use a lot of muscle to move his legs, especially when he is walking in brush that requires extra high leg lifts. This training builds great stabilizing muscle around hips and spine. With Wilco, he is just doing a little bit of it to get used to the idea and to help him coordinate his long legs. I reward him a lot, and I try to reward when he is looking ahead rather than at me. He needs to see where he’s going. Finally, I also want him to do some full speed running. Restrained recalls are great for this!

We also find fallen trees and work on balance and coordination. I haven’t done a lot of body awareness things with Wilco. My priority has been for him to find balance using his own body. Compared to my older dogs, he knows less about climbing things, but when he does (this was his first time on a fallen tree!) he knows how to balance his body. With him, my priority is quality in posture and movements. Less is more, I hope. What are your thoughts on puppy conditioning?