Signs of a good breeder . . .

At 6 weeks of age, the Swedish Vallhund puppy I’m getting is being seen by the vet for his first exam, first set of shots, microchip, worming, and heartworm preventative.

Once I get him at 8-9 weeks of age, I am to have him seen by MY vet within 3 days to get an opinion on his health and condition from someone I trust.

He has a 1 year temperament guarantee.

2 year inheritable disease guarantee. (Anything like hip dysplasia, would show up at this time).

For “pet” dogs that aren’t going to show or performance homes, she requires that they be spayed or neutered by 2 years of age and NEVER BRED. If I don’t do conformation, I plan to neuter by 2 anyway to insure proper growth and bone density.

She also requires that any dog that needs to be sold or transferred be returned to her UNLESS she approves of where the dog is going to. Basically, she has the right to refuse the sale/transfer/adoption and repossess the dog and MUST BE NOTIFIED.

She registers the dogs with the AKC under her name, then transfers ownership herself to their new homes.

She has 1-2 litters a year from different females (one litter a year per female), usually just one a year, and sometimes just one every two years.

Her breeding dogs are health tested with DNA profiles. I’ve looked them up on a Vallhund database (at least the ones listed there from the kennels they were born at) and they have a very low percentage of inbreeding.

If you get a dog from a breeder who doesn’t offer things like this, then you need to seriously question the breeder. Back yard breeders and puppy mills wouldn’t have these sorts of guarantees or failsafes in place.


My “pet” dogs will still come from rescue in the future.

Some people may think that it doesn’t make sense, but you can support GOOD breeders and GOOD rescues at the same time.


Puppy Ramblings

It’s been a bit since my last post, but I do have some exciting news!

A litter of Swedish Vallhunds was born at Osafin on 2/22/14.  If there’s a drivey pup in the litter, I’ll be bringing him home at the end of April.  Right now I just have to wait until they’re all evaluated . . .

If there isn’t a good performance pup, the breeder is planning a second litter this fall with another male and female that she has bred together before that has produced kids that would be good for doggy sports.  So we’ll see!  About all I can promise myself is sometime this year.

I am currently poring through various doggy books that I own and coming up with a training regimen for the pup.  Some of the main things I know I’ll start with are working on any problem barking (a breed thing), your usual sit, down, stand, and watch me, along with a little follow-the-leader work, and then typical puppy behaviors like learning bite inhibition, what to chew on, etc.  I also have a tiny puppy-sized teeter that will be great for some beginner “bang game” where you shape the dog to step on the end of the board to make it make noise against the ground.  We’ll also walk along planks and learn to go through jump standards with no bars.

I’ve also thought about starting with some rudimentary cik and cap training, but I want to be careful not to put too much pressure on the pup’s spine.  We may just learn to walk around cones for a while so there’s less bending, then move up to jump standards once he’s over 6 months.

I may have him run straight through some 6-pole channel weaves or do some 2 X 2s once he’s over 6 months just to build some understanding, but this will not be a priority.  I don’t want him really working on weave poles till he’s a year to keep him from flexing his spine too much as he grows.

I may outline each of these games individually in the blog and re-read the puppy-game chapters in Susan Garret’s “Shaping Success.”  I remember some interesting things in there, but it’s been a few years.

There will also be TONS AND TONS AND TONS of socialization.

Sanctioned Barn Hunt Fun Run!

Me and Willow during a run!


I attended both days of the first BHA-sanctioned event in Oklahoma!  On the first day, I brought Willow, my rescued BC, and ran one Instinct, two Novice, and two Open runs.  In Novice, she ranked a 1st (out of 7 dogs) and a 2nd (out of 5 dogs), then in Open she also ranked a 1st and a 3rd (out of 8 for both trials)!  She passed her Instinct as well, meaning that if this had been a real trial, she would have had her RATI and two legs toward RATN.  She can’t run a “4realz” RATO until she’s attained her RATN.

No videos of the first day, unfortunately, but there was a film crew there from KSBI’s Dog Talk program.  Once that piece has aired, I’ll link to it on another post.  I interviewed and sounded kind of rambly, but hey, I had been insanely sick with a ridiculous norovirus that has been going around just a few days before.  I couldn’t stand for too long on Saturday, so thank goodness I wasn’t trying to run agility or anything crazy!  My recovery from that stupid thing has been slow and I’m still feeling the effects even though it first hit me a week ago.

When she alerts on a rat, she doesn’t go psychotically crazy like some dogs.  She stops and stares with her ears up, mouth mostly closed, and tongue poking out just a weeeeee bit.  Once I see that expression, I know she’s found it.  I then have to restrain her as the rat is removed from the course as she wants to nip at the tube as it moves.  If she accidentally nips a rat wrangler, she gets DQ’d for the run.

This is her alert face . . .



She cracks me up.

I was so proud of her on Saturday!  I feel like she’s finally found her sport.  She likes doing agility, but anything that gets too cerebral makes her anxiety start to soar.  Because Barn Hunt is so instinct-based, she forgets that tons of people are staring at her.  I can’t wait for the first trial!

I originally was only going to attend on Saturday, but I later realized that someone I really respect and really wanted to see was only attending on Sunday.  In spite of still feeling crappy, I forced myself out of bed again and this time loaded up all three of my dogs so my two little guys could have some fun in RATI.  Well uh.  They both failed, but they were an absolute hoot and the spectators adored them.  I couldn’t stop laughing.

The first one I went in with was Gwen, my Pembroke Welsh Corgi.  She thought she was supposed to be doing some obedience work, so she followed me, looking up at me the entire time, then stopped and sat whenever I stopped.  I could barely get her to focus on the tubes, she was so focused on me.  Ha!  The judge laughed and said, “Well, you might have an obedience dog in this one!”  Gwen could definitely do novice obedience with a little training.

Here is her adorable confused face.

Stinking.  Adorable.

I’m sitting pretty, is dis what I’m supposed to do?

A friend of mine ran one of her toy fox terriers while I gathered up Kiki, my Japanese Chin.  When I entered the ring with Kiki, she started out doing the same thing.  The judge grinned again and said, “Hey look, another obedience dog!”  I managed to get Kiki to sniff a tube for just a second, then she stopped and looked around, suddenly realizing she was the center of attention.  At that point, she put on her crazy chin-face and started zooming around the ring like a maniac, bouncing at the photographer, and basically making a silly fool of herself.  The spectators were rolling with laughter.

The calm before the zoomies.

They had so much fun!

After that, the novice trials began, so I went and grabbed Willow.  She was the only one to pass the first novice trial . . . out of 11 dogs . . . and in less than a minute.  When she found the rat really quickly, the audience gasped right before I called “Rat!”.  I barely noticed them, but the judge did.  As soon as Willow’s run was over, she ordered anyone who participated in that collective noise to leave the barn.  All but 3 people walked out.  HAHAHA.  Oops.  For her second novice trial, she scored 1st out of 3 dogs.

Here is a video of that second novice run.  She started doing that jump-on-everything-instead-of-tunneling at that point.  Maaay have to work on that a bit, but dangit, SHE WANTS TO FIND MORE RATS.  THERE HAVE TO BE MORE.  STUPID HUMANS.  RAAAATS.

And then came Open!  On her first Open run, she was 1st out of 6 dogs, including some very seasoned barn hunters.  I couldn’t be more proud!  She did fail her last run as I couldn’t quiiiiiite get her to tunnel in time and she was a bit slow finding the rats.  I knew she was tired as she kept lying down and looking at me before we went in.  Sometimes I have to remember that she is almost 9 years old and I know I really pushed her hard this weekend.  In a real trial setting, she’d probably run half as many times as she did this weekend.

Here is a video of her awesome Open run!

In the future, I may need to learn to quiet down and let her work unless I feel the need to redirect her attention.  It’s a learning process for all of us!  Also, I was a Big Dork and forgot to leave my keys with the rest of my stuff.  I normally walk around with them dangling from my belt loop like some exceptionally nerdy janitor.


In any case, we were both on top of the world this past weekend.  I am looking forward to a sanctioned trial and will happily clear my schedule when the first one pops up in Oklahoma.

I am soooo happy to have three super-awesome, super-attentive, and super-silly dogs who adore people and other animals and have pretty fantastic manners in comparison to other dogs I’ve seen.  I must be doing something right.

Now, something interesting to note about Willow’s success here.  In my previous life, I worked as a trainer in a facility that heavily uses aversive methods.  The owner of that facility also trains drug-sniffing dogs, usually sticking to labs and GSDs.  I knew Willow had a nose on her back then . . . and this was 6 or 7 years ago . . . and tried time and time again to get him to scent test her.  He never did and would always either cancel or find some excuse.  I don’t think he believed border collies could do any kind of scent-work or he just thought I was as incompetent as he always told me I was.  Joy of a man, that one.  Resigning my trainer position there was the best thing I could have ever done for my dogs.

That makes Willow’s success that much sweeter to me in some odd way.  I wish we had Barn Hunt here years ago!

Come ON, first sanctioned trial in Oklahoma!  WE WILL BE THERE!

Disclaimer:  All photos on this post were taken by the talented Linda Earley.  Sooooo lucky to have her around!

Barn Hunt Was Awesome!

Yesterday I took Willow out to Twister Agility for a beginning barn hunt seminar.  Barn hunt is an instinct-based dog sport that really is a ton of fun and requires minimal training on the part of the dog and a lot of observation and behavior-watching on the part of the handler.  Yes, this sport does require the use of live rats, but the rats are not harmed and are encased in very thick PVC tubes with tons of tiny airholes drilled into them.  Now, some people may get all up and arms and say this traumatizes the rats, but the lady rats used at this particular facility are extremely friendly, handle-able, well-adjusted, and show no sign of negative issues created by being the bait in the tubes.

You can plainly see two of the lady rats in their holding cage here.  Their main cage is at least three times the size of this thing and decked out with hammocks, a huge wheel, and all sorts of toys for them!

They are very outgoing and friendly and enjoy a good game of poke-your-belly.
At the beginning of the seminar, they used small metal cages containing a single rat to test leashed dogs for instinct.  There were several dogs at this beginning seminar including 2 beagles, a welsh terrier, a flatcoat retriever mix, a jack russell, a mini aussie, and then Willow my border collie.  Everyone but the flat coat showed at least mild interest, but the welsh terrier went absolutely crazy-mad at the sight of the rats (that’s a terrier for you!) and Willow just staaaaaaared BC style.  She couldn’t take her eyes away from the cages!

Of course, the dogs were closely watched to make sure they didn’t bite at the cages.  The welsh terrier was pulled back very quickly as his ratting instinct was VERY evident.  The flatcoat flat out didn’t care.

I was impressed with Willow.  I wasn’t sure exactly how she was going to take to rats as she ignores the 2 old pet rat boys I have at home and instead herds the cats and other dogs all day.

After that, we took the dogs into the barn to do a RATI – or instinct run.  This is the strangest of the setups as it basically has the same course layout as a RATN (novice) course, but with one big difference:  The three tubes aren’t hidden.  They’re set out in a row, one with a rat plus bedding, one with bedding, and one empty.  They can be arranged in any order.  The object of the course is for the dog to differentiate between them.  Odor-scenting dogs may alert on both the rat and the bedding tube.  This was an issue with a few that had been trained in Nosework.  Dogs who actually want to get at the rat may check out the bedding tube, lose interest, and move on.

Willow found the correct tube easily.  When she alerts, it’s really funny.  She’ll sniff at the thing a moment, then back off and perk up her ears before pawing and biting at the tube.

This is her initial alert-face:

After the RATI, we ran our first RATN course, not timed or anything, so we could try and complete all the requirements:  A tunnel (made of secured hay bales, often with a board for stability), a “climb” (getting all four paws onto a hay bale), and, of course, the find.  There were three tubes on the course, one empty, one with bedding, one with the rat.  Willow’s first run was a little goofy, but she did the tunnel and learned that the hay bales weren’t going to kill her or topple when she climbed on them.  Since she was the last dog run, I took some extra time to build drive for the rat-tube by restraining her by her harness, talking the thing up, waiting until she was pulling for it, letting her go, praising like crazy, then repeating.  At one point she started digging madly at the barn floor by the tube, sending dirt and hay flying.

For the second RATN run, I had a friend record it.  Here’s the video! RATN-style run (Novice)

Willow is an absolute goofball.  I love her botched jump onto the bales, but hey, it counted as a climb!  I didn’t know where the rat was on this course and she, this being her first day doing barn hunt, was a bit slow to signal, hence my hesitation.  If you watch closely, you’ll notice my hands are in my pockets most of the time.  This is partially due to the 30 degree weather (Fahrenheit, of course, below freezing) and partially due to me avoiding NQs (non-qualifies).  Basically, if I touch my dog, touch a hay bale, or point or even gesture within 12 inches of a tube, I could NQ for the round and not be able to move on.  I tried to use mostly my voice and body language, then just stand back and let her do her work.  Another NQ is the dog nipping at the rat wrangler while they take the tube off the course.  This can be avoided by physically restraining your dog.  In the RATO video I’ll link down the way, you can see me doing just that using a typical vet-tech style hold.  Worked like a charm for a squirmy dog.

Anyway, in spite of the hesitation on my part, she still completed the course in time!  2 minutes is what you get for RATN.  She and the welsh terrier were invited to stay for the advanced course (because two and a half hours in the could with ice cube toes weren’t enough for me, I just HAD to stay for 3 more!)  The welsh’s handler’s declined due to an illness.

During the space between the courses, I sat in my car for about 20 minutes with the heat on, trying to thaw myself out a bit.  After that, I was extra crazy and took Willow out to the agility field to work some basic jumping exercises, do a few A-frames, teeters, and channel weaves.  She may be 8 years old, but she has boundless energy.  However, due to her age, I don’t jump her more than 16″ even though she’s capable of more.  I’m not out to break my dog.

Here’s the field from the week before when there was more snow.  Some of it still stuck around, but everything was mostly grass and there wasn’t any ice left on the equipment.

We took another break 10 minutes before the advanced class started and other people had started to arrive.  The advanced class included two jack russells, a jack russell/whippet mix, a doberman mix, a golden retriever, a dalmatian, a pit/plott/something mix, a cattle dog mix, Willow, and a few others that I can’t seem to recall.  This class was bigger than the first by about 3 dogs.  In the two hours, we were able to do two runs instead of the three the instructor was hoping for.  The first one wasn’t timed, but it was great for building working knowledge of the ring and spending quality time with your dog.  During that run, Willow kept squeezing herself into spaces about the size of a square foot underneath bales.  She’s incredibly silly.

The differences between RATN and RATO are basically this:  RATO has two rats, usually one hidden up high and one hidden down low, plus 2 bedding tubes, plus 1 empty tube.  The main stack of bales is 1 bale higher and the tunnel has a right angle in it instead of being straight.  The time limit is 2:30, up from 2 minutes.

Here is Willow’s timed RATO-style run (Open)

That was her 2nd RATO run.

She did it all within time!  Now, afterwards she was shown up by Ping the dobie mix who completed everything in less than a minute.  To be fair, though, that dog has had months of practice, a supremely awesome handler, and Willow only had hours and . . .well . . . me.  XD

Needless to say, we have a new sport!

There will be a sanctioned fun run at Twister on the 22nd and 23rd of this month.  We are going to participate!

Oh, another fun thing was professional photographer Linda Earley was at the advanced class and snapped tons of pictures.  I can’t wait to see them!  If she posts any digitally, I’ll be sure to share them.

Barn hunt seminar today!

Today Willow the border collie and I will be starting barn hunt!  I’m really interested in seeing what she’ll do.  She is basically the poster-child of the dogs mentioned in Leslie McDevitt’s Control Unleashed and I near-constantly have to apply those principles to her, especially if we are inside one of the buildings rather than in the field for our agility class.  She gets easily overwhelmed by new environments and stimuli, which is a result of her not being socialized at all by her original family as a pup.  SOCIALIZATION IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, GUYS!  (another rant for another time).

She loves to sniff about and find things and always alerts us to when there’s a mouse in the front yard, so maybe she’ll enjoy this!  Either that or she’ll just derp around and enjoy herself, anyway.  It’s all about just giving her something new to do.


Cast of Characters

Cast of Characters




I currently share my life with three awesome dogs.


Kiki is a Japanese Chin my partner Avery and I adopted from JCCARE when she was 10 months old 8 years ago.  She is now a bit over 9 and still adorable as ever.  She’s smart as a whip and loves the clicker.  I’ve been teaching her a few tricks here and there, but should really work with her more.  Her favorite things to do are a “down” and a bow, both captured behaviors.  She is extremely lively and always getting into trouble if she doesn’t have something new and interesting to distract her, a trait that has lead to all sorts of shenanigans.  This picture cracks me up because she ABSOLUTELY hates the cold!

Her original name was Pritzi.  Needless to say, that’s the FIRST thing we changed!  We actually picked her up for JCCARE and foster-failed on her, adopting her just weeks after we brought her in.  She’s an extremely friendly and confident dog capable of jumping four feet straight into the air, even at her current age.  This usually either delights or scares anyone who meets her.


Gwen is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi who came from the OK Save-a-Dog society.  I first spotted her when I was doing some volunteering at a 3 day, multi-rescue adoption event.  She happily followed the volunteers offleash and never strayed in spite of all the crazy excitement.  I pointed her out to Avery who absolutely fell in love with her.  The funny part about this is my partner is not a dog really a dog person — she adores cats above all other animals with rats coming in at a close second.  Dogs are third at most.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love kitties, too, and my Cicada cat is sitting in my lap as I type!)  She got a closer look at Gwen (then “Rosie”), found that she was 7 years old and a “retired breeder” from some veterinarian that decided he didn’t want her anymore.  Just because someone’s a vet doesn’t make them a good breeder!

Avery drama’d over Gwen the entire weekend, then returned to the event during its last hours on Sunday with Kiki in tow to see if someone had adopted her.  They hadn’t, so she did!  She still claims it’s one of the craziest things she’s ever done.  We had unfortunately just had to have one of our dogs euthanized months before (more on that for another post in the future) and at the time had an old-man Pembroke from Fido Knows Corgi Rescue named Hazel.  Hazel and Gwen were an adorable pair up until Hazel passed away from cancer a few months ago.

Gwen is an extremely sweet and loving soul.  However, due to her bad hips (once again, vet does not necessarily mean reputable breeder!) I elected not to try any sort of competition with her in spite of her aptitude for obedience.  She is a beloved family member whose job is to be overly concerned about what anyone else is doing at any given moment.


This is Willow, my 8 1/2 year old border collie, jumping through a decorated hoop during a professional shoot by Linda Earley, who has tons of talent as a dog and equestrian photographer.  I adopted Willow about 7 years ago from Ruff Mutt Border Collie Rescue in Garland, Texas when I worked at a local training facility whose main technique was aversion/corrections.  Once again, more on that for another post!

Willow is my main partner in just about everything.  We go to agility classes weekly and are about to start barn hunt this Sunday.  She has been a behavior case for most of her life and, to a lesser point, still is.  When I first adopted her, she had no confidence whatsoever.  She was someone’s flea-market-bought breathing backyard ornament.  Her previous owners at least had the good sense to get her spayed and get her shots, but didn’t take her into the vet for anything else until a year or so later when she was literally peeing blood and much of her hair was falling out.  She had a terrible UTI and some major allergies (after feeding her Ol’ Roy?  Duh?).  They then decided that she was too much dog for them and passed her on to rescue.  Her original name was Sadie.  The rescue changed it to Gracie.  I changed it to Willow.

She never had any socialization growing up and absolutely falls apart when anyone is yelling or banging on things.  She used to pee as soon as anyone made eye-contact with her.  I’m not talking just a little — she would empty her entire bladder.  Everywhere.  It took weeks to get her to the point that that stopped for the most part.  After some TLC, me having the good sense to quit that training facility, and some major help and positive clicker-training from the late, great, and dearly missed Sandy Case, Willow has come extremely far.  She now approaches strangers for pettins, very rarely submissively urinates (I’m talking once every few months, down from several times a day a few years ago), and has come farther in agility in the past year at Twister Agility in Edmond, OK than she had in the previous six.

There are times when she will fall apart and go into full anxiety-attack mode.  This usually happens in new environments when I’m asking her to think (like running agility) and ESPECIALLY if there’s yelling involved from anywhere in the area.  I try to take her to several of the doggy-type events (not trials) in the area to get used to crowds and she does well, but that just requires her to follow me around.  Because of this anxiety and her advancing age, I may never be able to trial her in agility.  But hey, this is not a bad trade-off for all the things she’s taught me!  Without her, I wouldn’t be heading in the direction I’m trying to go.

I’m hoping she’ll truly enjoy something like barn hunt or nosework so we both can experience running a trial of some sort.  As for agility, even though I love it like crazy, the trials may be reserved for the next dog.

Depending on the drive of pups in an upcoming litter, this spring I may be adding my first non-rescue to the pack:  A Swedish Vallhund from Osafin in Austin, TX.  It will be weeks before I’ll find out whether or not any of the pups due at the end of the month will have the potential for performance.  If not, then I’ll wait for the next litter.  I haven’t had a puppy since I was 5 years old and am greatly looking forward to the experience and already planning out a training regimen.