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Category Archives for Dog Training Update

Border Collie Herding Instinct Test — Clover Meets Goats

A couple of weeks ago, I drove Clover out to Valdemar Farm for her herding instinct test with our herding instructor Cathy Balliu. You can see the video highlights (and bloopers) below, but let’s just say Clover did much more harassing than herding. Here is a recap of what we looked for, what we saw, and what comes next.

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Alone Outside

You know how I so often say I’m grateful that Lilly doesn’t have separation anxiety (among all her other fears)? (I’d like to keep it that way.) Well, we learned last Friday that there is one instance when she VERY much minds being alone. The little stinker barked and howled for one hour, 10 minutes, when I put her on our (fenced) property after our walk … while I enjoyed lunch next door with a neighbor and friend who offered to give me a break from all the stress. Lilly didn’t like it one @#$#@ bit. Lesson learned.

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Weekly Training Update (Jan 29)

Lilly and I haven’t done any agility training for months now. In fact, I should go save our at-home equipment from the winter winds that have bowled everything over. I’m sure both of us miss it, and I’ll try to find time for a bit of weaving and jumping, wraps and pivots, bounce jumps and tires. Lilly surely needs the exercise and mental stimulation, but I’ve discovered another reason for a good, all-out agility run now and then. It prevents tripping around the house.


Maybe I’m moving unexpectedly in my stress and worry. Maybe Lilly is uber clingy from all my absences of late. Maybe we’re just terribly out of sync, but I cannot stop tripping over her.

Normally, the two of us move around the house and elsewhere with an unspoken ease. I move. She moves. I turn. She turns. I stop. She stops.

And, maybe most importantly, she stays out of the doggone way.

I think it’s a skill and a spatial awareness that comes with agility training, and it seems, we’ve lost our handler-dog sense of each other since we haven’t been on a course in ages.


The one body awareness thing I’ve been doing, though, is working on “steering” Lilly from behind. We never did properly learn to do rear crosses, being agility school dropouts and all, but I always marvel at handlers who can control their dogs’ movement from far away and behind. There is an older handler here in CO who is kick-ass at this. She clearly cannot keep up with her young, fast border collie, but she has such good distance control over him that it doesn’t matter.

I’ve started purposefully steering Lilly when we come back from our walks. She’ll typically stay at my side along the driveway, but then drops back when she realizes we’re going inside. As regular readers know, coming inside is a big issue for Lilly in the summertime, so we have to practice pieces of the behavior year round.

To keep Lilly moving forward, I’ve started tipping my shoulders and averting my gaze to relieve the “pressure” on her. She responds by moving ahead toward the house.

If she begins to veer, I tip my shoulders away again to get her on track.

It’s pretty funny. I don’t “train” it in a formal sense with clicks/treats/rewards, but I do praise her. I mostly practice what little I know about pressure on, pressure off, of body language to see if we can once again move in sync.

I’m sure people who don’t know the intricacies of dog training wouldn’t be impressed. To them, it probably would just look like Lilly going inside, but all of us know there is so much more to it.

I’ll try to shoot some video soon so that you can see her respond in real time.

Weekly Training Update (Jan 15)

I’m not sure this counts as a real training update since the ONLY thing Lilly and Ginko are learning these days is to handle us being busy, gone, worried all the time. I really wish I could write about the terrible things going on right now, but there are many reasons I cannot. So, please just know that we continue to need a constant flood of good wishes and mojo for pretty much everyone in our family. Those of us, under this roof, are mostly fine, if you don’t count bouts of crying, winter cold germs, unending/unimaginable stress and exposure to frustration from others’ despicable acts and incompetence. So, I offer just this brief glimpse into our world this week.

This post could alternately be entitled … Is this seat taken?

Last week, after many marathon eldercare days that meant being away for 10+ hours several days in a row, Tom climbed onto the sofa to relax. Lilly immediately jumped up to get her empty tank of loving filled. Ginko decided to join the snugglefest and actually SAT RIGHT ON LILLY. She wouldn’t budge. Neither would he … since both were desperate for some attention.

They stayed this way for about 30 minutes, until Lilly squirmed her way toward Tom’s head and out from underneath Ginko’s big butt.

You can see that Ginko is wearing one of the little fleece “coats” I dug out of our dog box. I made them ages ago for our late Dalmatian. It isn’t perfect, but it works to keep my old boy warm.

I’m happy to report that despite this drastic (and I can only hope short-lived) change in their schedule isn’t causing too much trouble behaviorally.

One of them did piddle in the house when we were gone one day last week. But, it happened on the painted concrete floors downstairs, and we were gone WAY longer than expected, so I didn’t sweat it.

I’m so glad that most of the time I can be home with the pups a lot. One of the downsides of that set-up, though, is that it can be hard for them when we are gone for extended hours.

Yet, I’m beyond grateful that both dogs handle it well. No separation anxiety. No destructive habits.

I’ve taken to stuffing frozen sweet potato fries into their toys in the morning, and that keeps them happy … I hope.

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