summer_jackel: (Coba ^_^)
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My sweet little cloud of fluff, in the prime of his life. Such a fine and good small dog.

More pictures of Coba! )
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
Happy news: Zhava has earned the first point toward her championship, and my fluffy little sparklefox is now 'Outlaws Cobalt Gambit CD,CGC' on paper. There was a dog show! We totally won! It was great!

If you happen to want a whole lot more detail than that, it's under the cut )
summer_jackel: (Coba ^_^)
Kyn cooked some delicious BBQ ribs the other day. No hounds, of course, were allowed to be unsupervised anywhere near the cooling meat, which makes miss Zhava very sad. She had never wished so passionately to commit a perfect crime, and it would only have taken her mere seconds to complete it.

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oh please, humans, just turn your back for a moment. That's all it would take, just a second of the relaxation of protective primate glare, and those ribs could be mine, so mine, oh please. )
summer_jackel: (Default)
I have ducks again, a flock of five little runners. These pictures weren't posed; I let the ducklings have a little free time in the yard, and Rogue, in a moment of exemplary Shetland Sheepdog character, lay down near them and kept an eye on them. Good dog, Rogue.

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Sheltie and duckings )
summer_jackel: (Default)
My old dog
rests near me, by the latticed gate.
She raises her fine-muzzled, frosted head
long enough to flash dark eyes and, satisfied,
replace her head upon the little paws and close her eyes.
Light has filtered through the gate to gently gild her mane;
Falling plum blossoms have adorned her.
summer_jackel: (Coba ^_^)
I keep a somewhat eclectic collection of dogs, and will admit to a certain degree of vanity about them, even if their beauty is very different from that of my wolfdogs. I miss Fen, Pryde and Jez terribly, but I am also enjoying my planned dog's-lifetime hiatus from their kind. It turns out that there are many things in life you can't really do well when you have three pet wolves. My current pack is trustworthy around other dogs, which makes it much easier to take them in public. I find that I enjoy taking them to dog parks and into town---consequently, I hear a lot more public feedback than I generally did with the previous incarnation.

We confuse the hell out of people. It's really funny.

I ramble behind this cut as I try to distract myself while pedaling. )
summer_jackel: (Default)
Derzhava is now 14 weeks old. Here are some more pictures from the beach trip!

Puppy Update: I've taken my dog infant twice now into the big world outside walking distance to my house, (the dog show and the beach), and she enjoyed both. She's definitely no longer in a fear period, although she's all about having a moment of boldness and then returning to her safe spot as my little hound shadow, especially outside the house. She (surprisingly?) may be quicker to understand the meanings of new commands than my herding dog puppies, but she is definitely less motivated to perform them without a treat.

She's acclimating into my pack well, and watching the four of them (six when Kyn's dogs are added) sort out all of their little understandings and relationships is really fun. It's also a bit bizarre to look at this relatively large, powerful animal and realize that she's a total infant; you couldn't even call her a juvenile dog. Adorable. You all can look forward to photos of the incredible dorkitude of an adolescent Borzoi---most people don't share those with the world, but I intend to share the hilarity of Zhava's growing up with the world.

I still have a bunch of beach day pics that I didn't post. Here they are.

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dogs )
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
The show was lots of fun. We didn't place, but Coba's first obedience run in particular was great. I think he might even have had a pretty high score, had he not sat up at the very end of his down stay. But I can hardly fault him; the dogs on either side of him had broken completely and were up walking around, and he only sat when a siren startled him. He is almost there; I just need to work him in somewhat noisier, more urban settings, and in more strange places. His second obedience trial wasn't as good, and he lay down on his sit almost immediately...but hey, we know what to work on.

I was not expecting any success in conf...shelties are very competitive in breed, and he's lacking in ear set, which is heavily pointed. Still, my handling is getting better, and I needed the ring experience. Coba may not have a chance at finishing a championship (if I can even get points on him); Derzhava has a very real chance at finishing, but only if I learn how to handle her. Getting there!

The Borzoi people found Derzhava when Kyn and I took her to spectate the end of the show, when Coba and I were done. They were very kind (and some of them recognized her mother), and I got to meet the Best of Breed dog, a rockstar of a Borzoi, GCh. Aashtoria Wildhunt Hidden Agenda, "Casper" who I have admired from afar for some time and didn't expect to meet at a local show. He's even prettier up close, even/especially when politely pulling his lips away from his lovely sharp fangs to express distaste for his hairspray.

Kyn, Eclipse and I had a great time, and I think I'm almost done with dog show nerves. This relaxation translates into Coba having more fun, too, and I think if that isn't the ultimate point of this exercise, you are doing it wrong.

Also, lots of pictures. )
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
This post is all dogs all the time; only read if that interests.

So I went and entered Coba in a show, and somehow that date which seemed so comfortingly far off is now the day after tomorrow, because said show is this weekend. I am nervous and not attached to any kind of success, but I do feel more comfortable about the whole thing than I have been in the past. We're just back from a practice meet, which was useful.

Coba didn't do terribly well in the last obedience trial a couple of weekends ago, but we will get another chance, since we're entered in obedience and conformation for both days. I think we're ready, or at least at one of those stages in newbie-hood where the only thing for it is to just get out there and do the thing, screw up and learn.

Coba seems to be understanding what conformation showing is and what's desired of him, so he's relaxing, which is the important thing. I have a lot of anxiety about going back into a conf ring (we won't discuss my first experience with it), but now, with the understanding that we are not going to win, I'm actually starting to look forward to it. (I'm doing this because I thought it looked really FUN, right?) Obedience...well, I know he can do everything that's wanted and quite well, but this is a weird time for Coba. Well into his third year, he's becoming more emotionally adult; he's also been through a lot of major changes in the past couple of months with the loss of Jez and a new pup. This is translating in part to his being more confident, but not reliably so, and "rethinking" and testing some of his training. He is going to be a bit of a wild card in the ring this weekend---he could be perfect of abysmal. I'll try to calm down and support him by not telegraphing my nerves down his leash.

So here are my notes from tonight, written here because writing things down often helps me internalize them.

---Remember to hold left elbow close to hip, touching body; hand down with a relaxed appearance. Don't hold arm way out to the side.

---Bait while he's on the table, but not while gaiting him; the aim is that he looks ahead as he moves, and not up at me. He will naturally want to do this, since there's a dog in front of him, so I shouldn't distract him with food at that point.

---Ideally, the handler isn't looking at the dog during gaiting, to avoid distracting the dog when you want him looking forward. Look at him enough to know that he's moving the right way.

---The leash needs to be held "accordion style" in my left palm, looped around the upward-held thumb, tight enough that connection is maintained with the dog and so that his collar doesn't slip. If it does slip so that the leash interferes with his profile on the judge's side, fix it before bringing him out! I am really glad that I got a good lead; I didn't fully appreciate how much of a difference it made until I had one, and replacing his show chain with a leather collar might help the slippage issue. I'm understanding now why a loop lead might be a good idea, and may consider going that route when it's time to get a lead for Derzhava.

---REMEMBER TO BREATHE IN THE RING. RELAX. It is unforgivably silly to be more nervous in front of a dog judge than I have been the last few times I appeared in front of an actual, legal judge. It just is.

But enough of all that. You want puppy pictures.

Also, there's this incredibly cute Borzoi puppy. Some canine and avian, too. )
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
I can't believe that Outlaws Cobalt Gambit is three years old today.

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Little Coba! )
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
Because I have him all groomed out.

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2 more )
summer_jackel: (Default)
I'm planning on entering our year's first show in March. (This will be in obedience and possibly rally; I don't plan on entering another conformation class until the fall). Coba is much more solid on the long sits now, so I'm thinking that earning his CD and/or RN by the end of the year are realistic goals. Hopefully _I_ will be a bit less high-strung about it this time 'round. I mean, come on. I'm apparently more comfortable in the courtroom than in front of a dog judge, and that's just silly.

(Those titles, btw, are Companion Dog, obedience; Rally Novice, rally...unless the AKC means to confer nursing degrees upon dogs).

I'm riding my trainer at hour 2, and ended up playing with Coba when I took a break. Incorporating tricks like rolling over and boinging, and letting him get completely hyped up, really improves the overall mood of a rather sensitive dog. Coba loves playing with me, and it seems like the more that I can make learned behaviors part of hyper play, the more subtle our communication in general becomes and the more relaxed he is when asked to do difficult things which he does not enjoy. We are starting to work on polished and longer sits/downs and the beginning of work away from my side, which require a lot of mental discipline and can be emotionally taxing for dogs. I am learning when and how to best give him positive "stress valves" to make it easier and boost his confidence and trust in me.

The other cool thing about this is that it increases my ability to strongly reward Coba without food aids. I'm beginning to think that that is as important for dog communication/training as being able to correct properly, beyond withholding a treat. Physically correcting something like a sit turns out to be a whole lot easier than its opposite, rewarding correct behavior only using eye contact, posture, tone of voice, etc. Dogs tend to eat that kind of thing up, though, especially herding beasties that are wired to enjoy taking subtle and complicated cues from the handler. It's made training more fun for the lot of us.

I'm starting to focus on using things like the show heel in everyday life, too. It is so useful to have the dog be completely focused on me and stopping without having to be told, etc. --- having a dog around is so much more fun when you can tell it to "velcro" and be able to turn your whole attention on something else for a bit. (Not that they do this all the time, of course. Sadly, my dogs are NOT perfectly well behaved in public, but usually they're ok). Impresses people, too; the expressions of shock when my dogs actually come when called are sometimes pretty entertaining.
summer_jackel: (Default)
1. The housefoxes' newest toy is this stuffed bone with a rope through it, knotted on either side. This morning, I found the thing on the deck with the knots untied. Any normal dog would use this toy to tug or chew on. My dog? Likes to figure out how to untie knots.

2. I planted stinging nettles a few weeks ago for a number of reasons: nettle greens, attractive native plant, a certain perverse amusement in deliberately nurturing vegetation that bites, (strange and unusual!) and the hope that they might be useful in training dogs and cats...of which you may have noted I host several...to stay out of the planters.

While brusing my teeth, I look out the window and notice Jezzie sniffing the nettles. I wince as she licks them and pulls back with a funny expression on her face, but assume with some satisfaction that they worked. At least until she starts licking and nosing at them again.

At that point I call her off and just assume what I already knew, namely, that my pets are all just weird.
summer_jackel: (Bey Horselaugh)
Poor little sheepdog parfait. I think he had one of the most traumatic experiences of his life this afternoon.

It started with me having no self control and getting some BBQ ribs for lunch before going to the stable. Once there, I lugged my tack out to where Dancer and my mom's horse Bella are kept, and gave Coba one of the bones. This is, of course, a Very Special Experience when you are a puppy, and he accepted with grave delight.

Then I realized that I'd left something important in the truck and told Coba to leave the bone and come with me. Because shelties tend to be very obedient (see yesterday's first entry on dog smarts) he obeyed, giving one long, soulful last look to the bone, and we left.

We came back just in time to see a lovely, smallish raven flying off with the bone. If Coba had been human, his jaw would have been on the floor. He looked from me to the bird (who was sitting on the fence, playing with the bone) expectantly, but alas, I failed him, and he learned the hard lesson that Ravens Win.

Hours later, ride done, I picked up my stuff, called Coba and started for the truck. About half way there, he turned around and headed back to the stable area in a flagrant show of disobedience. When I went back to collect him, he was laying where he'd left his bone, sulking.

The happy ending to this sorrowful tale of woe is that I still had a bag of bones, which I distributed to all four dogs when I got home. Coba was very happy, but I don't think that quite made up for it.

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I had a bad camera day; I had the aperture (I think) set wrong so all of my pics were way too dark. I didn't notice this until late in the day. Beneath the cut are my attempts to fix some of them anyway.

pretty pictures, mostly of Equinox )

Oh, Puppy.

Jun. 5th, 2009 09:49 am
summer_jackel: (Default)
Shetland sheepdogs are smart little things. How one should determine that has, of course, been the subject of much discussion; a psychologist named Coren ranked the AKC breeds by how quickly the dogs picked up new commands, but note that;

"People with highly trainable dogs tend to assert that trainability and intelligence go hand in hand. People with less easily trained dogs tend to assert that refusal to follow rote commands is a sign of intelligence. Both are correct. If intelligence is defined as an innate ability to learn or perform at the optimal mental capacity to perform a function, then intelligence in one breed should be defined differently from that in another. An intelligent Border Collie understands and controls sheep; an intelligent Saluki understands and catches jack rabbits. If they switched jobs (or brains) they would both be labeled dumb."

Personally, I think that the term "intelligence", like "love," is both too emotionally fraught and imprecise to refer to much of anything with accuracy. On a gut level, though, one might feel that the words mean something essentially, and for me, at least in terms of dog intelligence, that means the ability of a canid to live a long, happy life being cared for by nobody by itself, a la wolves in the wild or stray domestics who have learned to commute using public transit. Perhaps intelligence in kept dogs could be defined as those animals which combine high ability to solve problems independently (as they would in the wild) with the high desire to please and obey us (puppy submissive behavior in a wolf) that translates into picking up new commands quickly.

But I digress. What I meant to say is that shelties are smart little things. They occasionally come up with interesting solutions to the problems in their lives. In this case, the problem that Coba faces is that he covets my socks, and occasionally my underwear. He has discovered that I never allow him to have these things, and furthermore, if they are left in obvious places or collected in my presence, I'll confiscate his prizes.

Coba's solution is to wait until I am gone. Then, he sticks his usefully pointy muzzle between the slats of the laundry hamper and carefully extracts just the item he wants. When he's done, he caches them. Yeah, Coba. I found that little collection of socks hidden under the blankets in your dog bed. And the chewed-upon thong behind the fuschia bush in the back yard. Those were my underwear, furball. Busted.

I know, I know. He likes those things because they smell like His Very Own Human, they comfort him in my absence, and I should be flattered. I actually sympathize quite a lot, being pretty darned scent-triggered myself. For instance, I take a great deal of comfort from curling up with something that smells like someone I love, particularly when I am waking or going to sleep and am at my most emotionally vulnerable. It's such an intuitive, sublogical response, is kind of bizarrely strong, and is pretty much the exact behavior Mr. Housefox Parfait is exhibiting, except I wouldn't actually want by beloved's underwear, just her blanket or pillowcase. There are times I feel like I get along well with dogs because I am one.


Ok, so Coba and I may have similar motivations. I'm still switching the laundry to the basket with smaller holes. But I'll consider letting him borrow a pillowcase before I wash it now and then.
summer_jackel: (Default)
Still patiently learning the subtleties of my DSLR; the pictures aren't great, but they are getting better. It's definitely May; Gavin and Kaya are exploding in a flurry of tiny bits of multicolored lint, and Jezzie looks like she's being eaten by moths. Perhaps people also can be at our shabbiest right before re-emerging with bright new plumage; one can hope.

Random yipping-on about parrots, and some cute pictures. )
summer_jackel: (Default)
First day of 09, I cleaned the heck out of the house, which as a result is now much more liveable. I then brushed out all four hounds, who were bathed yesterday, and now they are all preeeeeeety. Hiking with them today, I got a lot of compliments on how beautiful they are, and I narrowly refrained from replying cheerfully, "Thanks! I spent about two hours brushing them out and finishing them this morning, they'd better be." Aaah, double-coated dogs...

Pryde took the lion's portion of that brushing, not only because he likes to insert himself between the brush and any other dog but because for some reason he is blowing his coat over a month too soon. I wonder if it is the unseasonable warmth we've been having, although his coat-blowing has always been slightly off season. I also trimmed Coba's wee adorable little paws and stifles for the first time.

Ah, Coba. His cuteness is obvious; less so from pictures is what a...unique...little dog he's growing into, smart and sensitive and gently quirky. For instance, I have never had to ask him to refrain from chewing on the same object twice, and he has yet to destroy anyhting. (unheard of among puppies!) He likes to arrange his toys at the foot of my bed, carefully and with great deliberation. He is also very fond of moving laundry around, though again he never chews on it, just moves and arranges it. Sometimes he naps near or on his collection, and sometimes he just watches it for awhile, occasionally changing something. He is particularly fond of my brother's socks, and will use great subtlety and craft to obtain them.

It occurs to me that this may be early signs of herding instinct. Strangely enough, I hadn't given that much thought; I was looking more for pet/potential show than actual ability to do the thing the dog was originally bred to do. Since many shelties haven't been actual working dogs for generations, herding instinct varies drastically in the breed. Rogue, for instance, likes to see all of her pack members near one another on walks, but that's the extent of it; she probably could be taught to work sheep if you really needed her to, but I don't think she'd be great.

This prompted me to ask Coba's breeder if there were any herders in her line, and though she does not train or breed specifically for it herself, it turns out that Coba's paternal uncle holds big titles in herding and agility in addition to his championship. So I might have an actual potential sheepdog on my hands. Someday I really want to have a small flock of shetland sheep (they are also very small and fluffy) and a sheltie who can herd them, but alas, I have no sheep any longer. I DO, however, have ducks. And you generally start a sheepdog puppy on ducks.

Stay tuned, people; I may just have a new hobby.

The menagerie and I wish you and all of your menageries a wonderful 2009.
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More photos from this afternoon )
summer_jackel: (Jackal and Crow)
I hope all of you had a wonderful time on this shortest day of the year.

I've had a lot of fun. Yesterday, I went to Harbin Hot Springs, which is about the hippiest-skippiest place on earth, but is amazingly wonderful nonetheless. How carbonated mineral water can feel that good to sit in I don't know, but oh man, does it ever.

Today, still happily blissed out, I rode a bike for 4 hours, walked in the rain and...um...decorated and made cookies. Which might lend good evidence to the theory that I should not be left alone on Solstice.

There are pictures: birds, cats....cookies )
summer_jackel: (Default)
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Yeah. He's just sickeningly adorable, isn't he? Nesting in my not-quite-dirty laundry on the floor. 11 1/2" at the shoulder as of today. I think we're still in the "safe zone" in terms of projections for adult height.

He and Rogue were all-out playing this evening, which delighted me. They have been slowly warming up to each other and getting to know one another and doing a little chasing on walks, but none of the fully committed play of similar-status packmates until now. Nocturne was Coba's only full playmate (they still wrestle). Shelties, as a breed, do not warm to people or other dogs quickly; while they are unfailingly polite, it takes them time to form bonds, and when they do, the bonds are deep. (The wolves are similar, sometimes more so). This is of course one of the things I like in a dog, but it goes the other way as well...a loss can hit a sheltie more strongly and for a longer time than with a less 'one-person' breed. After Kestrel moved out with Skeeter, Rogue got very depressed. Though I helped raise her and she and I have always had a very loving relationship, she was always primarily Kestrel's dog, and she knew it. She's still adjusting. (So am I, honestly). I had hoped that having another of her kind would ease her transition, and it looks as though that's coming into fruition.

I'm happy.

Dogs playing )

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