Saturday, December 10, 2011

O.D.A (oE.)


I am grateful for the absence of blood. That cat should never have come into the kitchen, as far as Oda was concerned.

It's a good thing you're so good looking, Oda
Is there a problem???

Yeah, whatever!
Places to go!
Balls to catch...
Things to see...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dogwalking in the Rain

This was this morning's walk with a couple of guest dogs (including Sid from the Manor of Mixed Blessings) and Lynx, Oda, Nike, and Xita.

The song is a lot cheerier than I was this morning while walking dogs in the cold, soaking wet in a coat that is no longer waterproof and in pants that had sucked water up the fabric to about knee height. The dogs only minded the puddles and the rain a little bit, fortunately.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving with Nike

It wasn't all that many years ago when Nike grabbed the thawing turkey off the table on the back porch and tried to run off with it. I was in the house and I heard a loud THUNK!!! and then my dad roared like ... well, like a man whose turkey was stolen.

Dad recovered the turkey and was greatly dismayed by the four smooth puncture marks in it. He washed it off, probably scrubbed it with hydrogen peroxide and salt, too, just to make sure we wouldn't be tainted by any remnants of dog saliva.

And I was trying very, very hard not to laugh.

Dad, however, has been terribly conscientious about leaving meat out on table tops and counters ever since.

Nike, Turkey Thief and Ball Nabber Extraordinaire
This year, Nike did not steal any turkeys, but this girl at 13+, tottering like a happy drunk, stole the soccer ball from the young cousins and promptly popped it. My cousins sounded out the"whoooooooooosh" of the air being let out for me, several times.

I tried very, very hard not to laugh. But really, now, she can't run much faster than a four-year old. How did she end up with the ball in the first place? It's like they wanted her to pop it!

Who me? I would never!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lynx Does Agility

Entered Lynx today in a USDAA Intro Gamblers class at a local trial. It was the first time in any agility trial for both of us, so I was a bit, "OMG THE SKY IS FALLING" this morning, but after the walkthrough, my nerves went away and we just did it. It was really fun--and Lynx was happy, focused, and listened really well--so well, he got himself a blue ribbon!

I love working with this dog--he's so into anything and everything I throw his way. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Best laid plans....

Jubilee has started spotting blood--so she's in heat now too.

No Rally trial for us this weekend.

On the good side.... in a few weeks, I hope to be able to announce the breeding of her and Nathan!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rally, Herding, and Heat Cycles, Oh My!

I've been pretty busy between keeping up with work and training and traveling. Competed on Saturday for Jubilee's 3rd Rally Novice leg, she got 100 points and 2nd place. The club gave out a beautiful rosetted red ribbon and a squeaky toy for 2nd place, but Lynx ate the ribbon and I think I lost the squeaky toy in the backseat of the truck.

I'm real proud of Jubilee, though, 99, 100, 100 scores for her 3 legs. She had a few moments of spaceyness in the ring on Saturday, but fortunately they were not at moments that affected the score.

Had four fantastic herding sessions with her over the weekend, though. I worked her in the 100 x 200 field and she did some really good stuff. She regulated her speed a lot, and we worked a lot on the "get back/get out" commands as well as "walk in"--really thrilled about that.

It's a boiling pot of hormones around here--Hunter has been in heat for 2 weeks, Macha's been in heat for a week, and Xita started spotting today. Coal is banished t the kennel for the duration--his thought process seems to consist of, "Hey baybeee! Come on over here.... hey baybeee!" Hunter shamelessly seeks to accommodate him, pressing up against the kennel fencing and stropping against the gate like a cat.

Lynx is a little bit better, being somewhat less familiar with the mysteries of the female of the species. Still, he's spent the night breathing on me and whining under his breath.

Jubilee's not in heat yet--hopefully she'll hang on a few more weeks. She is normally on a four month cycle, so I would expect her to start up around mid-November.... Two more weekends to get her Rally Advanced title--hang in there, girl!

I got to watch brother Jedi work sheep in the fading light on Saturday.

Handsome boy he is....

Monday, October 10, 2011

Jubilee's JHD

In between herding and rally with Jubilee, I got her to pose for a stacked shot. Unfortunately, it looks like she has no front feet in this picture, so I'll probably have to try again. In the meantime, this is still better than any other side shot I have of her. (Seems like she's always facing me!)

She's in great shape right now. I'd really like a bit more spare weight on her, but she's packed with muscle and she pretty much puts all her food into more muscle or burns it off. She's a densely packed 56 pounds, 22 and a quarter inches--not a bit of fat, but tons of muscle. I was comparing her to her mother Nike the other day, and I think Jubilee actually has thicker bone, it's just that Nike has twice as much coat! At this age, Nike was about 55 pounds, 22 inches.

In an AHBA herding trial in North Carolina, Jubilee got her 2nd required leg of her Junior Herding Dog title. She was a bit fresh and rude and almost blew it when she lost the plot in the far corner. Since then, we've had two good sessions where she kept her cool and ended up working calmly behind the sheep. I need to cement that picture for her--that working sheep is about teamwork and calm and that she'll get to do plenty with the sheep if she can keep all that drive and eagerness reined in. I have been debating competing her in the next level up in an AHBA trial coming up in November, but I think we just need a few more working sessions in a controlled environment before taking her out on a trial field again. I want her to concretely know that it is possible for us to work together without her circling and overrunning. I generally travel 3+ hours to my herding lessons, so there are times when it takes us months between lessons. I need to not let that much time lapse for us from now on, though. I need to keep her in work as much as I can.

Here's the video of her JHD performance.... You can see she was just on the edge of control. I could have kept moving through the routine a bit faster (particularly in the 2nd corner) but at that point, I felt that I needed to get some control (a lie down), and instead she blew up a little bit. Yet again, under stress, old habits come back--I never use German commands in herding, but I did in trial when I was trying really hard not to yell death threats....

In the next few weeks, I've got a couple of AKC trials lined up--I need to get her 3rd Rally Novice leg (she did her first 2 legs back in June) and I'm hoping to go on and get her Rally Advanced title in early November. I went into rally competition with no expectations, but now that she did really good on her first two trials (99 and 100 points), I want to do really well on her 3rd leg and in RA. Ambition, it doesn't take much to get it stirring! :D

I'm racing the clock a bit as Jubilee has always been on a 4-month heat schedule and that means she'll be back in heat in November sometime. If all goes as hoped and planned, she'll be bred this season--she's going to be 4 in February and I don't want to wait too much longer for her to have her first litter.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BSP 2011 -- Schutzhund Obedience

This past weekend, was the Bundeseigerprufung--the German national Sch3 championships.

This is the obedience routine of the winning pair. I love the precision and evident relationship between dog and handler. The handler also does an exquisitely controlled job of handling the dog throughout the routine--she knows exactly what she is going to do, what the dog is going to do, what is allowed, and what is needed by and for her dog. Beautiful training, beautiful performance.

Oh, and Jubilee passed the 2nd leg of her JHD! I'll post the video of that soon. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Herding lesson with Jubilee

This is the second real lesson with Jubilee in which she worked calmly and under control the entire time. I am working the AHBA JHD class trial course at first, then I just do a bit of training. I spent a lot of lessons with her where she blew me off and was pushing the sheep hard and was zooming around them in full circles. In this video, she wants to overflank regularly (cover more than just one side, she wants to do more than half circles--you can see her wanting to come around to the heads of the sheep), she is disagreeing with me about walking them along the fenceline and I am teaching her that she can just cover one angle of them. She is being a bit squirrelly about following the sheep close to the fence and wants me to pull them off the fence so she can cover them more. She does not yet know flank commands by voice alone and sometimes I have to tell her to lie down to get her to change directions behind the sheep. You can see her tail go up as she contemplates running between fence and sheep, and then when she has done it, she is all wound up and excited. This is an area of conflict for many herding dogs and she just has to work through it.

What she does in this video that I am thrilled with is settle down and walk/trot calmly behind the sheep. She begins to "wear" on her own, only covering the area behind the sheep that needs to be covered in order to have the sheep move where we want them. She never pushes the sheep so hard they run past or over me. She starts off a bit sticky on her downs, but she starts to figure out what I am asking as we move on--you can see me try to "push" her out of the down in the direction I want.
She ends up being very responsive to directional/flank indicators from me. She learns to cover and push them along a fenceline without trying to come around to their heads and move them off the fence so she can have more fun chasing them around. And we end the lesson with her calm, clear, in control, and being very smooth. Good girl!

I've gone back and forth on sharing this video. First off, I am in it. ::dies, crawls away, looks for brains:: Second, while it shows truly amazing work to me, it is all in context. She is at a point in her training where I have just gotten control. I don't like the pressure that she is showing. I do like that she is listening and learning. With another lesson or maybe two, I hope, she will understand more of what I am asking and the signs of pressure from me will even out into smooth work and understanding of what is being asked and that responses on her part further the work instead of hindering her fun. That's the hope, at least.

Largely, this control has come from doing obedience work away from the sheep--training for rally. In this training process, she has really come to like the idea of our partnership and engaging with me and the push-pull of I ask, she does, she does, I reward, and from her perspective, she asks by doing, I reward--so she feels like she has control in our relationship, too. I don't know why she didn't get this at a younger age, but I'd say it's because she's always been extremely independent and drivey--and self-rewarding. She's very hard and resilient and not easily deterred when she's in drive. :) And in herding, she knew she was faster than me and was pretty sure that her idea of fun and what the sheep should be doing was better than mine.

This weekend, we go trial for her 2nd AHBA JHD leg, then I'll need to find an AKC trial to get her final Rally Novice leg.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My GSDs and Sheep...

Back in 1995,  I shared a house near Yorktown, VA, with a friend who wanted to learn about herding with her Border collies. I had recently moved back to Virginia from grad school in Oregon and I was job hunting. I had two dogs--Thorn, my American-line GSD (born in 1992) and Frost, an import-bred German working-line girl (born in 1994). My friend loved Border Collies and wanted to trial at the highest levels and she was buying a small farm and a few sheep and she needed a housemate.

In Oregon, I had trained Thorn in tracking, agility, and AKC obedience--he had gotten his CDX before he was 2 years old. And then I fell in love with doing bitework and started learning about the three-part sport of schutzhund. I started out first with a group doing personal protection training, then just worked him with a friend of mine who was learning to do decoy work. We learned from talking and from books and videos and visiting a couple of clubs--we figured it out as we went along.

I trialled for Thorn's BH at a DVG club in Corvallis. So, back in Virginia, I was looking for a club to continue learning about schutzhund and starting driving up to Alexandria--two hours up on early Saturday mornings, and four long hours home through DC-metro traffic.

As much as my friend loved Border Collies and herding, I loved GSDs and schutzhund. I wanted to learn everything about GSDs--breed surveys and conformation shows and biking for the AD and pedigrees and hip xrays, bitework, tracking, obedience, working in drive, understanding the interplay of courage and drive and biddability, control versus instinct, conflict versus teamwork, and environmental pressure and handler pressure and the pressure coming back at the dog from his engagement with the helper... or the sheep.
Frostbite v Pantara, KK2, Sch1, CD

You see, I was also having the time of my life learning about herding. I watched Border Collie training and trials. I learned how to care for sheep, how to trim hoofs and clean lanolin glands. I helped rehabilitate a few BC rescues that came through our hands and started a few young dogs on sheep. And I tried to herd with my GSDs.

Frost was dripping with drive. She would do anything for food and anything for a toy. And she liked the sheep. But her drive was greater than her capacity to be guided by either her instincts or by me. She would gather and down--but she would scream the entire time she worked. And the sheep would move faster and she'd run harder and she'd whine and whistle and scream. And finally, after a whole lot of getting nowhere very fast, I had to stop with her.

Thorn had drive and hardness, but his instincts didn't seem to tell him what to do past "gather the sheep together." I couldn't move him out, couldn't slow him down. A bag or bottle or a waved hand to push him out and off the sheep didn't faze him--did not affect him in the least. Something that would send a BC swooping 30 feet wide wouldn't even get an ear flick from Thorn. He was more than bombproof--he was undeterrable. Like herding sheep with a juggernaut. A pvc pipe poked against his shoulder and he'd turn and start barking at me. If it was someone other than me in the ring with him, at the first wave of stick or pvc or buggy whip to push him off and back--trying to gain some room for the sheep--he'd turn grab the stick and bite down, cracking it along its length, then he'd toss his head and jerk the stick out of the trainer's hand, throw it to the ground, bark again, looking straight into the handler's eye, just to makes sure his point had been made, and go back to his sheep.

So, no matter that Thorn was the most willing and eager and biddable of dogs when it came to obedience training or tracking or protection training--in herding, it all jumbled up.He wasn't hunting the sheep--he wasn't looking to hurt them. His instincts told him to do something, I told him to do something else... and it never came clear, we never moved past that beginner stage--him pushing too hard, me never able to back him off, slow him down, calm him down, control him, work  him, herd the sheep.
Blackthorn's Ashen, KK2, SCH3, IPO3

And after a year of trying, I had to move on. I had to move out of eastern Virginia to find a job. I had to give up on herding with Thorn and with Frost. And I had to decide--would I get a Border Collie and pursue herding? Or did I want to stick with GSDs and walk the walk in schutzhund?

So I moved to Charlottesville and began driving two and three times a week to schutzhund training. First to Alexandria,  Lynchburg, then to Leesburg, later to Berryville or Manassas or Fort Valley. I trialled in Maine and Texas, Alabama and Tennessee and Boston. I went to shows and trials and training and seminars. And I left herding behind for nearly 14 years.

And then, somehow, in the summer of 2008, I showed up at for a visit with Terri with a bicolor puppy named Jedi, a son of my Ashen and Nike, a grandson of Frost. I asked her if I could hire her to socialize him a bit, and left him there--just for a month! But he never came back home to me. Not even a year later, I got a phone call from Terri, "My German Shepherd herds sheep!" Jedi had gone to an AHBA trial and gotten his Junior Herding Dog title at barely a year old.

A few months after that, I went for a visit and discovered herding. Hunter, starting at age 3, showed a natural gentleness, great self control and biddability, and natural instinct. She'd bump the sheep with the side of her open jaw instead of biting. She wanted to listen to me and she wanted to work sheep. And Jedi's litter sister Jubilee showed great promise--natural balance, intense drive, and talent.

Hunter, with her maturity and her desire to please--her biddability--as well as her somewhat softer attitude toward the sheep, was easy to take to an AHBA trial and get that JHD in two legs, two tests. Not so much Jubilee. On Day 1 of the AHBA trial, going for her first JHD leg, she got dismissed for biting a sheep--and hanging on. Day 2 our routine was a bit insane--and very, very fast (I did the course at a jog!)--but there was no blood, and we kept it mostly together, and Jubilee got her first JHD leg.

Since I first went down to try again at this madness called herding, I have tested Kva and Kari and Xita and Macha on sheep. Kiva had instinct but not the bond with me--and she had a taste for biting sheep. Kari had instinct and desire and a gentle, gentle approach--she would take a feather-light hand.

Xita has had only 6 lessons,  3 of them this past weekend. And she is showing interest and instinct and biddability--starting a mature dog makes it too easy to overrule their latent instincts, so it can be all easy to teach them not to herd when you ask them to slow down, stop a second, change direction, move more slowly. It takes a delicate balance of enthusiasm and control, instinct and teamwork. But Xita is going to do well, I think. When we walk out of the round pen, she throws her chest against my side and grins at me, as if to say, "Thank you! That was FUN!" And that grin, and the one I return to her, is worth it.

But Jubilee, for the last two years, in our intermittent adventures in herding, has been a challenge. Like doing calligraphy with a jet rocket, to draw the picture for you. Jubilee has treated me in the herding realm with both disdain and disregard. I was, patently, wrong in my requests of her, to stop or slow down or change direction. What's more, I was no fun.

But somewhere in there, I started working Jubilee more and more in obedience, getting her ready for some rally trials. And I learned that I had to insist not only on respect, but on consistent respect. I could not give an inch of leeway when it came to control around the sheep. This is not about controlling the dog by force, but about insisting and demonstrating that my way was the only way to be around sheep, that going behind my back at an accelerating zoom was not going to be an option.

And piece by piece, step by step, something amazing has happened. Jubilee has granted me her respect not only in the trial ring but off the training field and in the round pen. And this hard won regard is, I think, one of my greatest training accomplishments. I had to learn, and Jubilee taught me.

This past weekend, herding with Xita and Macha and Jubilee was a layering of learning, an application of theory, showing the dogs how they could do what their instincts wanted them to do, what I wanted them to do. And that listening to me while hearing their instincts, they could have fun, could play with sheep. And on Monday, I drove the 180 miles home saying to myself, "My German Shepherds herd sheep!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Serious Cute

Hunter's boy pup has been hanging out with me (he goes to his new home this week), so this weekend, he went with me to the country to visit my parents. There, he learned about stairs, cow manure, swimming in the river, riding in the back of the Gator, and cow wrestling. He also fell in love with my mom and spent a lot of time crawling in her lap and getting hugs (and trying to steal her slippers and remove her bracelets and chewing on her pants and stealing rugs...).

Cow wrestling = mad puppy
serious puppy iz serious
these feet... look at these feet
Serious puppy is watching you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crazy Girl

Jubilee is a bit intense. She's got a sense of humor, but it's rather understated and easily subsumed by her focus on her goal--whatever that goal is.

I took these pictures of her with her Orbee a few weeks ago while out at the pool. The light wasn't great so the pictures are grainy, but I still love how they capture her intensity.

I have more pictures of Crazy!Jubilee than of Beautiful!Jubilee. I tend to think that this is because Jubilee does not much value beauty. She's all about keeping eyes on the prize.

*MY* ball!
You're going down, boy!
Die, Lynx, die!

Not crazy, just focused!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Q-pups at 8 weeks

They are rather relaxed and hot in this video, but it's a nice capture of the happy chaos that follows this lot. Little red-collar girl goes to her new home today, yellow girl will be here for another week, and the boy is here a little longer, too. And the sable girl is still looking for her person -- so I will get to enjoy three of them a bit longer. We have started meals in crates and will be working on name recognition (for them what have names!) and puppy recalls and sits and downs for hotdogs.

Little sable girl has turned into a unique individual. She is warm and affectionate with a strong sense of self that often has her marching to her own drumbeat. She doesn't feel any need to follow her bicolor siblings around and I will often find her off doing her own thing while the bicolors rough and tumble together. But this isn't to say that she's a loner--she will often follow at my heels while the bicolors are off romping somewhere and she is quick to seek and give gentle affection.

Red-collar girl's mission in life is to steal my shoes--the ones I am wearing, preferably, and she will bite my ankles until I yelp and give over. Meanwhile, little yellow is probably off conquering her image in the mirror or wrestling some far-larger toy into submission. Mr. Qi (chi), the boy's new name) is amazingly suave--relaxed and confident as he surveys the chaos around him.

So, here's the video of a hot (about 95!) summer afternoon with the Q puppies...

Q puppies at 8 weeks from ce kemper on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Nike!!!

Jubilee, Coal, Nike, Hunter, July 27, 2011
Nike turned 13 years old today. She came to me at the age of 20 months, from California. She has been, quite simply, a marvelous addition to my life. As a young dog, she was a spitfire and a flier--drawing blood in protection work when the helper didn't play by what she considered fair rules.
21 months old
A small girl with compact muscling and bearcub ears, at first she thought the only thing I was good for was throwing the ball. Pets were for in-between ball throws and snuggling was not high on her priority list.
An early training session in Virginia, around 1999

2002 or so, getting her Sch2 title
Nike's first litter--Blackthorn's B litter out of Bodo v Tiekerhook

In her time with me, she produced a number of excellent sons and daughters, and it is an amazing pleasure to see her with her grandchildren nowadays.

2010 -- Nike, age 12, with grandson Lynx, 18 months

Nike, followed by grandson Lynx, grandson Musket, and daughter Hunter, 2010

As she has aged, she has only gotten so she enjoys life even more--people have become a great pleasure to her and she loves nothing more than to find a visitor and climb in their lap on the sofa with her ball.
Coal and Nike, 2010

Nike and granddaughter Macha, 2010

Nike and Jasper, around 2009

Nike and Flint voted in 2008

Nike and Ruffian

Today, I took pictures of her with her son and two daughters--Jubilee (Ash daughter), Coal (Ash son), and Hunter (Alex daughter)--and then we went into town and walked through the aisles of Petsmart, letting her explore and sniff and pick out a few toys to take home. Then I bought her a bag of ice (my icemaker is broken, tragedy!!!) and at home, I gave her a toy, a bowl of ice, and a marrow bone. She wasn't sure what to enjoy first!
A marrow bone, a squeaky toy, and icebones--life is good!

eenie, meenie, miney, mo....