Category Archives: Quin’s Story

Quin’s Story: Week 47 – Agility

Doing agility with your dog

Agility is my passion and one of the (many) reasons I have Border Collies. I loved watching it at Crufts growing up and when I got Sunny, it was always my intention to do agility with her. Little did I know how hard it would be! I’ve learnt more about myself doing agility than doing anything else in my life. Honestly.

Border Collies
Pixie at Crufts

I have written an introduction to agility elsewhere and I don’t really intend to cover that ground again here. I will just repeat the stated ‘objective’ here:

“Have fun with your dog!  It is vital to remember this, because agility is hard!  In competition, the objective is to get your dog round a course of 16-20 obstacles in the fastest time.  Easier said than done!”

Beginning agility

Don’t start too soon! I have delayed writing about it because it’s really important not to do too much too soon. It is a high impact sport and can easily lead to injuries for both you and your dog, if not done sensibly. You definitely do need a reasonable level of fitness yourself, especially if you want to get to the top level.

Border Collies
The top level

Your dog also needs to be able to move freely and easily. It’s no good going if your dog is overweight, or can’t run around for long periods. They should be around a year old when they start, so that their joints have had time to finish growing and developing. There is training you can do before you start, but the dog should not be jumping at all in their first year.

Small dogs can do agility

You need an experienced trainer, with a full set of proper equipment and ideally a good quality training area, either indoors or outdoors. I’ve always trained outdoors, but obviously you are then at the mercy of the weather, which can lead to weeks of training being lost.

How long does it take to learn?

I’ve been doing agility for 15 years now, but I only do a couple of hours a week. I’ve trained 5 dogs and all of them have had time off for puppies. Some people take to it really quickly, if they and their dog are young and fit. Other people get their own equipment, or become a trainer, spending many more hours per week training.

Border Collies
Luna having the best time

I’m a great believer in the fact that it takes 10,000 hours to learn a skill. That’s a long time; I’ve probably done about 1500 hours so far… Of course I am not the only one doing agility – it’s a partnership between me and my dogs. And they have NOT done ten thousand hours! Nor will they, sadly, because a dog’s agility career will last for ten or eleven years, at best. Enjoy it while you can.

What’s so great about agility?

Dogs love it. Generally. Some cannot see the point of expending effort just because you ask them to. Border Collies love to be doing something and they love to please you, so it is heaven for them. They love it so much that there are classes just for collies (NBC – Nothing But Collies,) and classes for everyone else (ABC – Anything But Collies). If you really want to avoid collies, you’ll need a small dog, as Border Collies come in all shapes and sizes – Large, Intermediate AND Medium!

Charlie winning grade 1

I love agility because I am competitive, so I like the challenge of improving and measuring that improvement. If I’d known how long that improvement would take to achieve, I might have started doing something easier, like knitting.

Agility with your dog
Which way now?

Why is agility so hard?

Dogs can’t read numbers, so you have to tell them which way to go. Do you know your left and right? Can you run, wave your arms in a clear way AND shout directions? Are you able to remember a sequence of obstacles and work out which of the 8 possible ways to tackle these will work best for you and your dog? Do you run faster than your dog?

Aura winning at grade 5

A year ago I went to an agility show, looking forward to demonstrating the skills I had worked so hard to acquire. The courses were set for the next level up, with skills that my dog and I did not have. I had no chance. It was an utterly demoralising experience. Last weekend I went to another show, full of dread and with no expectations. Busy bombed round, sometimes going over the right obstacles, but not necessarily in the right order. Aura and I perfectly executed the skills we had, over two entirely appropriate courses. We won. Twice. The satisfaction is indescribable.

Agility with your dog
Sunny won!

Either way, the dogs had fun and I took the best ones home. Love my dogs. Love doing agility. Sometimes. Always grateful to my wonderful trainer, Emma Conlisk at Beancroft. For more information (and to enter a show) have a look at Agilitynet. Finally, for some real inspiration into what can be achieved, watch my amazing friend Sam Lane and her incredible Ninja Zippy.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 46 – Breed health

How good is your dog’s health?

Beautiful Border Collies, bred for better temperament and health. That’s the tagline for this website and it sums up my ethos as a breeder. The health of my dogs is VERY important to me and above all, I want to produce dogs that go on to have long and happy lives.

Border Collie health
Sunny, nearly 15 years old

When I ask prospective owners I ask them ‘what is the best and worst thing about owning a dog?’ For me, the worst thing by a mile is coping with a sick and dying dog. It’s absolutely heart breaking. Perhaps it won’t surprise you to know that I monitor the health of all the puppies I’ve produced, recording all their health issues, as far as I can.

How often do you go to the vet?

I’ve been keeping a record of all my vet visits for the last five years. I’ve been 59 times! Wow those vets must love me. Let me break that down a bit more:

  • I’ve had five dogs throughout that time and now have six. So that’s around 12 times per dog.
  • Luna was diagnosed with diabetes after losing her litter, so has been 23 times. She has to be regularly monitored, with blood tests and glucose curves. She has never had a ‘crisis’ and her diabetes continues to be well managed, despite her now being 12 years old.
  • 27 visits have been for vaccinations. Routine, annual check-ups.
  • Sunny was 11 years old five years ago and suffered from arthritis, for which she had medication for a while. She also had pyometra, which involved an emergency operation. She was taken ill and was put to sleep last March, aged 15 (3 visits).
  • I’ve had 5 litters over the past five years. Two of the girls, (Aura and Busy) have now been spayed.
  • This total does not include visits for health testing, such as eyes and hearing.
Border Collies
my diabetic dog

Without the diabetes and the routine vaccination visits, that’s only 9 visits in 5 years! Maybe I’ve missed a few, but actually, that’s not far off. Pretty amazing isn’t it? Thanks to Milton Keynes Veterinary Group for their care of my animals.

Be prepared

Most people insure their pets, although this is not a legal requirement. Is it worth it? I can’t answer that, because I have never insured my pets. I’m fortunate to have enough money to pay for vet bills and with multiple dogs, the premiums would be enormous.

Labrador health
the healthiest breed?

Whether you insure them or not, be prepared for them to be ill. They will definitely be ill during their lifetime! Sadly, some breeds are much more prone to illness and health problems than others. Someone recently said that they wouldn’t get another Labrador, because the one she’d just lost had had cancer. I’ve spoken to a couple of vets since then, who agree that Labs are one of the healthiest breeds you can have. As long as their hips and elbows have been checked before being used for breeding.

Breed health issues

Sadly, some breeds have inherent health issues. Most notably the brachycephalic breeds, such as the Pug, or any kind of bulldog. I’ve already talked about the poor bulldog at this year’s Crufts and what the Kennel Club are doing about it.

Pugs
Not healthy

There are lots of breeds that can live fit, healthy, happy lives. Top tip: Get a dog that looks like a dog! The more this animal is distorted, the more likely it is to have problems.

“One way of reducing your pet insurance bill it to avoid dog breeds that attract higher premiums, such as Great Danes, French Bulldogs or Chihuahuas. Research by Which? consumer group found choice of breed made a difference by as much as £450 to an annual premium.”

Financial Times

Living a long life

Generally, dogs live for around 10-12 years. However, this will vary according to many factors. A recent paper published by VetCompass shows that brachycephalic breeds like the French Bulldog live on average for just 4.5 years, compared to Border Collies, who live just over 12 years, on average.

Life expectancy
Living the longest, almost

This statistic is skewed by high puppy mortality in some breeds compared to others. I’ve only had one puppy die soon after birth. Of the remaining 64, all but three are still alive, with six of my first litter of seven pups still going. Hopefully that will continue..

Border Collies
12 year old sisters

If you want to improve your dog’s life expectancy, read my 7 tips on being a brilliant dog owner. Or read the article on the Collieology Facebook group.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 45 – Breed traits

Different breed temperament traits

It might seem strange to talk about breed traits now, when you have had your puppy for so long. But I think that until you really get to know your dog, it’s sometimes hard to understand what their character is like. How much of this is down to their breed? What will you be able to fix or what will you have to live with?

Poodle
bit nervous

Traits in popular breeds

Someone recently said to me that they found their dog could be quite nervous in new situations and was often quite shaky. It was a poodle, so I said ‘yes poodles tend to do that’. She was so surprised, because she wasn’t aware that it was one of that breed’s traits. So what other traits can we identify? How much is your puppy typical of its breed?

Labrador
Easy going

If you have a Labrador, you will know that they are laid back, easy-going and generally hoover up all food (and often non-food items) lying around. They are so lovable, which is why they remain one of the most popular breeds. But Labradors are also perfectly trainable and can hold down responsible jobs, most notably as Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Which group of breeds?

When considering what type of breed traits, or characteristics you would like in your dog, start off by thinking about the different dog breed groups. These are best described on the Kennel Club website, along with breed descriptions for all 222 breeds recognised by them. There are 7 breed groups:

  • hounds
  • toys
  • pastoral
  • utility
  • terriers
  • working
  • gundogs
Parson Russel traits
cheeky terrier

Each of these groups of breeds will have different breed traits. If you have a terrier, such as a Parson Russell, or Jack Russell, you should expect them to be tenacious, lively and demanding. A bit of an awkward sod in other words! Or officially “Bold and friendly; a confident, energetic and happy dog that has the ability and conformation to go to ground.” That means they will disappear down a rabbit hole, given the chance!

Easy to live with?

If you want your dog to be easy to live with, you need to pay attention to these breed traits. Many small dogs are much more inclined to bark at everything! Whereas bigger dogs can be more placid and less reactive.

greyhound
couch potato

All dogs need walking and time off lead to explore with their noses, at their own pace. Some breeds will be far more energetic and demanding than others though. So you need to account for that when you consider the breed traits. If you want a couch potato, a greyhound is a great option!

What traits can you change?

I’ve already talked in detail about temperament and how this can be a mix of nature and nurture. You need to think about what you have achieved so far and how much you will be able to change.

Border Collie traits
my barking boy

With Quin, I know he is a typical Border Collie. So I know that he won’t change much now. Like many of his breed, he can be anxious around other dogs, which makes him bark. I’m probably stuck with that now. So we just have to manage that and make sure it doesn’t get worse.

Mixed breed, mixed traits

I will just say, as I always do, that if you have a combination of breeds, you will have a combination of traits. So you won’t know exactly what sort of dog you are getting and it probably won’t be until you’ve had them a year that you can start to recognise which bits are from which parent (or grandparent).

Spaniel
lovely Spaniel

For example, if you have a cockerpoo, you may get a bright dog, that is a bit shaky and clingy, but also full of energy and very demanding. Actually, it’s pretty likely that that is what you’ve got! What do you think, is that ideal? It might look like a teddy bear, but is it confident and outgoing, easy to take out and about? Or does it bark and run off?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 44 – Hoopers

Hoopers or agility?

I have already talked about Hoopers as a dog activity, but I thought I would put a more personal spin on this activity once we had started training Quin. I say ‘we’ because my husband Chris is going to be responsible for this bit of training! He injured his knee a few years ago running Luna in agility and had to retire. Hoopers is great alternative for him to try.

Border Collies - hoopers
Quin ready to work with his dad

I am indebted once again to Emma from Beancroft Agility, Scentwork and Hoopers, who started teaching Hoopers last year. It’s a great way to get Quin ready for agility, without impacting his joints too early. And who knows? We may decide that Hoopers is more fun anyway!

Getting started

There are four main pieces of equipment in Hoopers: hoops, tunnels, barrels and mats. Once the dog understands the need to look for these items and run over, through or round them, they can really get going! So as with so many aspects of dog training, you start by teaching your dog that these things have ‘value’. In other words: Do this and you get a reward!

Border Collies - hoopers
where’s the cheese

It is amazing, watching dogs learn. Especially dogs of different shapes, sizes, breeds and ages. You can teach an old dog to do hoopers. They will still ‘work’ for a reward. Well you will still work for a reward, won’t you? (I’m talking about chocolate.)

Border Collies - hoopers
skipping through

You can start by ‘luring’ the dog to go through the hoops or tunnels, but it is much better for the dog to figure out what is required and then get a reward for doing it. This is called ‘shaping‘. You need to set the dog up to succeed, by standing right next to the equipment and look where you want the dog to go, rather than looking at the dog. When the dog moves, you throw the food where they are going. And again.

Progressing hoopers

Once the dog understands that they must look for the equipment, you can start to build up simple sequences. It doesn’t take long for this to happen – a few weeks – but you must be patient and consistent. Keep rewarding!

Border Collies
off we go

Hoopers courses are fast and flowing, along smooth lines, with curves rather than sharp turns. It’s about the dog moving easily and with minimal impact. It’s also about you being able to direct your dog from a distance – no running required!

Young and old dogs

Whether or not you do plan to go on to do agility, hoopers is a great way to engage a lively young dog. You need to be able to set them up and move away, so a good wait is essential. Ideally, they should be motivated to play with a toy as well, so that you have plenty of ways to reward. It is exciting! It is a useful way to build fitness and control whilst moving at speed.

Border Collies
starting slowly

For older dogs, it’s a great way to ease them into retirement from agility. Up till now, people retiring old dogs from fully competing to entering an ‘Allsorts’ class. This still involves jumping though, albeit at a lower height. Hoopers uses many of the skills learnt in agility, but without the twists and turns, or the impact. And if you only have an older dog, it’s not really worth going to an agility show for a couple of classes, with no grades, or rewards for places.

Left and right

One of the skills you do need to teach a dog for hoopers (and agility) is left and right. Did you know that dogs know left and right? In order to teach it, I find it helpful to start by telling them ‘left’ or ‘right’ as they come to a turning on a walk. If it’s a route they know and you give the command as they turn, they begin to associate the two things together.

Border Collies - hoopers
which way now

Amazingly, if you practise this often enough, when you shout ‘left’ or ‘right’ your dog will then turn in that direction. You’d better just hope you shouted the correct word! Having a good range of commands will help you work your dog from a distance, which is one of the key aims of this activity. This in turn will really help you when you make the switch to agility. Of course your old agility dog will ace this aspect of hoopers!

Hoopers competitions

Canine Hoopers UK do run competitions, but as the sport has only being going for a few years, these are not widely available. The nice thing about these competitions though is that, unlike in agility, they are quiet affairs, with a great deal of effort being made to help young or reactive dogs.

Border Collies - hoopers
I got this

Hoopers can be seen as ‘a bit tame’, compared with some dog sports, (agility again!) But it is still fun to work with your dog to achieve a range of different goals. There are levels to work through and rewards (rosettes) for doing so. Whatever you do, it will be fun with your dog!

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 43 – Scentwork

Scentwork with your dog

Now that your dog is a year old, the fun really begins! You should be able to take them out and about without worrying too much about their behaviour. It’s a great time to consider starting a dog activity – there are so many to choose from. I have a few to write about and I thought I would start with my newest interest – scentwork.

Border Collies scentwork
Ounce doing a wall search

I started scentwork last September, mainly because my lovely agility trainer, Emma from Beancroft Agility, Scentwork and Hoopers, started teaching it! I also decided to do it with Ounce, as I wanted her to stop agility, for a variety of reasons. The main reason was that I just felt she didn’t really love it and with plenty of other dogs doing it, there was no need for her to continue.

The basics

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell, everyone knows that. That sense is used in all sorts of ways, from finding people to sniffing out illnesses, or alerting people with medical conditions. Scentwork is the basic introduction to understanding how dogs use this amazing skill and harnessing it to do something fun.

Border Collies scentwork
Tizzy indicating

Like most dog activities, (and most new skills) getting started is a bit slow and painful. But once you have the basics, it’s amazing how quickly you can progress. It’s lovely to see dogs of different breeds being able to excel at this activity. And of course it doesn’t require much fitness or mobility from the handler.

The objective

Scentwork is all about working with your dog. Of course the dog knows where the scent is, but can you understand that? When you can go into a room, filled with obstacles and find the tiny marker with the scent on it, as indicated to you by your dog, that feels incredible. It’s tricky though!

Border Collies scentwork
Dottie searching bricks

You begin by introducing one scent, which might be a rubber Kong, or a piece of cloth scented with cloves. The dog is shown the scent and then rewarded with food. And again. You keep doing this for a few weeks, until the dog understands that when they smell that scent, they get yummy treats.

Indicating

Once the dog knows what scent they are searching for, they have to be able to tell you where it is. This is taught slightly separately, but alongside learning what the scent is. You place a coin on the floor, wait for the dog to look at it, or sniff it, or touch it with their nose and say ‘Yes!’ and reward. And again. Keep going. You want the dog to understand that wherever the coin is, they should be looking at it, being still and waiting for you to say ‘Yes!’ (or use a clicker) and then they will get a reward.

Border Collies scentwork
searching a chair

Those are the two key skills that you and your dog need to have. Once your dog knows that they must find the particular scent and then indicate to you that they have found it, you can start to make real progress.

Scentwork in different places

It’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s how you get started. Then it’s about how you manage the dog, setting them up and making sure they look in the right places. Searches can be inside, outside, with a huge variety of different objects. Vehicle searches are carried out, along with searches of walls and doors.

Border Collies scentwork
vehicle searching

What I like about this activity is that it’s quite calm and relaxed, but it really challenges your dog. It’s tiring and stimulating for them too! It also ensure that you really pay attention to them and watch their behaviour carefully.

Scentwork competitions

Scentwork UK run Trials around the country, if you wish to compete. These are structured around 8 levels, with each level including more complex and varied searches. So there is plenty to work on! If you fancy giving it a go, why not look for a trainer near you?

Border Collies scentwork
Passing the next level in class

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: 1st birthday!

Birthday Boy!

What an amazing year it has been with this boy! Sometimes things just work out a certain way and I am so glad they did this time. There was a bit of juggling around with the homes for this litter and we ended up with him. So here we are, celebrating Quin’s birthday.

Quin has such a great temperament. He’s calm in so many situations, being far more laid back than many Border Collies. He loves people and will happily go up to anyone to say hello and have a fuss. Although he doesn’t jump up, he does like to give ‘one lick’ to say hello!

Border Collie birthday

I have taken Quin up and down the country; he’s been to Scotland and South Devon. He always copes with new experiences perfectly. That is why I had him assessed to start volunteering, supported by Canine Concern. We love visiting Heronsgate Junior School and he often makes the children laugh!

Border Collie birthday

I’ve tried a few different activities with Quin, including tricks, scentwork and now hoopers. Hopefully we will add ringcraft (showing) and agility to that list. I expect to continue with at least one activity with him in future, as I love having time with my dogs on their own.

Border Collie birthday

As you know, I plan to put him to stud, so we will start completing the various health tests shortly. And I have almost completed the blog I have been writing, since he ‘became’ our puppy, at 8 weeks of age. You can read Quin’s Story here.

Border Collie birthday
Dentbros Man on the Moon

Of course happy birthday to his siblings, the rest of the Mystical Litter! I am lucky enough to have seen three of them on more than one occasion, and I am in regular contact with all of them.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 42 – Settle down

Teaching your dog to settle

I am reminded of the importance of teaching your dog this, when I see a post on social media along these lines: “Hello everyone, looking for more mind games to keep our boy (16 months) entertained. We walk, play fetch, play ball hockey and do obedience training. He uses lick mats and Kong with frozen food/treats. Any other fun tricks or ‘jobs’? He’s our first Border Collie.” My immediate reaction is “teach him to settle down!”

Border Collie settle
by my feet

That’s a bit unkind, so I didn’t say it, but it is definitely something you need to ensure your dog can do. Puppies can be very busy, on the go, around and about, all day every day. If you let them, this can become a ‘lifestyle choice’ and they just keep on going.

Getting started

Please don’t think the only way to settle your dog down is to shut him away? The best way to have your dog be calm and relaxed is to spend time with him, being calm and relaxed. This doesn’t necessarily mean cuddling on the sofa, because not all dogs like to cuddle. Just be with them, not doing anything and not interacting with them.

Border Collie settle
calm

Some dogs resist encouragement to settle and keep on finding toys to play with, bringing them to you. It’s absolutely fine to play with them for a bit, or for them to play with each other. But they must learn that when you say ‘finished’, it’s time to settle down.

Sleeping or settling

Dogs naturally sleep for around 14 hours per day, puppies for longer. So they should spend a great deal of the day asleep. I used to feel guilty if I had to go out for a few hours, which I rarely do. Then I realised that if they are left in peace, dogs usually just sleep.

Border Collie settle
chilled

If you are struggling to get them to stop, you may need to enforce it. This might mean putting them in a crate or run, at least to start with. You don’t have to leave them alone though, just make sure they have some space. This is essential for young puppies, who need time out, particularly with young children. A tired puppy becomes very bitey!

Training a settle

Just as with any other training, it is possible to teach your dog to settle down. First of all, put them in a down and reward that. This should be at your feet, with you seated. Stroke your dog and talk quietly and calmly to them. You can try pushing them over, so that they lie flat, but only if they tolerate this.

Border Collie settle
asleep in the sun

Keep going, bringing them to you, lying them down, talking calmly, saying ‘settle’, until they relax and stop trying to get up and rush off. You can reward with a treat, but really, the reward should be just a bit of fuss.

Playtime!

Of course they are not going to settle all day long! Dogs do have playtime and they do have a ‘crazy half hour’ (or more) where they zoom around the room, bouncing off the furniture. They love to have toys to play with and will engage with you, playing tuggy or fetch. I find that my dogs will do this when we are trying to watch TV. I don’t mind, because I know they are happy and stimulated. For a short time.

Don’t forget though: IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO TIRE OUT A BORDER COLLIE! So yes of course go for a lovely long walk every day, with plenty of time off lead. Spend time training or playing with your dog. Give them tasks to do, or interactive toys. But never, ever expect them to be ‘too tired’. That is NOT a breed characteristic. Lol. Whatever breed of dog you have, the aim is to have a relaxed, happy dog, up for anything, but able to chill out.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 41 – Temperament

Testing temperament

Following on from my post about health testing, in order to produce ‘The dog of your dreams‘ it is also important to breed for temperament. As I approach Quin’s birthday, I have been reflecting on his temperament and what makes him the way he is. Of course, he is a Border Collie, first and foremost, so his behaviour will always reflect that.

Border Collie temperament
different temperaments

It is interesting to me that many of my ‘dog friends’ say to me things such as ‘all your dogs are so good natured/well behaved/lovely temperaments’. They know about dogs and they think it significant that mine are all ‘nice’ dogs. Someone recently said “It’s so good to come into your house and the dogs are just pleased to see you. There’s no chaos, or fighting, or anything like that.” When I first had a person come to look after them when we went away, she couldn’t believe they all got on so well. So how do I do it?

Nature vs nurture

I’m a psychologist (in as much as it was my degree subject), so I understand the interplay between nature and nurture. It’s easiest to think of it as the balance between being biologically programmed to behave a certain way, or being brought up to be like that. Of course it’s not an either/or situation, both are crucial in creating the dog you want (or the person, come to that).

Border Collie temperament
related but different

Starting with nature, I choose stud dogs from lines that I study and understand to be good-natured. I have tended to stick with the Goytre lines, because I know the temperament of these dogs is fantastic. However, I don’t want my dogs to be too inbred, so I sometimes need to add different lines. This means I might end up with different temperaments.

Nurturing temperament

As I say all over this website, my puppies are given a brilliant start in life, with loads of positive experiences. They are cuddled every day, meeting plenty of people, including children. Puppies in my house spend time around dogs of different ages and temperaments, so they should cope better when they are out in the world.

Border Collie temperament
essential cuddling

That covers the first eight weeks, but after that, it is over to their owners to define their temperament. I have had dogs I’ve bred be nervous of children, because they haven’t spent time around them, once they have gone to their new homes. So different experiences continue to have an impact.

Different characteristics

When I had the Rainbow Litter, I had one of the owners ask me about managing the ‘herding instinct’ that Ounce’s brother was showing. “I’ve never had to manage that, mine don’t really do that,” I said. Then Ounce started herding off other dogs. Hmm, a new characteristic to manage! That litter are also real water babies – thanks Sox!

Border Collie temperament
my herding girl

Not all my dogs are the same. I can see likenesses between them, but also differences. It’s fascinating to see the traits develop. And to see the likenesses within and between litters. When I’m doing agility with Busy, people always say ‘She’s so fast!’ to which I respond ‘Just like her mum!’

Can you change it?

Dogs, like people are a mix of their biology and their upbringing. So you can influence how they are, up to a point. When I look at Quin, I can see he is a lovely nature. Like Busy, he’s generally calm and laid back. But then he barks at other dogs, or something on TV! Funny boy. I’ve worked hard on the barking at other dogs and he’s more or less stopped doing that. I think that yes, you can change their temperament, a bit.

Border Collie temperament
my barking boy

It’s complicated isn’t it? I do my best to make lovely dogs – the dog of your dreams. Sometimes it goes it bit wrong (Aura :p). Oh she’s lovely, I’m only kidding. Hopefully it’s given you food for thought.

Oh and by the way, I had planned to talk about ‘Formal obedience/heelwork‘ this week, but I haven’t managed to go to a class for this. It’s a dying art, it seems?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 40 – Health testing

Health testing for better dogs

There is a strong ‘movement’ for people to ‘adopt don’t shop’ for dogs. You are told to get a dog from a rescue centre and not from a dog breeder, or ‘greeder’ as we are often called. I’m revisiting this issue to talk about the value of health testing in dogs.

health testing
healthy dogs

We do health tests to prevent possible suffering and illness. This is no different from taking our blood pressure, or doing a blood test to check our cholesterol levels. We take preventative medication ourselves, so why wouldn’t we want to do that for our dogs?

Pedigree or crossbreed – which is healthier?

I’ve seen a great deal of anger about the fact that pedigree dogs can have huge health issues. Yes, that’s true. But what you may fail to realise is the just because a dog is a pedigree, that does NOT mean it has been bred responsibly, for better health.

health testing
Living the best life

The definition of a pedigree dog is one with two parents of the same breed. Insurance companies call a labradoodle bred from two labradoodle dogs a pedigree. The parents are known to be specific crossbreeds and they are the same. However, that has nothing to do with a pedigree as defined by the Kennel Club. For this organisation, a pedigree is a dog that conforms to the Breed Standard for that breed. Even then, that dog may not be the healthiest it can be. That it’s down to the way it is bred.

Why health test

For me, health testing is part of the process of making sure our dogs are as healthy as possible. I feed the food I believe is best for my dogs. They are exercised the right amount for their age and development. I engage them with training. My dogs are vaccinated every year, to prevent them suffering from common, preventable disease.

health testing
nothing wrong with her

If you don’t care about ‘papers’, or where your dog has come from, that’s your choice. Sadly, that means your dog may have started life in a tiny pen, in the dark, in a barn, with little or no human contact. It means your dog may have come from a mother who was repeatedly bred from. Or your dog may have been brought here from another country, either legally or illegally.

A better life?

It’s fantastic if you take on a dog that has had a poor start in life and give it a better life. That’s great, because all animals deserve this. But I believe it’s better to have a dog that has been bred on purpose. This means talking to a breeder, placing an ‘order’ and waiting, hopefully until the puppy you want becomes available. It might take a long time.

health testing
healthy and happy

Taking a chance

If there are health tests available, why take the chance? I would prefer to have a dog that has been tested? Organisations like the Royal Veterinary College are continuing to do fantastic research into health conditions, adding to the lists of tests that can be done. And the Kennel Club are taking this on board, adding to the list of health test requirements and recommendations.

Continued improvement required

Finally, just a comment about the fact that an obviously unhealthy Bulldog won Best of Breed at Crufts this year, 2022. I challenged the Kennel Club about this and received an interesting response. The Kennel Club say they are continuing to work hard to reduce this type of judgement being made in showing, but that the judge on the day makes their own decisions. They say they are improving breed standards and health testing requirements for the Assured Breeder Scheme, but that not all dogs entering the showing classes have to conform to these standards.

health testing
as healthy as can be

The response I received stated:

The Kennel Club, as part of the Brachycephalic Working Group Brachycephalic Working Group – Working together to improve the health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs (ukbwg.org.uk), has been working to change perceptions about what should be normal and desirable when looking for flat faced dogs. Changes to entire breeds – inside and outside the show ring – will take time to surface but we urge puppy buyers to see the puppy’s parents to look for more moderate examples of these dogs, and to also look for dogs that have been tested for potential breathing difficulties.”

health testing
healthy?

The Kennel Club say the following about the Assured Breeders scheme: We’re the only organisation accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to certify dog breeders under our Assured Breeders scheme.   The scheme is intended to help direct puppy buyers to breeders who follow best breeding practice and conduct health testing for known inherited health conditions in their breeds.   Find out more about the scheme and how to join.

I have written about health testing many times already, including one of the pupdates from last year’s litter.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Dog Showing

Showing your dog, as a dog activity

I had a lovely chat with my friend Nikki yesterday, when she was visiting to see the Punk Litter, with their grandad Sox and uncle Dreema. She explained to me how she got into dog showing and what she enjoys about it.

Border Collies showing
Sox, Dreema, Ounce and Quin

Pedigree Border Collies are not the most obvious breed for dog showing. However as they remain within the top ten breeds in the UK, it seems logical that they will be present at dog shows. This year (2022), a beautiful Border Collie was in the Best in Show competition.

Why did you choose to start showing with your dogs?

Nikki says “I’d already been competing in agility and wanted to try something different.  I thought my dog Sox’s conformation was lovely and after reading the Breed Standard I wanted to see how he would do in the showring. I wanted a more sedate activity. I thought it would be a stimulating activity for the dog.

Border Collies showing
Dreema

Nikki has been showing for around ten years, but she says it took quite a while to get going. She had watched Crufts and thought it looked really easy.  Then she realised that she had to get the best out of her dog, getting him to stand and focus on her, often for quite a while.  It took a few shows to see that it takes a bit of practice.

What is the governing body for dog showing?

The Kennel Club is the organisation that manages most dog shows. They say “Dog showing or exhibiting is an exciting competitive activity where dogs compete against each other for prizes or awards. It is a competition where a dog’s attributes and conformation are compared against a breed standard for its breed. Whilst it can often be taken very seriously, it can be a fun pursuit that people and their dogs thoroughly enjoy.

Border Collies showing
Sox

What types of dog show are there?

The following are the different shows you can enter:

Companion shows are a great introduction to dog showing, as they are informal events, usually part of a charity fete. They may have classes for pedigree dogs, but more commonly have classes such as:

  • waggiest tail
  • best trick
  • golden oldie
  • best pair of dogs, or family of dogs
  • prettiest eyes
Border Collies showing
Prettiest eyes

Other dog shows are only open to pedigree dogs. Limited shows consist of different classes for the different groups of breeds. Then there are different classes for dogs and bitches and for dogs of different age groups. The bigger the show, the more classes there will be.

What training do you need to do?

Initially, Nikki recommends attending a Ringcraft class. This will help you to prepare your dog, teaching them to stand correctly, move with you and to get used to being around other dogs. They will also advise you on which shows and classes to enter. Classes will introduce you to the format of the shows and how to behave when you are there.

Border Collies showing
Standing

You may also need to consider what physical activity you do with your dog, to keep them in peak physical condition. Swimming or physiotherapy are both recommended.

What equipment do you need?

Initially, you just need a show lead. This is a simple slip lead, which is not suitable for day-to-day use. You will need to train your dog to work in this lead, without pulling.

Border Collies showing
A future champion?

The main equipment needed is to do with making your dog looks its best. As Nikki says, you can spend thousands of pounds doing this! She says there are all sorts of tricks you can use to getting your dog looking great, with whiter hair, a smooth coat with a fabulous shine and so on. Nikki thinks a hair blaster is a must! She suggests talking to the stands at dog shows about the products available.

Other equipment includes crates and trolleys, grooming table and of course a variety of grooming tools.

What are the pros and cons of dog showing?

Nikki says “I really enjoy getting them to move and getting the best from them.  They love it.” However, it is not an activity for the faint-hearted. Nikki explains “You have to remain objective, which is hard.  You see another dog that you don’t particularly admire win, while you are binned from the ring.  It’s all down to the personal choice of the judge.  You have to keep your focus on your dog and enjoy showing them off.  It’s not about being competitive.  It’s a real test of character!  Remember to congratulate the winners!

Nikki and Sox

It is essential to remember you are taking the best dog home. For more information go to the Kennel Club website. Thank you to Nikki for sharing such interesting insights.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.