Leave Tomorrow!

bergamotbarn7-09

Hard to imagine we're on our way to Africa tomorrow. Even though it's my fourth trip, going to Africa still seems like something I could only dream about, never really do. Of course, the only dreaming at this point is of things I might have forgotten, and worries about leaving the dogs and the sheep. It will be such a relief to finally be on the plane and let it all go. I think of trips like this as white water kayaking (not that I've ever done it!)... You prepare carefully and meticulously, then launch into the rapids and go with the flow. The most fun of the preparation has been reading up on the behavior of the animals we'll probably see. For example, I've been reading about the comparative social systems of Golden Jackals and Black-Backed Jackals (coyote-like canids, common in both Read More

Positive Training for Hunting Dogs

I'm curious if any readers have some advice for me and a friend of mine. She and her husband have a young German Shorthaired Pointer they'd love to train to hunt, but are having problems finding any professional trainers who don't use ear pinches, forced retrieves and a basic attitude of "Do it because I say so!" This is not the first time I've been asked about positive trainers in this field, whether for retrievers or pointers, and I haven't had a lot of luck finding professionals who take dogs in and train them using primarily positive methods. If you know the world of hunting dogs, you know that there is a long history of "positive punishment" and dominance-based training in the field, perhaps more so than any other, at least in my experience. Do any of you, wise readers, know of a Read More

Feisty Fido, Second Edition

At the risk of being self-serving, I wanted to let you know that the Second Edition of Feisty Fido is now available. Little did Karen London and I know, when we took a look at the first version before reprinting it, how much time we'd end up spending revising it. True confession: when a few months ago I re-read the first version, written in 2001, I thought, "Oh my, it is truly time to revise this!." (Karen had the same response that I did, and, as usual, we were "on the same page" about it, so to speak.) I do think that the booklet has helped a lot of people and a lot of dogs, and that makes me happy, but I am even happier to have an updated, revised, updated and lovingly, tweaked new version available. For those of you who know the book, here are the primary differences: 1) There is a Read More

Willie gets in over his head

Well, I can't tell you that last night went smoothly, but my Willie boy tried his best and ended up learning a lot about working sheep last night. (We went to a good friends, Peg, who has a lot more sheep and a lot more land than I do and is extremely generous with her time.) First, Will and I drove a flock of about 35 sheep into a pen at the end of a long field, and then turned and walked 40 yards in the other direction, where Peg had brought out a group of 5 or 6 ewes about 250 yards away. I waited until I was sure Willie had seen them, and then sent him "Come Bye" (clockwise). He began correctly, but then stopped part way there and looked back at the flock he had just worked (who were behind him and me both). I said Come Bye again, and he started right but again slowed and looked back. Read More

“Listening” to our Dogs

Yesterday something happened with Willie that reminded me of something most of us already know. . .  the fact that our dogs are continually trying, often desperately, to communicate with us. They can't use words, they don't write letters and, thank god, they can't twitter. But they live in constant contact with members of another species, a species that can either ignore their efforts, or fine tune their abilities to translate what their dog is trying to "say." Here's what happened with Willie: Lassie,  Will and I had just finished a lovely country walk with friends (two and four-legged) and were chatting outside of the house of the mutual friend who owns the property. Picture: three people talking outside of the house, three dogs at their feet, and Willie, the 4th dog, hanging out, Read More