Meet Maggie

Happy Maggie

Yup, Redstart Farm has a new member of the family. Maggie, a 15-month old female Border Collie from Idaho, has stolen the hearts of us all, Willie especially. He is gobsmacked. In love. Head over heels. Watching the two of them play has become one of my greatest joys in life. Those of you who have been following the farm for awhile know that finding the right dog for Willie hasn't been easy. He started life as a puppy pathologically afraid of unfamiliar dogs. He grew into an adolescent torn between fear and the desire to control everything, the kind of dog I call an "alpha wanna be." He has always loved to play with dogs who also loved to run together outside, but became tense and a tad crazy if they came into the house. Remember Jack Nicholson's face in the movie The Shining? Read More

Ah Youth! The Initiation of Play in Dogs

strawberries 2013

First, watch the video of Katie's young Leo trying to get an older Mastiff, Herk, to play. (You'll know who is who, trust me!) Second, take a minute to wipe the tears from your eyes because you were laughing so hard. Third, think about all the ways you've seen dogs try to initiate play with other dogs, from a standard and obvious play bow, to Leo's method of smashing a toy into another dog's head. I find the topic of how dogs convince other dogs to play an interesting one. How do dogs go about initiating play in others that are a tad reluctant? I'm especially interested in Leo's use of a toy (tool?) to get Herk's attention. How common is it for a dog to use an object to elicit play from other dogs? Willie's favorite method of play is "Let's be race horses!" but he also loves Read More

Mounting By Any Other Name…

nellie window

A long, long time ago I had an intact male Border Collie (my first BC ever, Drift), who appeared to be failing his job as a stud dog. Although his escort, the lovely Tib, could not have been more clear that she was ready to be bred, Drift couldn't seem to get the job done. Tib would prance around Drift all shiny-eyed, literally throw her rump in his face and flag her tail so far over to the side that I wondered if it might break off. Drift behaved as though he got the message loud and clear, and would enthusiastically mount Tib from behind. But then he would make one or two thrusts, and his entire body would appear to deflate (not to mention his equipment) while he slumped off to the side. Tib would respond by again throwing her rump at his head and flagging (the clarity of a female dog's Read More

How Do You Play with Your Dog?

fence posts snow 2-2013

Surely our mutual love of play is one of the reasons that dogs and people get along so well. As Karen London and I write in Play Together, Stay Together, "Play is powerful stuff. It influences so many things, including development, motivation, emotions, physiology, communication and behavior. Wow! That's an impressive list." After years working as Applied Behaviorists, it was clear to Karen and I that play has the power to strengthen one's relationship with a dog, or alternatively, to destroy it. You can use play to teach self control and good manners, or to inadvertently teach a lack of frustration tolerance and a lot of rude behavior that ends up getting a dog into trouble. You can use play to allow a dog to release tension, to learn a behavior incompatible with a problematic one, or Read More

Happy New Year and Happy Pictures!

Willie and Lily Chase 1

Trisha is feeling a little under the weather this week, but didn't want to leave you without a few cheery pictures. Here is Willie playing a good game of chase with Lily, Katie's Dogo Argentino, in the upper pasture this week. From all of us at McConnell Publishing, have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year. Give your dogs a good belly rub from us!   __ Read More