Intervening in Tug Games: Plan A to Plan B

hay to barn 2014

When do you intervene when your dog's play becomes borderline? We all know that there is no simple answer to this question. (Except, of course... "It depends.") I wrote extensively on this topic in May. However, the evolving relationship between Maggie and Willie continues to keep the question relevant on a daily basis. You might recall that I mentioned earlier I was quietly intervening when the dogs became emotionally aroused while playing tug. Maggie gets so excited she starts sounding like a chainsaw on steroids, and Willie sometimes gets that flat-eyed, lizard look that means he's about to do something he shouldn't. When that happened I began saying, always in a cheerful voice, "That'll Do" or calling Willie's name to come to me. I was always happy and upbeat about it, careful not Read More

Spring Photo Album

Pepper looks at headstone 2014

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FARM today. Because, well, spring has sprung and it seems like everything is happening all at once. Lambs in the barn, brush to clear, gardens to tend, barn roofs to patch, etc. It's all good, there's just a lot of it. I'm happy to report that the three lambs we have are doing well. Barbie, aka "Explodo Ewe" was due yesterday, but so far, she seems oblivious. The photo below is of Lady Godiva (lambs = Salt and Pepper) and Lady Baa Baa (with Chess, the black and white lamb in the middle). This is the first time that they have left the barn and gone up the hill to graze on real grass. That's Pepper on the left, unclear what to make of Luke's tombstone, which says That'll Do, Luke, That'll Do. (I wrote about Luke and the headstone in For the Love of a Dog, if you'd like Read More

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