Friday, August 24, 2012

Growing Pains

It's fun to have a puppy around here again.  Hopefully Fern continues to look good so I have an excuse to keep her!  She's added a small amount of ticking (the itty bitty spots that come in after the "real" spots are already in place) which I don't care for, but most Dals have a few of those.  When I roll through her coat I don't see any more lurking on the skin, just waiting to shoot out colored hairs.  Although she has a really cute face, I'm not sure that she has quite enough underjaw for my personal taste, but that's something no one will ever notice - except me.   So far I'm only seeing minor issues that I don't care for.  The basics, and the really important stuff still look good.  She's nicely marked, has reasonable breed type, really nice legs & feet, very pleasing movement (when she can collect herself and slow down enough to actually trot), and a great temperament.  Her eyes are very dark and her tail shape/carriage are also very good, two things very important to me.

It's often hard to watch show puppies grow up unless you just close your eyes and concentrate on the Cute Factor.  Few puppies grow up in one piece, and most go through oh so many stages, most of them awkward, ungainly, and uncoordinated. Some of them just plain ugly! Their ends don't develop at the same speed, their proportions are all screwed up,  Their backs can look long, soft, dippy, roached, you name it.  They lose their chests and look like tubes on legs.  They can be so narrow in front that their elbows touch, and so rubbery in the rear that their hocks cross and you wonder how they can walk.  When they teethe their ears can hang limply, with creases in the wrong places, and their lovely feet can look like pancakes.  Some pups grow up "in one piece".  Mancini/Ramsay might do that.  Fern definitely will not.  We always says that a puppy who looked good at 6-7 weeks will look good again.  Someday.  Patience will be the key word here!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Socializing Show Pups

Give Your Pup A Chance

Sue MacMillan

I noticed a recent posting on Facebook where the poster mentioned that she’d taken her pup to his first show and he’d freaked out.  He was a little better the second day but still very frightened.   She’d decided just a few weeks earlier that it was time to start showing the puppy, but had she taken the time to prepare him for dog shows?

Postings like this, as well as all the spooky Dals I’ve seen in the show ring, make me wonder if their owners have put any work at all into preparing their pups to become show dogs.  Dog shows can be stressful, and the barking dogs, crowds of people, loud noises, strange smells, and unfamiliar objects can be extremely frightening to a puppy that has not been properly socialized.  If a puppy grows up “in a backyard” and is just walked around the neighborhood (if he is walked at all), he will be totally unprepared for the stress of dog shows.  If he grows up with littermates and/or his dam, he is also dependent on them, and even less ready to go off to a show by himself.  Why do breeders keep promising pups and then put no work into preparing them to be show dogs?
Most people who purchase a puppy to show are prepared to put the work into raising the puppy properly, especially if they buy from a breeder who understands and emphasizes the importance of socialization. It seems to be the first-time breeder or occasional breeder who forgets that any pup they keep will require a lot of individual work.  It will actually require more work, because leaving home and adjusting to a new situation is actually socialization.  The pup that stays behind needs to be separated from the dogs it lives with, at least for a while.  It needs to “go to camp” and get away from home for a weekend and even longer, and preferably more than once.  It needs to make friends both canine and human, and learn to be self-sufficient and comfortable in a new environment.  Many breeders do this automatically, sending their pups off to stay with friends, previous puppy buyers, or with other breeders.  Puppy camping is fun for everyone, and invaluable for the future show dog.

Pups need to learn that riding in the car is fun, that strangers give treats, and that other dogs are friendly and like to play.  They need to see bikes, strollers, and kids on roller blades.  They need to hear trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, barking dogs, and children playing.  A puppy who has been exposed to and is comfortable with these things will be comfortable with the confusion at dog shows, will not be spooked by ring barriers, crowds of dogs and people, the squeak of crate dollies, and the sounds of PA systems and blow driers.

Kindergarten Puppy Classes are a great place to socialize pups.  They learn about different buildings, strange sounds and smells, new people, other breeds, and get a chance to meet and play with other puppies.  In many of the classes they will also get treats from strangers, which helps prepare a puppy to be comfortable with the approach of a judge.  Learning to sit for a treat will not screw up a show-dog-to-be.  Pups can easily learn the difference.  Teaching the pup to stand for a treat with a different command can be done at the same time or can be done later.

Many pups benefit from a basic beginners obedience class too, as long as positive methods of training are used.  Again, teach him a stand as well as a sit.  He’ll figure it out.  Even if he were to forget and sit in the ring once or twice, that’s much better than having him freak out or be excused.  It’s far easier to teach a stand than it is to convince a freaked out puppy that dog shows are not really as scary as he thinks.

All pups who will be shown need to learn the basics, either in an obedience class or a show handling class if there is one available.  Private handling lessons may also be an option.  Pups need to have experience wearing collars, walking on lead, as well as following and being followed by other dogs. They must be comfortable being touched by strangers, gaiting on rubber mats, having their tails and feet handled, their testicles checked (if males) and having their mouths examined.  Repetition is the key here.  Gentle handling, lots of praise, and the use of words they will remember and associate with a pleasant experience – “stand”, “stay”, “ok”, “teeth” or whatever words you prefer.  A puppy gains security from hearing familiar words and performing familiar actions, and the use of food rewards is always helpful.  Teach him a trick or two as well – something you can praise him for doing if he gets nervous.

If you don’t live in an area with training classes, there are still many way to train and socialize a puppy.  Visit pet stores on the weekends, take the pup to ballgames, parades, and picnics, walk him around parking lots, shopping areas and schoolyards, or take him into stores that allow leashed pets.  Carry him in if you have to.  Invite people to pet him and feed him treats.  Ask if it’s OK to bring him along when you visit friends.  Be pro-active about finding dogs for him to interact with and set up play dates with them.  Play dog show and ask your friends and family to examine him and check his bite.  Especially useful is taking him along to dog shows before he is old enough to show, just for fun. Enter puppy matches if you can find them, but don’t take them too seriously.   Your goal is a puppy that is happy and self-confident when you are ready to show him.

There are some dogs in this breed that are what I call “genetic spooks” – they will be uncomfortable about dog shows no matter what you do with them as babies, but you can generally modify their behavior enough to make it acceptable.  However, they will never be fun to show or enjoy the experience, and would be better off placed in appropriate pet homes.  If your puppy is not one of these born-to-be-spooky dogs, and has a genuinely good disposition, then get him out and socialized, and give him a chance to display the happy, confident, fun loving personality that is the reason we love and admire this breed!  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Don't Eat The Yardstick!

Poor Fern.   I'm sure it seems to her that every time she discovers a fun new toy, Josie or Argus take it away, or I yell, "Fern, No!"  So many cool toys around here, but all three of them want the same toy at the same time.  Especially the treat balls - then even Coral and Watson get into the act.  If I put bits of biscuit or some cheese in one of the various treat balls, the big dogs can't wait to steal it from Fern.  And each other.  If she picks up a squeaky toy, that was really the one Josie wanted to play with, and the tug toy she found will soon be in use by Josie & Argus.  So she searches for the things they won't take away - like the yard stick, or one of the sofa pillows.  Then she hears the "Fern, No! Don't eat the yardstick."  She just can't win.  I could crate the adults and leave Fern to the toys, but then she carries a toy over and lays it down in front of Argus's crate, inviting him to come out and share.  Too bad he doesn't share!  He's currently working at getting a biscuit from one of the treat balls, while Fern rolls around on her back trying to distract him.  Morning in Paisleyland.  

Hope to find a puppy sitter this weekend so Ron & I can go to the fair.  I could put Fern back in the puppy pen on newspapers for the day, but it seems a shame to do that as her house training is coming along so well.  Only accident she's had was when *I* got distracted and she was forced to pee on the rug at the door.  Can't remember a puppy who caught on so quickly.  Next chore is to teach her that it's OK to go in places other than the dog yard, like when you go for a walk.  She'll need that when she starts puppy class.  No way will she be able to wait from the time she leaves the house until she is home again.  Just need to know that, "Hurry, hurry," means pee, not just pee in the dog yard!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Home For Furry Murray

Two good homes waiting for Murray.  Now to see if we can work out the logistics for shipping him which is not always easy in the summer.  In the meantime he's visiting with Heather and her family, and will obviously get a lot of lap time!    Murray & Fern spent much of the day outside in the dog yard, and she was soooo tired yesterday evening she didn't even think about getting into mischief.  A tired puppy is a good puppy!

Fern is OK about being an only puppy again, and the house is much quieter without non-stop wrestling.  She's catching on to which items are toys and can be chewed, and Josie & Argus have been pretty good about not stealing the ones she's playing with.  Murray came back from his first adventure with a new Nyla Bone, which Fern has appropriated as her own.  I'd go over to snap a picture of her with her bone, but like her granddad Argus, the minute I make a move she's right there wondering, "So what are we going to do now?"  Makes it hard to get candid pictures!

We spend a few minutes every day working on restraint, learning Sit & Down, and stacking on the grooming table which is right outside the patio door.  Fern does not love working on the table yet, but knows that it means treats, so will stand with her feet on the table edge waiting to be boosted up.  She walks well on leash, other than tripping me and pulling!  Need to walk her when she's hungry, rather than after she's eaten.  A pocket full of treats works a lot better for keeping the attention of a hungry puppy.

Because poor old Coral is gradually failing, as they do at 14+ years of age, I'm very glad that Ron likes this puppy and is pleased that we kept her.  Coral is having increasing difficulty getting around, and the small lumps she's had in her rear breasts for several years have started to grow in size.  A vet trip is scheduled for this week, but we won't do anything heroic at this age, and will just keep her comfortable.  Losing Coral will be extremely tough on Ron, as it was when we lost Coral's great-granddam Eloise who was Ron's special dog. Coral's granddaughter Josie will do her best as a stand in, and is a wonderful dog in her own right, but Ron has a special attachment to Coral.  Sigh . . .

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back From Camp

Furry Murray is back from camp.  Gia dropped him off last night and Murray & Fern spent the next few hours wrestling with one another.  Thought they would never settle down, but it certainly tired them out!  He shared Fern's crate last night and they were perfect, but that's not going to work for feeding them as they are both a couple Power Eaters.  This evening he will go to spend some time with another friend while we decide where Murray will eventually end up.  Because neither potential home is local, it takes a bit longer to work through the process!   Very nice to have two pups so well started on housetraining at this age.  Sure makes it easier.

Out of time.  Spent it trying to get updated pictures of Murray for the people who are interested in him.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I'm Back!

A Sunday posting to make up for a couple of missed days.  Guess I just had Writer's Block.  Sometimes I sit down knowing what I'll write, while other days I sit down and the words "just happen".  Neither worked last week!

New Resolution - fewer commas.  I reread some old posts and noticed that I often use far more commas than are needed!

Entries are in for the Amana shows and we have majors!  There's actually five shows, but Jess & I are staying for only two days, three shows, including both Specialties.  That's plenty of dog shows, and I'd like to be back to attend friends' 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration.  Judging panel is not very good, and we don't have anyone who really needs to be shown.  Gemma (Cruise/Penny) and Argus will be in only at the Specialties, and Eddie (co-owned Argus son) is in at all three shows.  He's got five points and we need to decide if we want to put the money into finishing him.  This will be Gemma's first show weekend, but we'll concentrate on her next year.

Good news from Colorado that Ellsworth (Cruise/Penny son) finished with a 5-point Specialty win, the third Champion from that litter, all with Specialty wins and still only 12 1/2 months old.  Definitely a good combination.  Now Jess & Laurie have to decide if they want to repeat that breeding, or try something different with Penny next time.

Have to admit that I am suffering Dog Show Burnout, despite a really successful show year.  Part of it is because the judging panels are so bad,  Many of the good judges have aged out or passed away, and the current crop is pretty uninspiring for the most part.  Many of them aren't even "real dog people" but rather people who have bought their way into the sport and are not very knowledgeable.  Not breeders, but part of the It's-All-About-Winning generation.  Sad state of affairs.

The other thing that really bothers me is that (at least) one of the Dal Specials is winning with a fixed tail.  How sad that some owners and a lot of professional handlers have no ethics whatsoever, and it's all about winning.  This dog was shown for three years with a "natural" high curly tail.  Not a bad dog, but definitely a bad tail, as well as a bad attitude.  Owners sent him out with a handler who has done the "tail thing" in the past, and suddenly the dog has perfect tail carriage - except when it hot or he's tired and the end starts to droop.   So glad I am not campaigning a dog this year.  I'd probably lose my AKC privileges by speaking out in the ring.

Dog shows were originally about judging breeding stock and some of us still feel that way, but nowadays it's often just about winning, no matter how you have to do it.  How sad.  It's crap like this that keeps me home.

That's Fern pictured above, Paisley Fabulous Fern.  She looks good at 10 weeks, though seems to trip over her feet when she trots right now.  Lots of nice angles, but not always able to manage it yet.  Am pleased with her so far.  Very dark eyes, great feet, a lovely disposition, and a good tail, things that are important to me along with correct structure and breed type.

Her brother Murray has been "camping" this past week, so Fern has been an only puppy and has done really well with her house training and crate manners.  Murray will be back tonight for a photo session and perhaps a video, then go off to stay with another friend until we decide where he will finally end up.