My Way...

A couple of people asked me how do I introduce dogs into my pack or when we do evaluations on the farm.  When Clancy was alive, he was the best at determining the demeanor of dogs that came for a visit.  Only one dog needed to corrected and was A 2-year-old unneutered dog came in, and he thought he was the boss, or so he thought.  As he walked up to Clancy, he put his head on Clancys back showing dominance and in a split second, that dog was on his back, and Clancy had his mouth around his neck standing over him.  The dog's paws were rigid and straight up in the air and Clancy was standing over him but not tightening his jaws or moving.  Once the dog's paws relaxed, Clancy let him up, and they went off and played... In the wolf’s world, this is called the Wolf throw or Wolf roll.  The guest dog came in as an alpha, but in just a short time, he was submissive.  There are many things that you look for when you see a dog for the first time, and that will tell you nearly everything you need to know.  

Things to watch for; 
Direct eye contact
Raised hackles
Pricked ears
Teeth exposed toward the other dog

With that being mentioned, the one thing I always look at is their tail and what is it doing.  A Dogs tail will tell you A lot and how it carries it is an essential indicator of many things such as its current social standing as well as its mental state. There can be some variations, of course, depending upon how the dog naturally carries its tail but what I look for most is if the dogs tail is tucked between its legs.  This can be especially common whenever the dog feels that it is in the presence of a more dominant dog or person and it can also mean, “I accept my lowly role in the pack, and I’m not here to challenge you in any way.”  If the dog’s tail is held upward, this is often the sign of a dog that is in control and is dominant and confident. This may also be a display of a dog who is saying “I’m the boss here. Don’t mess with me.”  If this happens with a dog I am working with, I know to be on guard, especially if you have another dominant dog.

With that being stated, the question was. “how do you introduce a dog into your pack.”

Usually, when a dog arrives at the gate, I will notice how it’s acting.  Is it barking happily with there tongue out to the side or a frightened bark, but if you don’t see any emotion, you need to be on guard.  I will always choose my personal dogs to meet the new rescue or a guest dog because I want some calm personalities and I want it to be low key.  I will usually pick Annie, Doc and Shepp to be my guinea pig dogs.  After the dog enters the gate and putting all the information together from everything I have perceived so far and there is no reaction, I will immediately take the new dog off lead.

Front this point on, just to be sure you understand, I am not a trainer, dog behaviorist or an expert.  This is not advice or the way you should do this.  This is what works for me.

I feel that when a dog comes inside the fence, they can feel trapped because they can handle the pressure of the lead and the dogs around them if the lead is on and that in itself can cause problems because they know there is no escape.  Once inside and the dog is free, there will be sniffing and checking for butt smells which are common.  Stay on top of the situation by watching the eyes, ears, and tail, this is critical.  I always make sure I am close by and in position for anything.  Because it’s my dogs and I have verbal control over them, it’s the new dog I watch.  If I saw something I didn’t like, I say, “let’s go” which is my trigger word to go play and mine will run through the woods and it’s a happy time for the dogs, and usually, the guest dog isn’t far behind, and any issues can be de-escalated.  The new dog will of course either stay back or go because of curiosity but the problem is solved, and the problems have resolved itself.   If the dogs are just unsure of the situation and you still don't get a good feel, we go for a walk together.  My dogs will run through the woods playing and running, and the new dogs will usually hold back but, in just a few minutes, they want to join in the fun.

Just last week Dallas was picked up at his former home.  We were inside the house, and he was very friendly and loving.  I took Shepp with me to act as my neutral dog and right from the get-go, tails were wagging, and butts sniffed and then they went on there way, no issues at all.  Once home, Dallas was out of his element, and when he was let out of the car, his whole entire world had changed, and to him, it was not good.  Dallas stood by the gate.  Wanting out and I approached him with Shepp, his friend, Dallas followed us back to the house and seemed to relax.  The other dogs were in the kennel, and Dallas went on the wraparound porch but still looked for an escape because he could smell the other dogs.  Still frightened, I let him settle down and just observe everything around.  After letting a few of the dogs out, he was scared, but he was curious, and he would follow at a distance.  After an hour, we took a walk around the lake where they could run all they wanted to.  Dallas was following and running, and they started playing together.  My theory is to let them be dogs and run, play and enjoy themselves and most anxieties go out the window.  Dallas slept in the house on a dog bed that night, and the next day, he was part of our pack.  This is a Facebook post I made the next day.

“What a difference a day makes. This would make a good story but here is a short version. When Dallas came in yesterday, he was a little shy... maybe a lot. He would hide and stay away from the other dogs. Nothing wrong with him but he is unsure about everything which included me, dogs and the new place and he also missed his human Mom. This is very common, OB was the same way. Today is a different story. He runs to greet everyone, plays with the dogs and lays under my chair because he found a new friend. Dogs need us to guide them to a world of safety, care, and love. Dallas was very loved where he was, and they treated him very good. But his life drastically changed, and he was scared, and new friends make a world of difference. It literally brings me to tears when they transform into what they should be and gain all the confidence in the world.”

The worse place for dogs that don’t know each other to be is standing around their the owner in a circle and talking.  The people don’t see the dogs checking each other out, but the dogs are vying for position in the pack.  I will always take the people on a walk with the dogs because there is no jockeying for position.  Having introduced hundreds of dogs, I have never had a dog fight or even a skirmish.  While I always prepare for it, it has never come.  Remember this is my techniques, and I do not suggest you do it this way, every dog and dog pack is different, but you need to read your dog.  As a rule, I can know in under a minute how things will be.  

Hopefully, this has helped you understand how I do this.  One thing I have noticed with every dog that has issues, most can be traced back to socializing the dog at a young age.  My suggestions when we raised pups was before they are 6 months old, take them out to meet 50 different people and 100 places after they were vaccinated, getting them used to everything.  Ken

** Notre **  The alpha roll or wolf throw was first popularized by the Monks of New Skete, in the 1978 book "How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend.”  The book is very good and informative and I have used this training technique very sparingly with good results but it can be too risky and demanding for the average dog owner.

Interesting observations from What Is My Dog’s Tail Saying – Sweet Caroline Doodles.

Watch for these dog tail positions discussed below in your own dogs and how they carry their tails in various interactions with other dogs, and it may help you to begin to understand more about how your dog really feels and sees the world.

1 – Your dog carries its tail practically horizontal, yet not stiff, and pointing away from its body. This lets you know that they are paying close attention to their surroundings.
2 – Your dog is holding its tail straight out, pointing away from its body, both horizontally and stiff. Watch, and you’ll notice that this is part of the process that occurs in any initial challenge whenever they first meet a stranger or an intruder.
4 – If the dog’s tail is carried up and slightly curved over its back it means, “I’m the top dog.” A confident and dominant dog who feels that it is in control will often express itself this way.
5 – If the dogs tail is carried lower than the horizontal position but still has some distance from the legs you can be aware that your dog feels pretty relaxed and that all is well.
6 – If your dog’s tail is carried downward, closer to its hind legs it can mean several things such as “I’m not feeling good” or “I’m a little depressed.” It could also mean “I feel insecure,” which is especially true of many dogs when they are in an unknown or new setting or situation.
8 – All right, let’s talk about a few more examples of how a dog carries its tail. If you notice bristling hair down its back or down the dog’s tail this often suggests a sign of aggression. This meaning may also change in intensity if the dog modifies its tail position. So, if the tail is carried straight out from the body it means “I’m ready to fight if you are!” or if it moves the tail slightly up or over its back it means that “I’m not afraid of you and will fight to prove that I’m really the boss.” This is serious – especially if it happens between two dogs that won’t back down.
9 – If your dog carries its tail with a crick or sharp bend in it while it is carried high this often means pretty much the same thing as in the tail bristling example. This too can be read as a sign of aggression.
10 – If the dog has a nice broad tail wag it often means “I like you.” You’ll often see this display during play sessions between dogs – for example, when one dog seems to be fighting the other, pouncing, growling, and barking but with a wagging tail all the while – the wagging tail reminds the other dog that this is all in fun. A broad tail wag can also mean that “I’m pleased.”
11 – If you happen to notice that your dog is exhibiting a slow tail wag, with its tail carried at half-mast it can often mean “I’m confused.” Later when the dog finally solves the problem that it was confused about you will often notice a dramatic difference in the speed and size of the tail wags which will usually markedly increase as well.

An Open Letter...

Sometimes I wonder if the people who surrendered a Border Collie to us ever wonder what happens to their dog.  Recently we had a dog relinquished, and the last owners wanted to make sure he would be okay, as we all would worry about.  The dog was loved very much by them, and he is an exquisite boy.  Some people want to know their outcome, and some don’t.  This is an open letter to the past owners of “my” personal dogs that the past owner gave me charge of. Six of my dogs are rescues, one was to help out and two I purchased when we bred dogs. 

To the owners of “my” dogs, you trusted me with.

Molly Mae
Mr. Cartright, you sold Molly as a pup when she was 8 weeks old to me.  I picked her up in Holland Kentucky, and I remember that day so well, you had a barn full of 16 Border Collies, and they were running around in circles chasing each other.  We loved Molly so much, and she was the start of our journey in this dog world.  She was quiet but so loving.  She loved to play ball but hated the water.  Twice in her life, she nearly succumbs to death.  Once from heat stroke and once from surgery but she made it because of her strong will to live.  Molly was my Heart Dog.  I loved her so.  Molly passed away on June 15, 2018, in my arms, thank you for trusting me to have one of your pups.

Molly and Morgan
I remember the day I picked Morgan up in 2006 at your house in Kentucky.  He was full of life and was to be the other half of Molly.  We decided to have puppies, and Morgan was picked because he was beautiful and Elaine wanted a red Border Collie, and you provided him to us.  I am so sorry to tell you this, but when he was 6 months old, he tried to get under a fence when we were not at home.  His collar got tangled, and he strangled himself to death.  I found him and cried the entire time I dug his grave.  He is buried here at the farm, and to this day, very few of our dogs were collars.  I’m sorry, I failed, and I can never fix it.

Mr. Johnson, when Morgan, a dog of ours died, We wanted a companion for our Molly Mae as you may remember.  We wanted to have pups, and you had an ad in the newspaper.  We came right out and picked out a dog.  When we brought him to you to pay for him and take him home, you told us, “this one is already taken.”  We were disappointed but picked the last boy dog you had, Clancy.  He and Molly loved each other, and on Valentine's day two years later, Molly and Clancy started the road to having pups here at the farm.  Clancy was a great dog, more than I can say or put into words.  He sired many puppies and was the best dog ever.  I’m sorry to tell you that Clancy died in front of us playing in our lake and doing what he wanted to do in July 2016.   We started a foundation in honor of him, and his spirit has saved hundreds of Border Collies.  I often wonder what happened to the dog that we first picked.  Thank you, I wouldn’t change a thing, except to hug him one more time.

Dutchess with "that" look
Mrs. Johnson. I remember when you called me, we had had a litter of pups and you asked me if I was interested in a dog.  I remember telling you, “maybe you misunderstood the ad in the paper, we’re selling dogs.”  You agreed and said you had a dog to give away and you thought I might know something about them.  Dutchess came over and met with Clancy and Molly, and the rest is history.  Dutchess is the smartest and most comical Border Collie I have ever seen.  She sure made our life exciting.  She can do anything and probably has, but now she is a senior dog and watches from the sideline.  When once she could jump up on a car, she now has to be lifted onto the couch. 

Abbie Dabbie Doo
Mrs. Holand, when you brought Abbie back to us because it didn't work out, I didn't understand but took her back with open arms.  We were going to rehome her but fell in love with her.  I remember when she jumped on the bed and laid near me.  She then nudged into the crook of my side and went to sleep.  I looked at Elaine and said we were going to keep her.  Abbie was a very spirited dog and loved life and everything about it but one day I found the lumps on her neck.  Abbie had Lymphoma and died last year.  She played hard until the very end and lived longer than any dog that had cancer in that clinic.  She died in my arms.

Margrett, our trip to meet you was an adventure.  Elaine wanted a red dog, and you sold us a little red-headed girl.  She is so sensitive and loving and wouldn’t hurry a fly, but she will kill a chicken in a second.  She like her sister Dutchess is a senior dog, and she sleeps most of the days under my desk.  I remember you showing her parents skills at herding and how smart they were.  Thank you for such a sweet girl.

Mr. Brix, I remember the day Annie came to us, she was a cute puppy and full of life and moxie.  She is quite the character and was always happy, even now, she is the same.  Annie had beautiful babies, and they all are doing very well.  She loves to sleep on my lap, and she especially loves to have her butt scratched.  She is quite the water dog and will jump off the dock after her tennis ball.

Annie Belle, her first day at the farm
Gracie, I’m sure you are a beautiful young woman now.  When you and your parents dropped Gabby off, I remember trying to make you feel better, but nothing seemed to help.  I will never forget the letter you wrote to me, “ The night before we drove to your place to see if it would be a good home for Gabby, I cried a lot and asked if we could keep her. We decided that we would come see you and try to make a decision from there. We were so happy when we got to your place to see her immediately happy and running with the other border collies. She seemed to love the pond, the porch, and even your couch. I am sad in my heart to not see her in my backyard but am happy to know she is now in your care. I can't wait to come see her again soon. Thank you for loving her as much as I do.” Gracie

Gracie and Gabbie
Gracie, I want you to know, Gabby still loves the pond, the porch, and the couch.  I wanted you to know she is still doing great.

Doc Holliday
To the unknown owner of Doc, I’m not too happy with you because of the shape Doc was in when he came to me.  He was twenty pounds underweight, and his coat was in a deplorable way.  Even before I took him home, I took him to the Veterinarian and checked him out.  He has gained twenty pounds and blossomed into a beautiful dog.  When we ran his first Heartworm test, he was positive, and I’m sure you never gave him his monthly heartworm pill.  We treated him, and he did great, it was very costly, but we won that round.  Nearly 5 years later Doc went blind, and even then we tried to fix him, but the Veterinarian could not win this battle.  I’m sure you could care less, but even though he lived through hell with you, we never gave up, he still swims in the lake and follows the other dogs through the woods and sleeps on my bed, but most of all, Doc never gave up.  I hope you never had another dog

Susan, the day I picked Dahlia up at your house, you were crying, and I knew how you felt because I’ve been there.  When I put Dahlia in the car to take her to the farm, I ask you “do you want updates,” and you said no.  I honored your wishes because you couldn’t bear to hear about the dog you loved.  I wanted you to know even if it is in the spirit, she is Great, we love her so.  We always wanted a German Shepherd, and the spirits moved, and she came to us.  We started to rehome her when she first got here but we couldn’t.  I know it was hard, but she is happy.

Jett & JoJo playing at the farm
Terri, thank you so much for trusting us with JoJo.  Too many dogs can wreck your house and yard and large dogs can make it worse.  I know they are a handful playing and running through it.  JoJo is my baby, and I cherish her.  She sleeps on me and is always by my side.  Thank you for bringing her brother Jett to the farm so they can continue to be Brother and Sister and run in the fields and through the woods.  I will always feel connected to your family because you trusted me with your precious baby.  See you soon when we can let them run and play together again.

Marcie, I tried to call you and let you know the fate of Whiskey, but I never hear back from my voicemail.  I know you loved her and cried when you had to give her up.  I understand the reason, but some Border Collies will kill chickens, and I understand the aggravation that your mother had with her, and I’m glad she didn’t shoot her.  I told you we would rehome her, but we didn’t, she stayed at the farm.  She truly is my shadow and even sleeps at the head of my bed with JoJo. 

Our Pups
To the owners of the dogs we bred, I can see every little face in my mind’s eye and remember every scene of them running so fast they fall down and then climbing in my lap.  When I do close my eyes and recollect that scene, I’m with them again.

To the owners of the dogs we have rescued, I too can see them again, whether they are pulled from a shelter or relinquished.  I remember the sounds, smells and even death at the shelter and see the tears that are shared when it just didn’t work out at home, I do remember.  When they go to their new home, I also remember the happy faces and happy smiles of dogs that have a second chance.  Life is just a whisper and when my few seconds are up, I hope I made a difference, but in the next dimension of time, I want to sit in that field of grass and be with every dog I have ever touched and live and touch all my babies again.  Ken

Girls Day Out...

Friday morning, I went to town to go shopping, it's about 30 miles to the nearest store.  Elaine still works, and I have taken it upon myself to take care of the in-town errands and shopping.  I don’t mind, and actually, I enjoy it.  I have done it for years and know where the bargains are and where to get the best deals.  The few times, Elaine has done it, she came home with a bunch of things we don’t need, she is a grocery’s store dream, she is an impulse buyer but I'm a list guy.
On this morning, after getting ready and grabbing my list, JoJo and Dahlia stood by the car, and as I approached it, I said “wanna go,”   they both turned circles, and I knew I had two copilots.  I usually have just one because I usually take either Shepp or Doc and while they both love to go, this day, the Shepherds needed a turn.  Sorry boys, it’s Girls Day Out.


The odd thing with Dahlia is although she was a rescue from an owner, she was very well taken care of but, HATED car rides.  When I first brought her home on the two-hour trip, she put her head in the corner of the back seat and never moved and was scared to death.  We have a long drive to our house right after the entrance gate, and when Elaine or I would come home, most of the dogs would meet us and ride in the car to the house, Dahlia had never made the trip in the car, but she ran alongside us.  One day, I came home from shopping and Dahlia met me as usual, but this time, she wanted to ride.  She jumped inside on the passenger's side, and off we went, and from then on, she loves it.  I guess she watched the others and now she wanted to try and did.

So Friday morning we were off, the first time both German Shepherds were together in the car, and as we drove down the highway, we got some strange looks.  When we were on the interstate, people would pull beside us and wave at the dogs who were looking at them, and I got a thumbs up.  Quite the experience for all of us.

Doc Loves to take rides
This is not my first car experience with dogs in the car.  In April of 2014, Doc and I headed to Louisville to get some supplies.  On the way down, he went from the front seat to the back seat, and then to the floorboard then he would start over again.  After picking up the supplies and starting for home, I was hungry, and we were about 30 miles from home, I stopped at a local fast food restaurant, and we pulled into the golden arches where I ordered some food.  Up to this point, Doc was not too interested in the things around him, but his ears immediately perked up as we stopped at the drive-in.  As I spoke into the ordering area, (Waaaw-waw-waw. Waaaw-waw) he looked out the front window but I saw his front feet prance in place and as we got closer to the pick-up window and the lady approached us with the sack of goodies, he was in my lap with his head out the driver’s window looking at the food.  I still had to make change and put my wallet away, but he wanted everything that was in the bag and before pulling away, the attendant said, “boy, he’s a little spunky,” and my response was “Oh...he’ll be fine.”  They say a dog’s nose more than 10,000 times stronger than ours, and I never gave it any thought, but I now do, believe me, it’s true.  “Hold om Doc, I’ll give you a bite” as I started to pull into traffic with a soft drink between my legs, French fries on my lap and a chicken sandwich in my right hand, driving with my left hand and knees, all the time trying not to get lettuce my lap.   As I pulled into traffic, Doc lunged into my lap again and attempted to get his nose into the bag.  What sleeping dragon have I created by this food stop?

I literally laughed at his attempts, but there was nothing to do but give him a bite.  “Doc, sit” which he did, and he gobbled the french fry out of my hand but the problem, he nearly took my finger off.  OK, new plan…I threw the French fry to the back seat.  He leaped over the seat and found it and returned in just a second.  “Ooh, that didn’t take long,” I said.”  Doc, sit” I threw the french fry to the front floorboard, and he had to hunt for it, so here I was, throwing French fries around the car while he was chasing them.  I had a soft drink between my legs too, a chicken sandwich in one hand and a dog jumping around the car after french fries and the whole time, we were weaving from lane to lane with the car.  But it’s didn’t stop there…the sandwich was next.  I will tell you that I did attempt to take a bite of chicken sandwich in between throws, but because it was dressed, some dropped to my lap.  I would take a nibble and Doc would take a nibble whether I wanted him to or not, never again.

Assistant Manager and Manager
JoJo, Dahlia and I traveled to the Bank, Menards, and Wal Mart, and all in all, they were good as Gold and even though I thought about getting them a snack at a fast food restaurant, after the experience with Doc and the food, I thought better.  Several times as I was walking toward the car, several people would approach the car to see these silly girls while they sat in the front seat waiting for me.  On the way home, both of them were in the back seat but someone started winning.  I looked back into the back seat, and you could tell, someone needed to “go.”  In my mind, I said “hold it, hold it” but knowing I have found a Tootsie Roll before and I know the consequences, but we were so close to home.  I went faster and knew we could make it.  “Please,” I thought, and as we made the final turn, I knew we were close, and someone’s eyes were big and getting bigger.

Finally, we were at the gate, and as fast as I could open it they were out of the car, and off in the woods they went.   Relief at last, Relief at last.  It could have been worse.  Until next time.  Ken

Do they need us?

To ask the question “Why do dogs need us” is a question in itself.  Do they really need us?  I’ve pondered that question before and ask it myself often.   “When” the relationship began, nobody exactly knows. The earliest remains of humans and dogs interred together date to 14,000 years ago, but some unconfirmed finds are said to be more than twice as old. The larger point is the meaning of the discoveries: we lived with dogs and then chose to be buried with them. Imagine that and what happened? It was only by the tiniest bit of genetic chance that our cross-species union was forged at all. Dogs and wolves share 99.9% of their mitochondrial DNA which makes the two species nearly indistinguishable, but here we are.  

Thousands of years ago, we were each independent except for some working dogs and dogs that just happened to seek and visit us.  Even now, my dogs are very different, and some will seek me out very seldom, and some like Whiskey will not leave my side, why is this but I feel I understand somewhat.  Even I have two sides, I can talk to nearly anyone about anything but do I “Need” them, probably not, and I also think I could live on a deserted island.  I can fix and do most anything I want to accomplish, but it’s what I want to do.  When I went to college, I barely graduated, but it’s not because I couldn’t do the work, I didn’t want to do it.  My Dad made me go to college.

I think we have made our dogs depend on us because we want something in exchange such as love, devotion, and even companionship.  Nearly every day, there is a plethora of exchanges that take place between our dogs and us.  How many times do we fill there needs, we feed them, we care for there health and even make sure of there comfort.  We purchase the best food, buy the most expensive toys and even dress them like our kids.  Birthday parties and Vet trips are in need and we see that they have the best of everything but is it enough?  No, I don’t think so, but it’s simple.

“A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart, and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not.”
― John Grogan, Marley and Me

I believe our dogs will come to us because they want to be near us and we need to pay attention.  I am so guilty of this at times, I even shame myself when I think about it.  It’s so simple to them, but we often overlook it, just love them, scratch there ears, and talk to them and make them feel that you are 100% vested in their life.  Taking care of there needs can be a little unusual and not always in the norm, but to them, it’s their world.  They share our world and quirks, we need to share theirs.

Countless times I do things that are so unusual, but in the end, I benefit more than they do.  You can see it in there eyes when they struggle with a sound, sickness or something they are afraid of and they “NEED” us.  Comfort, hold, touch and get into there world.  They give everything to us unconditionally and we normally just give a little.  On a stormy night, I’ve had nearly every dog in my bed when the first crash of thunder hit and I have slept so uncomfortably, but in there mind, they are safe.

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.
― John Grogan, Marley & Me

Last night Dahlia would not go into her kennel at all to eat.  By my command, she would, but she would lick her lips and turn circles, she was scared.  I sat on the floor, and came to me and buried her head into my chest.  She was shaking, she was so scared, something was up.  She wanted to eat and would attempt to but kept coming back to me, so I placed the food bowl next to me.  Still a little hesitant, she would take a bite, but she would look for me and come back.  I laid on the floor and put the bowl right in front of my face.  She could see me with every bite, and in between bites, she would lick my face.  She knew I was there.  It was not a lot of effort on my part, but to her, it was everything.  Any relationship takes unexpected efforts to make all of us comfortable.  As I watched her from below, it was magical.  Extra steps to us are miles to them.  

We are more than the person who feeds them and fills there water bowl.  We are their protector, guardian, custodian, defender, and overseer.  We help the hopeless in sickness and defend the weak.  We save the lost and give the sightless sight just letting them smell us as we walk, and even this list is short in compared to what they give me.  Ken