Things Loki has taught me: herding

Loki has been on sheep a handful of times since turning 6 months back in April. When I went out to Sam Furman’s lot for his second herding lesson he was able to sweep back and forth between the sheep and didn’t hesitate to push between them and the fence.

I didn’t understand at the time why she considered him such a “nice dog”.

Since that time I’ve seen a few dogs work, most of them started or Veterans. I had the opportunity to meet a Gallagher’s Cap son and that pup was VICIOUS on sheep: went for cheap shots at the shoulder and held on, dove into the flock, snap-snap-snap constantly. I’ve met a few young dogs out of Kevin Evans and they are pushy but immature.

Sam Furman has a pup out of Henry Kuykendall who is all power when on sheep and I’ve met another 2 young dogs out of Henry’s line who are more reserved with the stock– very nice workers.

Loki is still learning herding and I’m just now reading the manual. We need to learn to SLOW DOWN, I need to keep moving while slowing him down, and I need to force him to feel my pressure (not in a negative way of course).


Fostering for EHDR

I’ve neglected to post my fosters up here but let me say: it has been an adventure!

Since owning Io I’ve wanted to involve my spare time with fostering for a rescue, mainly ARCBCR. I volunteered at events, transported, and helped in other small ways but I was never able to foster. I wanted to train, work, and care of herding dogs but mainly border collies. I have a fanatical obsession with the breed (working style, natural ability, instinct, athletic ability, jump height, weight, male/female, breeder/rescue, genetics, health…) and wanted to help the poor degenerates that no one wanted.


Until joining Eastern Herding Dog Rescue in 2014 I thought dogs lingered in rescue. ARCBCR moved (maybe) 10-15 dogs a year. Maybe. I had thought all rescues functioned in this capacity.


EHDR is nearing there 100th adoption in just 10 months. Let me say it this way: that’s 10+ dogs a month that they’ve moved since starting in February 2014. Since signing on as a foster at the end of August I’ve fostered and adopted out 9 dogs.





Super Mario


It has been incredible and fulfilling (and, some days, challenging) to foster with the rescue. I admire the group for what they have accomplished in just 10 months and I’m hoping for their continued success in the future.

It has given me the opportunity to train different types of dogs and enhance my experience, it has opened the doorway to new friendships, and it has completed a dream: fostering!

If you want to support EHDR head over to their Facebook Page and give them a like.

Mock Run Loki 1

I have just started training Loki in competitive agility: I started with foundations including basic obedience, following hand signals, working 2 on/2 off with boards, placing him on wobble boards, various commands while running on the flat, restrained recall, heel work. Next I started with recognition of the obstacles, moved to maneuvering over jumps, collection.


Here is his first mock run.


The Story Behind Loki

imp. shep
Loki’s Father, Imp. Shep
Loki and his litter mates
Imp astra bobbie
Imp. Astra Bobbie, Loki’s mother

As Loki nears 1 year old (and trust me, there will be a HUGE post on here as well as on my website) I want to take a moment to reflect on the story behind this incredible, amazing boy.

After Io I buckled down and started looking hard for where I wanted my next Border Collie to come from. I didn’t want to buy local for personal reasons and so I started looking out across the web for reputable, respectable breeders that had been breeding for 10+ years. I wanted a breeder who bred for working, high energy, versatile border collies. I wanted someone who actively sought titles for their breeding stock and whose litters were successful in all venues.

I kept coming across a handful of breeders that I kept returning to: Contact Point Border Collies, Hillcrest Border Collies, and Rising Sun Border Collies.

It became an obsession of mine to find the best possible pup; as much as I love Io I didn’t want to end up with a dog with another disability.

Three and a half years later of searching and obsessing I saw a sweet little puppy on Rising Sun’s website and my heart squeezed when I looked at him.


shep bobbie boy 2 face cu lg



Holy crap.

When I started my searching for my new pup I had NO CARE what coat color/coat length/ears/ eye color/ectect the dog had. My goal was to have a puppy that was mine that would grow into a dog that worked with me, who trusted me, who competed with me. I wanted a companion and a dog that I could live with over the next 15 + years. It is much easier to live with a dog whose personality compliments your own as opposed to a dog that has the physical traits you desire. 

After getting the OK from my landlady I contacted Becky Beckman and asked if she still sold breeding rights with her puppy (I’m also obsessed with producing my own line of performance border collie, but more on that later) and she said no. After about 5 minutes of debating (and I can admit it’s partially a control issue with me) of reading Becky’s returned email I agreed that the spay/neuter contract would be the best for my new fur-baby and I.

At that point I described all the traits I wanted in a puppy and all the goals I hoped to accomplish with him. She had 2 puppies remaining from the Shep/Bobbie litter but the boy would be better suited for me. He was the first out of the box, the first to escape through the exercise pen, he was mischievous and a “little over the top”. Along with this description I already knew the background of his very impressive pedigree.

Astra_Bobbie_298961         Shep_272967_pdf_1


After that he was mine and I sent her a check consisting of my savings from the past year that I had gathered from my house sitting stents.

That Friday night my roommate and I drove up to the Richmond International Airport to pick him up and after some confusion as to where I needed to go I finally picked up my little bundle of energy. I love, love, LOVE the Wildman and I am very thankful to have him in my life. At nearly 1 year of age I have started seeing the intense, driven dog he will become in herding and agility. He’s game for everything and shows no fear on the obstacle course. He is all mine (definitely a momma’s boy) and each day he is overcoming his uncertainty of people.

Loki and the Frisbee!
herding Loki
Loki at 11 months at his herding lesson with Sam Furman (left) and I (right)


Leaping Loki at 10.5 months of age

When is too many… too many?

IMG_8143I asked on my Facebook a week back, mainly to irritate my roommates:

“How many is too many?”

I have 3 dogs and between my roommates and I we have 4 cats(… 3 of which are mine). Our furniture has a collection of hair, furballs are always creeping along the tiled floor like frightening creatures (these lumps put dust bunnies to shame), and there is always a suspicious smear that may or may not be drool.

Despite the hair and the mud and the lingering wet dog smell my dogs have never done their business anywhere but outside (I’ll ignore the times my roommate gave all natural cookies to the pups and I slept through an explosive accident) and I treat monthly against fleas and ticks for all my crew. Heartworm prevention for the dogs, toys, raw/high priced kibble. I want to make this point as I take the care of my animals very seriously.

My youngest pup will be a year in August and I’m training him for agility and herding both which he does beautifully in. Seeing him work is incredible and it drives me to start my own breeding program to ensure that the instincts, drive, and ability of the border collie are preserved.

The question came about because I had started debating on buying my next border collie in the next 6-12 months to start the foundation of my own breeding program.

The Facebook response was EXPLOSIVE! And the response was basically the same: as many as you can care for.

In some cases, I’ve seen where 1 dog is too much for one household. In other cases someone who has five dogs, is competing and caring for them, is looking for the newest member of their canine crew.

So, the analytical organizer inside of all of us (or is it just me?) started making lists the moment I considered bringing another puppy into the fold and here is what I devised (minus the cost of the puppy):

  • Puppy Vaccinations ($150/2 visits)
  • Flea/tick preventitive for a year ($268/ 12 month K9 Advantix off of 1800petmeds)
  • Heartworm preventitive for a year ($72/12 months)
  • Toys ($100)
  • Collar/leash/harness ($100)
  • Good Quality Food ($80-$600/12 months)
  • Bedding ($50/1 bed)

These are the immediate expenses that your puppy/dog will incur in a year. This does not include emergency visits, boarding, training, and costs of showing/competing with your dog.

Not only is there a financial expense to owning a dog… do you have the time and energy to care for a puppy and dog?

Backyard Breeders and Puppy Mill Buyers: JUST STOP!

Puppies, our greatest weakness.

This is a topic I’m passionate about, that I’m driven to fight for. The only way to end this trend is to make the people who support it aware that they are supporting the continued breeding of sick and ill puppies.

As much as I support rescue I also support responsible breeders who take time to produce quality, healthy puppies. This could easily turn into a ramble but I’m striving now to reach out to the public and explain the differences between a reputable breeder vs. puppy mill breeder vs. backyard breeder.


I’ll break it down for you:

Backyard Breeder:

  • No health clearances on mother/father
  • Puppies are kept in an area that is not clean (either indoors, outdoors, or both)
  • Owner does not compete with adults
  • The bitches will are sometimes bred every heat cycle
  • No vet documentation clearing puppies as healthy pups
  • Adults and puppies are fed cheap commercial food
  • Price of puppy is “cheap”
  • Puppies sometimes sold as young as 6 weeks of age (which is illegal in the state of Virginia but still done)
  • No guarantees from breeder
  • They have no interest in your reasons for having a puppy

Puppy Mill Puppies

  • Breeders that advertise 4+ breeds of puppies for sale
  • Specialize in toy breeds
  • Parents not on premise
  • Parents do not have their health clearances
  • Puppies are sold through ‘companies’ or pet shops
  • Advertise “designer” puppies
  • They follow many of the same regulations as backyard breeders

Responsible Breeder:

  • Adult dogs are on premises
  • Female is not bred on each cycle
  • Contract is involved
  • Breeder asks questions
  • Shows the establishment where dogs are kept
  • Have titles competition

If you are considering buying a puppy do not feel that you are inconveniencing a breeder by asking them questions. And if they act like a jerk about your inquiries? Move on to your next option because dealing with them in the future could be somewhat of a hassle. What questions should you ask the breeder?

What is their policy if you can no longer keep the puppy?

  • Answer: The best breeders consider their puppies family and will ask that you return the puppy to them.

What is their health guarantee on their puppies?

  • Answer: All breeding stock should have had hips/eyes checked at the very least but research your breed and see what testing is recommended. In border collies many will have elbows checked as well.

Have the puppies had their age appropriate vaccinations and worming?

  • Answer: Yes, yes, yes. This is not a compromise. Breeders who have not had their puppies vet checked with

How long have you bred dogs?

  • Answer: The longer that a person has been breeding a dog, the better. It shows commitment and dedication to improving the breed. If they have not been breeding dogs for very long ask their goals and reason for breeding.

How long have they been living with this breed?

  • Answer: Typically you want a breeder who has been working and living with their chosen breed for years. There are a number of people who compete and see a quality in the breed they want to refine.

Are the puppies socialized?

  • Answer: Yes. Puppies who have been socialized extensively (and the goal should be 100 people before the age of 8 weeks) will make your puppy a happy, more well-adjusted companion to live with.

What have the puppies been exposed to?

  • Answer: This has more to due to the sights/sounds/experiences that the puppies encounter. Similar to socialization your puppy should come into contact with a variety of noises, textures, sights, smells, and obstacles. This not only exposes your puppy to day-to-day living but will also prepare them for the adventures of the world outside their home.

Meeting the parents/facility?

  • Answer: Breeders who care for their puppies and breeding stock should have no problem showing you where their dogs/puppies are kept, what their day-to-day living includes.


  • Answer: After contacting past puppy buyers the breeder should have no problem giving you the name, numbers, and information the breeder should have no problem supplying you this information. Another good reference would be the veterinarian who will give an honest, unbiased opinion.


  • Answer: All breeders should have a contract: this not only protects them but it should also outline the guarantees and services that are offered once the puppy is under your care. Some breeders have a limited registration contract which specifies that you spay/neuter your dog. Breeders who are hesitant or unwilling to draw up a contract might have something to hide or are unwilling to take responsibility for their puppies. A reputable breeder will screen their prospective puppy buyers to place their puppies in the best possible homes.

Does the breeder belong to the breed club/Kennel Club?

  • Answer: The dogs under the breeder should be able to produce registration to either the parent club/AKC and in many cases the dogs will be dual registered. The AKC has a Breeder of Merit award it gives to breeders after meeting specific requirements.

A responsible breeder will also want to ask you questions and may request references. Responsible rescues will ask the same and have you complete an adoption application before contacting you.

So, the problem is this: by backyard breeders and puppy mills continuing their bad practices they are placing unhealthy puppies into homes. By breeders not taking responsibility of their puppies they are allowing families to purchase their puppies and throw them into shelters when the family cannot handle the energy/personality once their puppy grows up.

Adopt first or purchase from a responsible breeder.

Typical puppy mills found throughout the country

Give the dog some space!

Body language… the key to understanding your dog. Every day owners and strangers mistaken the body language of their dog and sometimes irreversible damage is done.

With Michaux I never worried about her reaction with people: when we go to the dog park Michaux wants to gossip with the humans instead of sniffing butts with the other dogs. Io, on the other hand, was a different story. Up until about 1.5 years of age she loved everyone- and everyone loved her! For a border collie she was extremely petite, 26 pounds and knee tall, and everyone wanted to say hello to her wiggling hind parts.

When Io hit her full maturity she began to notice something and the only fault that came with it was her herding inheritance: crazy children under 6 translated in her mind to stupid sheep. The acute attention changed from submissive adoration to working border collie. On a few occasions she would lunge at children but I had the forethought to keep her under control. I began working with her, forcing her to sit in parks where children ran around and screamed and at 3.5 years of age she seems to have mellowed out with them.

Though Io was never categorized as aggression many people would allow their children to rush up to her and STICK THEIR FACES IN HER FACE!!

No, NO, NO!

People are making strides to enforce certain precautions to not only to ensure the safety of their dog but to alert the people around them that they need space. Called “The Yellow Dog Project” it is designed to alert people that the dog needs space. There are a multitude of reasons to give any dog space and by placing the yellow ribbon in plain site people will know that your dog needs space.


Diagnosis: Aggression


A diagnosis of aggression in a dog can be a fatal sentencing, especially if that canine is with a family that doesn’t want to bother rehabilitating the dog. After all, just as people are not born evil many dogs are not born knowing aggression.

It is a trait that is learned and then reinforced as the dog is able to obtain what they want through this behavior.

I pride myself on socializing and training my dogs and both my girls love attention when we are out in public. Loki is a little different and the fact that he is not a social dog complicates his life since he is considered a “flashy border collie”. When we are in public he will approach people but it needs to be his idea and if the people turn toward him he shuts down.

When attending social events Loki has never shown aggression and with reassurance his anxiety lessens.

The issue came up when I took him to a vet that is local to my home for emergency care on two occasions. The first happened with my roommate when she took him up for a rashy spot on his hindquarter and the vet tech said he tried to bite her when she tried pulling him on the scale. The second time I went after he had a vomiting episode and the tech instantly wanted him muzzled despite the lack of aggressive response. Once dubbed as an aggressive dog the attitude changes toward the canine.

I’ve been raised with dogs my whole life, I’ve been around aggressive dogs, and in the past 4 years of working rescue I’ve seen dogs with different levels of aggression come and go. I’m not an expert at dog behavior but I’m fairly confident that Loki, while fearful, has no aggression. I left the vet feeling infuriated and injured. I came to the conclusion that I would never return to that vet and if my boy had a problem I would work with him to help him recover.

While I brooded over the possibility of my boy having aggression I made an appointment with Joyce Sobey, K9 Tutor located in Powhatan, VA who I admire and trust her opinion. I told her the back story and my concerns and she began trying to aggravate Loki to see if she could spur him into action. He never once acted out against her, both while I was in sight and out of sight.

She told me I had made the correct decision in leaving the vet.

There are many different types of aggression and it is important to recognize them. It is also important to approach dogs in the proper way to avoid increased anxiety and stress.
The ASPCA has an amazing article on aggression and the varieties of aggression dogs display. Follow the link to read more.