Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Corgi Obedience

Corgi Obedience... funny, right?  In the 18 months Winnie has been in this world and the 16 months she's been in our home I sometimes wonder if I'm really cut out for a smart independent dog. 

Maybe independent is putting it too nicely.  This girl is flat out stubborn!  You can give her an instruction like "come" and she'll look at you, evaluate if what your offering is more fun than what she's doing now and if it is... great.  Come, indeed.  But if it's not it's as if she replies "Eh, I'm good, thanks." 

I am sometimes amazed at how the intuitive herder comes out of this little creature.  For instance, I took her to my office yesterday afternoon after I came home for lunch and she was great.  She walked with me (no leash) from the house to the car, car to the building, building entrance to my office, and so on.  She visited with my coworkers and then settled down under my desk and took a nap while I worked.  She learned in a flash that she didn't much care for the noise the copy machine made and it only took twice for her to know which way I was heading.  If I was going to the machine, she'd stay by my desk... if I was going to Jan's office... I should count her in.  That is the sort of day I LOVE being a corgi owner.

But there are also the days (such as in the obedience class graduation photo shown above) that I get so frustrated I can hardly stand myself.  Training with distractions, for instance, any of us that have read a training book or taken a class has heard of it.  You teach our dog a skill such as "sit" then gradually increase the amount of time you ask them to do it and the amount of distractions to then teach "sit with impulse control."  We do this but after Winnie figured out that she couldn't break her sit to get the ball I was bouncing she did, in fact, stop focusing on the ball like I had asked but then proceeded a full-out barking tantrum while looking right at me in protest.  What do you do about that???  The next time I started bouncing the ball she forgot about it instantly (good) while in the next instant started her barking fit again (bad).   Ugh, what did I really train this dog to do? 

The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around DogsI know I referenced this book in my last blog post (and I likely will again) but it is a really good read.  For anyone else who needs to trick their corgi into being obedient rather than just asking them too there are some handy tricks about body language that have been fairly effective for us.  I wager a guess that this is particularly true for corgis since it appeals to their nature of recognizing the body language of a flock.  If there's anyone else out there with a few tricks or tips I'm happy to hear it.  Now that I think of it... why don't I just link you to her blog, too?  Here it is:  The Other End of the Leash Blog

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bringing Home Winnie

Look at the cute little bugger. Yup, I took the liberty of adding a big red arrow to the photo so no one would miss which one was mine. 

Winnie looked like a little Rottweiler when she was born.  All black, two little brown eyebrows,  a brown lower jaw, and a white splash on the back of her neck.  It was pretty striking compared to all of her brothers and sisters that more of less looked like perfect panda bears. 

After my husband and I decided that a second dog was going to come home.  Deciding which kind and from where was a bit of a hurdle.  I wanted a corgi and a puppy.  Our previous pup was a rescue dog with a slew of behavior issues that in the end no amount of exercise or training we did would overcome. The truth is, Winnie is the first dog I've ever taken full responsibility for and I'm glad we decided to check out some breeders and get a puppy. 

The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around DogsI read some good advice in a book called The Other End of the Leash.  I actually didn't read this book until just a few months ago but it is wonderful and my number 2 pick for anyone thinking about getting a dog.  The good advice was to visit breeders before they expect a litter so you can see the parents.  It reduces the temptation to walk out of there leaving a deposit on a dog you've never met.  Now, again, each dog is different but if both of their parents display the qualities you like... the odds are much more in your favor that the pup will, too. 

Winnie is a very excited animal.  She loves people, walks, toys, dogs, people, walks, car rides, people, and so on... whatever she's doing at precisely this moment is her favorite thing in the world.  She lives life full of enthusiasm and completely in the moment.  I can truthfully say, her parents did as well. 

Pictured to the right is a photo of Winnie after having been home a few weeks with our dog Chester.  Flipped on her back wanting nothing other and acceptance and play is exactly the type of pup we were after and exactly the type of pup we got.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The New Work of Dogs

The New Work of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love, and FamilyIn  the interest of full disclosure I stole the title for this blog entry from a book I read called The New Work of Dogs by Jon Katz(linked to the side)

Jon - Please don't be upset.  The truth is I do hope that I can piggy back off your clever title and gain a few more readers via search engines but I've also provided a link (click the book) so maybe they'll buy your book.  Even? 

Let me set the scene for what my life was like a few years ago.  I am in my late twenty's.  I recently changed jobs, got married, and moved to a different city.  It would seem like the last thing on my mind should be getting a dog.  And to be honest... it was.  My husband already had a dog and a house.  I loved all three of them (the husband, dog, and house) and life happily moved along for over a year.  But after settling into a happy routine I felt like there was something missing.  My husband, being much more intuitive than I am, tried to coach me through the trouble shooting process.  "Should we redecorate a room or two?"  "Maybe remodel one completely?"  He was right to an extent.  I did move into a ready-made life style and he was on track while trying to help me put my stamp on things.  But at the end of the day I didn't really feel a need to change the view.  The view is quite nice, actually.  What I wanted was an ongoing house project that was my creation and not something I was just maintaining.  Bingo! A dog. 

This can lead to all sorts of spin off topics such as: "Dogs or Kids?", "Two Dogs vs. One Dog - Pros & Cons", "Puppy or Adult", "Rescue or Purebred", the list can go on and on.  Some of these I've answered and some of these I have not. 

It is my opinion as a dog owner that issues like what kind of dog and where to get it are really easy.  We all have an idea of what we like and only takes minutes to go online and take a quiz to see if a particular breed fits your life style.  The questions get slightly harder as you start to honestly evaluate if you really have time to go for a walk every day and do your obedience class homework.  It's tough to give up trying that new Mexican restaurant with your co-workers because you need to run home and let the puppy out on your lunch break.  And how is your family going to deal with chewed up things?  However, the hardest thing of all is to ask yourself why you're really getting a dog.  I guess it's easy for some... they want a running buddy.  Okay.  I'll buy that.  But for me it was obviously more complicated.   

For anyone that knows it's more complicated for them The New Work of Dogs is a must read.  Jon Katz makes a study of all the complicated reasons people have dogs.  He presents it in stories that are easy to read.  You find yourself drawn to the subjects and starting to understand that even though you got a Corgi.  Her job isn't to herd cattle anymore.   It's to take care of you.  The New Work of Dogs helped me understand that there were some of my needs that a Corgi could meet beautifully all on her own without even trying, others that I could train her to do, and for the rest I was just going to have to understand that she was a dog... part of the family, but not a person.  And it's unfair to her dog-ness to try and make her human. 

The New Work of Dogs.  Pick number 3 on my top 4 books every dog owner should read.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Looking for a Partner

If you looked at this picture and said "Awe" you wouldn't be the first.  On Winnie's first day home there was little else you could focus on but that adorable gerbil-like creature that would one day grow up to be a Corgi. 

Dogs have intrigued me from the very beginning.  Even as a child I found something fundamentally civilized about dogs and people living and working together.  I remember studying my Child Craft Encyclopedia of Dogs from cover to cover several times over.  I could name dozens of breeds on sight or by description, tell you what they were used for, and where they came from.  I knew what made a dog different from a wolf.  I could retell the countless stories I read of heroic dogs through the ages.  Perhaps children feel this more keenly than adults but there was something about having a partner tailored for a united purpose that was immensely satisfying.  Boy, did I ever want a dog. 

We had a few growing up.  Our first dog, Prince (named after Prince Charming from Sleeping Beauty), was really my father's dog.  Now, as an adult, I understand that an 8 year old cannot possibly be fully responsible for training and caring for an animal as needy as a dog but at the time I felt a disconnect with Prince because of my lack of involvement.  He was a hyper Springer Spaniel that spent most of his life outside and not very engaged with the family.  Springer's are also in the sporting group. 

Now, I know every dog is different but let's be honest, we all identify more acutely with some over others be it for looks or personality and the sporting group is just one I've never been able to get excited about.  I'm not a hunter (I don't object to it... it's just not where I get my kicks).  The idea of chasing something through the woods is just not my idea of a good time so how can I expect a creature that has been developed over centuries to think hunting is the only way to spend their day to be on the same page as me?  I think it's a bit unrealistic.  The herding group however, is something I can get on board with.  This is a rounded, all-purpose, group of farm dogs that think independently as well as work closely with their humans, do a little light guarding, and pride themselves on a job well done.  Sign me up for one of those.  Of course, this group isn't without it's downsides but that's another blog. 

How did I choose a Corgi?  Largely it was due to some friends of mine that always had a pair around the house.  And even as a house-dog (rather than a farm-dog) these little herders found some chores to do and had a good time doing it.  Those long and low bodies, huge perked ears, and smart happy faces make me melt.  Every well adjusted Corgi I've ever met has at some point looked over their shoulder and up at you with a grin that reeks of an inside joke.  I was hooked.  And so at the beginning of my adult life - my childhood partner answered her call to duty when Winnie came home.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Herding The Corgi

Hello.  My Name is Amy and this is my dog Winnie, a Pembrook Welsh Corgi. 

This blog, Herding The Corgi, came into being for several reasons.  First, I'm in the business of electronic communications and I want a pet project (no pun intended) that is open to experimentation and creativity without any lasting consequence.  Second, Winnie (my actual pet project), is a subject I never tire of and will always provide a topic for conversation.  I often find myself reflecting on our shared lives together and do hope that, over time, this blog will not only help me organize my thoughts but provide a vehicle for community and feedback for some of the other dog/corgi owners that have ever wondered "Who is herding whom?"