Sunday, November 29, 2009

More training

Things continue to go well with Kane.  I am preparing her for her Canine Good Citizen certification test.  One thing I have noticed about Kane is that she does get a bit scared/overstimulated when there is a lot of stuff going on.  As such I have been taking her for walks on a nearby hike/bike trail to expose her to more/different stimuli.  She was terrible the first day we went.  There were so many smells and squirrels and people that she simply would not heel.  It took about an hour or so before she started to figure it all out.  If she went to the end of the leash and the leash became taught, I simply stop walking.  Fancy psychologist types would call this a "negative punishment," because I am punishing her for bad behavior by taking away a benefit, moving forward.

The second walk was better, but she still was not perfect.  She would decide that she wanted to check something out so she would pull, then I would stop and she would return to my side... only to pull again as soon as we resumed walking.  It was quite a little dance that we had going, but she was better by the end of the walk.  The nice thing about Kane is that you get to see some progress at the end of a training session.  I have trained countless dogs in which it took weeks to get the sorts of behaviors down that Kane picks up in a single session.

On the last walk, Cowboy and Sarah came along for the ride.  This was good and bad.  It was good because it taught Kane that she had to walk with me and not the other dogs.  It was nice to see that she can certainly walk and be in close contact with other dogs and still listen (though she was less than perfect).  It was bad because Cowboy would run and bark at everyone we encountered on the trail... everyone.  Kane got freaked out a bit when Cowboy and Sarah were barking and generally behaving badly.  The first time they went into their barking frenzy, Cowboy ran back to us and Kane snapped at him.  Kane was better by the end of the walk, but she was still a bit on edge and had trouble heeling when the other dogs were carrying on.  The interesting thing is that she never participated in the barking, she just got scared and overstimulated and stopped listening.

I was told that Kane was owned by a family which was not permitted to have a pit bull dog in their apartment complex.  Thus, she was walked very late at night and very early in the morning when she would not be seen by other people.  This seems consistent with her behavior.  She was not sure how to properly behave on a walk, but she has been wonderful greeting and hanging out with people in my house... something my own dogs have not mastered.  It may take a bit of time to desensitize her to encountering people and things while walking on leash, but I'm confident that we will get there.

She does so much well and she learns so quickly that I'm sure she will be able to adapt to most environments.  She has never had an accident in the house.  She has great focus when learning new stuff and she thinks training is great.  If I ask her to platz (down... it is actually German for "place") she does not just lie down, she throws herself onto the ground.  When she knows what she is supposed to do, man, she does it, and she looks thrilled to be doing it.  The problem will be keeping her from getting bored because she seems to want the mental stimulation.  I started teaching her roll-over (or "rollen" auf Deutsch) last night just to teach her something new.  She almost has it.

So, if you want to be a nutty dog person that competes in fly-ball, agility, or something like that, put Kane on your short list.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Misfortunes in patio construction

Although nobody has seen a bear in this area in quite some time, I do have a Bobcat living in my backyard.

Unfortunately, for me, the Bobcat is not doing anything at the moment, just sitting there.  As you can see from the little weather widget, it is raining and nasty on Bully Hill.  Here is a photo of the backyard early yesterday (the hose is the general area where I am going to build a wall and the shovels indicate where I will put the step into the rest of the backyard):

Although the good news is that we did get a lot of dirt moved yesterday.  The bad news is that it is a nasty mess and I can't get any work done on it today.  This is what is looks like right now:

That's trouble because I was planning on having the area cleared and landcaping fabric put down so I could start adding the aggregate.  The good news is that all of the stone, sand, and aggregate was delivered on time today.  The bad news is that it will be sitting in my driveway for the next day or two.  This all means that I will be dealing with a very annoyed wife.   I've seen my lovely wife take out a charging Labrador and I'm scared.  (Note: I have a lengthy history of starting large projects and not completing them in a manner most people would describe as timely.  This seems to be one of the very few things that frustrates the Mrs.)  Thankfully, the chicken coop has a heating lamp in it so I should be able to stay warm tonight.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Movie time

I realized that I was getting a bit excited about Kane's agility performance and I forgot to show some of the more basic obedience training. Here are a few short videos showing Kane's progress. She's not perfect, but she is doing really well for two weeks of training. I apologize in advance for the shakiness of the video. I might be going through cheese withdrawals. Still, if you get motion sickness, you might want to take something before watching.


Obviously, she should be in a lot closer to my hip and she should not be jumping up, but she wraps her head around my left leg nicely and she really is committed to staying by my side. So much so that I could not get a video of her recall this morning. She simply would not wander off in order for me to call her back.


Kane was performing a sit/stay beautifully. I took out the camera to get a video and then she started messing around. Thus, this was take number four. Maybe we still need a bit more work on this one.

She does a down/stay too, but I didn't think it warranted a separate video.

For something a bit more exciting, I took this video of HT and Pea playing fetch. As I have noted previously, we were getting bored with the same old, same old, so we have been switching stuff up from day to day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


As I have noted in my previous posts, Kane, or should I say, my uncanny X-girl (that is showing a bit of my inner dork), is doing great with her training.  She has advanced from simple recall and heeling to agility work in just a week.  That is pretty remarkable.  I got some good shots when we went out for the morning training session.

She was excited and ready to go this morning.  I think she is getting the idea that is fun stuff.

The tunnel was a bit more difficult for her than the jumps, but tossing a few bits-o-kibble in there got her through it.

Jumps were no problem for Kane.  She was doing them in a perfect heel.  For the sake of photo-taking I was making her do a sit before jumping.  My timing with the digital camera is not very good and it takes about 50 shots to get 10 photos with a dog in it.

Even the taller jumps were not an issue.

She had some concerns about the tire jump at first, but she got the idea after a few sessions.

That A-frame was an easy task mentally, but...

it does get pretty difficult when you've been through the course a few times.  I think I've mentioned that she has issues with her stamina.

Finally, the see-saw.  At first she thought it was another jump.  Thus, I have been keeping it simple and rewarding her for getting up on it.  We have started with the front paws.  We'll make things a bit more difficult next time.

We're gonna keep pluggin' along, but I could not be more pleased with this dog.

UPDATE:  She got the see-saw this evening and is now running through the entire course without stopping.  She's a monster.  Someone is going to be getting a really fantastic dog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Training Kane

Well, this is not the best title for a post, but Kane is at least two years old so she has already been raised.  In fact, it seems that she has already been trained relatively well.  She is house trained.  She has not had a single accident in the house.  Admittedly, she is not always motivated to do her training.  Often in the mornings she would rather patrol the fenceline and sniff all of the new smells... like so:

She has been adapting well to the new surroundings.  Kane and Snow actually opened diplomatic relations the other day and they reached some sort of understanding.  It's sort of like SALT II, but it involves less snorting and running about.

Kane has actually been doing very well with her training.  She has obviously had some work previously.  Her recall is good, she heels (better offleash than on), and she knows sit, paw, and "other paw."  We even did the jumps and A-frame and she was great.  (No photos as it gets dark far too early these days).  We've even been slowly transitioning her into the home environment and letter her mingle more with HT and Pitter P.  I like to promote positive interactions so I tend to keep things brief at first.  Again, things are going well.  HT did take offense to the nose bumps, but the dogs were separated without incident and subsequent interactions have gone more smoothly.  Rome was not built in a day and hanging out in a house is far more complicated socially for dogs than going on a walk together in a neutral environment.  Thus, I am pleased.

Finally, I just wanted to share this photo of Cowboy and Ellie.  Although Cowboy and Sarah harass the horses from time to time, it is so nice to know that they have very peaceful interactions.  I do think that they all enjoy eachother's company.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Big Fat Scoresheet

It is a lovely day on Bully Hill. The little weather widget I recently put on the side of this blog informs me that it is sunny and a balmy 67 degrees. My chores are done, and I get to watch some football on the couch with sleeping dogs.

Sunday is not just for football, but it's also a day of reflection. As such, I'm reflecting on my first week of vacation. Yes, I'm through the first quarter of vacation and I'm checking the score.

Now, as any well-tuned athlete will tell you, you've got to pace yourself when undertaking a marathon event such as a month-long vacation. As I mentioned, I have not had a vacation in five years. The last thing I want to do is come out too strong and pull something. That could be disasterous. Still, I want to get a good pace down and set the base for a productive vacation.

I started off smart and did a little prep work for stuff I planned to do later. I got some wood, screws, fencing nails, and I went to pick out rock for my patio. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible all week and it was not a good time to start grading, but I could get some stuff done in the garage.

I have previously noted that I felt like a bad chicken owner because I had not set up a proper brooding box for the hens. I was using a small, store-bought, brooding box made of very thin plywood and it was just sitting on top of a garbage can. It was pretty sad. Thus, I constructed something better:

I mounted the new brooding box above the trash can since the chickens are comfortable with that location. The set up works much better and the chickens seem happy with it. The morning after I installed it, I found an egg in each compartment and one of the other Orpington gals layed her first egg later in the afternoon.

Next, I did some environmentally friendly work on my property. Bully Hill Farm is bordered by streams on two sides. In one location the fencing was extended to permit the horses to get a drink of water from one of the streams. This was good for the horses, but they were really destroying the stream bank and were creating a lot of erosion. This was bad for the stream's health and the ecosystem in general. Thus, I fenced off the area and planted a white pine sapling to firm up the soil and prevent further erosion. The tree will also help to shade the stream and keep the water from heating up in the sun. All of this is important for the brown trout which live in the larger creek into which our streams flow.

Finally, I saved a furry life. True, it is a big deal, but despite what you are obviously thinking, I don't like to call myself a hero. In truth, it has been rather easy because Kane is a really good dog. We went out and did some glamour shots this morning:

We started out with a big, happy smile. It's a crowd pleaser.

Then we went with the "you see something funny over there" profile shot.

Serious and brooding. Yes.

Finally, we did the classic profile,


and the very new, rolling in chicken poop pose... very nouveau, very raw.

Despite rolling in poop, Kane has been a very good guest. I let her play with Petunia for a bit last night. Petunia is really dog social and submissive, so she is a good test dog. Kane initiated play by doing some pretty stiff nose-bumps to Petunia's neck. They ran about after that and Kane did some play bows to keep the action going. Things got a little crazy and there was some humping, but Petunia took it all in stride. Nobody got bent out of shape.

I did get some shots of Kane interacting with Cowboy. You can see that she is upright, but relaxed; her tail is raised a bit, but she was wagging in a relaxed manner.

I took a video of a subsequent interaction. It was rather uneventful, but that is a good thing.

I also got a chance to test her for food aggression. She responded perfectly and did not even attempt to follow the food bowl when I pulled it away from her. Note, she does seem to do some resource guarding with her food when HT is near her.  I generally recommend feeding dogs in different areas anyway. She was picking up "heel" when we started training, but she does tend to get distracted by all of the new smells and stimuli. Finally, I bathed her this morning after the chicken poop incident and she was very well behaved.

Kane is a really good dog and should make a fine companion animal.

Thus, at the end of a week, I'm off to a slow, yet steady start. Since I don't really have any competition, and despite my inability to stick to a single sports metaphor, I'm off to a very subjective 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. It's all part of being a chicken owning, tree hugging, life saving, ecowarrior/hero.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back to Business

I have stuff that I need to accomplish on my vacation. Of the utmost importance is building a patio on the back of my house. Mrs. BFP wants a patio and it would be a great place to put my hammock and grill. Thus, I went to a supply company that sells rock, manufactured pavers, and such. Mrs. BFP wants an old-tyme patio made of flagstone. I decided on a natural or snap-edged bluestone.

It has some nice color variants with areas of rust and gold. I think it will be a good look for a patio.

You can see a bit more of the colors on this larger slab. I think I might use a larger rock for steps and caps on top of a small wall. I just need to decide whether I will build the wall by stacking the bluestone or using a block.

The block would be easier with which to work and it might add a nice contrast. Thankfully, I have a bit of time to decide. I still need to grade the site and prepare a base before doing anything.

Now clearly, I have gotten off course a bit with this blog. The intent was to use it as a means to advertise dogs with whom I have been working. Of course, I have been working with the horses, trying to figure out how to be a farmer, getting a new job, etc... so I have not had the opportunity to take in a foster. That is until I went on vacation.

I just got back from a local animal shelter and picked up a pit bull dog that was about to be euthanized. Her name is Kane. The local Humane Society has agreed to take her into their system, but she needed a short-term foster until room opens up. I was happy to lend a hand.

I asked staff about her history and they stated that Kane was an owner surrender. Staff indicated that Kane's former owners had a young child and that Kane never showed any food aggression and always played well with the child. The previous owners indicated that she had some possible aggression towards smaller animals and was dog selective. Kane was just vaccinated on November 6th for rabies, distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvo. She was also given a dewormer. She weighed 58.2 lbs. She is tall, leggy, and on the big size for a pit bull dog. It is likely that she has something else in her.

With the help of staff, I took her to a back room to do an assessment. I generally use the SAFER test and I strap a heart rate monitor on the subject dog just to get some dry, non-subjective data. I was a bit surprised to find a resident cat occupying the room. You want to do an assessment in an area without a lot of distractions. A cat is generally a very big distraction to a dog, especially a dog that might have some prey drive aggression. Thus, I was even more surprised to find that Kane didn't really care about the cat. I put the heart rate monitor on her and she was around 120 bpm (beats per minute). That is typical of a dog doing light exercise. She actually walked up to the cat and sniffed her for a moment and then walked away. Her heart rate increased slightly to 129 bpm during the sniff. I did not get a picture of that because I didn't think it was wise to be distracted... just in case. I did take this photo later on.
Anyway, I went through the SAFER testing protocol. My notes indicate that she behaved in a friendly manner when I looked into her eyes. Her heart rate stayed at 120 bpm. I actually did it twice and she did avert her eyes on one occasion. I then kneeled down and started to knead her skin from her head to her tail. Her heart rate increased to 129 bpm. She wagged her tail in a loose level wag and behaved in a friendly manner, but she did give a quick snout lick when I was at her hips. After that, I assumed a playful position and tried to engage her in play. Her heart rate increased to 155 bpm and she bounded about with a loose wagging tail which was raised slightly. I gave her a playful smack on the butt when she moved away. She remained friendly and playful. I let her calm down a bit and then sat her in front of me. I ran my hand down her front left leg, then lifted her paw and applied some pressure. Her heart rate increased to 134 bpm and she licked my face. Her expression was loose and relaxed and her eyes were soft. I put her paw down and then reached for her leg to repeat the procedure. She actually gave me her paw on the second try. She remained friendly. She was not interested in a bowl of food I provided to her, nor was she interested in the toys I provided. I witnessed her interaction with a cat, so I did not have staff bring out a dog. I recognize that the previous owners indicated she was animal selective and I will accept their statements.

She did very well with the testing so I decided she would be a good project dog. She seemed to enjoy the car ride home.

When we arrived back at Bully Hill, we were greeted by the Bumpases. She behaved appropriately, though she appeared a bit nervous. I did not let her linger too much because Sarah has a penchant for getting aggressive with other females.
I set her up in the exercise room, left the door open, and put up a baby gate. She behaved appropriately with HT and Petunia, but again appeared a bit tense. HT did bark at her later in the day and Kane did give a growl back.

Finally, I took her outside and she ran about for a while, investigating her surroundings. Snow noticed a new dog in the yard and came down to investigate. Kane did approach Snow and again seemed tense. Her hair was raised from hackles to tail and when Snow tried to smell her, she ran away.

This was not good for Snow because she started prancing around the yard with an inflated ego. Kane and I played fetch and she was able to focus on the game and ignore the horses. She played well and I had no problem taking the ball from her.

She tired quickly so we took short breaks. I then brought her back in and she jumped in her bed.
We will start training tomorrow. She will need some better manners on leash (she pulls a bit) and she needs to get a bit more attentive with her recall. Nonetheless, she will be a fun little project for the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Changing Seasons

In every part of the world, seasonal changes are marked by special events. People in Capistrano (wherever that is) get to see their swallows return in spring. People in San Diego witness the migration of gray whales at the onset of winter. Here at Bully Hill Farm, we see the first signs of deer parts in fall. It is a truly magical, albeit quite gruesome occurrence. At times, it appears as if I have been burying landmines in hopes of surprising unsuspecting stags. Although I have been striving to be unbearable, I don't think landmines are the answer. To the contrary, I have nothing to do with the migration of deer parts to my yard. It just sort of happens.

On this lovely morning, as I walked outside, I was greeted by the first deer hoof of the season. Yes, yes, magical. Moments later, I witnessed the arrival of the first deer pelt of the season.

It is still quite early in the season so the pelt was still a bit bloody.

Cowboy ran about with the pelt for a bit, taunting his mother with his grand prize. Much fun ensued.

The arrival of fall, as marked by the death of an innocent animal, might cause a lesser man to think, but not me. I've got a month of work-free living to do and I'm not about to ruin it by thinking. There are just some things that I cannot resolve. Since we have destroyed the natural balance of things by eliminating wolves from our ecosystem, must we kill deer to keep their numbers in check? (Though I do know a place where we can get a few wolves to release into the wild). Are the ice caps melting due to global warming or is this merely a cyclical event? What is that guy in the new Snuggie commercial so happy about? I just don't know right now. Get back to me in early December, I'm just going to settle in and watch the chickens prepare to fly south for the winter. Afterall, fall is officially here.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I recently accepted a new job, which is a good thing. I worked out a starting date of December 2, 2009 with my new employer. I figured that I would give two weeks notice and then take a little time off. To my surprise, when I gave notice, my employer declined the opportunity to have me continue to work for two more weeks. Thus, I am thrilled to say that I will be on vacation for the next month.

I have not taken a vacation in five years, so this is really quite an event for me. To say that I have been a bit giddy with excitement would be an understatement. As I was dancing with HT the other day and singing about the joys of a month without work, my long-suffering wife commented that I was going to be unbearable during my time off. I'm not sure what she meant by this, but I will assume that she was making note of my strong work ethic and desire to protect my family. Since I will have so much time, surely I will be getting a lot done around the farm and amongst other things, keeping everyone safe from bears. I assume that's what she was implying.

Now, this morning, despite the fact that I am on vacation (did I mention that it's for a month?), I woke up at 5:30 and went downstairs for my morning cup of coffee. I went about my morning farm chores and then came back inside to a pair a sleeping pups. I figured that I would treat myself to a nice breakfast since I would obviously need the energy for all of the work I was going to do. Beatrix started laying this past week, and she is producing some small brown eggs. Since we are getting two eggs a day, we can't quite keep up with the egg production. I decided that I would make myself some scrambled eggs. I looked in the fridge and realized that we had some leftover pesto so I added some pesto and goat cheese to the scrambled eggs.

It seemed like a pretty good combination of fresh ingredients. My cousin is a chef in New York. He came down to visit last weekend, so I have been thinking a bit more about cooking. (Generally, I just think a lot about eating).

I mixed everything up and threw it into the frying pan and started cooking. Evidently it smelled good enough to get the attention of a sleeping HT. She came into the kitchen a bit bleary-eyed with her nose in the air.

I plated the scrambled eggs with some whole wheat toast and then retired to the couch to watch a bit of Sports Center.

Frankly, the addition of pesto to scrambled eggs made the whole thing look a bit green and slightly unappetizing. It didn't taste all that great either. I'm not a very good cook it turns out.

Since I was full, I figured it was time to start getting unbearable. The problem is that I don't really know all that much about bears. A little internet research informed me that bears have not lived in my neck-o-the-woods for quite some time. Of note, I visited a wolf sanctuary this weekend with my wife and in-laws. The sanctuary was a little less sophisticated than I would have imagined, and I'm not really sure that the tour guide knew much about wolves or animals in general. We were treated to interesting tidbits of information such as the fact that wolves will not each skunks, possums, or cats because "they are made of the same meat." I have no idea what that means, but I guess that's why I don't give the tours. Regardless, it was still really interesting to watch the wolves interact, and they seemed healthy and happy.

Now, I'm well aware that I was supposed to walk away with the knowledge that these are wild and potentially dangerous animals that should not be kept as pets, but they just seemed like big dogs to me. I think that I could get pretty far training these guys because they were obviously quite smart. Still, I learned that wolves want nothing to to do with humans, and thus the training would be difficult. Indeed, wolves, despite their reputation, will not attack healthy humans... maybe we are also made of the same meat, I'm not sure. Whatever the case, I'm pretty sure that I could protect my family from any animal that is not inclined to attack. I guess I am not just unbearable but also unwolfable.