Archive for January, 2021

And Then There Were None

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

I have so many pictures and videos and things to post, the last couple of weeks have been crazy and I really have had to just neglect the blog in favor of work and getting the puppies home.

Unsurprisingly, I have some thoughts about the last couple of weeks here.

Choosing homes for puppies is one of the best and one of the worst things about breeding. Some breeders just let people choose a puppy and it’s all good. That works for them. That isn’t what works for me. The way I do things doesn’t work for everyone and that’s ok. I use an application, talk to people, and see if there’s a puppy who seems like a good fit once their personalities come out and once I’ve done their structural evaluations at 8 weeks. My obligation is to my puppies, and I hope people realize that I’m doing my best to find the best home for the puppy AND the right puppy for the owner. And that making a bad match does neither party any favors.

There was a lot of frantic, last minute running around this week and COVID makes everything more difficult (I mean, obviously most difficult for those who are sick or who’ve lost someone to the virus, but it’s amazing how many things you never even think about are harder because of it). And obviously the background level of stress and anxiety is so much higher, so it’s unsurprising that the usually-stressful time of sending the puppies out into the world to start their lives was even worse this time.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the homes for this litter. I always hope I did a good enough job raising them. Both parents are stellar dogs with great temperaments, the puppies all seem like great dogs. But you always worry. Will their owners love them as much as they deserve? Will they love them as much as we do? Will they kiss them on the nose the way that puppy loves? Will they play tug the way that THAT puppy loves? Will they talk to them in the stupid squeaky voice that makes their faces light up and their tails wag? Will they blow on that puppy’s face the way that makes her crazy happy? Will they realize what an amazing being they have to share their lives with now? Will they realize that they are about to become that dog’s whole world?

Letting go is hard. Packing up and putting away the puppy stuff is bittersweet. Going back to normal life is comforting. Planning the next litter is exciting.

I don’t know that people who haven’t raised a litter understand just how much work it is. It’s a labor of love for sure and it’s so gratifying and so fun. But it’s also work. SO much laundry, SO much poop, SO many days you just want to come home from a hard day at work and sit on the couch and veg out and you can’t. But so worth it to see them out there starting their lives and learning about their new people.

Red girl Alfa is now named Mimic and is living in Canada with her great aunt (Grandma Zhora’s sister). She will learn to play agility and probably already knows ten tricks.

Orange boy Bravo is now named Timber and is living in Canada with a lovely couple who are first time puppy/Vallhund owners and who did everything right from research to networking and were so excited to get him it makes me smile every time. It does your heart good.

Yellow girl Charlie is now named Valkyrie (Kyrie) and is living in Vermont with a lovely family who’ve had a Vallhund before. She will learn agility and will go kayaking!

Green boy Delta is now named Whiskey and is living in Canada in an experienced dog home. He will learn agility!

Blue boy Echo is now named Enzo and is co-owned by me and a lovely couple who are friends of mine. He will learn Barn Hunt and will hopefully be a show dog too!

Purple girl Foxtrot is now named Daisy and is living in beautiful Prince Edward Island where she will hopefully be a show dog and will definitely play on the beach!

Pink girl Golf is now named Jovie and is co-owned by me and a wonderful couple who also have Jovie’s great uncle (Zhora’s brother). She is their third Vallhund from me and if that’s not an enormous and humbling compliment I don’t know what is. She will learn agility, hopefully be a show dog, and will go some way towards healing hearts broken by the untimely loss of their oldest dog.

Have wonderful lives my D litter. We will miss you.

The Name Game

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

So I made a video about how to play this game. I didn’t invent the game but it’s a super useful way to train your dog to come when called!

This is classical conditioning (like Pavlov): you are teaching the dog to associate their name with something good. They don’t have to DO anything to get the reward, they just have to hear their name, and then eat a cookie!

Here’s how I play this:

  • choose a boring (to the dog) and small room in your house (the bathroom is perfect)
  • take a handful of kibble or treats (literally no more than 10-15 per session is enough)
  • take the puppy and the food into the room and close the door
  • say the puppy’s name, feed a treat
  • say the puppy’s name, feed a treat
  • not “come”, not “sit”, not “down”, this isn’t teaching the dog a command, it’s simply building an association between their name and something good
  • do this twice a day for two or three weeks, until you can tell the dog is looking for the treat when they hear you call them
  • periodically just walk up to the dog, call their name, feed a treat (I still do this with my 13.5 year old dog!), this keeps putting money in the bank that the one time you really REALLY need them to come when you call them, they’ll think it’s worth their while
  • try your best not to “poison” their name by using it for negative things (baths, nail trims, end of playtime, just go get them).
  • occasionally call your dog to you, take their collar, feed a treat, and let them go back to what they were doing (so they learn that coming when called doesn’t mean playtime is over necessarily, sometimes it means snacks!)
  • it is NEVER a bad idea to play this game at ANY point in your dog’s life!

I have Orange boy Timber on my lap for this video, but in a bathroom you can just let the puppy wander around (remember, he doesn’t have to come to you, he just has to hear his name and eat a treat, even if you have to follow him around and say his name and feed him like a crazy person!)

Stacked Pictures

Monday, January 4th, 2021

Here are the stacked pictures, taken Sunday (ideal time for assessing structure is 8 weeks +/- a day, they turned 8 weeks on Monday). I made my dear friend and mentor Ulla Gamberg get on the phone with me and assess them with me (overall I was extremely pleased with this litter!):

Red girl Alfa:

Orange boy Bravo (now called Timber):

Yellow girl Charlie:

Green boy Delta:

Blue boy Echo (now called Enzo):

Purple girl Foxtrot (now called Daisy):

Pink girl Golf (now called Jovie):

Day 54 – Clicker

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

My timing isn’t great (video is unforgiving), but they are getting the idea.

Yesterday was affirmation of why I have started sending them home at 10 weeks instead of 8 weeks. Yellow girl Charlie and red girl Alfa, who’ve both been happy and confident all along, were worried about the paper bag I gave them to play with. Fear period. Today they are almost back to normal, but pink girl Golf, who’s consistently been one of the bravest of them all (and who was a maniac with the paper bag just yesterday), is worried about things today. Fear period.

Fear periods are very normal and can come and go quite quickly, but the wrong thing at the wrong time during a fear period can be a problem sometimes. Much better not to upend their entire world when there’s a statistically higher risk of a fear period! You can see pink being quite cautious and subdued in her clicker video below, when she was perfectly happy and reckless as is her usual personality yesterday. Fear periods can happen throughout their first two years according to some behaviorists. We used to think you should work through them but now most think you should just ignore them and they should normally just go away (and the risk of what’s called “single event learning”, which is where one bad experience can cause a significant and lasting issue, is higher during a fear period).

The paper bag:

You will see in pink girl’s clicker video that she is quite subdued, this is NOT normal for her, as anyone who’s been to visit them will attest, she’s normally an absolute lunatic (and look at her in the paper bag video taken just yesterday). Purple girl and red girl are also a little quieter than normal.

Red girl:

Orange boy:

Yellow girl:

Green boy:

Blue boy:

Purple girl:

Pink girl: