Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cover Girl

I woke up this morning to discover I was lying on my side on about 8 inches of bed. Behind me was a short drop to an uninviting floor and in front of me were three very close Ridgebacks. Boy was up by my head curled into a tight Ridgeball, Leeloo was jammed into the space between me and Cora who was on Leeloo's other side. Everyone was very ... close together. I know this was a result of the blanket falling off of them in the night and in an effort to stay as warm as possible they all migrate toward me and each other. If the blanket is over them they are inclined to allow me a little more space.

Normally I'd wake up in the night to put their blanket back on but for whatever reason last night I didn't and they spent a most of the tragic night with no binkie. The only dog who is binkie obsessed is Leeloo to the point where she demands it be placed back over her when it falls off. If we are in the living room and it falls off it is simply a matter of me noticing and replacing it, if I don't notice there will likely be some pointed whining, increasing in urgency and volume until I take action.

At night she used to be quite subtle about the binkie service where she would start to quietly wake me up - it was a sort of half sigh, half wistful whine like 'I wish my binkie was on me' or 'Gosh, I miss my binkie'. The whining would often be integrated into my dream - something like a door creaking or the wind blowing but it sounded like a whine from a dog. Eventually the whining would become so insistent that it would wake me up and I would realize I was not dreaming of the whining, it was actually happening.

Lately though Leeloo has taken a more direct approach to late night binkie emergencies. I'd be fast asleep, usually lying facing the edge of the bed, and would be awakened by Leeloo standing with her nose about 6 inches away from my face and emitting the binkie whine. I would wake up, say "Whuh wid Doodle?" and she would dance on the spot for a moment and whine again. When I sit up, she would race around to the other side of the bed, hop on, lay down in her usual spot (between Boy at the head and Cora and Esme at the foot) in a Ridgeball and make her self ready for the binkie. I would throw the binkie over her, Boy and Cora (Esme gets too hot) and she would, without fail, emit the Happy Leeloo Groan of Satisfaction and fall asleep within seconds.

Sometimes the binkie demands can happen multiple times in a night which means lack of sleep for me. Lately I find that Leeloo has trained me to wake up and check on the binkie situation before it reaches critical mass. I don't mind catering to this strange demand of hers because for some reason that Happy Leeloo Groan of Satisfaction fills my heart every time I hear it and even if it's 3:32am all is forgiven.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

White Out

Right after the storm that we had last week I took the dogs out to get some photos of Cora's first walk in deep snow. The consensus of the dogs is they don't like deep snow because it means they can't run at top speed like maniacs and it's a lot more work to explore the bushes and undergrowth. They do still enjoy it though and one of Leeloo's very favorite things is catching snowballs.

She has perfected the art over the last couple winters and she happily eats the snow she's caught as though it's a treat. She is also very competitive so to catch the balls first is her main objective, to the point of roaring in the face of any dog who dares to try and beat her.

The dog who has the most trouble in the snow is obviously Esme. She does not love snow. She smashes through it as best she can but she would certainly have preferred some snowmobilers had come through before we got to the woods so that she could get around a little more easily. The Ridgebacks to a fine job of mashing down the drifts but she still has some of her own work to do!

Raimi has the longest legs but of the three big dogs he likes the snow the least. He doesn't really want to break trail, he wants to explore the smells of the woods ... hard to do when you are faced with several inches of snow and bits of your body you'd prefer not to get chilled.

Still, they had their moments of racing down the paths, then they'd come racing back. It was nice for me because they flattened some of the snow but it didn't prevent me from getting some into my boots. The soft wet heavy snow on the day we went for this walk is not conducive to staying dry.

Cora certainly enjoyed herself once she got over the change in the landscape. She spent quite a lot of time playing with Leeloo, and Leeloo obliged by wrestling her into snow drifts multiple times. As always they were 'herded' by Esme who is on their heels.

I caught this one of Cora giving her daddy a kiss. For some reason, although it's not perfect, it's a photo that I really like.

This one is pretty neat, they were both sniffing the same scent and had each turned - to me it looks like they are dancing.
Leeloo stopped on our way back to the truck to take one last look at the winter wonderland. In the last few days the snow has all but disappeared with above zero temperatures and the dogs are much happier with the walks!

Still, this is a pretty happy Boy!

And Baby Cora. I love this girl so much I can't even begin to describe it. Those eyes are sure hard to resist and that long pokey nose, giant ears and ready kisses are what makes her annoying puppy habits easy to forgive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cold Mountain

I think I mentioned it was supposed to snow. And how. It started at about 1pm and has continued to snow for the last 8 hours. By the time I got home from work at 3pm it was already a couple inches on the ground. I let the dogs out and although Raimi and Leeloo ran out with no problem, Cora screeched to a halt when she saw the scary white stuff on the deck. It certainly took some convincing to get her to step onto the deck but in the end a little push on her bottom resulted in her very first 'real' snow experience. Once out in the yard it was all excitement and plant chewing for her ... what a little cutie pie!

It's not really cold enough for the snow to stick to the dogs, once it lands it starts to melt but I did get some nice pictures before it became too dark to take any photos. Cora was very hard to photograph because once she committed to the snow experience it was hard to get her to stand still. Leeloo and Raimi were a little more cooperative because they were constantly expecting me to open the back door to let them into the house. These are the "Let me in, it's snowing and cold" faces.

I did get some nice photos of them looking like I wasn't deliberately torturing them. Leeloo perks up if she thinks I have some food for her, otherwise she reverts to the Sad Face as above.

Boy is better about looking handsome and regal in the snow. Personally I think all the wrinkles of concern make him look rather thoughtful. Snow dandruff is so cute and sparkly.

Leeloo managed to convince Cora to play a bit but since Leeloo doesn't care if she is mashing you into soft tufts of grass or cold wet snow, Cora wasn't sure playing should be on the agenda.

Once everyone was suitably cold, wet and tired we headed inside to the warm livingroom, lots of blankets and throws and the space heater kicking out warm air. Cora snuggled down with her Momma and although the storm still rages outside we are safe and warm, as it should be.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Princess Diaries

It's supposed to snow a lot in the next day or so and I'm okay with that. A lot of people don't like snow much and although I don't love it, I don't hate it. It's hard to hate something so innocuous. It's just ... there. It won't be our first snow of the season but it's likely to be the first one that sticks around for more than a few hours.

Cora had her first snow a few days ago when it was coming down in lovely great soft flakes and settling on the deck. I opened the door because she asked to go out, she looked out at the falling sky, backed up way into the kitchen and barked her biggest puppy bark to date. I couldn't convince her to go out unless one of the other dogs went first. She's like the royalty who has someone else taste her food to make sure it's not poisoned (only that would SO never happen with food) but with the snow it was to make sure it didn't sting or melt her or something.

Eventually I got Leeloo to go out and Cora happily followed her like "Oh yeah, that's cool, I knew it was nothing. I was just testing you." She didn't appear to notice there was snow on the deck and ground, just that something was coming out of the sky. Leeloo almost rolled her eyes and demanded to be let back in because as we know snow does melt when it lands on a warm body and she didn't appreciate her warm body being Cora's test subject.

I'm sure tomorrow when the snow is thick on the ground Cora will have another moment of horror and then she'll do what all the dogs do with the snow ... love it. For whatever reason snow on the ground is much more acceptable than snow in the air or rain so I look forward to a winter of frolicking and fun with a puppy and her parents and one naughty Puli. Hopefully we won't have the number of snowstorms we had last year (one every week for 6 weeks straight) but even if we do the dogs and I are prepared with warm coats and booties.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Circle of Friends

Archer came up for a visit so he could get in some RR time which he adores, Cora could play with someone who was not constantly beating her up and all the dogs could get worn out before we tackled the Christmas photo adventure. Through the Pictou County Kennel Club, of which I am a member, Director and Sectretary, we were offering Christmas photos done by a professional photographer. I was suggested as someone who could do the photos for the club but I don't do studio photography and wouldn't be comfortable asking people to pay for something I was pretty sure I could not do as well as a studio photographer could.

So before our photo fiasco I did what I do best and took some candids of the dogs playing to wear them out. Archer is a bit of a card, he has a very hard to suppress joy that can sometimes get him into trouble. He also, for whatever reason, completely, utterly, and totally adores The Boy. It tends to go a little beyond 'Aw cute' and often tips over into the realm of slightly awkward moments. I have so many captions for this photo floating in my head I don't even know where to begin. It's just so ... bizarre. Is he playing "Guess Who?", trying to see down Boy's nose, is Boy a blow up doll, playing Boy like a trumpet ... you decide.

Next to Boy Archer is a bit of a femme. Let's face it, he's kind of girlie in a sweet, Avatar way. Sandra, his Mommy, and her family think he would be a good Avatar. I'm inclined to agree - who wouldn't want to run like that - well, maybe not like *that*.

Nothing gets Archer down really and being chased by Esme is one of the highlights of his visits. She remembers him and chews on his legs, chases and body slams him just like always. It's so great to see good friends remembering each other and enjoying their renewed company.

He reminds me a bit of a carousel horse, just stick a pole through his body and you're set. I can even hear the carnival music.

He was Big Time showing off for Cora who is his little dream girl. She is small enough to play with but not big enough yet to win. Makes a nice change from being beaten up by Leeloo.

Cora likes him too, he doesn't grind her into the dirt like her Mom and he stops to catch his breath and 'stand play' sometimes which Leeloo isn't a fan of - go big or go home is her motto.

Archer looks so different from Boy that I have to remind myself that Archer is actually the more correct Ridgeback. It's lovely to see so much Halo in him, it makes her feel closer. He does have his Daddy Zuli in there though and what I don't see of Halo I know is Zuli for sure.

Archer is thriving in his 'new' home - hard to believe he's been there over a year now. It seems like yesterday that he was in my house and I was worrying about him settling in to someone else's life. Looks like I was worried over nothing since Donnie and Sandra are the greatest parents.

The Christmas photos are yet to come but here's one last one of Archer with his nose to the wind, ears flapping out of control and and eye on the future. A new Ridgeback addition is planned for Archer's life in 2012 and although he won't know what hit him but I bet he loves it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pressure Point

It is said that the outside of a dog is good for the inside of a person. I'm pretty sure this is true for most people, or at least people who appreciate what they have in the dogs that live with them. My dogs do cause me stress sometimes, mostly when they steal enough cat food to make me to worry about bloat, or disappear into the woods for 10 minutes looking for a deer they'll never catch, or stealing Esme's food, or flossing with the laces off an old shoe. These things are minor stresses compared to what they offer me on a daily basis as they breathe through their lives.

I provide the dogs with food, shelter, warmth, a soft bed, the (more than) occasional dog treat, walks everyday, and whatever love I am able to express in my feeble human way. They give back not only everything within their power but more than I will ever deserve.

Earlier tonight I was sitting on my (their) futon surfing the internet and I took a moment to look around. Esme was lying on the floor in one of her usual spots, leaning up against the big comfy chair. Leeloo was in my (her) big comfy chair, impossibly squished into a Ridgeball but owning the space just the same. The Boy on my left was curled into a ball next to me on the futon, touching me just enough so we both knew we were there. Cora on my right stretched her impossibly long legs out as much as they would go and slept the deep slumber of which only a tuckered out 6 month old puppy is capable. Ceilidh, my fat cat, was sleeping on the far chair in one of her newly christened favorite spots and her best bud Weasley was behind my head on the back of the futon with two legs dangling while he dozed.

Aside from the click of the mouse the only sounds came from the deeply contented dogs and cats fast asleep in my livingroom. To say my house is full is an understatement but each animal still gets their fair share of cuddles and attention. Boy could hardly miss my notice since he is rarely more than a few feet away, even when I'm in the bathroom, but his special time is in the morning just before I get out of bed and he soaks up his cuddles. Leeloo offers me her bottom, twists into a C shape and wags her tail so hard it smacks the side of her the face and it only gets worse when I oblige by scratching her bum. Cora is as demanding as any puppy could ever be and expects, and gets, hugs and kisses whenever she looks at me. Esme can hardly be ignored with the barking and carrying on and I always oblige with praise and admiration when she is showing off her latest sock acquisition. The cats hardly need me to come to them since they all attempt to smother me whenever I sit down.

If I have a bad day, which honestly is rare these days, it doesn't take much more than stroking Leeloo's ridiculously soft coat for a few minutes, giving The Boy a hug, getting a little chin nibble from Cora, or appreciating the high pitched reception from Esme who, if she could be beside herself to see me, she would.

So given the amount of stress reducing animals in my house, it will come as no surprise that my blood pressure, on average, is 110 over 70. Breeding and showing dogs can be pretty high stress sometimes but if you take away the nonsense of competition and judgement, you are simply left with dogs who adore you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama

Here's one more puppy to update so I think that brings us to 9 recent photos of the puppies. Cash lives in The Valley and is quite a large boy, as a few of them seem to be, but he is all love so that makes it okay. His Daddy Boy is certainly something to live up to if you want adoring and beautiful! Cash looks like he's well on his way. He gets to go visit his Mommy's horse who is beyond gorgeous so one day I'd like to photograph the two of them, for some reason dogs and horses just go together and Cash is no exception. His ears slay me!

He also has an orange vest because here in Nova Scotia it's hunting season. I walk the dogs on town property and have never heard gunshots nearby. However, just because I am within town limits it doesn't mean people won't still hunt there so I really must get orange vests for everyone ... including me!

I love to update the blog with how the puppies are doing since their owners are so proud of them but a recent incident on Facebook (completely unrelated to me but involved people's statuses and comments that I could read) reminded me that I do not need to be in my puppy owner's back pockets. I don't want to hassle people, I don't want anyone to feel they need to update me every moment. I have made my decision to sell someone a dog and after that transaction has ended, the dog is their property. And make no mistake, the dogs are property and you want them to stay that way under the law ... but that is a different subject for a different day.

Still, I am interested in their livelihood, how they are maturing, if their owner has any questions or concerns I am happy to help and I am certainly interested to hear from puppy buyers any time they want to contact me. It helps that of the almost 40 puppies I've sold at least half of them are contacts on Facebook. I don't necessarily use this tool to 'spy' on anyone, it's just a good way to stay current, and sometimes I do sift through photo albums to catch glimpses of my puppies in their everyday lives. I am delighted to spot the dogs in some photos in the background, as the subject, with comments attached, and just living their everyday lives.

Not everyone is on Facebook so I get occasional photos from people via email and that's fine too, it's a slightly more personal way to contact me and I appreciate the effort. Hearing from puppy owners is important but if I don't hear from someone I do not immediately assume the worst. What I assume is that the people who bought the dog are carrying out their daily lives with their dog as part of it and the person who sold them that dog is not part of the daily, weekly, or monthly functioning of that family. Every person who has one of my dogs should not feel me breathing down their neck, they should simply know that I am here if they need me.  I have had people only contact me once a year to let me know that the dog is fine, they are doing great and thanks so much for the awesome Ridgeback. There is nothing wrong with that scenario and there is no reason to panic.

I always breathe a sigh of relief after the first year is up because let's face it, the first 12 months of owning a puppy is absolutely the hardest. Particularly a breed like the Ridgeback who can find itself on the wrong side of the law a lot in those formative 'years'!  I have been incredibly lucky with my puppies, so far none have been returned, shown up on the doorstep of Rescue, or found themselves in trouble and needing assistance.  Given the wonderful people who have given my dogs great homes, I am confident the trend will continue!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


With the most recent litter of puppies quickly approaching the 24 week mark it's probably a prudent time to remind everyone that Ridgebacks are an independent hunting breed. Although as puppies they might be a little insecure and stick close to you on walks, when they are mature and capable of making bad decisions (such as chasing whatever crosses their path) they will ignore you for the thrill of the hunt. This might take them into the woods and they might get lost for about 10 minutes or so which is enough time for you to imagine about 100 scenarios which result in the worst outcome.

So last Thursday Raimi lost his tags for the third time since we moved here. I'm not sure how or why he does this, chances are it's not deliberate, but the result is the same. He has no identification and worse, he is silent on the move. He had a bear bell, which he also lost but that was some time ago. Leeloo has a bear bell because she is more apt to belt into the woods after some unseen prey and Raimi is more likely to chase her. Since they stay close together chances are where one is, the other is not far away. Esme doesn't need a bell because she always stays very close and Cora is still insecure enough to not venture far. That will change but until then I'll enjoy the illusion that she 'needs' me.

Enter Monday morning. Leeloo was all totted up with tags and bear bell, Raimi was a ninja. We were on the last 5 minutes of the walk which takes us down a path bordered on both sides by large bushes and trees so you can't always see straight down the path. I was just thinking, or rather, talking out loud to myself, about where I was going to get Raimi's 4th replacement name tag and what the town office was going to think of me as I asked for yet another town tag.

Leeloo was about 30 feet ahead of me since she knew we were on the road to the truck when she spotted something cross the path in front of us. I didn't see it because it was beyond a bend in the path but she only moves like that when it's a legitimate animal and not a figment of her imagination. Raimi, who was just in front of me, saw her go, shot up the path and dodged into the bush at an angle to cut off whatever it was Leeloo was chasing. Cora and Esme bounced around in the first twenty feet of bush trying to see where Leeloo and Raimi went but without success.

I started calling Leeloo right away, thinking she would have lost the trail and Raimi would be with her. I could hear her bell jingling so I knew she was still in the immediate vicinity. I put Cora and Esme on lead and kept calling Leeloo who circled a bit but eventually popped out of the bushes and she was then also put on lead. No Raimi.

I called him but there was just silence. Obviously, since he had nothing on his collar. I walked into the bushes a little bit because they cleared just beyond the path and I could see a little further into the area the dogs had run since I was on a bit of a rise. Brown dog in a sea of brown grass, bushes and trees. Marvelous. Cora, Esme and Leeloo bounced around me but didn't make any indication that Raimi was on his way or could be heard approaching. I considered taking them to the truck and coming back to find him but decided to give it some more time before I left him alone in the woods.

The whole time I was calling, "BOY! COME! BOY HERE! RAIMI HERE! RAIMI! COME!" and getting more and more concerned. I mean, how far could he have gotten? In 10 minutes a dog can easily travel several miles and he was out in bush, fields and woods chasing what was probably a deer given how long he'd been gone and how fast he'd have to be travelling.

After a few more minutes I was making up my mind to take the other dogs to the truck when Raimi staggers out of the bushes about 20 feet to my right. I didn't see or hear him prior to that which means he can move very quietly and blends very well indeed.  He was exhausted, panting heavily, and his whole underside was soaked with muddy water. I'll never know how far he travelled but for a dog as fit as he is he'd had to have to run full out for a long time to get into that state of exhaustion in just under 10 minutes. The only thing that can run like that is a deer.  

Fortunately I still have 4 dogs but it easily could have ended another way. Today I bought not one but two bear bells for both Raimi and Cora. Raimi's new name tag is in the mail and I'll be heading to the town office, yet again, to replace his tags. Not walking them off lead isn't really an option because I don't believe a dog like a Ridgeback gets the mental and physical stimulation needed for a healthy, stable temperament without being allowed to run and explore. Jogging on a road or biking is not the same thing and to me, doesn't offer the same kind of experience. Besides, I don't think there is anything much more satisfying  to me than watching my dogs gallop across a field with total abandon ... as long as they come back!

Teach a good recall - and by that I don't mean just to come when called, but also to find you. Raimi and Leeloo look for me with their noses, not their eyes, and if they know to scent me and to trust their noses then they are a long way toward finding me before they even know they're lost. Plus, staying in one spot while calling helps them to zero in on your location, especially if you are in a wooded area since sound can bounce around quite a bit.  It's tempting to go looking for them but they will almost always return to where they last saw you because they often follow their own scent back - I have absolutely seen them do this. A dog's sense of direction outstrips a human's by a very large margin, while we are busy walking in circles looking for them, they are waiting at the truck. Also, super glue your dog's tags to its collar and for doG's sake ... buy a bear bell and tape that velcro! And therein endeth the lesson.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Deep Cover

In case my photos give the impression that my dogs are always outside and active I thought I'd dispel that myth and show some photos of what they do 90% of the time. This breed, well mine anyway, are couch potatoes extraordinaire. Once they have their 30-50 minute walk in the morning, they are ready for the rest of the day's activities. This involves such excitement as lounging, napping, snoozing, sleeping, dozing, resting and relaxing. All this preferably involves a couch or bed but a dog pillow will suffice in a pinch.

There really are dogs in this photo - Cora is on the far right, Boy is on the left and Leeloo, although it may be hard to believe, is in the middle. They all prefer to have a blanket over top of them while they sleep, I'm not sure why but it seems to be a recurring theme with this breed.

Esme doesn't sleep on the couch much, not that there's room, but it's mostly because she gets too hot and prefers to lie on the floor where it's a bit cooler. This is her normal spot at the back corner of the comfy chair.

Leeloo was determined, for many weeks, that my chair was her chair. We had several arguments about who's chair it really was and those arguments sometimes ended with us both sitting in the chair. Given the size of Leeloo it got a bit cramped. However, since the advent of the futon she now prefers the futon because that is where I started sitting. If I sit in the chair for a while she reverts back to wanting to sit in it also. Power struggle? Definitely. It's strange because the chair, when she's in it, doesn't appear particularly comfortable ... but she is determined.

Raimi likes to sleep with his head on something. This can be uncomfortable because his head probably weighs about 20 pounds although Cora doesn't seem to mind being a pillow. He has a habit of needing to turn in a circle about three or four times before lying down which can be annoying in the middle of the night. Cora, being a puppy, will sleep almost anywhere but prefers to be cuddled. Don't we all? 

Leeloo is never fully satisfied until she has a binkie over her body, most especially her head. She makes that darling groaning noise of contentment and curls into a tighter Ridgeball when I put the blanket on her. It's very comforting to sit in my livingroom surrounded by peacefully slumbering dogs, to listen to the heavy breathing of their deep sleep and watch the gentle rise and fall of various throws and blankets. To that Leeloo says "As it should be."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Long Distance Relationship

Yesterday was an unreal day in which about a foot of rain fell, the wind blew down trees and fences (not mine fortunately), my power went out and I was forced to do things other than waste time on the internet. When everything was back online I opened my email to find some really great photos of Gotham and Zayi who I have to say I feel the closest to of all the placed puppies because they stayed so long. I am more than pleased with not only how great they've settled into their homes, particularly Zayi who had to learn a new language, but also how nicely they are maturing.  

Gotham didn't have a lot of exposure to children (any) before he left so when Kathryn took him to the park one day and he was confronted with an excited child, he decided they were not worth his time or effort and actively avoided them. Fortunately, he has come around to the idea that they might be fun after all and has possibly even discovered that they taste good (but are not for eating).

Zayi, as I remember her, was what I refer to as a high maintenance dog - she was constantly busy, looking for stuff to do and was invariably the puppy who got into trouble the most. Now apparently she gets to go for long walks on the beach to wear her out and according to her Dad Pierre she is a good girl in the house and spends her time napping on the couch or her dog bed. When he told me she'd get the best of everything he was not kidding! I am really blown away by how beautiful she is becoming, I love her face and I can see that she will be a traffic stopper on the island of St Pierre.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Family Affair

Here we continue the updates on the puppies - if you haven't sent me recent photos please do! Franco as he was about 3 weeks ago, he is certainly growing into a handsome and adventurous boy. In this photo he was practising for his role in Children of the Corn. Creepy Franco ... very creepy.

Aw Shelby! She was a little busy bee for Halloween. Her Mom wanted me to be sure that she doesn't dress up her dogs as a habit, just on special occasions. I think it's cute and I wouldn't mind if she had an outfit for every day of the week although I'm sure Shelby would have something to say about that.

Zeppelin is starting to outgrow his crate! This is the same size crate that his mother has so it's obvious that Zep is going to be a big ol' boy. No matter, it just means there is more of him to love!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Growing Pains

The puppies are just over 5 months old and it's time to update with how they are all doing. Hopefully I can get some more recent photos of each of them but I'll start with the ones I just got in the past few days. They grow so quickly it's hard to believe that they were once little babies I could hold in my hand. Cora is currently taking up about a third of the couch and when she tries to lie on my lap things get a bit crowded! Here she is in all her glory ... choosing a piece of grass to floss with.

These guys seem to spend a lot of time napping. Since they grow the most while they sleep it's no surprise they need frequent snooze breaks. This is Jax in Newfoundland who is certainly turning into a very big boy and following in the footsteps of his Dad. Fortunately this line pretty reliably grows very fast to about 9 months and then spends the next year or so filling out rather than up. Let's hope so otherwise Jax is going to need a bigger couch.

Delta now lives in Halifax where her family moved shortly after adding her to their home. She is obviously no stranger to being totally spoiled and just like a Ridgeback, knows precisely which chair is hers. She gets this from her mother who insists that my chair is her chair and I need to find somewhere else to sit ... just like who's ever chair this used to be!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hook, Line and Sinker

I haven't done an 'information' blog in a while, mostly of late it's been pretty pictures and innocuous chat which is fine when I don't want to think too hard. However lately I've been reading some fabulous articles about breeding, discussing some of the finer points with other breeders and making some decisions about what my own program will be doing in the coming months and years. Dog breeding is largely a lot of guess work because the results of a breeding take months and years to become clear. However, you can take a lot of the guessing out of the equation by line breeding.

A lot of people do not understand line breeding. The average person thinks it's in-breeding which in a sense it is because the two dogs being bred are related, closely or otherwise, but line breeding means you are deliberately using the pedigree to your advantage. It is an attempt to set certain traits that should consistently appear in later generations. The idea is to minimize the bad things and accentuate the good. There is a program called the co-efficient of inbreeding which tells us how close, exactly, the dogs are related but that is for another day.

Line breeding sets type. If you look at certain kennels you can see that their dogs, across generations, have a similar look, or type. For another it sets virtues which the breeder wants to keep or faults they can accept as something to be corrected at a later time, probably with an outcross. It also offers consistency - you can quite easily predict how a dog will develop, how big it will be, where in its growth pattern it will hit certain milestones, and what its health and temperament will most likely become. This means linebreeding can make or break your kennel because if you breed the wrong dogs you could end up with faults that are hard to correct.

You can't line breed without knowing your pedigrees so you need to be able to dicuss the dogs behind your breeding stock with the people who bred them. For a person just starting out in the breed, having the support and information of the people you got your dogs from, the studs you've used, and even the dogs behind their dogs, is very important. Without this knowledge you are breeding blind.

And what of the outcross? This is also important because you must introduce new genes. Granted, all purebred dogs in a breed are descendents of the same foundation stock which created the breed but it is assumed that if there are no, or very few, common ancestors within 5 generations on both sides of the pedigree, the breeding is considered an outcross. Usually this is done to correct a fault you know exists in your line, to get something that you need, or to improve health or temperament.

To be able to successfully outcross you must have an understanding of structure and movement, be honest about your line, know where your problems lie, and have a good idea what your line consistently reproduces so that you don't lose the virtues when breeding to an outside source. The safest outcross is a dog that has produced puppies already so you have some idea what you might get. Sometimes outcrosses are a success and sometimes they are not, genetics are always a gamble no matter what geneticists might think!

As I say, linebreeding is important to establish type and offers predictability. The opposite of this is too many outcrosses. If you don't breed back into the line your dog or bitch came from you are taking a big gamble.  Let's face it, anyone can throw two dogs together to get puppies! It results in an absolute quagmire of genetics and the resulting puppies will likely be not only unpredictable but also widely variant within the litter. The pedigree will show no clear plan and the DNA will just pick and choose where to go instead of already having an established pattern determined by the line.

What we are aiming for is predicatability but just how long does it take to establish that? Probably about a decade ... at least. People who might have an outcross to an outcross must go back to their line in order to set some sort of consistency in the puppies. You may get some very nice puppies from an outcross but there is little hope they can reliably reproduce their virtues without common genetics that make the resulting puppies predictable. Can you tell I love line-breeding?

After all is said and done though, you can be sure that your dog's genes will sometimes throw you a curve ball and produce a puppy, or puppies, that do not follow the established genetics in your program. In my opinion that's just Mother Nature making things interesting and keeping egos in check!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mother Dearest

I blink and it's Thursday. I'm not really sure what happened to Tuesday and Wednesday but they seem have have come and gone without much notice. Yesterday was another beautiful Fall day which we spent out in the fields. These days we tend to worry a little because it's hunting season and although where we walk is within town limits it doesn't mean people can't cross into the town without realizing it. Leeloo looks remarkably like a deer, actually they all blend pretty well, so much so that I have to really keep an eye on them or they disappear into the background.

 Leeloo seems to be able to sense that the forest animals are on the move preparing for winter. She is forever jamming her nose into the bushes and standing with her nose atwitch picking up on scents brought to her by a considerate breeze. When she gets the super concentrated look in her eye and makes a beeline in one direction with that nose high in the air I know she's caught whiff of something Interesting and Chaseable.

Fortunately I am often able to distract her and she sets upon Cora as back up prey. Cora is getting bigger every day but she still doesn't have the skill or weight to be able to outrun or out-tackle her mother. At least she looks like she's having fun ... right before the nose plant.

This isn't a very good photo but how cute is Cora? You can't tell but she has hardly any teeth so she is constantly gumming things and wanting to chew on stuff to make her mouth feel better. Daddy Boy licks her sore gums for her but there really isn't anything for it but time. All I can say is thank doG those damn puppy teeth are gone! Then again ... she now has exactly nothing to counter attack Leeloo with.