Monday, February 2, 2015

Cuddling Sharks

Terri wanted to know if Connor has learned any tricks.  I haven't tried to teach him any tricks yet, I've been too busy trying to teach him not to make up too many of his own.  He is a devil child.  His vocabulary is growing though - he knows the difference between Jolly Ball, Frisbee and squeak toy.  Recently, he has learned some of the finer arts of Frisbee.

Connor is proving to be one of the more interesting dogs I have ever known, he has a very complex personality that is not easily explained or encapsulated, he is a study in contradictions.  Connor is extremely smart, very trainable, but not very biddable.  He is all about being involved with everything and loves being part of a pack.  At the same time, he is very independent and spends a lot of time doing his own thing, perfectly happy and busy in his own little world.  Praise and food are the best ways to motivate him because you have to convince him that he wants to do what is asked.  He is very eager to please himself, but needs a reason to bother with pleasing anyone else. If he decides he doesn't want to do something, there is no changing his mind about it. 

I tell Connor all the time that he is the boldest coward that I've ever met.  He is timid around anything new, but if he decides that it is safe, than it must be wholly safe and will rush in with all his being.  If he gets frightened, then it is not safe and there is no convincing him otherwise.  I very much don't want to frighten this puppy because it is very clear that he will never let it go if I do.  On the other hand, it can be very hard to get through to him without being pretty forceful about it.  Telling him "no" is like a red flag to a bull.  And yet, he responds best to subtle, non-verbal cues.  For example, when trying to teach him not to jump on me and everyone else, a stern "no" is useless, a hand in front of his face is taken as in invitation to play bite-the-hand while jumping on you.  However, a hard, silent stare will back him off every time.  

After much work, Connor will lie quietly next to me as long as I don't touch him.  The only time I can get away with it, is when he is really, truly sleepy and then he loves a good belly rub - just as long as it doesn't go on so long that it wakes him, and the shark teeth, up.   At night, he snuggles in behind my knees and sleeps like the dead - he is a great sleeping companion.  He is also a perfect car dog - he sits in the co-pilots seat and goes instantly to sleep or watches quietly out the window.  I can reach over and rub his ears, stroke his fur and he is quiet and happy.  However, if you focus your attention on him in any other situation, he wiggles, squirms and bites, bites, bites.  Giving him a hug is is like trying to cuddle with a baby shark.  He is the absolute mouthiest puppy I've ever encountered, and I have worked with a lot of puppies.  If you try to sit with him, pet him, engage with him hands-on at all, you WILL get chewed on.

At this point, we all just hope that he will grow out of the squirming, wriggling, mouthiness because nothing either FB or I has tried has had any real impact on it.  We've scolded him, ignored him, growled at him, bit him back, rewarded quiet...None of it works.  If you touch him, he just can't not touch back.  There is no meanness or aggression in it.  He is not trying to dominate, he does not guard resources or ever go on the offensive.  It is all just playful puppy nonsense taken to the nth degree because he becomes seriously overstimulated by even the smallest amount of attention.  

Connor has no real off switch and engaging with him at all gets him wound up, even if he is exhausted.  This is a puppy who has to have a quiet place to retreat to.  Here at home, he will take himself off to bed and go to sleep.  It needs to be dark, quiet and away from all activity or he just won't stop.  Over at FB's, he retreats to his crate and it is not until the door is closed behind him, locking out the cats and other dogs, that he can rest.  This is not a dog who will ever snuggle on the couch with you. When he is sleeping so adorably on his chair, it is only because I am sitting quietly next to him, pretending that he does not exist.

While he is an awful, squirmy, bitey shark if you try to hug or pet him, he is a real joy to be with outside.  He is alert, always at my side or sitting quietly, watching over me.  He is always ready to go and as soon as he has some activity to engage in, all that crazy mouthiness tones down into something that can be focused and directed.  If you give him something to be responsible for, that powerful, overactive brain calms down and turns into a very useful super-computer.

He is an outstanding hiking dog.  He never wanders, comes when called and has learned that most essential rule of a good hiking dog - that he is responsible for keeping track of me, I am not responsible for chasing after him.  Accompanying me in the woods is his job, and we all know how seriously Border Collies take their jobs.

Connor's personality is about as different from Tanner's as it is possible to get, which is a good thing.  I really wasn't sure I wanted another Border Collie and sometimes, I question my sanity in caving in and getting this little monster.

For all his quirks and complexities though, he is a lot of fun and I am glad to have him. Although, he is a perfect example of why Border Collie puppies are not for everyone.  Make sure that this kind of craziness is something that you really want and are prepared for before bringing one of these creatures into your life.

Connor is not an easy puppy, but I like to think he may grow into remarkable dog. 

I hope so, he sure has some awfully big paw-prints to fill after all.


  1. I absolutely love that picture of Tanner.

    That was a great description of Conner's personality. I agree with you, he sounds like he will grow up into an exceptional dog -- as long as his frontal lobes grow up with him.

  2. He sounds just like my Skittles! I am relieved to say that she finally did understand that the biting had to stop. (I was running out of band-aids, and people were always asking "what happened to your hands?") Now she only bites very very softly, and not often. As you have pointed out, "No" is just a joke to them; the only two things that worked were these: every time she bit, i would put a toy in front of her face. Now I only have to say "toy" if she starts getting mouthy, and she runs off and finds one. The other thing, suggested by my vet, was to separate her, shut her in the bedroom for five minutes. She HATES that! Pretty quickly, she realized that biting got her banished, as did jumping on me and bringing me toys after bed time. (Sometimes SHE is not ready for bed yet!) hated to do it, but she would keep me up for an hour--or two--by doing that, if i let her. After she settles down, though, she is a perfect angel, just like yours, curled up against me all night.

    Skittles is so different from Bosco. Bosco was more cautious as a puppy, and more independent all his life. This one is fearless (almost) and wants to be with me and part of what I'm doing every single second. I'm hoping that, at some point, she will let me hug and pet her more. Every minute is play time or sleep time, now.

    ps--her meds are helping. I hope she will not have to have surgery for her pee dribbling problem. Meanwhile, I have cornered the market on cheap throws.

  3. He is most definitely a Border Collie. I always wanted one, but was certain I was not up to the task of having such a wickedly smart dog. I've stuck with German Shepherd mixes because they are so eager to please.
    As for that sharky mouth---one thing that worked with every single dog I've ever owned---yelp and then growl like a dog with your very best acting ability, every time he lays teeth on you. Even when he's just playing. I've been told this is how momma dog teaches her pups not to bite her. I would think that BCs make their living using their mouths on livestock. Training them not to bite humans is probably going to be like pushing a rock uphill. Good luck with this multi-faceted boy. It's great that you are on top of it. :D

  4. What a great post. Maybe Conner is just in his "teenage rebellion" years. Maybe. Have you ever investigated Essential Oils? Lavender is used to calm down an over excitable dog -- or person.

  5. precious smart.

    i'm guessing you've tried holding his lower jaw and pressing your thumb in his mouth when he bites. most of mine hated that and stopped the bities. but i know the bities are his way of telling you he likes you and you must belong to him. :)

  6. Sounds like you got my Jack Russell in your Border Collie. Morris is going on 11 now and yes, he can now be petted while he is resting on the couch next to you.
    But he sounds a lot like Conner.
    The word NO means YES in his terminology when it suits him.
    Petting and cuddling are on his terms, much like a cat.
    Except with children.
    They can pick him up, drag him around, and fuss with him to the point they have put clothes on him. He is patient to a T. He is tuned in so hard on them that the world could crash around him and he'll still be with his kids.
    Odd because Jack Russell's aren't always considered kid friendly dogs.
    Connor is awesome and the both of you will learn your ways with him!
    Thanks for these great shots!

  7. Oh, my gosh, Kris, I so enjoyed this post... and the last two pictures... my gosh.

  8. It is all progress and some of those contradictions you are seeing are also AGE! The bold and coward especially, he's kind of hit toddler/adolescent and that is how they learn! You are doing great and the photos are so fun! You do have one smart cookie on your hands but then I think you knew that!

  9. when I took d'Arcy to obedience he did well but really was not interested. He WAS interests in making sure that all the other dogs were paying attention though.

  10. Oh Connor, LOL! Those teenage years are so much fun! I hope he calms with age to be a more cuddly pup for you. Will you (or have you already) have him neutered?

    "that he is responsible for keeping track of me, I am not responsible for chasing after him. " How do you teach that? I've only ever had one (mutt) dog (currently) and she has such a mind of her own! She is not overly food motivated and won't even look at a tasty treat if there are distractions (squirrel, people, other dogs). I'd love to be able not have to worry about where she if I'm every able to have her off lease.

  11. Thanks for the great insight into Connor's personality. I feel like I know him so much better now. It is interesting to watch a puppy's true self emerge and the stages they go through in the maturation process. I too have a dog who is both timid at times/soft and yet strongly determined too -- depending on the circumstances. He is sweet and loving too -- but definitely not a cuddler. Aren't they wonderful beings? :-)

  12. My Labrador pup was the same way. She did outgrow her mouthiness eventually, but it did require a visit from one of the guide dog trainers from the school she came from. Have you tried putting Listerine mouthwash or Bitter Apple Spray on your hand and then letting him try and bite you? 99.999999% percent of dogs hate the taste (my pup of course is part of the .000001%.). Most people I have talked to have had success with this. Just don't get it in any cuts, because it stings like fury.

  13. I glad that Connor has found such a great person to call his own. His father was an enormous handful his first year but by the time he was 15 months it was like something just clicked and he is one of the best and smartest border collies I have ever owned! He is a true working dog and once he matures a little more he too will amaze you. He had red skye kennels in his bloodline and he will live up to that name. Just be patient, the brains always wins in the end.

  14. So much happiness and fun in the snow! And he certainly does have big paws!!

  15. I just had to laugh at those last few pics of Connor. :) A lot of young Labs are very mouthy too and they grow into lovely gentle adults with soft mouths, so he might grow out of this to be a very un-bitey dog. :)

    I have one very over sensitive Lab, has been so from a tiny puppy, who is more like a cat in that she can be overstimulated by too much patting. Doing TTouch over her body, combined with clicker training and treats for keeping still, has been very helpful. She would growl when you touched her back legs, feet etc. She learned to stand firm while being TTouched, and wait for her release and treat, and at the same time she learned that touching isn't so bad. Some TTouch mouth work might help him especially, if you can bring yourself to put your fingers near those lips and gums. :) He'd probably love the TTouch obstacle course too. Very good for getting brains to slow down and think in new ways.