At the beginning of June, Paul and I moved to the countryside. Barristan was
not properly socialised as a puppy to live in a suburban setting, and TF has
Jade's father, Vellikhan, and her brother,Jenga, who would happily try to fight
Barristan on a pretty regular basis. Don't feel too bad for Barristan, he was
all too eager to throw down with either boy. Having more than one male CO is a
recipe for fights - Jenga and Vellikhan have a precarious truce that allows them
to be crated side-by-side, but will fence-fight happily with one another in
times of excitement - "OMG THE NEIGHBOUR'S TRACTOR IS STOPPED AT THE GATE,
ROWF,ROWF,ROWF!" .Aggressing at things is FUN for the CO - I've had Barristan
hanging off the fence at a visitor in full aggression mode (for demonstration
purposes),foam flying everywhere, two-inch long canine teeth clearly showing,
furious that this person was so close to "Mom"; only to have this person
exclaim, "Oh look, he's not so mean - his tail's wagging!". No, I assure you, he
does not want to make friends right now, he would like to eat your face. People
have so many misconceptions about canine body language that we cannot take the
chance with people's naivety. He's a big, beautiful, fluffy dog - why WOULDN'T
he want to cuddle with a new person? Because he was not socialised to, and his
instinct says to protect "Mom" with all the ferocity of hell.
So, because I am a responsible pet owner, and have half a brain, we decided
that the suburbs were not an option for Barristan.
Sadly, after five days at our new digs I was hospitalized. I missed Jade and
Barristan terribly, every morning I would cry to my doctor that I missed them so
much. The screwed up thing is that I felt GUILTY about being sick, and thus felt
as though I didn't deserve to see my dogs. This caused me a terrible amount of
pain - conflicted with the love you feel for your animals but not feeling as
though you are worthy of their love. I even felt this way about my husband,
Paul, and tried to convince him not to come visit me as much (thankfully this
fell on deaf ears). I treasured each update like some forbidden golden nugget
that I'd hide under my pillow at night, and only told my doctor and the
occupational therapist about my love of dogs. I spent a lot of time drawing
pictures of my dogs, but hid them from the nurses and my family. Like I said, I
felt guilty about being in hospital for being sick and felt like I didn't
deserve the happiness that my dogs never fail to bring me.
The move to the country made both dogs very happy - Barristan happily
embraced his brand-new in-and-out kennel (courtesy of Paul's AMAZING handyman
skills), and his new position as a fixture on our kitchen floor during the
evenings. It also awoke the wildcat that had been living inside our mild
housecat, Mittens. Mittens decided that he was no longer a house cat, that he
was an outdoor cat, and clawed out multiple screens when Paul attempted to keep
him inside. He enjoyed sprawling out in the tree by our front door, and would
even play with Barristan. He brought "gifts" to Paul (small dead animals) and
even caught a garter snake once. Mittens was a very happy kitty.
One day, Paul didn't see Mittens for a few days, and decided to go hiking
with the dogs in the nearby hills to see if he could find our little adventurer.
Beside fresh animal tracks he found Mittens' remains - he had been killed by a
wild animal. We initially thought a coyote,but Mittens would be smart enough to
climb up a tree, if a coyote didn't catch Barristan's scent and steer clear of
the area altogether. Based on the viciousness of the attack we determined that
it was a fisher.
I don't know from where in the world you are reading this, but a fisher, "is
a medium-sized mammal native to North America. It is a member of the mustelid
family,commonly referred to as the weasel family... There are anecdotal reports
of fishers attacking pets and, in a 2009 case in Rhode Island,a 6-year old boy".
I have been told that a fisher can kill a dog, however the coat and ferocity of
a CO had me unworried about the dogs. Here's a picture of a fisher:
Cute, right? Here's a picture of their teeth:
Mittens, though a formidable cat, did not stand a chance. After Paul told me
and left, I cried for hours. Mittens was my first cat and the song rings true,
'The first cut is the deepest'. When my first dog died, I was bedridden for
three days and off school for a full week. I don't have children, so when I lose
an animal I liken it to losing a child. I refused meals and didn't want to leave
my bed. Yes, over a cat. But not just any cat - MY cat.
When a pet dies, I believe that the remaining pets need to see the body to
understand what happened. TF and I literally have a wake when a dog passes,
where each dog comes in one at a time to say their goodbye. Some of the
reactions are heartbreaking, but I believe that it's important for them to
understand why their buddy is gone. Everybody gets some pan-fried chicken
livers, because even dogs need comfort food.
I told Paul to take Jade and Barristan to the site where he found Mittens so
that they could understand. I'm told that they sniffed very solemnly before
heading home. Nice ground beef over their kibble for dinner.
Unfortunately, while I was able to be good and upset about Mittens' passing,
Paul had to continue on with his schedule of wake up, take care of the dogs, go
to work, visit me, go home, take care of the dogs, keep up with all the bills
and housework. It's hard to be stuck in a new routine that involves visiting
someone who's sick, especially when you're used to seeing that person so full of
vitality; even MORE so when it's your partner. Hospitals suck, but I can't
imagine how crappy it is to have to see a shell of the person you love so much,
and bear the whole load that comes with running a household. He's got
superpowers, that Paul!
On one of the evenings after he had visited me (after a full day's work as a
mechanic), he was greeted at the gate of the in-and-out kennel by Barristan. I
should mention that all COs have white bellies, and most have white chests.
Barristan's chest was drenched in blood, but he was wriggling with excitement.
Terrified, with visions of massive vet bills dancing through his head, Paul
jumped out of the truck and ran over to the pen. INSIDE the pen, he found the
remains of a very plump fisher, torn into three pieces, the head dragged over to
the gate of the pen. Barristan had not only killed the fisher that came into his
pen, he was presenting the corpse to Paul like it was a kingly gift. Paul
immediately went over Barristan with a fine-tooth comb, to find a tuft of hair
missing off his shoulder. That's IT. He called TF to tell her what happened, and
she advised him to call the Ministry of Natural Resources, who wanted the
animal's head to do testing. To willingly climb a six-foot fence into a pen with
a 170lb dog just to steal some kibble, it had to be sick or demented right?
NOPE. All tests came back negative. Just a bold S-O-B.
We pieced the story together and figured it must've gone like this: Barristan
must have been asleep in order for the fisher to get into the pen. When he
smelled it, he awoke and engaged the fisher, likely killing it with "the death
shake". There were no signs of Barristan having eaten any of the fisher, just
ripped it to shreds and dragged the head to the gate so that there was no way
"Daddy" could not see what a good job he had done! "LOOKIT WHAT I DID,
I'm not a hunter. If it weren't for my anemia I would be a vegetarian, I love
all critters. TF and I don't even kill spiders or flies, and both get teary-eyed
over roadkill... But if Barristan killing that fisher wasn't poetic justice, I
don't know what is.
Rest in Peace Mittens, I'll see you at the Rainbow Bridge.
Before you send an onslaught of e-mails and comments: I spent 110 days in hospital, and I feel better and better with every passing day. I don't care to share my condition with the interwebs, however my condition was life-threatening and as such, I haven't kept up with my e-mails. Reminder: Questions about puppy pricing and availability go to TF. Questions about the breed you can send to me, but please do read the FAQ posts on this blog.
Would also like to publicly thank the staff at Kingston General Hospital for taking such good care of me during my stay. I'm well on my way to being 100% well again.
First of all, this is not a post about conniving doctors or veterinarians! It's about getting your dog to accept having their bodies handled in seemingly strange ways in order to facilitate veterinary exams.
This post is inspired by Baylee, my inlaws' six-year old Cocker Spaniel who recently broke her radius while playing around in the backyard. Due to the nature of the break she had to have surgery at Alta Vista Animal Hospital in Ottawa, ON (where we did Barristan's cardiac and eye testing). Unfortunately the inlaws had booked a trip to Mexico for the week after this happened. They had booked Paul and me to house-sit, so we were responsible for taking care of Baylee in her post-surgery state. This meant giving her some medications - standard things like antibiotics and pain meds. We agreed to it without a second thought - I've looked after many a ThunderHawk dog after medical procedures, and they are much larger than a Cocker Spaniel! Nothing I can't handle... Right?
Not even a little bit.
After the inlaws left, I was the one who had to give Baylee her first dose of medication. Now, I've dealt with some pretty tricksy dogs - Kutya, a late ThunderHawk dam, was known as the Little Black Witch not just for her ferocity, but for how smart she was. You could wrap a pill in a full-sized roast and she would find a way to wolf down the roast without the pill. You could force-feed it to her, have her swallow it, only to find that she's coughed it up twenty minutes later, a smug look on her face.
Baylee wasn't tricksy like that. Upon trying to pill her, she went immediately on the offensive. Snapping and snarling, she managed to nail me three times on my hands before I decided I needed a new strategy. I decided to hold her head from behind so that she couldn't squirm backwards. I managed to touch my hand firmly to the back of her head before she defecated everywhere, snarling.
We never were able to pill her in the traditional way because she became aggressive, or would defecate, if we tried to touch her. Dogs do not defecate indoors a few times in an hour just to piss you off, projectile defecation are a sign of fear. Baylee knew and liked us well enough, but we just couldn't get near her. We ended up having to put the pills in hotdogs smothered in gravy and hope that she took the pills at the proper time. This is REALLY not ideal - not only does it mean that the dog could be without pain medication in their system, it opens the door for infection with delayed antibiotics.
We ended up having to bring Baylee back to Alta Vista in order to have the surgery re-done, as one of the pins came loose and had pierced Baylee's skin. It was only upon staying at Alta Vista that we discovered that Baylee's ears were horribly infected. We connected the dots - the reason Baylee had been displaying fear behaviour was because she was scared sh*tless of the pain that touching her ears would cause. Coupled with a lack of training on how to accept pills, and arguably a dominance behaviour problem left us with a feces-covered dog and us with bitten fingers.
So why is it that I can happily pill a ThunderHawk dog, ranging from 85-160lbs without so much as blinking? Why is it that I can treat an immensely painful cut on Jade without so much as a whimper? Practice, practice, practice from the ground up. Yup, you have to socialize your dog to take pills, tolerate pain, and people touching them in the strangest places - in between their foot pads, teeth, groin, anything you can think of. This is especially important if your dog is a CO - it's bad enough to deal with a 40lb dog who is bad for the vet, let alone 120lbs of "Nope, not having it!". Barristan, who I maintain is one of the wildest dogs I've ever dealt with, stands like a lamb for the vet because his previous owner socialized him to do so - these are valuable dogs, small cuts and abrasions cannot be left to fester, lest it put the family's protection dog out of commission.
So how do you socialize your dog to accept vet examinations? Start small, start young and start with you. This means start when your dog is a pup and start on small things - lifting up your dog's lips, running your hand over his toes, rolling him onto his back and praising like mad when your dog accepts it and stands still for it. Don't expect an 8week old puppy to be super thrilled about you checking his teeth - it can literally be for a second, you're laying groundwork for later. You're trying to establish that good things happen when someone is doing these things to your dog, so treats, praise and pets are essential. Increase the time you make the dog tolerate these things, you should work up to where you can do a full inspection of their teeth, groin and pads without protest. Once you have the very basics down, have your friends do the same while you praise the puppy - this will get him used to having new people manipulate his body.
Tamara's book on the breed has a section on how best to pill your CO and how to introduce him to being handled when he's in pain (available on the ThunderHawk website), but whatever method you practice, practice it often. I still check Jade over thoroughly at least once a week, and you better believe she stands like a pro for the vet, all because I laid the proper groundwork for her to accept these things. It's important, so be sure to take the time to socialise your puppy to medical manipulation!
Vellikhan smiling for the camera, Dec 2008
ThunderHawk is located about an hour away from the US-Canadian border, and as such TF and I do shopping excursions down in the states once in awhile. She used to own a boat of a car - a '97 Grand Marquis (that I learned to parallel-park in, welp), that took quite the beating in terms of maintenance checks (lack thereof, really. TF and I are NOT mechanically inclined). So in case of a breakdown state-side we always brought along one of the COs to keep us company - no horror movie scenarios when you've got a CO on duty! At this point in 2008 we always brought Jade's dad, Vellikhan, with us - high sociability/high ADR and well socialised with border guards (polite dogs are the only way to make a border guard smile), when the weather was cool, he was our go-to-canine!
On this particular winter day in 2008 TF and I were going to meet my dad halfway between our two houses (we live about 3hrs apart) so that my dad could take me to an appointment in the city while Tamara went to the States for some errands. TF and I loaded up Vellikhan in the car (read:boat), and off we went!
About 30minutes into our trek, the car began to shake to the right and was making a strange and rhythmical slapping sound - flat tire on one of the most major highways in Canada. We pulled over, only to find that while we had a spare tire and the tire iron, we had no jack... And neither of us owned a cell phone at this point. I had also forgotten to call my dad to let him know that we were on the road, so for all he knew we were still at the farm. Weeee!
After standing on the side of the road with a sign saying "Need A Cell Phone!", one good samaritan pulled over... But she didn't have a cell phone (whywouldyoupulloverUGH!). She offered to drive us to the nearest little town where we could call my dad from a pay phone, however we were not about to leave Vellikhan on the side of the road (the lady had a strict no-dog policy). So, what to do? Exactly what would happen in a horror movie - we split up! TF went with the lady, and Velli and I stayed behind in the car. To this day I still think TF got the crappy end of the stick in this situation - I got to stay in the warmth of the car with 130lbs of pure protection!
Velli amused himself by examining the surroundings and promptly falling asleep in the back seat a few minutes after TF left, so I was left to amuse myself with trail mix and some old flyers we found in the footwell of the passenger's seat - quelle joie (that's French for BORING)!
One pickup truck stopped in front of us. I'm wary of strangers on a good day, but this gentleman... Well, let's say that a movie was holding a casting call for someone to play a serial killer - THIS GUY would've gotten the part without even opening his mouth. Bugged, bloodshot eyes, had some kind of a twitch in his cheek... or maybe he was high, I didn't exactly try to find out. Velli had woken up when he pulled up, and I had just enough time to think "NOPE!" before Velli went absolutely ballistic - climbing into the front seat, throwing himself teeth-first at the windshield, foam just flying everywhere. He's also 2x scarier because he doesn't just snarl on the exhale (like a "Grrr" sound) like most dogs, he snarls on the inhale - this is how BEARS sound. I didn't try to stop or correct him, just ran my window down a crack and called out that "We're okay! The dog's protective, don't come any closer or he'll go through the windshield! Thank you!"
I don't care how high/drunk/sleepy/out of it/tough-guy attitude/medicated or legitimately crazy you are, when any dog of substantial size is aggressing at you with that much intensity, your bowels turn to liquid and you back off. Human self-preservation instinct kicks in, and you reconsider being in that general area. I'm sure that this gentleman was just a good old farmboy workin' too hard and trying to help a damsel in distress, but both Velli and I got a bad vibe off of him - that was that.
It didn't take long for Tamara to come back... Mainly because my father's cell phone was off, and without a phone for him to call, paging him was useless (he is not a doctor, just stuck in the 80s). She had left a message on my father's answering machine in hopes that he would hear it in a reasonable timeframe and come to our rescue before we perished of boredom had HITCHHIKED her way back to Velli and me, explaining to me (horrified that she had now gotten in TWO strangers' cars!) that no one was going to mess with a middle-aged woman with a booming Texan drawl. Kids, don't try that at home...
Another pickup truck pulled up ahead of us, and Velli let out a quiet, dismissive "rowf" as the two guys got out of the truck - an older guy and a young guy on their way to work construction in the next town. We got out of the car to talk to them, leaving Velli grumbling to himself in the back seat. Very nice guys, and while they didn't have a jack, they did have a cellphone and graciously offered to let us use it (long distance!)to call my dad, who had had the good sense to check his voicemail, keep his phone on, and set out to rescue us!
After we hung up the phone the older guy caught a glimpse of Vellikhan silently giving him the look of death from the back seat, growling under his breath. "Wow, what kind of dog is THAT?!" he asked as he leaned his head down and sideways to get a better look at our big, fluffy....
Like a shot Vellikhan launched himself against the passenger window, snarling and trying to break the glass with his teeth. It was fortunate that we had left the window open a crack, as the force Velli used against it caused the glass to bend rather than shatter everywhere. The old man leapt backwards and gave us a startled look:
"Not really friendly that one, is he?"
TF quickly shushed Vellikhan. You see, Velli hadn't been properly introduced to these men, and as such didn't know that they were helping - all he saw were two strangers that were acting benignly towards Mama and Katie, and then suddenly got all up in his face! Damn RIGHT I'm going to try and eat them! We explained a bit about the breed, and that once properly introduced that a high sociability dog such as Velli would be happy to meet them. Intrigued, the guys stuck around to see what this kooky Texan was talking about.
TF took had them stand back from the car as she took Velli out, on a leash. With a few happy-voiced words of reassurance "It's okay! Mama's! It's okay!", Velli was suddenly putty in these men's hands, and leaned eagerly into their legs for pets and scratches, his tongue lolling out to one side. They couldn't believe the transformation, and one of them actually took out a piece of paper to write down the name of the breed - a dog that is ferociously protective until told otherwise, suddenly became sweet and affectionate! They'd never seen anything like it!
With my dad on the way we thanked the guys and they went on their way, their trousers littered with some dog hair to remember us by. The three of us returned to the warm car until my father arrived with a jack to fix the car. Velli, the threat now removed, snored loudly until my dad pulled up behind us... Where he then roared until he realised who it was, and licked my dad's fingers apologetically.
This is what you'll be living with when you own an adult CO - that dog will go through windows when he thinks you or his home are being threatened, even if it's just the tow truck guy examining your flat tire, or the new meter reader seemingly lurking around the back gate. Having a CO isn't easy - and yes, TH has had and produced COs who have broken windshields and residential windows when they felt their family was being threatened - but as a young woman sitting standed on the side of the road with no ability to call for help, with Velli there, I felt as safe as though I was sitting in a bunker!
I was contacted by an animal shelter in Washington State who have an adult CO who is in need of an experienced forever home. His name is Rex, he's a four-year old medium-low ADR, medium sociability, neutered male CO. He is sweet and reserved when meeting people, but will be intolerant of mandhandling until he bonds with a person.
In his previous home he lived with a small child and a cat, but has been known to chase cats when on walks. He is not aggressive towards other dogs, but can be dominant (humping) so his friends are limited! For safety's sake, we do not reccommend housing with small dogs. He is especially protective when he's in his kennel, but not when he's out. This is typical of COs - they can be more protective when they are within a physical structure they can see (car, kennel, fence etc). As with all adopters of adult COs, his person will need strong leadership skills and experience handling large and robust dogs. He is housebroken, and treat motivated!
If you think that you may have what it takes to be Rex's forever person, please read Adopting an Adult Caucasian: What You Should Know, and contact me by e-mail with any questions. Please note that I will not reply to questions submitted by the comment function on the blog.
Vellikhan surveying his domain, Dec 2012
Every so often we put together Co-owner Breeding Contracts with our most trusted puppy homes. Essentially a breeding contract takes on a puppy that remains intact. Upon reaching maturity the dog is returned to the breeder to be bred - if it's a female, she'll stay and have the puppies at the breeder's home. Male dogs do their...'deed'... either by collection or by live cover and return to their owners. This arrangement allows the breeder to keep good genes in the gene pool without having to hoard a bunch of dogs, and the co-owners get the dog at a lower purchase price. NOTE: Ethical breeders guard their lines rabidly. Getting a co-owner breeding contract is not for the inexperienced: in general here ThunderHawk we do not place breeding stock with first time CO owners, but we will review all applications carefully.
As well we have a policy with all of our puppy homes that if for some reason he/she cannot keep his/her puppy, that it will come back to us. The reality is that life happens - divorces, illness, finances - but we at TH are responsible for the lives we create.
I guess this is just a really long way of saying that an intact dog we had out on co-owner breeding contract has come back to us due to illness with her owner. Introducing: Stalk
Raven is a six-year old steel-grey piebald intact female by Vellikhan out of Krooshka - for those of you who have TF's book on COs, Krooshka is the dog pictured on the bottom of page 97. She is a low-ADR, high sociability love bug who likes nothing more than to snuggle up to you no matter what you're doing - making dinner, writing on your blog, reading in bed - she's ever so sweet. She's intolerant of all dogs EXCEPT intact males - she's a huge flirt! This works out well because we are planning to breed her at her next heat. She has already received genetic clearance from her puppyhood testing and line testing.
In addition to our breeding plans, we would like to rehome Raven with a family - she loves children, but is intolerant of other dogs. Contact myself or Tamara if you believe you are among the hardy few who might be able to give little Raven a loving forever home!
Happy New Year everyone! I hope that all is well with you and yours. Jade, Paul and I enjoyed a rare evening in last night.
One thing I've noticed about owning a young, healthy CO is that if you have hardwood/laminate/tile/anything but carpet, the dog usually prefers to sleep on the ground rather than a bed. I think that it's because the ground is generally cooler and it helps them regulate their temperature. I've seen all of the dogs plop down on the kitchen floor RIGHT BESIDE a nice dog bed at least once.
You should ALWAYS provide an oversized dog bed for your dog to rest on, regardless of breed or if they even like the dog bed. It should always be made available. It's just really annoying to spend money on nice dog accessories only to have Jade turn her nose up at it - she's being a snob for the seemingly less comfy option!
Anyway, Paul and I are big softies and allow Jade on our bed - ONLY at our invitation, it's a special treat to snuggle up with Mom and Daddy. Well, Paul decided to invite Jade up on our teeny tiny loveseat last night for some snuggles. Both Paul and Jade looked so delighted that I just had to grab the camera.
WHAT a SPOILED BEAST!
Taking a break from rooting around in the snow, Dec 2012.
This is Paul and Tamara's favourite story about Jade protecting. It was the first time Paul saw just how protective Jade can be.
Two winters ago Paul decided to take Jade out running with him. When he runs he usually does it away from home near his boxing club, so he doesn't bring Jade. Running with Jade is something you have to get used to - in my experience, given the chance, COs don't like to walk in straight lines beside you. They'll weave around in front (and sometimes behind) of you in order to maximize the amount of ground/space they investigate before you occupy it. I actually find it really comforting, as it's like having your own personal Secret Service agent securing the perimeter; but when you're 6'2" with a huge stride, you're guaranteed to bump into Jade a few times and get shot a disapproving look: I'M TRYING TO DO MY JOB HERE, DADDY! Once you communicate to her that she needs to keep clear of you, Jade (and most COs) make excellent running/walking partners.
Paul decided to go for a longer run with Jade through a route he didn't use much. Jade doesn't like meeting new people, meaning that she will tolerate introductions but will not actually seek out attention from new people. Same with strange (non-aggressive) dogs - she would let puppies and sweet dogs near us, but not aggressive or cagey ones. During this run, Paul came across a young woman letting her medium-sized mixed breed dog relieve himself on the lawn of one of these apartment buildings. She was a slender girl with blue hair, wearing pyjamas and smoking a cigarette. Paul has zero reason to be afraid of this girl, but he did see that 1) the dog was showing interest in Jade and 2) that the girl had her dog on one of those extendable leashes, which eliminates the owner's ability to enforce restraint on his/her dog, especially when meeting new dogs; so, he moved Jade (who pricked her ears at the other dog, that's all) to his other side as they passed by.
Just as they passed by Paul heard a snarl and a snap come from behind him. The dog had charged from its spot with his master, jumped over the snow bank onto the sidewalk, went behind Paul in an attempt to snap at his heels. Paul told me he didn't really have time to register what had happened before he found himself having to restrain the hellish beast that had suddenly replaced Jade. She had whipped around and was trying to counter-attack this dog on her hind legs, every tooth showing in a lion-like snarl, foam flying like the Cujo dog, hackles raised. I'm certain that she looked downright possessed - some DOG had tried to touch her AND HER DADDY?! HELL no.
Fortunately the other dog hadn't manage to make contact with Paul or Jade, and had the good sense to skitter backwards when he realised exactly what kind of beast he had provoked, away from Jade's snapping jaws. It became apparent that the girl had not been paying attention, as all she saw was her dog retreating backwards from this demented, lion-like creature on its hind legs. The girl inquired as to what had happened ("What the &*%$ do you think you're doing?! Is that THING even a DOG?!"), as her dog scattered back over the snow bank to cower behind her. Paul angrily explained that her dog had initiated everything, and commented (not-so-nicely) on her dog handling skills ("Control your damn dog" is the exact quote, I think). Jade had calmed down to four legs again, but still glared stiffly after the offending canine.
"Yo, you got a problem, BUD!?"
In a cloud of smoke with a marijuana joint in hand, in a wife beater and low-slung pants (I can't even make this stuff up) stormed out the girl's skinny boyfriend, Jeremy. The girl looked smug, as if her knight in shining armor had arrived. Both Paul and the girl (in a heated manner) tried to explain their accounts of the happenings...
"Yo, I'll stomp your dog's &^%$ing head in!"
Clearly he chose to believe his paramour's side, as he started through the snow towards Jade. Well, she didn't take his advance particularly well - up on the hind legs, teeth out and snarling, trying to take the initiative to close the distance between the two of them as well. Now, I don't think 'Jeremy' was a candidate for Rhode Scholarship or anything, but he had the sense or instinct in his two remaining brain cells to back off at that point. One has to be quite foolish to willingly take on a 120lb snarling CO if one doesn't have to. Upon backing off, Jade went back to glaring and growling quietly while obscenities and insults were tossed back and forth. Thankfully no actual physical contact amounted from this exchange, and both parties walked away with their feathers thoroughly ruffled.
I of course was not present at the time of this exchange; however I was very pleased with Jade's reaction. Paul had been caught off-guard - remember, this is the first time he'd ever seen her aggress at anything and it came as quite a shock to him. Jade had been nothing more than an oversized lapdog whose 'Mom' kept talking about her legendary protection abilities. Despite being in excellent shape, Paul's arms were sore from the Herculean effort it took to restrain Jade. Jade herself came home happy but hyper-alert. After protecting against a threat, a CO will almost be a bit trigger happy aggression-wise - Random dog was capable of posing a threat, now EVERY dog has the potential to try and hurt 'Daddy'! You have to help your CO come down off of that protecting high, as it can lead to the dog exhibiting inappropriate aggressive behaviours. We did a ton of obedience training in the subsequent week, and kept a tighter hold on the leash on walks.
I don't condone heated reactions to such a tense situation; however this was an extremely emotionally charged situation that was a result of a real attack on Paul and Jade. When you own a CO you have to take ownership of the times when they protect - whether it's a true instance of danger to you and yours, or if it's YOUR dog rushing out at someone on the street. Be an adult about the situation and try to explain your side calmly.
If you or dog are a victim of a dog attack, go to the hospital or urgent care clinic and vet, call your local animal control and if necessary, the police!
Jade looks to the horizon while Chakotey investigates a sound in the silo.
TF and I get lots of e-mails a month, where curious dog people and potential puppy homes send us questions about COs; whether it is concerning physical characteristics, temperament and their protection abilities. We've gotten multiple e-mails asking a few of the same questions, so here are the answers:
How are CO puppies' ears cropped? Do you have it done before the puppies go to their new home?
First, see FAQ #1 and JJ's story. Yes, we crop all puppies’ ears before they go to their new homes. Being that we do it so early, and that the crop is not for cosmetic purposes, there is no wound care/dressing/ taping (like Boxers, Danes and Dobies) that new owners have to deal with. The cuts have long healed by the time we ship the puppies.
This leads to next question...
When do you ship puppies? Can I get the puppy earlier than that?
We ship puppies no sooner than eight weeks of age - this is non-negotiable.
Although pups are weaned from their dams sooner than that, it is important for puppies to remain with their littermates and dam in order for the puppy to develop a good understanding of how canine social structures work, in addition to the health restrictions that come with owning a baby puppy. Things like understanding that if you pester Mom long enough, she'll correct you! They learn about living within a pecking order, and it teaches them how to read other dogs properly. In my experience, almost every dog (of any breed) that was homed earlier than eight weeks has behavioural problems, mostly when interacting with other dogs. For instance, remember our friends' Boxer yearlings from a previous story? Littermates taken from their dam at six weeks of age had no concept that Jade's growl meant that she was getting sick of their pestering, and were completely dumbfounded when Jade snarled and nipped. "Wait, you DON'T want to play with me?! Huh?!" Back to pestering, ignored the growl, then a snarl and nip. "Wha...? Hmmmmm..."
While you may not live in the suburbs and have your CO sniff noses with the neighbour's Labradoodle every so often, good canine social development is important; even if you live out in the middle of nowhere and never, ever have your friends' dogs over. If you get a CO before 8 weeks of age, best case scenario (IF you are a highly experienced dog person, with an excellent understanding of canine behaviour) he will be slow to understand that YOU are the boss, YOU are to be minded. It can also delay housebreaking, kennel training and obedience training.
You may be terribly excited to get your little Russian fluff ball, but you would be doing him a disservice to take away that time away from his littermates. Patience!
How do COs handle the heat? Do they always need to be in the snow to stay cool?
First of all, Canada isn't permanently covered in snow!!! It does get hot here!
With that out of the way, the answer is that COs handle the heat about as well as any double-coated dog - it slows them down a lot, but it is doable. Jade's sister, Astral, lives out in the Utah desert with her owner, so housing a CO in warmer climates can be done with good prep work. Obviously if you’ve got air conditioning, Cos will love to spend time sprawled out on a nice tile floor. If the dog is to spend any real time outdoors as a working dog, you HAVE to have a few things in place:
First, let your breeder know that you live in a warmer climate, as it may be possible for you to get a pup with a shorter coat.
Second, as with any dog in the heat, you need to provide lots of drinking water from at least two sources. We always have the buckets tied to something (post, fence) that makes it difficult for the dog to overturn the bucket and dump the water.
Third, some kind of shade – grove of trees, roof of a pen, doghouse – the dog MUST have the option to get out of the sun.
Fourth, their natural coat. Sounds crazy, I know, but it protects the CO from sunburn and biting insects. DO NOT SHAVE IT OFF.
Fifth, creativity. What do YOU like to do when it’s insanely hot out? For me it’s a pool and a cold drink. Go out to your local hardware store and buy a kiddie pool, fill it and your CO will go to town in it! Another great idea that I stole from the keepers of the Toronto Zoo – bloodsicles! Freeze cubes of ground beef and its juices in an old ice cube tray and feed as treats – the carnivores at the zoo just love them!
NEVER EVER LEAVE ANY DOG OF ANY BREED IN A HOT CAR UNATTENDED!!! In the summertime I always have a large brick in my car in case I ever see a dog in such a situation... Cops are some of the biggest animal lovers I’ve ever met, count on it. Bottom line that if you’re in hot climates you know that a large furry dog will have some trouble in the heat – Make keeping your CO cool a priority.
I am a young professional in a relationship. While we presently do not have any children, we intend to have children at some point in our dog's life. Is there anything we have to do with our CO pup in order for him to accept a baby at some point in his adolescent/adult life?
Ugh. When I got this email I audibly groaned as I'm basically in the exact same situation: have a CO, may one day want (human) kids, what to do.
First of all, be clear with your breeder that you may some day want children. If he or she is an ethical breeder, he/she will be happy to support you throughout the process. Second of all, NEVER LEAVE A CO OF ANY AGE UNATTENDED WITH INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN. EVER.
Think ahead to what your life WILL be like with children - while you may not have visitors now, you certainly will have an influx when baby arrives and grows. This is where a CO's sociability level (willingness to accept strangers AND their love of people) comes into play. A well-bred low sociability dog, upon being properly introduced to a stranger might allow the person to touch them, but will not seek out attention from the stranger. This is Jade to a T- even if she likes you; it's rare that she'll stick around for more than a minute of pets before descending into a state of calm watchfulness. Strange children are tolerated; she doesn't particularly want their attention (unless they have food). A well-bred high-er Sociability dog will be friendly and possibly even affectionate to someone properly introduced. This is like Jade's sire, Vellikhan, who has been known to give face licks and doggy 'hugs' to people that we've established are not a threat. He enjoys being around children, whereas Jade is mostly ambivalent - think of the dog's happiness when choosing a pup.
Once you get a pup, whether it is high or low sociability, you need to socialise the heck out of it, specifically with kid-oriented things when it's young. Golden Rule of raising a CO: Anything you make your CO accept as a puppy, it will accept as an adult. Get your dog used to being surrounded by children - see about picking up your niece from school with the puppy, and allow all the children to pet him as they come out. PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE (and treats!) for good behaviour, and correct him for mouthing or scratching (even if it's just to get closer to lick someone's face!). He will learn that GOOD THINGS HAPPEN when he is gentle around children! Bring your puppy to the playground on weekends and do the same - let the parents know that you are specifically socialising your pup to love kids (lest they think you're a kidnapper!). Again, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE for good behaviour and correct for roughness.
In a perfect world, you would purchase your puppy at the same time that you have a baby - Remember the Golden Rule! - but that's just not how things work out in life. Let's say you have a year old CO of medium sociability and you've done all my homework regarding kids and socialization. Note that you should use EXTREME caution when introducing any dog to an infant. I would even say to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer that is familiar with protective dogs.
This is how I would go about it:
Do not introduce the dog the minute you walk in the door from the hospital. I would say to start introductions when mom feels well enough. Take it slow. While your attention will be on mom and baby's health, carve out some time where one partner can spend with the dog - maybe a nice fun walk with dad while mom sleeps. You're doing this to stem the onslaught of jealous feelings; Your CO will see it as "baby smells = mom and dad don't pay attention to me = bad", so make some time for your dog. Make sure mom and baby are both in good health before your CO meets the baby.
Have the more experienced dog handler between the two of you hold onto your leashed dog. Make your dog sit or lie down before bringing in your partner holding the baby. Have your partner hold the baby firmly to his/her body, wrapping his/her arms around the child exposing as little of the baby and swaddling clothes as possible - You shouldn't expose enough so that your dog could nip the baby. In addition to protecting the baby, this mingles baby's scent with your partner's and can help your dog associate baby as something that belongs to you and your partner and as something that should be accepted.
Have your partner walk into the room slowly, and praise your dog for remaining seated. Watch your dog closely, he should be interested but not focused on your partner (like a predator on prey), you should be able to bring his attention back to you at any time. If at ANY point your dog seems too focused, too predatory or gives any sort of grumble, have your partner move back and give the dog a strong correction - this is not a negotiation. Praise the dog for keeping a soft expression, panting, tail wagging and keeping some of his attention on you. If it's going well, you can have your partner approach slowly, all the while praising your dog for good behaviour. He is allowed to smell the baby THROUGH your partner's arms from his sitting position for just a moment before you get your partner to take the baby away. Never allow the dog to sniff the baby's face at this point. Praise for soft expression, tail wagging and lip smacking - these are all submissive behaviours. You need to give strong corrections for breaking his sit position, being TOO interested in baby, or trying to bump your partner with his head or nose. While you might think it's cute that your dog seems to want to get closer to your baby, more likely he thinks that the baby is prey.
The first time you do this, likelihood is that your dog will remain seated but WILL be a bit too interested in baby -trust your instincts, they are correct. If this happens, bring his attention back to you with a correction and praise him heartily for looking away. You can try one more time before you will need to give your dog a break. Make him do something easy before you go for a break, something that he will get praised for - a trick or a command. You want him to make the connection that baby belongs to mom and dad and is not to be touched, but that good things happen when baby is around.
Do this a few times a day. When you and your partner feel comfortable you can allow the dog to sniff baby in a different way - IE, baby's foot through your fingers. Remember to trust your instincts, be EXTREMELY careful and keep in regular contact with your breeder, as they will be able to give you personalized advice on this matter.
I already have an adult dog – can I still get a CO?
It depends on a number of things. 1)The age at which your CO is when he first meets your existing dog 2)how your existing dog reacts to a new addition. This will determine the course of the relationship between the two dogs.
First if at all possible, get a CO puppy because of the GOLDEN RULE: Anything that you make your CO accept as a pup he will accept as an adult. COs do not come out of the womb as ferocious defenders, they have to mature into it. Provided that your existing dog accepts the new puppy without issue, the CO will grow up with the existing dog as sibling/pack mate rather than a potential threat.
Second, how your existing dog reacts to the new addition. Well, first of all you should consider this BEFORE you get a CO – is old Lucky getting cranky and short-tempered in his old age? Tread lightly. If your dog is a ‘more the merrier’ type, or has an unfulfilled maternal instinct, then getting a new puppy might be feasible for you. That being said, jealousy is something that you have to watch out for and nip in the bud whenever possible.
Do expect some sibling spats as your CO matures, and use extra caution if you own a small or toy breed. While we’ve all seen the little Chihuahua send the Great Dane hiding behind its mom, you have to remember that one day your CO will be huge, powerful and protective. Just as an older sister torments a younger brother only to wake up to find that lil’ bro is 6’4” and 220lbs, you need to be aware if your CO is developing any resentment towards your little dog and nip it in the bud as well.
Even if you do all of your homework, your dog loves the puppy, there’s no sibling resentment building, you MUST use caution when leaving your CO with your little dog. COs play rough, and little bones can’t always stand up to rough housing. When your CO matures into his protective instincts there is the issue of aggression frustration – meaning, that if you have a new mailman and your CO can’t get through the door to ‘eat’ him. Even the best trained CO will show frustration when they can’t get to the ‘threat’, whether it be by snorting (Jade), eating (Vellikhan) or ripping apart a toy that’s close by (Chakotey), and you need to take steps to ensure that Fluffy isn’t the closest object to your CO at that time. Many pets have been killed by their long-time canine friends because of aggression frustration. Your breeder or dog trainer (specialising in protection breeds) will be able to help you devise a strategy to combating this.
Bottom line: Get a puppy; know your existing dog and how he’ll react to the new pup, DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
As Jade's due date approached with no nesting signs from her and no physical changes manifesting (teats developing etc), we think that she may have reabsorbed; this can happen if the uterus is inhospitable due to a low-grade infection. So we will have her checked out and a round of antibiotics started just in case. Tamara is having to do that with her Pomeranian bitch as well, as she reabsorbed her litter too.
I have a new roommate, IMMENSE DISAPPOINTMENT; it just hangs around me all day being a killjoy. Ugh.
Lucky for me, COs have a knack for knowing what their owners need emotionally. Jade is an excellent defender against the unhappiness that immense disappointment tends to bring me.
A new FAQ post is coming out soon, and will contain answers regarding COs and growing families, CO and your climate, COs and existing pets and the importance of socializing your CO as much as possible in as many ways as possible.
In the meantime, here's a picture of Jade keeping the crushing disappointment at bay with her goofy ways:
Hi, my name is Katie Parry and I am the writer of the Caucasian Ovcharka Blog. Originally from Ottawa, I now live in Kingston with my long-term boyfriend Paul and our two Caucasian Ovcharkas, Jade and Barristan. I decided to start this blog to chronicle my experiences as being an owner of a CO, as there is no dog that equals them.