The boys have changed a lot this week. All of their eyes are open and they are responding to sounds now. In order to give them more attention and exposure to normal household sounds, we moved the puppy pen from the spare bedroom upstairs down to the kitchen. The rest of the pack was pretty curious at first, especially the older girls who have have their own babies in the past, but the novelty has pretty much worn off for them.
Each day I’ve been putting a new object in the pen, like different dog toys and safe household things like an empty soda bottle, to give them stuff to check out. I’ve played some CDs of various noises, but for the most part Dave’s taste in music gives them exposure to a wide variety of sounds.
Yesterday I added a litter box to the pen to start giving the puppies the idea that they shouldn’t eliminate and sleep in the same place. Right now Muse is still doing a pretty immaculate job of keeping the pen clean, but this will change when we introduce solid food. Whenever we handle a puppy for any reason, we put him into the litter box when we return him to the pen. I’ve found that doing this consistently help puppies catch on pretty quickly to use the box when they need. This eventually translates to easier housebreaking and crate training, as well as a cleaner puppy pen.
Here are some photos from this week. Group photos aren’t working so well since the boys are pretty active now, but I tried to include everyone below..
Muse’s boys have continue to grow. They are all pretty close in size, but one is starting to lighten up in color. PBGV colors can change a lot, so I don’t think the others will all stay as dark as they are now either. No eyes are open yet, but I think that will happen in the next few days. They are an active litter and a couple of them are getting up on their feet already.
Muse is continuing to be a great mom. She will leave the boys for 15-20 minute intervals, but then wants to go back to them. I have started doing short training sessions with her to keep her mind engaged during her maternity leave.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Muse gave birth to a litter of five boys. This was the largest litter we have had since 2004. All of the babies are over a pound already and doing well (they like to eat like Grandma Maya.) Muse is being a great mom and we are having a lot of fun enjoying puppy snuggles.
Right now the puppies are set up in a spare bedroom where they were born. This allows Muse to have a little privacy from the rest of the pack but still makes it easy for us to monitor them without inconveniencing the dogs who normally sleep in the bedroom with us. When the puppies get a little older and are more aware of their surroundings we will move them down to the kitchen so they can be exposed to more household noises and stimulation.
Since things are going well with the litter, Muse is doing most of the work at this point. We are enjoying handling the puppies often and are checking weights daily. Beginning on day 3, we have been doing Early Neurological Stimulation with each puppy, as well as introducing a new scent to them daily, as described at www.avidog.com. So far the boys have experienced unwashed angora rabbit fiber, lavender, and leather. The hope is that this type of exposure will improve their scenting ability later in life.
Here’s a photo of the puppy pile from this morning:
As the sport of agility has evolved, so has the definition of success. In the early days any Q was celebrated and so were many of the personal Qs, as we used to call them- you know, when you finally get the weaves on the first try or have a successful lead out. Now the sport is more refined and goals are likely to involve championship titles, yards per second, tighter turns, and national rankings. This isn’t all bad, agility is definitely a more exciting sport than when I began competing in the 90s, but we shouldn’t forget to celebrate the small victories too.
I love agility, but have always identified myself as a breeder first and an agility competitor second. My PBGVs are never going to be the fastest or easiest to train agility dogs, but I can’t imagine changing breeds. I also can’t imagine making breeding decisions based on success in the agility ring; rather than breed type, health, and hunting ability. A good PBGV should look and hunt like a petit, enjoying agility is just a bonus. Showing and hunting my dogs means weekends spent away from agility, but I feel like that is time well spent.
Running the breed that I do means accepting limits about how far we will go in the sport. Agility is competitive in our area and almost everyone is faster than my girls. We are the kind of agility team who has a big pile of green ribbons but very few placements. Earning a MACH to me means getting 750 points, the QQs are the easy part and we have plenty to spare. As courses become more technical and judges wheel tighter and tighter, we will probably eventually be pushed into the preferred classes and maybe out of the sport altogether. I hope agility will remain an all breed sport and that course times won’t become unattainable for a healthy well trained and conditioned dog of an non- traditional breed.
It’s easy to say that success should be something you define for yourself, but we should remember to respect that we all have different goals. It’s frustrating to be excited about a personal success only to have the moment squashed by a snarky comment about how someone else did better or about how easy it must be with a particular type of dog. Everybody has different challenges. Agility is not an easy sport, even if the best teams make it look like it is. I think ranking systems are changing the sport as well. Making the invitational or having a top ranked dog of a particular breed can be a great goal, but there are factors besides the dog that can play a big role in these numbers. Agility is no longer seasonal. In many areas it’s possible to trial every weekend of the year and a lot of Thursdays, Fridays, and Mondays. Even with the most consistent and willing dog in the world, not everyone has the time or money to attend every trial. Defining success completely by the number of MACHs a team earns creates a system where many talented dog and handler teams will be limited.
In the end, we all need to be able run the right dog for us on the level that we enjoy. Hopefully agility will remain a diverse and accepting sport for a long time to come.