Sunday, 24 November 2013

Further afield

The last 10 days or so has been pretty good, all things considered. Ruby's toilet training is coming on well. She has got to the point where she will now deliberately let us know she wants to go outside, even barking to get our attention if we are being a bit lax. There are still occasional puddles on the conservatory floor, but these seem to appear if Ruby gets excited, if we are not paying enough attention, or sometimes if she wants to wind us up.

Ok, so I'm hidden. You can't see
me, right?
We are slowly but surely taking her a bit further afield now. The last two weekends have involved walks in the local woods. She loves it amongst the trees, especially as most of the leaves are now on the ground. We've met loads of other dog walkers and as usual, most of them make a big fuss of Ruby.

I've heard a couple of 'horror' stories of certain people with aggressive dogs, causing problems for responsible owners and their animals. There is apparently one oldish lady who walks a big bulldog type breed and leaves it off the leash. When it gets aggressive with other dogs, she just says she can't control him because it's her son's dog (sigh). 

I also got a facebook message passed on today, warning of a couple walking four dogs. Two on the lead, and two (staffies) off the lead. According to the report, despite the owners saying they were friendly, the staffies attacked someone's dog.

I'm sure there is an element of 'chinese whispers' going on but I have to admit to being a little worried. I'm not sure I would know how to react if an aggressive dog tried to attack Ruby. It seems the trend these days to get the bigger terrier breeds and other potentially dangerous types. Add this to the fact that such dogs can (at least in my neighbourhood) attract owners who appear to WANT their dogs to be scary and intimidating, and there is a recipe for problems. 

All that said, the people I have met on my walks so far have been nice enough. Today for instance there was a young woman walking two dogs off the lead. One seemed to be a labrador type although I think it was a cross breed. It had a muzzle on but as soon as it saw Ruby it ran straight at her. Poor Ruby let out a loud yelp and tried to run away. She seemed terrified. The dog didn't appear too aggressive; more boisterous so I kept Ruby on a short lead and got her to sniff the other dog. It growled at me though, which I suppose might explain the muzzle. The woman called the dog and kept hold of it as we walked off. 

Dog tired
All in all, the walks have been great and Ruby is loving the experience of new places. At first, she was really focussed on sniffing things and checking out pretty much every tree in the woods. However, after about 10 minutes I started to encourage her to listen to me by commanding her to lie down. I would do this now and again and by the end of the walk Ruby was immediately dropping to the ground on command. I have started doing this over and over whenever we are away from roads. Not too often as I want her to experience things in her own time; but enough to keep it in her mind that I am the boss.

We are still having issues with Ruby focusing on cars when walking at the roadside. Other owners of puppies from the same (and previous) litters from our breeder have said they too have this problem. One of the solutions seems to be to get them so used to (and bored of) traffic that they get to the point where they ignore it. So I have started going to the nearest main road and walking Ruby along when the road is busy. It does seem to have an effect after about five minutes. She seems to get sick of trying to run after the cars and ends up being more responsive to me. I think this one is going to be a tough nut to crack though, so it's just a matter of doing the leg work, over and over until she realises that cars are not interesting and that if she behaves and pays attention to me, there might be a nice treat in it.

It's now just over 2 months in to our Border Collie experience and despite some challenges, a bit of sleep deprivation, a change in lifestyle and an understanding that most things need to be planned around the dog, I wouldn't go back to life before Ruby. At the start of all this, I did get the sense that there were a lot of self-righteous BC owners and dog owners in general that expressed a degree of 'snobbery' about a newbie owner. I felt a bit defensive about all this, given that getting Ruby was not a decision we took lightly. On the other hand, it is fair to say that a lot of people evidently do not look into dog ownership deeply enough and end up with an animal they can not handle and no longer want. This is particularly true with the BC breed and I totally understand how lovers of such animals don't want to see the rescue centres fill up with unwanted Collies.

From my point of view, I have always been confident that we would meet the needs of our dog both physically and mentally. That said, I am aware of an extremely good safety net called Gillian. Should we have come to the conclusion that we had made a mistake, Gillian would take her dog back and give her a good home on a working farm. So either way, Ruby would never be destined for a rescue centre. It's a moot point anyway as she is part of the family already and is definitely here to stay. 

I'll TELL you when to stop stroking me

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Fast and furious

Ruby is growing fast. Already I'm finding myself looking back at photographs from a month ago and thinking that I can barely remember her being THAT small.

We're making some progress with training. She sits and lies down pretty well on command although she still tends to ignore me when focused on something. I've also been getting somewhere with 'stay'. I've found this a harder nut to crack, mainly because it essentially involves telling her NOT to do something. In the house she is getting really good at it. I can command her to stay and she will lay on the spot while I walk back a good 5 yards or so. I will then stop and maintain eye contact for up to a minute before walking back to her. Only when I get back to her will I give her praise for staying. It's sinking in I think.

Look at my tongue. Big, isn't it?
The walking on the lead saga is continuing. She does pull a lot when at the roadside and it got to the point where I became a bit worried about her damaging her throat. I've tried all kinds of things including distraction with treats, pulling up and in with the lead, talking to her to keep her attention, commanding to sit, wait etc.....nothing has worked. She becomes incredibly focused on the road and the vehicles on it and even with the tastiest of treats, she just moves around it as if to say, "get that food out of my face".

The latest harness we have got makes things much easier. It is much harder for her to pull and it will soon check her. Eventually I want to go back to the collar but I think I'll wait until the training has kicked in a bit more.

Ruby has had two visits to dog training now and we are going back again tomorrow night. To be honest, it's benefitting me more than the dog. The trainer is good at picking up on little things such as when I called her. I was crouched and as she ran towards me I leaned forward and to the side to give her the treat. The trainer spotted this and advised that I use the treat to 'lure' her right in to me before giving her the treat. That way, she would get used to coming right up to me rather than stop 2 feet away.

Toilet training is having its ups and downs. She is good with the poo side of things (unless we are REALLY not paying attention). But when it comes to the pee, she can often just run into the conservatory and immediately squat and pee before we have any time to react. We still take her outside regularly but she can be out for 10 minutes and do nothing but pee as soon as back in the house. There is some progress having constantly praised her every time she goes outside. I can often now tell her to "go pee" and she will do it. So overall, I think we are getting there. I have to remember she is still only a 4 month old puppy.

The walks around the estate are interesting as I have discovered so many people with dogs. I never noticed how many other dogs there were until I started taking Ruby out. Mind you, I did only tend to drive in and out of the estate in my car. We met a really unusual cross breed last week. It was a BC / Akita cross. It looked more like an Akita than a collie and belonged to a couple and their 3 young kids. I have to say I wasn't convinced about having such a dog with small kids. If it has the Akita dominance and the collie drive, it will be a real handful.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Time flies

It's a whole week since my last post. I don't know where the time goes. Overall it's been a decent week. Ruby went to her first training class at Calverley Dog Training Club on Wednesday evening and did ok. There were only 3 other dogs there so we got plenty of attention. Ted the brown spaniel, lulu the beagle and a titchy little squashed faced mop of a dog. No memory of what it was called and not sure what breed it was. No doubt I'll get to know it better over the coming weeks.

You are a leaf and you will do as I command - Or I will
stare at you until you obey.
For a first lesson it wasn't bad. Ruby wanted to play with the other dogs and to start with she kept letting a bit of wee out whenever she met a new dog or owner. In terms of the training we had to stand in a square and take it in turns to walk our dog around all the others, trying to keep the dog focused on walking with us and NOT getting distracted by the other dogs. The first time it didn't go too well. But on the second attempt I put plenty of energy and effort into keeping Ruby on task and she did really well.

Local walks each day are becoming a bit stressful at the moment. Ruby pulls frantically on her lead, to the point where she is on her back legs and almost choking herself. However many times I stop, tell her to wait, and then try again, she immediately goes back to frantic pulling. She is not so bad when away from the roads so I think it might have something to do with traffic. However, the roads on the estate aren't that busy and even when there are no cars driving by, she still pulls like mad. 

She is much better with a harness but there are two issues here. First, I WANT to train her to walk with a collar/lead without pulling. Second, she has slipped the harness a few times. She seems to 'back out' of it somehow. It's never happened on the roadside as she is too busy forging ahead. But when we get to the farmer's field and start to go through the gate, she turns to face us, pulls backwards, and if we are not careful, she is out of the harness. 

For the time being, I think I'm going to go back to the harness as at least she isn't putting pressure on her throat. It also pulls her up much better and she seems a lot calmer when walking on the roadside. I just need to watch her like a hawk in case she tries to get out of it. She would definitely chase passing cars and it would not end well.

Does my bum look big in this?
We went back to the park today. Ruby does like going there. She met loads of dogs, saw a football match, distracted one of the players who was trying to warm up, and tried her best to chase after the footballs.

There are certainly no worries around her socialising with other dogs or people. She behaves really well, loves meeting people and getting strokes, and always seems to act appropriately with other dogs.

Later, when I took her for a teatime stroll around the estate, she did a big poop on a patch of grass en route. Not a particularly interesting fact I grant you. But actually it is a bit of a milestone. Up until that point, she had never done a wee or a poop while out. She has always held it in until we got home, then rushed to the back garden to 'evacuate'. So squatting down and firing out a huge poop on today's walk was an achievement. 

Well done Ruby. And well done me for cleaning it all up and disposing properly; not leaving it there just because nobody was looking. It riles me when people do that. Nothing worse than going about your business and having to dodge piles of dog mess left there by ignorant owners who are too lazy/selfish to take it away.