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.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Back to the park

We've been back to our local park twice this weekend. Don't get me wrong; Ruby likes the exercise. But I get the impression it's the social scene that she really goes for. Not a single person can go by without Ruby insisting on a stroke and a bit of a play. She is such a cutie that she gets away with it; even when the most serious, unfriendly looking person approaches, they generally melt once Ruby introduces herself.

I know you want me to come out from under here. But
I don't think I will.
I've also been doing some training with Ruby this weekend. We have reinforced sit and lie-down, both at home and in the park. I've also been working on 'stay'. She seemed to get the idea today but it definitely needs more work.

She is pretty good at 'wait'. I use 'wait' when we get to a road we need to cross. I always tell Ruby to wait and when I am sure it is clear, I will say 'cross over'. She seems to understand this quite well.

'Fetch' and 'Drop it' are also coming on very well. She pretty much always drops anything I get her to fetch if I give the command. It's a bit more of a struggle to get her to drop something she knows she shouldn't have. For instance, she nicked some tissue that Sarah had been using to blow her nose (she has a bad cold). I told Ruby to drop it, but she simply bolted under the sofa so she could rip up the tissue in peace. Puppies eh!

I can still fit under here and I'm
NOT coming out.

Not to worry. She is growing so quickly that it won't be long before she is too big to fit under the sofa. 

Thursday, 24 October 2013


As I've said in a previous post, Ruby is no bother on the lead when off the beaten track. However, when on the roadside, she will pull until she is choking. Although it is something I'm working on, I'm not happy that she is half strangling herself. So I thought I would try a harness.
What IS this thing you are
making me wear?

I got the small size as I thought the X-Small would be obsolete very soon. However, it is a little on the large side for her. Nothing too drastic but there is a bit of slack.

We started on our walk and the harness was excellent. It checked her pulling just fine and the walk along the roadside was much less of a tug-of-war.

I decided to pay a visit to my parents and as I was in the house talking to the old man, my mother was in the garden looking after Ruby. After 5 minutes my mother informed me that Ruby had rolled on her back and slipped out of the harness. Hmmmm. She sussed that out a bit easily. I'm hoping it's because it is a bit big rather than a design that Ruby can 'Houdini' out of at will.

The rest of the walk went fine; although as I went through the gate to the field behind our house, Ruby turned to face me and pulled away, almost slipping out of the harness again. It looks like it's back to the collar until she grows a little more.

Your pesky contraption won't hold
me....mwah hahah
Once we arrived back home, I left the harness on to see if she got used to it. Maybe if she felt comfortable with it on, she would be less inclined to try to get out of it.

She seemed happy enough, laying at my feet, merrily chewing one of her toys. I quickly checked my Twitter and Facebook on my phone while she was calm. After a few minutes I looked down at her to see a contented puppy calmly chewing on the harness she had removed from her body. How did she even do that? Oh right! Border Collies are clever. It also appears that they are escape artists.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Getting down and dirty

So, over the last couple of days, I've been taking Ruby a little bit further than last week on her walks. Not too far as I don't want to overdo it. But just walking on the footpath around the estate is a little boring to say the least.

We've started going up to the top of the estate and on to a small dirt track that runs along the back of the estate. We can then get on to the field behind our house and walk down through the grass to the house.

After a splash in the puddles
Ruby is pretty impressed with the new route. It's also much easier to walk her away from traffic. It seems she only strains at the lead when on the roadside. She is determined to push ahead and won't stop for anything. Then when a car approaches she gets down low, waits until it passes, then makes as if to chase it. I take her mind off the car and she again shoots off, pulling at the extent of her lead. As much as I try to get her to 'heel', she will strain until she is choking herself.

As soon as we are on a path away from the roadside, she calms right down and trots merrily along. I need to get her used to traffic and roads and as such, I am not going to avoid walking her around the street. However, it's not much fun at the moment as it turns into a tug of war. 

We are starting obedience classes next Wednesday so I'm hopeful that the trainer there will get to work and give me some good advice/techniques for focusing Ruby away from the traffic and on to taking notice of me.

When we get up onto the dirt track, Ruby has been loving the puddles. She marches right through them and seems to love getting wet and muddy. Everybody we meet has loved Ruby so far. Other dog owners comment on how cute she is. Ruby obliges by being a little star around other dogs. She tends to roll over and show them her belly, then have a good sniff, making sure she keeps low to the ground.

Two lads rode up behind us on their motorbikes today and when I moved to the side and held Ruby, one of them commented "nice dog mate" as he rode past. 

Last week, a lady walking a poodle told me she had seen Ruby the night before. Apparently her husband had been pulling up to their house and had noticed me walking Ruby. Not wanting his wife to miss the cute puppy, he phoned her from his car and told her to look out of the window. I must remember to tell Gillian (the breeder). She will be so proud of how much admiration one of her dogs is attracting.

A fine looking dog. But then I AM biased

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A walk in the park

Fuzzy moon
Today started at 7am with the moon shining brightly. Or at least it was trying to shine brightly through the mist.

Misty morning
Within the space of around 30 minutes, we had dark misty pre-dawn with a smudged but bright moon, totally clear skies with a bright clear moon, dawn breaking with bright sunshine, and finally cloud covering and drizzle. And all the time, Ruby was playing in the back garden. By the time we went back inside, the view from the front window was quite impressive. The sun had come up and there was mist in the valley. A bank of fog was also moving slowly from right to left across the moor.

Today was the day we tried out the car crate for the first time. We wanted to make sure that Ruby's first journey in the crate was both short, and had a nice experience at the end of it. The first part of the plan unravelled slightly due to some roadworks. The journey took much longer than expected and Ruby yelped the whole way. 

However, once we got to Sarah's mum's and got Ruby out of the car, all the complaining was forgotten. We (that's me, Sarah, Rhianna and Anne) took Ruby into the park on a 'flexi' lead. She had a great time. I was really impressed that although she was distracted by all the different things going on, she didn't just run to the limit of the lead an try to pull. She ran ahead a little, then stopped and waited. She kept coming back to us and was forever checking to see that we were following her.

Ruby met a few dogs (and a few humans) on her walk. One dog gave her a fright as it was not on a lead, and although friendly, when it ran towards Ruby, she let out a squeal and retreated rather quickly.

All in all, Ruby had a great time and loved having a run around in the open. On the way home she barely let out a whimper in her crate. I think she has already got the idea that the crate leads to nice things.

Happy dreams
We got back home and she crashed out underneath the sofa. So much to take in for a puppy.

Other than the trip to the park, toilet training is having its ups and downs. It's amazing that however much you think you are keeping an eye on her, you can go to take her outside and notice a puddle on the conservatory floor. Goodness knows how she manages to keep doing it without us noticing. I must get some of that enzyme cleaner again. There must be traces of urine smell on the floor so she thinks that is where she should go. The last product didn't agree with Sarah who really didn't like the smell of it. I'll try another brand and see if it works (and smells) better.

Ruby with her  ball on
Training is also having it's good and bad days. She can be quite stubborn, especially when she is excited. I'm looking forward to getting started with the obedience classes so I can get some expert advice. She sits and lies down pretty well on command but getting her to come to me and to stay is proving more of a challenge. But hey, she's only 13 weeks old so maybe my expectations are a bit high. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Ready to roll

The travel crate arrived yesterday and it fits in the back of the new estate car just fine. Anchoring it was a little more of an issue than it should have been. But that was more down to the company that I had ordered cam buckle cargo lashing straps from. Instead of 6 of these proper cargo lashes, I got 2 of the ones I had paid for plus 4 x rainbow coloured suitcase straps with flimsy plastic buckles and thin, weak webbing. Not a happy bunny.

On a happier note, Ruby is really getting into the walking thing. She is meeting lots of people and other dogs and having a great time. We are going to take her on a little trip in the car at the weekend. We want to get her used to the crate for travelling in. So we are going to take her to a local park and let her have some fun. 

I rang Calverley Dog Training Club last night and spoke with the guy who does the training. Unfortunately there are no spaces left in his Monday night puppy training classes but the good news is that he thinks that Ruby would be fine in the 'beginners' class that he runs on Wednesdays. Although they take dogs of all ages, he is convinced that Ruby will settle in, particularly given she is a Border Collie (his favourite breed ever).

I am still amazed by how quickly she is growing. She bears little resemblance to the little teddy bear type puppy we brought home 4 weeks ago. She looks like a smaller version of an adult Border Collie. Her legs are getting long, and her snout is also getting longer. She is amazingly intelligent and is settling into the family very well.

We still have our challenges in terms of toilet training but generally she is very good and there are only occasional accidents (usually our fault for not paying attention). She goes to her bed on command and appears happy and content (as you can tell by this picture)...

She's such a tart

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

What the deuce?

Ruby is loving her walks. We started going on a 15 minute route around the block on Saturday and have done it each day since. When I say 15 minutes, it would take that long at a constant brisk walking pace. Obviously a puppy wants to stop and check out everything so it is taking a lot longer.

Each time I take Ruby out, she is getting better at paying attention to me. She still stops every time a car goes by but appears less frightened. In fact she tends to prick up her ears, wait for the car to go by and then try to chase it. Today, she was really good at obeying "wait". As soon as she made to pull in the direction of a car, I told her to wait. Most times it would do the trick.

I've also been practicing the "heel" command. It's having some limited success but doesn't tend to work on the roadside as there is so much going on. She just ploughs ahead in a determined fashion. Until she decides there is an interesting smell somewhere.

On the path between the 2 main roads, she changes and tonight she walked right beside me with a loose lead (for most of the way).

At one point, she stopped to sniff what I thought was a pile of dog poop. Turns out it was a frog that had decided to come and sit on the path in the rain.

Ruby was really interested but thankfully didn't make any attempt to bite or grab the frog. She just seemed curious.

We left froggy to his amphibious musings and carried on our way. As the weather was pretty blustery, there was nobody else around so we didn't get a chance to stop and talk to any other humans. 

Once again, having got home, Ruby went straight to the back door and wanted to go out to toilet. She has not associated going for a walk with doing her business. Not that I mind. Even though I go armed with poop bags, it suits me if she holds it until we get home. I can then clean it up at my leisure and I don't have to walk the rest of the way carrying a bag of dog poo.

Yes. I'm a pooping in your
strawberry tub
Tonight,  she pooped in unusual spots. Normally she will go into a quiet corner of the undergrowth. But tonight she did one poop on the limestones and a second one in the strawberry tub. Yes, she jumped into the planter and promptly pooped one down in what was left of the strawberry plants. I've no idea why she did this.

Last night and this morning, Ruby went into her crate on command. Not the first time I told her, but after repeating a couple of times, she just got in and laid down. She was being left for a couple of hours this morning so I gave her a Kong with treats/peanut butter inside so she would have something to do. When my mum got there, she was 'happy as Larry'.

I'm about to give the dog training club a call as she can start puppy classes next Monday. The car crate has been despatched so it should be all systems go.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Centre of attention

Another little walk before dinner and we went the same route as we did at the weekend. This time I went on my own and Ruby set off like a freight train. I spent much of the walk encouraging, telling, coaxing and bribing her to walk at my heel without pulling at the chain. She would get the idea for a few seconds, then something else would get her attention and it was back to pulling me along. 

You talking to me?
Although she would stop frequently to sniff things, it wasn't as often as before. It seems as though she is getting familiar with the route and the smells. She still flinched to some degree when cars drove past. Sometimes she would look quite scared but other times she just looked alert. Then once the car had gone by, she made as if to run after it. I'm making the effort to try to take her attention away from the cars but without sounding obvious about it. I think if I make too much of a fuss, it might just add to the problem. Calm distraction and act disinterested I think is the best way.

Once away from the road, we met a lady walking her little dog in the opposite direction. She was very nice and made the effort to get her dog to introduce itself to Ruby. Ruby seemed scared at first but once they had sniffed each other for a few seconds, she was fine. A few minutes later a man with a large German Shepherd approached. The lady with the small dog asked him if his dog was ok with others. He said that she was absolutely fine. So Ruby and the other little dog had a bit of a play with the German Shepherd. We all then went our separate ways. 

So Ruby is gradually getting more familiar with traffic, other people, other dogs and in the case of yesterday's walk, children's buggies. She does get the idea of walking at my heel on a loose lead. It's just that she has her puppy head on and is so interested in all the new things that she just doesn't listen. Hey ho. I'll keep persevering. I'm also going to book puppy training classes (hopefully from next Monday), so I will be getting some 'expert' help. 

Back home and Ruby did 2 poops in the garden. She has so far made no effort to go to the toilet on our travels. I'm still keeping a close eye on her poops as they are sometimes quite solid and sometimes quite loose. Her food regime has settled down and apart from a few treats and maybe some banana in her Kong, she doesn't have anything that could upset her. I suspect she may just be quite sensitive to even small changes in her diet. The last 4 weeks have seen an amazing transformation in me from sane adult to having an unhealthy obsession with dog poop.