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