Friday, December 12, 2014

Learning Overload

We have Chase, our OCD Border Collie mix, inside full time now. It's a lot of fun, but man oh man, it's a lot of work, too.

Chase is a rat-killer. That's her most-useful function. In her mind, though, her most important duty was to chase cars. (Hence the name.) That's how we originally got her, actually. As far as we can understand, her previous owner wasn't too concerned about her safety and just tossed her out periodically into an unfenced yard. She chased cars all the way to our place. We returned her once, after having no contact/no interest in her for a month despite fliers, asking around, and contacting the Humane Society in case someone went looking for her there. Ultimately a friendly neighbor let us know who she belonged to, and he came and picked her up.

We got the owner's phone number and the next time she turned up, we called for over a month. He didn't even bother to answer our phone calls. After consulting the Humane Society, we learned that she was essentially abandoned at that point, so we adopted her. Incidentally, the previous owner never contacted us again, though he lives less than a quarter mile from us and certainly drives by from time to time, if not daily.

She's better off here. Trust me.

Anyway, because of residual abuse issues (like I said, she's better off here) she guarded food and was generally badly or rather un-socialized as far as other animals are concerned. The food guarding gradually improved, but she started to get more and more aggressive with the other dogs. When I came home one day and saw her savaging Brian's face, that was it. She had to be indoors, full time, crated at night and while we're away from the house (to keep the cats safe) and is under constant supervision by day.

Sometimes she doesn't need us reminding her every five seconds. Those are the good times. I love having her inside all the time, but much better when she's snuggled up on the sofa with us. When she goes into endless predator stalk mode with Huntress, or gets into the cat food, or gets incredibly snuggly (as in she has to be licking your face with her forelegs on your shoulders and her body sprawled across yours) because she becomes consumed by epic levels of insecurity, confusion and general overwhelmed-ness, that's when my DH and I get really, really weary.

We can certainly separate her from all temptation. Move the cat food, keep her isolated from the cats, etc. but we want to train her, not make it so that it's not possible for her to do anything bad or bothersome ever again. And she's learning sooo fast! She's very smart. But she's bored and there's not much for her to do around here. We have to come up with stuff. For now, it's pretty much a full time job to herd our herding dog. In the meantime, she'll be stressed out some of the time because she doesn't understand all these seemingly-arbitrary rules, we'll be aggravated because it seems pretty obvious to us what we want of her, and the house will be in chaos. But chaos is okay sometimes. From chaos comes creativity, possibility, and a bunch of other -ity's. We'll discover new ways to interact with our 'difficult' dog, learn a bunch of stuff, and have the fun of having a dog around the house to play and cuddle with and to let us know when there's a horse in the orchard.

That's another story.


Anonymous said...

My thoughts are you might want to try her on a 'tie-out' chain with the other end hooked on to a long sturdy wire, inside one of the fences. That would give her a 'run' right along the length of the wire.
They're a very difficult breed if they don't get enough exercise; I confess I haven't tried that with my dogs yet but they each had a long chain giving them about a ten or twelve foot radius of explorable ground when tied up, and an hour or two running free every day. If they're digging holes within that area it's a pretty good sign of boredom.
Sometimes wish I could bring Can into the house to get her better socialised with me (and thus improve her obedience) but it's just not practical.
Can chases cars too, so she's tied up a lot.


Kami said...

Good idea re: the wire line. That would keep her from going after Brian, and she could get her exercise.