Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stella Bella

Stella, Stella, Stella… what am I going to do about you, mia puppia! This is a revved up, crazy dog, and I am having a hard time keeping up with her.  She’s half lab and half Springer Spaniel, but there are days when I swear that she’s also part Whippet. I can run her for a few hours and after a twenty-minute rest, she’s ready to play all over again.

When my stepson was a little boy, someone asked him to do something and he replied, “I don’t listen to that.” It’s been a saying in our house for many years, and Stella clearly subscribes to that philosophy. Some days, when I call her, she will run like the wind to be with me, but if there’s a stinky good smell or a small furry creature that she’s after, it’s “I don’t listen to that!” While I was unable to go outside with the dog when I first broke my arm, my husband invented a game called “chase the stick”. Stella finds these huge branches that she gets in her mouth and proudly marches around. To exercise her, my husband would run after her, and she learned how to play keep away.  Big mistake. Now, she’s started just taking off into the woods when she is off the leash, and it’s really hard to get her to come back – especially since I can’t really chase after her yet. She teases me, running in circles around me refusing to let me get near her.

Stella has in the last two months also become afraid of some things that never used to bother her. She suddenly hates having Frontline put on her back. She used to love to go to the vet but recently, she’s terrified. No one has ever done anything to hurt her, and since she was a puppy, I was really good about touching her ears and her legs and generally getting her used to being handled.  Just during the time I have been injured, my trusting pup has become a total scaredy cat. If she sees me approaching with dog treats, she runs away like I’m going to poison her. So I’m going to have to go back to step one and start over on training her.

I’m going to begin taking her to doggie day care so she can spend more time playing with other dogs while I’m healing my arm. I just don’t have it in me to go for the long walks that we used to, and my daughter and husband are too busy right now to help exercise her.  If anyone has any ideas about the re-training process or any of this, I’d welcome them. I’ve had dogs my whole life, and they’ve all always wanted to stay by my side off leash and been really responsive and well behaved.  I’ve done all the same things with Stella, but she’s got a mind of her own and can become oblivious to anything I do to get her attention.

I’m used to trusting my dogs without a leash, but right now, Stella is on a short lead or a long retractable flexi leash whenever we leave the house.  I was visiting a friend this week who has a golden retriever puppy that is younger than Stella. This dog was so mellow and calm that it almost seemed like he was drugged.  I came home to be joyously greeted by my wild child, and while I admit that I was feeling jealous, I also knew that I wouldn’t trade Stella for anything in the world. I’m sure that she has some lessons to teach me while I’m teaching her.


Annette said...

My Sedona cannot be off lead. Like Stella, she has a mind of her own and just takes off. She always comes back home, but it's hours later and, in the meantime, I worried myself sick. So, she stays on a leash when we are off the property (which is fenced). When she was younger, I took her to obedience training and I tried that doggy sport where they go through obstacles. She would happily race thru the tunnel, come out the other side, and keep going. Gleefully. We got another dog to keep her company and play with and that has helped a lot. I don't think you can train it out of them. I know I couldn't.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

My Jack Russell Q is not trustworthy off leash either. She might be gone hours - meanwhile I'm having a coronary. My only strategy is to cut off her escape when she runs up someone's stairs. So no advice here...

"I don't listen to that" I love it. I can think of several times recently that I could have used that line. Very to the point. ;D

Grey Horse Matters said...

Stella does have lots of energy. I guess trying to channel it in a positive way is what she needs. Have you tried clicker training with her? It might help her to focus and listen. I've never tried it but who knows it could help. Good luck with your wild child, she's awfully cute too.

billie said...

Our female Corgi Kyra has always been like that - she will run and not come when called, even though she knows the command and does it reliably inside the house and fenced yard.

Chase always came when I called, and was fine off leash with me at the barn or anywhere. Bear (though a wild man in many ways) will come back to me though it sometimes takes a couple of calls to get my voice to sink in if he's running.

Kyra - is 13 years old and grizzled with white all over her face and muzzle. A few months back someone came to visit and Kyra went down the front steps - I said, oh, she'll be fine, she doesn't run like she used to.

Kyra trotted across the yard, down the driveway, turned right down our lane, and kept on going. We had to go get her with the car! I do think some dogs just have really independent minds. The idea that she will still do this at this point makes me laugh, but in her younger years we never trusted her off leash b/c she could run fast and I didn't want her to get into trouble.

Love the "I don't listen to that." LOL! Good luck with the retraining - I feel sure you'll make good progress but the recall might not be something you can trust for a long time, if ever.

Oak in the Seed said...

Stella is about that age (6-12 months but that is not exact) when a dog goes through their "second fear period."

I had these and other (aggression) issues with Toby but had the incredible fortune to meet up with an animal behaviorist in Rhode Island, Betty Laurin, who at the time told me: "Forget the obedience stuff. This dog needs an entire behavior modification program." And then proceeded with a no nonsense lecture followed by an hour and a half of training ME. It took awhile but it has made all the difference.

Victoria: I have learned a lot about this but it's more than I can share in a blog comment. I will be happy to contact you off-line or on the telephone. Stella will be fine but there is much to be learned to help that along.

Good luck!