Monday, October 27, 2014

In Which Nicki Rescues Moonlight

Having a rescued dog in your family opens a whole world of information you never thought you needed. You learn things that never even briefly occurred to you before. And then you find application for them all the time! How is it that you never needed this information before, but now it comes into play almost every day? And NOT in direct relation to your own dog? Astounding.

The other day Nicki and I were headed to the Post Office. We go when they close for lunch. The boxes are still available; only the window closes. That way, Nicki can go into the Post Office with me without upsetting anyone.

As we headed down the street, a young woman carrying a child was walking up the street towards us. She kept looking over her shoulder. When she got within speaking distance, she told me that her dog had gotten loose and was somewhere in the neighborhood. Since I was out walking my dog, she asked that I keep an eye out for her dog, named Moonshine. A little black Lab with a bright pink collar. Of course, I agreed. "And if I do find her, where will I find you?" She gave her address - just down the street a bit. Just then, I spotted Moonshine walking through a church parking lot right next to where we stood. The woman called out to her - and Moonshine, recognizing that the game was afoot!, immediately began running off.

That's so common. I once watched a guy chase his off-leash dog around mine and my neighbor's yards for about 10 minutes. It was all a big game to the dog. My Border Collie, who was off leash in our yard but had a terrific recall, immediately forgot everything she knew and began running with the other dog! Terrified, I screamed out her name and fruitlessly commanded her to sit. She didn't even hear me; there was a friend to romp with! Luckily, she dashed right by me at one point and I was able to reach out and grab her in mid run. Yes, I was faster than a Border Collie. Fear is a great motivator. Our BC was not a rescue pup; we'd raised her ourselves. The yard had always been our home, and it was where all her training took place. so she was accustomed to listening to me there - until that day. The owner of the loose dog inexplicably gave up, got back into his car, and drove away, leaving his dog loose in the yards! I put Daisy into the house, grabbed a leash, and came out to try to corral the loose dog, but it, too, was gone.

Nicki, of course, is another story. For her, recalls are a haphazard event, and totally pointless unless she smells treats. Also, since New Spirit 4 Aussies sends home LOTS of excellent information with their adopted pups, I knew that the first year(s) are a dangerous time for rescue dogs. Not having adapted to their new surroundings yet, they are apt to run off. They're not actually running away from their new homes - they just take off because they don't yet have that home "feel".

Anyway, that means that Nicki is never off leash outdoors. It's just not safe for her. Her tie-out is very unobtrusive, and on a long trolley, so she feels fairly unrestricted in the yard. Nonetheless, Nicki used to be a bit of a door darter. If we weren't vigilant, she'd push through a barely-opened door to get outside. It only happened twice when it was scary. In both instances, my panicked call of her name brought her to ground immediately. Then, a few months ago, it kind of happened again. We were getting ready to go outside to hang laundry. With the basket on my hip, I opened the door, and Nicki and I walked out into the yard. In about 5 steps I realized I'd forgotten to clip her tie-out on. I calmly set the basket down, turned around, and patted my leg, calling her to follow me back into the house. She complied as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

Wow - what a huge step. Nicki had remained by my side because it was just where she wanted to be, open door or no, tie-out or no.

Back to Moonlight. That's exactly how Moonlight had come to be exploring the nabe. She had door-darted. Nicki and I headed down the street as we had been, which was also in the direction Moonlight had been headed. I kept scanning homes and backyards. Pretty sure some folks thought I was up to something. Then, out of nowhere, Moonlight was at our side, sniffing noses with Nicki. I stopped walking, spoke quietly to her, reached down calmly, and slipped my hand into her collar. All the while, Nicki held her attention. I didn't really need all that training this time - I just needed Nicki. Moonlight didn't come to me; she came to Nicki. In short order, Moonlight's mom headed down the walk towards us, leash in hand. I held on until I was sure she had attached the leash. Then Nicki and I said goodbye to Moonlight and her mom and finished our walk.

Even though I didn't need any of the information I'd gotten about finding and "catching" loose dogs, it's still good to know.  Here's an excellent video to help you understand why your dog may run from you if they get loose. While Kat Albrecht explains this method from the point of view of catching a timid or scared dog, your dog may respond the same way to these behaviors, thinking that you mean to play. That's what Moonlight was doing. She didn't feel threatened; she was playing a game.These calming behaviors can also work to draw in a dog which has entered play mode in less-than-optimal surroundings, giving you the chance to help your dog back into a safer situation.

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