Sunday, 3 August 2014

Short-lived romance

Well, it lasted 19 days and every one of those days was fraught with frustration.

Today I returned Sorley to the terrier rescue group from which I had adopted him. No, he didn't try to mangle one of the cats. But because he'd had pretty much no training for his first full year of life... and he is a terrier (mix), he was too much of an intensive project for me.

Terriers are noted for being very smart dogs, and that Sorley definitely was. But he also didn't give two hoots about anything I was trying to teach him unless he got instant benefit from it. Which meant food or play or both NOW.

You can't keep training with food because if that's all you do, the dog will eventually do absolutely nothing unless you are stuffing treats down its gullet. I've trained plenty of dogs over the past 35 years to know that.

What I had was a dog who barked incessantly at every little noise and movement. The dog down the street yapped ~ the alarm went off. The woman in the house across the street and down on door walked past her front room window ~ the alarm went off. The car across the back lane fired up or drove out ~ the alarm went off. Some noise was emitted from the tv ~ the alarm went off. If someone walked down the sidewalk in front of the house, you'd think we were being attacked by giant aliens! I tried the water squirt bottle. He didn't like it but kept barking. I tried the rocks in a plastic bottle trick, he's jump and cringe ~ but kept barking. I resorted to an ultrasonic anti-bark collar, which would limit things a bit if he just started with a grumble but if he started right into the alarm bark, it had no effect whatsoever. Using a clicker when he was quiet only worked if the food kept flowing... constantly. Me yelling when he barked and praising when he was quiet made no difference at all.

Then there was his on-leash behaviour. He had no idea how to walk on a leash without constant pulling. Didn't matter that he was wheezing and coughing ~ he kept pulling. Didn't matter that we spent many short sessions (he's a terrier ~ gets bored quickly) weaving in and out of the posts along the edge of a local museum's parking lot. Or that we practised changing directions frequently while walking down the sidewalk. He got the hang of sitting each time I stopped at an intersection, even to the point where he did it without any prompting from me about 75% of the time. Why that and nothing else is beyond me. But then a controlled walk forward was impossible. It was a full out launch as far as he could get (which wasn't far, because the leash was short when sitting but not applying pressure at all to his collar). One time, in trying to get across the street without this rocket launch thing, I actually stopped and had him sit and start again at least 10 times!

And then there was his reaction to any dog that we walked past, whether it was loose, tied up or behind a fence. Whether it was barking, growling or silent. Mostly they were not quiet at all. He went absolutely ballistic!!! Right up on his hind legs and willing to rip out the throat of the other dog out if I'd only let him close enough. Didn't matter if it was the tiny cockapoo who was tied to the front deck so it could just reach the sidewalk, or the three big behemoths behind the chain link fence a block over, each of which was at least three times his weight.

He peed in the basement once, and pooped three times, despite two good walks a day (the morning one was usually at least 3.5 kms) and several trips to the back yard. He managed to pop through the cat door I installed on the utility room to keep the cats' litter box safe. The third time, I actually caught him IN the box, digging for treasure. I hauled him out by the scruff of the neck and was ~this~ close to killing the damn thing!!!!

I tried. I really did. He was a very cute dog, and a nice size (30 lbs), and was affectionate and playful. But... he exhausted me, both mentally and physically. I began to hate going for walks but knew he needed the exercise (as did I) and the training. But it was a battle every time. A dog should be a pleasant companion, not a nightmare on four legs 80% of the time. So back he went. The rescue group has a 21 day trial period so I got my adoption fee refunded.

So I am keeping my eyes open for someone else. Someone much more laid back... and quieter. My sister volunteers at a no-kill shelter and took me to meet a new dog there. They think he's got german shepherd in him  from his markings (black on his back and the rest of him brown, but not tan; more the colour of rich teak) but is smaller (60 lbs maybe?) and not the same shape as a shepherd at all. But he's not been there long, needs to be neutered and will have his back end checked out because he seems to be a bit sore (hopefully not hip dysplasia). All the other dogs were barking like crazy (as shelter dogs are wont to do) except this one. He was friendly without being pushy and when we took him to their outdoor area, he came over to each of us when coaxed quite easily. He gets along really well with a couple of the dogs, doesn't like one of the pups who is super excitable, and has yet to be evaluated with cats. So him, I will keep and eye on, and my sister will keep me informed of what is going on with him.


  1. Oh I'm sorry to read this, but understand!
    Sometimes larger dogs can be easier company... my old shepherd had his problems i.e. epilepsy and was scared witless of traffic and therefore was impossible to walk on a lead, but he was a gentle giant and only barked about three times ever - seriously! The first time he barked he looked around himself in terror because he couldn't figure out where the noise had come from! And then after that he only barked if there was a serious issue i.e. someone trying to break into the car that was parked on the driveway. He used to talk though - I'm sure you know what I mean by that.
    Anyhow, good luck finding your next companion!

    1. Yes, I know what you mean about the talking. It's funny when they do that! And yeah, having a non-barker is wonderful. My bullmastiff, Zoë, who featured prominently on here for a number of years (you may recall her) never barked. A couple of times playing with another dog when she was pup and that was it. Never when someone came to the door, or she heard something outside... she would jump up on high alert and look very intense and run to the door (wagging her tail if it was someone come visiting) but I couldn't even induce her to bark. I like that in a dog. ;-)

  2. Sorry that Sorley didn't work out. You are absolutely right, any new dog has to fit your expectations ... and with the cats, obv.

    I hope that the rescue group will work with Sorley to help him be a good match with another family.

    Best wishes finding a doggie for Chez Ponita!

    1. Thanks, LX. Yes, the dog has to be a good fit for everyone in my house. My girls are most important, which is why I didn't keep that doberman that I'd gotten from my girlfriend when she moved to the west coast. The dog was fine with Pips (who is the 'top dog' of all the animals in the house) but tried to kill Lila. Sorley was fine with the cats but that's not the only thing that counts!

  3. Sorry you had such a handful...probably why I'm a "big dog" kinda gal. Little dogs seem to be so high strung. I had a Black Lab when I was a kid and the only time she barked was if another kid looked like he/she was threatening us. Of course we've had 2 Chocolate Labs for the past 13 years: the Dad, "Smokey" is gone but son "Bou" is as laid back as they come. Oh, he'll bark if someone comes to the door, which is good, but he's so laid back, we laugh that he "strolls" to play fetch.

    Here's wishing you better luck this time.

    1. I've usually had larger dogs, Hope, although I did have a cocker spaniel who was a fantastic dog. I'm really wanting that laid back attitude that seems to be bred into the big guys' genes.

  4. My mother always had rescue dogs and it worked fine for years, but latterly she ended up with ones with real problems. I'm afraid it's put me off going to an animal rescue centre, I'm afraid of finding myself with a dog I really don't want and, because I'm more tenacious than is good for me, feeling unable to send it back.

    At present I have a dog, fortunately, and am not looking for another. Sorry it didn't work out with Sorley.

    1. I've had a number of rescues in the past too, Z, and they've been great. This one sure was more than I could handle! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the next one. Thankfully, all the shelters and rescue groups here have a "trial" period to see if it will work out.

  5. I like German shepherd dogs.

  6. Well, I'm sorry it didn't work out for you and the new dog, but I am really glad that you made the right decision for all of you. That's what matters--the best thing for all of you, from the dog, the cats, to you.

    Whatever happens, I trust you'll follow your instincts and do the right thing by all of you. I don't have any pets, because I work long hours and at times, I'm gone from home for long periods of time; it's the same reason I don't have any plants :)

    But there are semi-feral cats that like to hang around my porch and windowsills; they came with the place, and everyone around here feeds them at different times of the day--mine is dawn; it's funny to see the cats rotate from place to place, moving on to the different neighbor's porches in order of who will feed them next; the old couple next door feed them at night; the people on the other side feed them around lunch.

    The cats are very useful for keeping those filthy birds away from crapping on my car! Also, they keep the vermin away. One thing I've noticed about these parts is the more rats and mice and vermin in the area, the more likely the rattlesnakes and other snakes will come and frequent the place. And I do not want any rattlers nearby!

  7. The girls keep asking to get a dog but they are hardly ever home these days. And though I loved having Oscar the lab, I don't miss pucking up his shit, daft dog. Much hugs my Viking friend.

    (I think it's almost time for Himself to return!) ;-)


  8. I was sorry to hear this. But you've both got to be happy and it sounds like he was a bit of a nightmare. Truthfully, I wouldn't have had the patience for his behaviour either and you're absolutely right, you've need a companion not a mental/physical sparring partner.

    There were a couple of times when I could have strangled Rummy with his meowing. If he hadn't have settled down when I let him roam, I'd have been in a similar position.

    Fingers crossed you find a suitable canine soon. xxx


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