Wednesday, June 4, 2008

One Year

Wow, we've owned Ellie for nine-months now. I know I keep saying it but the time has really flown by so fast. It doesn't seem that long since I was having to fetch her from up the stairs every five minutes.

So what is she like at twelve months of age? Is she the zany and crazed Border Collie that everyone warned us about at the start? Not at all. The truth is that she's a very sedate dog. In terms of training, she can be a little too sedate at times, and certainly nothing like the majority of Border Collies that you routinely encounter. It would help if she had a little more "zing" in her personality as working with a low motivation dog can be quite challenging at times. Still, dogs rarely come in perfect packages do they?

Being one year in, would we have done anything differently to what he did in this first year? I don't think so. The key thing that we decided on from the start was to discourage her from playing freely with other dogs.
Our thinking, or rather I should say, my thinking, was that for the first eighteen months I wanted Ellie to learn that we and we alone are the source of fun and excitement. I didn't want her to learn that other dogs can be more exciting, run faster, and communicate with her in her own language. We've all seen the view of dog-owners running after their dog when it has seen its best "friend" which it runs around with in the park. No, in this relationship, there is room for only one best friend.

Of course, we wanted her to meet other dogs and that is chiefly why Ellie has attended training week in and week out - to learn to be in the same area as other dogs, but in a controlled environment. Despite some people suggesting that we might be teaching our dog to be anti-social, I think that our gamble has paid off, and I would certainly repeat it in the future.

We now have a dog that can walk past other dogs, almost completely ignoring them. She will continue to play with me in the park, even with other dogs running up to her and around her. I can even call her into my left side when other dogs are thrashing towards her, barking and growling. She will get 'growly' only if other dogs don't behave with good manners, and begin to jump over her. On or off-leash, she's a pleasure to have around other dogs. We have exactly what I had hoped we would have in that sense. That is not to say that she is faultless; she does slip up from time to time, but it's extremely rare indeed and becoming increasingly rare as she continues to practise.

To this day, she hasn't chewed a single item that doesn't belong to her, and I really can't see her ever doing so. It's just not in her nature. Besides, she's never out of vision long enough to get away with it. :)

Her first season was interesting. She became exceptionally clingy with me, sometimes wrapping herself around my neck when on the sofa. Since she's come out of season, however, she's become a little less clingy than she was before she went into it.

Before the season, she would curl up on the sofa with me each evening, and always lay on the bed with us to sleep at night. Since her season, she tends now to lay either on her own bed, or on the spare sofa. When we go to bed, she now climbs under the bed and seems to join us in the very early hours. This change, however, might just be because the temperature has warmed up considerably and she's too hot to be that close to us. I don't really mind either way.

I Spy...
Ideally, by this age, I should liked to have been able to report that Ellie had passed her KCGC Bronze and perhaps even Silver exams. The reality is that we just can't get an exam date from our training class. I personally feel very frustrated that our schedule for her is having to be revised, and her training has been wasted (in so far as it's not been tested in a formal sense), entirely for reasons that seem completely out of my control. Unfortunately, the training class we attend is the only one in the area and so our hands are tied.

I still need to investigate whether we can get her formally tested privately by someone who is qualified and recognised to judge such things. It's the only way I can see of getting things moving in the right direction. I'm just not sure it's actually possible to do that. I can but find out...
The sunnier days appear to be bringing out the chestnut colour in Ellie's fur, particularly around the face. We've changed her feeding now to just once a day. She now gets her 250g of Burns Active in the evening, as opposed to being fed once in the morning and once in the evening. This seems to have remedied her leaving much of her food. My guess is that her belly wasn't large enough to warrant two meals per day, and felt full enough on just the one.

Finally, Ellie seems to be able to walk past people without feeling she has to get a stroke from them. We didn't really do anything to adjust this behaviour. We just left it for age and maturity to sort out for itself. That's not to say that she doesn't still love human interaction - she thrives on it, but it is nice not to have to apologise to everyone that we walk past. :)

We will have our first 'home-boarding' dog come to stay with us on 19 June. We've met him and he's a lovely seven-month old Rottie x GSD, or so it is believed. I think we're looking after him for about ten days or so while the owners go on holiday. He is a complete opposite personality to Ellie so that will be fun. They have met and they were fine together, though Ellie did seem to tire of his over-active jumping about. :)

We'll now be looking to have her spayed around October time. I bet she's so looking forward to that. Training-wise, I want to work on her latency quite a bit in the coming weeks. She will do most behaviours that we have trained her for, but she will do some of them very slowly indeed! I'm looking to test (and video) her Sue Ailsby Level 2 test this week. As you will remember from before, the sticking point was her "stand", but I think we've remedied that now. We'll soon find out.


Anonymous said...

She sounds wonderful :) Is she definately full collie?


Ellie's Owner said...

hehe The times we have been asked that question. She is absolutely 100% Border Collie that came from an accidental breeding of two farm-working Border Collies. Most people don't believe us because:

1. She's very small. (She was the runt of the litter.)

2. She's short-coated and most people are used to seeing the longer-coated variety.

3. She doesn't seem to have as much white on her as a standard longer-coated Border Collie. (I think she has really it just seems less because it's short hair.)

Rascally Jack a.k.a. Jackal said...

I love your new camera. I went to your Flickr page and the photos are great! What kind is it again? I don't have a camera right now (been taking my pics off of video footage), but will be looking for a new one soon. Keep writing, I miss reading about Ellie. :)

The Dog Man said...

Thanks for the comments regarding the photographs. I'm a very keen amateur, so if people tell me they like the photos, it tells me that I'm getting something right at least. :)

The camera is a Fuji Finepix S8000fd. You can read one review of it here.

It's a decent enough camera and the 18x optical zoom was the selling point for me. (With a Digital SLR this would mean carrying extra lenses around to achieve the same capability.)

The quality of the photos will never rival those produced by a Digital SLR when inspected closely, but for everyday snaps, it's a great camera, capable of catching decent action snaps.

Thanks again for the comments.

Anonymous said...

the funny thing is I didn't ask for any of the reasons above lol!

Her "calmness" and brown just made me think she may have a bit of Lurcher in her. But there are always exceptions and I think I read somewhere the brown was just the lighting? Not that a collie couldn't have it I suppose!


The Dog Man said...

But there are loads of brown and white Border Collies, and tri-colour Border Collies.

Also, I know at least one of her brothers was a tri-colour, so the brown gene was obviously in the family somewhere.

Xsara ... said...

very interesting report. i admire your drive. i never have such clear plans about training, i just follow my instincts and it works very well for me. i guess i am just not organised enough. but it's great to have clear goals and to be able to follow them really is a success. i hope you will find a way to pass the exams really soon, i agree that such exams and competitions give you a good feedback on your training (it's also the reason why i love to compete, being the best in the backyard is too easy, isn't it?).