There were a lot of things that went through my head when I decided to adopt Mufaasa. Though he was still only 9 months, I had really wanted to start with a young puppy since I got Naala when she was 6 months already and I always felt that if I had gotten her younger I might have avoided some of the troubles I had down the road. But after meeting Mufaasa I realized that
- he was a breed I had done research on that would be really fun to train,
- he was a black dog and those almost always get passed over at shelters, usually purely for aesthetic reasons (which is funny when you find out that black labs usually do the best at trials compared to the other colours, chocolates I hear are the hardest to train),
- and finally, this dog is just too crazy for the average family to handle.
That last point is a bit of a sin because he’s absolutely marvelous with children, smaller dogs, the elderly and just about anyone he meets. The day I picked him up, as I was finishing the paperwork he walked over to an old lady, stuck his two front paws and his head on her lap, and waited to be loved. However, he’s also a 60 lb puppy who could easily take out a small child without ever meaning too. Also, most families aren’t willing to devout half their day to taking their dog to a park so he can get enough exercise. When that doesn’t happen with Mufaasa, the result is what’s in the photo on the top there. I seriously cannot give this dog a normal dog bed because he thinks they’re just oversized stuff toys. I can prolong the life of a bed like that by doing my best to switch the bed with a toy, but like many border collies once he fixates on something, that’s pretty much the end of it.
And that has been the hardest part of training him. He’s learned to love balls and is totally aware of the purpose of a chuck-it, so if I don’t have one and someone shows up with one, he’s become their best friend. He’s getting better, has great name-recognition and I can even call him to me when he’s wrestling with another dog, but something about that damn chuck-it currently has me beat. I’ve been trying to use it to my advantage. If he’s being too intense for someone’s dog, or I need to get his attention in a hurry I just make sure I have my chuck-it in my pack and it works pretty well. Not the ideal solution, but better than not being able to get him back if we’re out in the woods and he takes it into his little adolescent brain to go on a journey.
That’s the other bit of fun. We are in what I like to call the “ass-hole stage” of puppyhood. He didn’t stray far when I first got him, and then, right about when he turned a year old, it was like a switch went off and he started acting like an unruly teenager. Naala did the same thing but I had the advantage in those years that we were living in the country on a horse farm and she could run far and wide, bring dead field mice into the barn to gross us out, play with the three other young dogs there, eat all the sticks she liked and generally just run from sun-up to sun-down. Mufaasa on the other hand was a city dog. My mother lived on four acres but it was near busy roads and not fenced. When his “ass-hole” switch went off and he decided he didn’t have to come back to me when called (which hadn’t been an issue for the three months previous) and took off into the woods for a half an hour, it was a wee bit traumatizing to say the least. He lost off-leash privileges on the property for a while, which made life very difficult. We’d jog for twenty minutes in the morning and walk for an hour and a half or more in the evening and work on obedience training once we were home, but it still didn’t work. Basically, I hadn’t found a job for this dog yet and life was going to suck until then.
When people would say, “This dog needs a job,” I use to only think about agility or herding. But after a while I realized a “job” can be something as simple as fetch, if you make it more challenging than just throwing the ball. Make your dog stay while you throw it, do other things like come to you, stop and start, sit and lie down from a distance. Make them use their brain and feel like they are performing a task—the task itself isn’t important. Mufaasa is at the point where he can stay and come to me after I’ve thrown the ball when there are no other dogs around, and we’ll keep working on the rest.
In the meantime we’ve started agility training and he’s doing great, though I’m still trying to build up drive. He’s very sensitive to the people and dogs he interacts with, which is great when he’s playing with smaller dogs or is around children, but it can make it difficult to get his energy up when training.
Oh, well. As they say, you never finish training, and we’ve got a long way to go.