- my dogs, my world
- My name is Lesli Hyland. In my forty seven years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I am a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. As a dog trainer I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to share in their unique relationships. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Personalities vs Training
We have a very varied canine family. We have a Chihuahua, a Chi/ Rat terrier cross, a Cattle dog cross, a Farm Collie cross, a Vizsla, a Beagle and a Corgi cross. That means we have representatives from the toy, herding, hound, terrier, and sporting dog categories. Those groups have very different canine personalities, due to the jobs they were designed to do.
Hounds are driven by scent. They are single minded when it comes to food and usually good with other dogs because they hunt in packs. They are generally happy dogs.
Terriers are rat killers so they are quick, tough and tenacious. They can be a wee bit snarky with other dogs.
Herding dogs are smart, easy to train, quick to make decisions and can be controlling because they need to think on their own somewhat to control livestock. They are often the "fun police" when other dogs start running or playing.
Toys are dogs that have been bred down in size to be portable companions. They are very people oriented and can be easily spoiled.
Sporting dogs are energetic, busy dogs that enjoy an active lifestyle, working closely with people.
So how do all these different dogs co-exist in my household? Carefully! Obviously I have no breed requirements when I adopt or purchase a dog. Nor does age or health deter me from adoption. If I can help an older or medically challenged dog, I am happy to do it. My only criteria is that everyone gets along. That means that a dog must enjoy other dogs or be easily convinced to ignore them!
I think my success in that avenue is due in a large part to environmental management and slow introductions when a new dog joins the group. I do not believe in just letting dogs "work it out". Initial interactions can leave a lasting impression that is hard to over come. I don't see the point of forcing a dog out of their comfort zone, by allowing unstructured interactions. Once a dog has been scared by another it is harder for them to relax in that dog's presence.I go slow, giving new and established dogs space.
I also do not let my heart over shadow my brain when it comes to keeping or adopting a dog. I WILL NOT live in home where dogs need to be kept apart all the time or where one dog is stressed by the presence of another. I have sent many a foster dog onto other families in spite of being very attached to the dog. If they don't fit in, my attachment is not a valid reason to keep the dog.
Jenny pup was one such dog. I adored her as did Brian, but the rest of the household thought she was a real pain in the ass! :-P She was TOO MUCH puppy for my other dogs. She is loved by her two Moms in a household with one other dog who can deal with her intensity.
Dixie was another. Heartworm positive...raising a litter of pups...so affectionate with people...But my dogs avoided her like the plague in spite of the fact that she never displayed any overt aggression. I listened to them and she was placed with a hound savvy owner through the shelter.
Little One was a teenie chihuahua we fostered at the same time as Lupie. Though Lupie was really not the dog that pulled at my heart strings, she is the one we kept. Little One was terrified of Brian. With alot of time and work we could've increased her comfort level, but in the mean time she would have been living with alot of stress. Plus, her fear of Brian really hurt Brian's feelings! We placed her with a single Mom who had a couple other toy dogs. She blossomed there. And Lupie blossomed here - afraid of nothing and able to hold her own in this multidog household.
Some might ask if as a dog trainer shouldn't I be able to train any dog to fit into our household? Perhaps...but there are a lot of dogs and a lot of families out there. I don't see the point in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Training can only take you so far. A dog's personality is what it is. Not all dogs get along well with each other. They are no different than human beings. I can learn to get along with almost anyone if I have to for work or a project...but I wouldn't want to live with them!