Not a whole lot to report on the training front as the dogs have been leading a very boring existence this last couple of days. I am home for the weekend and we’re hosting a very large party here to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. There are guests coming from all over, and there’s been much prep work and organization to do this week (and for some weeks prior!). I drove here on Thursday (yesterday) to help out where I could. This involved doing things like cutting the grass and other last minute things to make the house and garden look their best. It’s calling for 40% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow, so we’re not sure whether to set things up outside or not. The weather has, of course, been perfect for the last three days in a row. Hopefully it can hold out just one more!
Throughout all of this the poor dogs have been largely neglected. Normally they would be able to hang out with us around the house or out in the yard. And usually I sneak off to get some training and exercise in. Not this time! There has simply been too much to do this last two days. And since the house has been thoroughly cleaned, and garden carefully tended, the dogs are not allowed anywhere without the strictest supervision. That means they’ve been spending a lot of time in their crates.
Yesterday we did have them out in the yard with us for a while. Well, we had Hannah and Kess, who are both generally good with young children. There were several and both dogs and kids enjoyed playing ball for ever, and ever, as only kids and border collies are able to do. I sat back and watched carefully while we adults (I finally lump myself into that category, although I still don’t really feel like one) drank wine and chatted.
All was going very well until one of the kids decided that Hannah was hogging the ball. She was, in fact, doing just that. Hannah always hogs the ball. She takes her retrieving extremely seriously and gets annoyed at Kess’s inept attempts at playing the game Hannah so dearly loves. If Kess gets the ball, she runs around willy nilly, tossing it about and refusing to bring it back. The funny thing is, Kess will retrieve beautifully if it’s just me and her. She clearly knows what she’s supposed to do. But apparently Kess gets more pleasure out of teasing the other dogs than out of retrieving, so that’s exactly what she does. And to avoid all that unnecessary silliness, Hannah just shoulder checks Kess out of the way and retrieves the ball as often as she can.
My mistake – and it actually crossed my mind a few minutes before thing went wrong – is that I left collars on my dogs. Hannah is very good with kids, but in part this is because she is very good at evading their attempts to grab her, and just keeps them busy by dropping the ball on their feet. I’ve never, ever had a problem with her around kids before. Ever. But this just goes to show that you can never trust kids and dogs, no matter how well you think you know your dog. It was a very good thing that quite a few people were watching so there was no question as to what happened.
As I said, one of the kids decided that Hannah was hogging the ball. To give Kess a chance to get it, he caught Hannah by her collar. She squirmed to let go and so he pulled her off her feet by the collar. I was in the process of jumping up to tell him to let her go when Hannah defended herself. She, thank goodness, nose butted him.
No teeth, no damage. Just a good, strong nose poke in the face. Ross did the same thing a couple of years ago when another kid grabbed him before I could intervene. On both occasions, the child was startled but uninjured. In my opinion, the dogs showed tremendous control. They so easily could have done worse. So much worse. A nose butt is really nothing. But it is still a defensive action and that means I did not adequately protect my dogs. Yesterday I failed Hannah.
It is so difficult to have my dogs around kids. I really want to let them play ball with them as everyone has so much fun. But it’s also so easy for things to get out of hand. I find most kids are either afraid of dogs (my preferred kind of kid to have near my crew) or have a dog they are used to mauling and hauling around. The latter kind are the ones that I find most problematic. They have no fear, but they also have little or no understanding as to what is appropriate. And of course kids love, love, love to hug animals. I know. I used to be one of those kids. And after reading The Other End of the Leash (a must read for anyone who has a dog), I understand why. Hugging and holding is simply a natural primate instinctive behaviour. But it is not for canines.
Very few kids live with dogs who will bite them if they pull their collars or tails or whatnot. Very few parents will keep a dog around that will do such things to their kids. So most kids who are used to playing with dogs, are used to dogs they can be pretty rough with. And my guys are simply not used to that.
My dogs, therefore, are spending the rest of the weekend in their crates, with leash walks when I can sneak away for a few minutes. I’ll make it up to them when we get home in a couple of days.