A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to meet and train a male Border Collie puppy named Rascal. This was a very busy family with both work and social commitments.
There were many full-time house keepers, chefs and maintenance folks on property all the time to cater to his every need as the owners both worked and were gone all day. They frequently traveled and spent every summer at their second home on the east coast. But all was okay as Rascal had his people to care for him full time. As I worked on obedience training in the puppy lessons I thought to myself, “What a lucky puppy to have fallen into such a nice family.”
Rascal had his own air conditioned room and was fed twice daily and let out to potty on a regular basis – all by the house keepers. Like I said, Rascal was really a lucky puppy.
Or was he?
On the day I came to start the puppy lessons with the family, the dad introduced himself to me as he rushed off to work while the mom and son hung back to sit through the lesson with me and Rascal. Mom left half way through the first lesson and I finished up the puppy lessons with their son and house keeper.
I thought that was the end of training Rascal until I got a call from one of the workers who said Rascal was “replanting the landscaping“, could I come and fix it and start Rascal on obedience training.
I set up the obedience training and showed the workers how to begin teaching Rascal to stay out of the flower beds. Of course no one wanted to take time away from their jobs to deal with training Rascal so he was given supervised potty breaks for a while and it seemed to help some.
Less time out and more time in the room
Rascal was a head-strong puppy and because of his rambunctiousness I was called back frequently to do more obedience training. Each time I trained with Rascal, no one was present but me and Rascal. The writing was on the wall. Rascal had more energy than he had outlets to properly manage that energy.
They paid for day camp a couple of times a week but even with that, Rascal’s issues at home began to get worse with complaints about barking at contract workmen passing through his room or on the property.
Then I got a call about a lung and snap at a worker. “Could I come and fix it?” This was not to be the only time I was called to come and fix it.
Finally I got a call that Rascal had bitten a worker bad enough to need medical attention. Unfortunately this incident finally got the owner’s attention.
Good dog or bad dog?
Now it had become decision time about what to do with Rascal. This “bad dog mentality” had turned into a dangerous liability. He had all the potential to be a good dog but now had been labeled a bad dog.
Maybe the question should be “good owner or bad owner?”
The bottom line is that Rascal is a great dog that desperately needs an owner that is present for him. Absentee ownership with occasional “cursory pats on the head” just doesn’t work. Rascal had no strong consistent role model to follow and guide him through life.
He was lost in space so to speak. As Rascal muddled away the days, weeks, months and years he became very territorial of “his room” and his property challenging any newcomer that entered.
With no pack leader, Rascal did what any normal bossy dog would do. He took over the duties of pack leader. Guarding and scaring off the bad guys.
Over the years I had mentioned time and again to the workers, given the job to over see Rascal, that he desperately needed leadership. He needed an owner that would do things with him, guide him, train him, personally walk him and spend time with him and take him places. He needed an owner that could shape him into the dog he should have grown up to be avoiding all the issues we now face.
Now I’ve been called in to fix it again. But money won’t buy you a good dog and I can’t live there full time and do what the owner should have done all along.
I recently wrote an article on relationships with dogs: Ownership or Partnership? Had the owners genuinely made a vested interest in partnering with their dog instead of wasting the good two years of Rascal’s life leading up to this incident, things would have been different. It could have been a win-win situation with a happy ending.
I’m back again trying to salvage a situation Rascal should not be in. I continue to work with Rascal and I still try to strongly encourage the family to become involved.
Rascal and I will be forever hopeful.
I don’t know if this rings a bell with anyone but if it does, please read this again. Make sure that you provide your dog with strong leadership. Show him the way to being a good dog by consistently setting the daily rules, boundaries and expectations he needs to navigate life with you. Be the leader.
Thanks for letting my share my dog training knowledge with you. I truly hope if any of this rings true for you, please know your dog is counting on you for help.
Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear what you think. Please come over to my Facebook page to let me know how this article impacted you and the way you think about your dog. Are you looking at him a little differently? Remember:
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.
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