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A surprise visit from Goofy
Member Name: rocknro11
Advantages: Loveable family pet
Disadvantages: Can be temperamental
*** The Plot ***
Arriving home one evening from a hard days work, I was met at the door by the whole family, now to me that’s a sure sign something is not quite right. The usual is one or two smiling faces at the door but all of them beaming at me, they wanted something. My shoulders broad, I marched on up the driveway, I didn’t even make it to the front door before one of the kids shouted we’ve got a puppy, life as I knew it was just about to change.
*** The Decision ***
I have to admit she did look cute, a black and white bundle of fluff, Border Collie. As a child, I had a Rough Collie (lassie look-alike) that I doted on and had always intended to get another later on in life. I wasn’t convinced that this was the right time but as the puppy was originally bought by a friend of ours who then could not take care of it due to an allergy and the look on the kids faces whilst the puppy plodded around the room I just couldn’t say no.
The kids named her Sheba and not Goofy like the title suggests, Goofy was my preferred name due to Sheba having an overshot jaw, her top jaw being longer than the bottom. I’d never heard of this condition before but the vet informed us it was not that uncommon.
*** The Dog ***
Border Collies are working dogs, originally bred as such for the purpose of herding sheep. They have existed for centuries and many old paintings and lithographs depict the shepherds’ dog as resembling a Border Collie. They are highly intelligent and as working dogs they are often required to work alone far from their handlers’ instruction. They thrive on stimulation and crave a lot of exercise. This breed of dog will not be happy to just mosey on up to the local paper shop with you and then plonk themselves down on the lounge floor on your return, sleeping for hours on end.
All puppies can be destructive and this breed is no exception, especially if they become bored. Our wooden TV cabinet took on a new appearance, all 90-degree edges of the unit became somewhat teeth crafted, the fabric on the couch was obviously not of her liking, she preferred floorboards to carpets as threadbare patches soon began to appear overnight and she obviously preferred a lighter looking room without the need for curtains. It’s a stage most puppies go through and the Border Collie is no exception.
A Border Collie’s energy level is endless and becomes worse rather than better as they grow out of the puppy stage. From an early age its important to show them who is boss, one or two word commands spoken firmly to Sheba would get her attention and very quickly she began to understand their meaning. We found the very first word she learnt was her own name and within a few weeks if you called out Sheba, she would arrive from anywhere in the house promptly. Inserting her name before each command worked wonders, Sheba stay, Sheba sit, Sheba no and so on. When introducing new commands be patient and try and prompt the response you expect from your dog. Commanding her to sit for the first time, we gently cupped one arm around her, just below the jaw and with the other hand slowly applied pressure to her rear and she automatically assumed the sit position. After a few attempts Sheba was sitting on command. Introducing treats and praising your dog when they do something right is extremely important during the learning process.
Border Collies need exercise else boredom will set in and when I say exercise I mean physically and mentally. If you haven’t got a field for a back garden’ your going to be finding long walks to the local park are necessary. Take a ball or buy a toy that you can throw around, they will play fetch for hours, to them it must seem like a job and they are very pleased to assist. A working Border Collie can walk many miles in a day so be prepared; if you don’t exercise them regularly your house will become their play den. Sheba gets at least 2 long walks a day, I’m lucky our rear garden backs onto woodland, so I do not have to confine her to a lead.
Instinctively adept at herding, you don’t have to live on a farm to witness their skills, if it moves there is a chance they will try and herd it, in our case it’s the cat that suffers. Sheba on occasions will herd the cat to where she thinks the cat needs to be, when she nears our cat she nips at its legs, exactly the same way she would naturally do to a sheep. The cat learnt this quickly and makes for high ground, like work surfaces and the top of the sofa when Sheba goes into ‘round up mode’. Occasionally she tried the same with our youngest son, obviously dogs teeth are sharp, so you’ll need to stop this as soon as it starts. A few well timed deep bellows of ‘Sheba no’ followed by shutting her in the kitchen away from the rest of the family for a short period of time, soon broke the habit.
*** The Dark Side ***
The Border Collie is a very social dog, loving attention and eager to please but they do have a darker side which was to show in Sheba just after she turned 1 ½ years old. From about this age Sheba showed signs of aggression towards our two youngest sons, if they startled her accidentally she would bare her teeth and growl, soon she showed an instant dislike to any younger child that was in our house, she never attacked them but growled, bared her teeth or would start to nip at their heels. She showed no signs of this to our eldest son and never to any adult in the house. Strangely this only ever happened in the house, outside of the house, in the garden or park she would be fine and never once displayed these tendencies.
We were extremely firm with her each time it happened and sought advise from our local vets, although the advice was just to carry on being firm. By the time Sheba reached 2 ½ our fourth child was born and we were concerned as to what Sheba’s reaction would be but to our amazement she was fine, that was until our daughter started to crawl. It got to the point we would never leave our daughter in the room on her own with Sheba and I found myself contemplating giving Sheba up.
We decided to give her one last chance, we never let her out of our sight when our daughter was around and every time she bared her teeth we acted, a swift tap across her snout and into the kitchen on her own. It seemed to take forever but a couple of months on she became a different dog and we have the family pet back again. This type of change in temperament is not uncommon in this breed of dog and according to our vets is more common than you might think. His actual words were if I were going to recommend a breed of dog to a family with young children it would definitely not be a Border Collie.
Because of the Border Collies constant need for attention and exercise and their sometimes-temperamental behaviour, many owners end up having to give the dogs up, as they find they cannot devote the time and effort needed to keep the dog stimulated and under control. This is by no means the case with every Border Collie, these dogs are extremely intelligent and can be trained given the right environment.
We were lucky and now have a dog that interacts with the family the way it should, gets the love and devotion it craves and is very well exercised. She’s part of the family and here to stay.
*** The Health ***
We take Sheba to the vets once a year for her vaccinations and check-up and in the four years we’ve had her she has been illness free. The vet did advise us that Border Collies don’t tend to suffer illness but in later life are prone to arthritis in their hind legs, I distinctly remember this happening to our Rough Collie when I was a child. Not just related to this breed but again its common in Border Collies that their teeth become scaled after a while which also leads to bad breath and so far we have had her teeth de-scaled once. Most vets will encourage you to brush your dogs’ teeth once a day; this is easier said than done believe me, although we do try. Special toothpaste for dogs is available; we got meat flavour toothpaste although it didn’t smell like meat flavour to me!
We feed Sheba twice a day, each feed consists of half a tin of pedigree chum and the bowl topped off with dry mixer, which not only contains the needed vitamins but will also help to keep her teeth clean.
You can get short and longhaired Border Collies, Sheba is longhaired and we bath her every 6 to 8 weeks, probably more frequently during the winter months, due to wet, muddy walks and this keeps her coat in top condition. Being longhaired we also need to groom her frequently else we find her fur can become somewhat matted.
*** The Conclusion ***
If you are thinking of getting a Border Collie and you have young children be vigilant. Be prepared to spend a lot of time with your dog as they will want to interact with you. If your getting a Border Collie pup, god help you, hide the furniture and don’t buy a new carpet for a few months. Lastly be prepared for a lot of exercise both for you and your dog.
Today I’m still content, married, 4 kids, still employed, 1 tabby cat, 2 goldfish (no the cat didn’t get the other 2) and fit as a fiddle, who needs an exercise bike when you have a Border Collie to look after!
Thanks for reading.
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