Pup’s a chal­lenge


When you live on a life­style block it’s very easy for your dog to be­come your best mate.

You’re with them all day and you do most things to­gether. You find your­self hav­ing mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions and there’s no prob­lem with that as long as you’re not wait­ing for in­tel­li­gent an­swers.

Our two pups had set­tled into the rou­tine on our prop­erty but Akira, our Shep­herd/Husky, de­cided it was time to start chal­leng­ing her bound­aries.

She was su­per smart so her crafti­ness and in­ge­nu­ity were pretty impressive. Milo, our res­cued Retriever, stuck with mum so he was never a prob­lem.

I worked with Akira to try and train her. We did puppy preschool, adult obe­di­ence and I sub­scribed to an on­line train­ing pro­gram.

She pro­gressed rea­son­ably well but if she caught the scent of a rab­bit she’d take off and there’d be no stop­ping her.

This wasn’t a huge prob­lem un­til the day that she raced off, dived over an em­bank­ment and found her­self on the road.

I gave chase and rounded her up fairly eas­ily. Af­ter that I de­cided to bring in the big guns and em­ploy the ser­vices of a dog trainer.

He came and showed me some in­valu­able tech­niques and sug­gested it would take a few weeks to a month for the train­ing to ‘stick’.

I knew I’d work with Akira and we’d get there. But I didn’t sus­pect how much pain we’d have in the in­terim.That af­ter­noon she jumped the em­bank­ment and took off again. A fran­tic search up and down our street en­sued.

She fi­nally came back and I spent the rest of the af­ter­noon erect­ing a tem­po­rary fence. It was rudi­men­tary but when Akira ran up there the next day she didn’t chal­lenge it and I em­ployed the train­ing tech­nique for en­forc­ing bound­aries and sternly gave her the ‘back’ com­mand. It worked.

Lulled into a false sense of se­cu­rity I con­tin­ued to work on train­ing.

She was out walk­ing the prop­erty with my mum and de­cided to take off af­ter a scent through the bot­tom fence. Un­for­tu­nately, this backs onto a rail­way line. Mum asked for help and ev­ery­one ral­lied. Some­how our neigh­bour got wind of the emer­gency and came to our aid, bless her.

Then our friends a street away pitched in too. My poor hus­band spent an hour roam­ing around the neigh­bour­hood, call­ing. I was out at the time and re­ceiv­ing text up­dates. I couldn’t get home fast enough to help and felt use­less.

Fi­nally she was found in a paddock miles away. I went down the next day and re­in­forced the fence as best I could. Then our fenc­ing con­trac­tor came out and did it prop­erly.

I in­vested in a long re­tractable lead to con­tinue the train­ing in a con­trolled man­ner. And we ac­cepted that our lit­tle Husky’s nat­u­ral hunt­ing and roam­ing in­stinct was a lot stronger than we’d for­merly ap­pre­ci­ated.

Natalie Pitfield’s ad­ven­tur­ous puppy .

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