Suddenly she had a mind of her own.
After months of listening to my every word and following me everywhere, at about six months old, Autumn realized she could ignore me if she wished. She wandered over to the neighbors' house and wouldn't come when I called.
She ran away when she didn't want to come indoors. She barked at the cat and barked and barked, no matter what we said. She stole shoes and wouldn't give them back, even when offered a TRADE. She had entered the Terrible Teens. Doggy adolescence.
What to do?
Well, first on our mind was safety. We needed to keep her home and not wandering off with hikers on the trail near our house, or chasing bicyclists down the road.
Autumn's Wireless World
The simplest response was to keep her on a long rope on the porch, but we knew that wasn't going to work for long. So, we went high tech. We ordered a PetSafe Stay + Play wireless fence for the yard (Model PIF00-12917, $299 from GunDogSupply.com) with an electronic collar and an adjustable radius of up to 105 feet. We plugged it in, set the flags on about a 90 foot radius, and started showing Autumn that her collar would beep near the perimeter. If she crossed the line, she got a few zaps to get her attention.
It took about a week for her to learn the limits of her realm. She crossed the line a few times when excited by the neighbor's dog or a bicyclist on the road below our house. We had to set the collar on 3 or 4 to be sure she got the message.The yelps were brief and she bolted to the safety of the porch. Lesson learned. I think she only got zapped two or three times before she fully understood the situation.
Now, after a few months of hearing the warning tone, she doesn't even need the e-collar all the time. She knows her limit and sometimes runs high-speed laps around the yard right along the perimeter. She watches patiently as we (or the cat) exit the boundary to haul brush into the woods or put the kayaks on the rack. She seems fine staying inside her finite world even when hikers go up the trail or someone rides a horse down the road.
When we want to leave the yard to go for walks, we remove the collar and she trots along on the leash. She has learned to HEEL as we exit through the "magic gate" on the driveway that only Mom & Dad know how to get through ;-). The training guide with the PetSafe unit was clear and helpful and worked like a charm.
Off Leash, On the Trails
The next lesson was to get her to listen and obey on the trails around our house. And to get her to come when called, every time, no matter how far she had gone following her nose.
Llewellin setters need to run and run some more, so we wanted to give her the freedom to cover the countryside while staying within voice command.
For this, we ordered a Garmin Sport Pro e-collar ($249 from GunDogSupply.com) which has a vibrate, tone, momentary, and continuous mode with 10 levels of stimulation, plus a Barking Limiter mode. It came with an excellent training DVD that shows you how to use it effectively.
I know these are expensive gadgets, but they are both worth every dollar in avoiding the hassle and heartache of an ill-behaved or lost dog. It's a bit cumbersome to have two collars, one for Home and one for Away, but she's now used to me switching her collars all the time. She knows that the Away collar means we are going for a walk or out into the woods.
Now when we're on the trails, she almost always comes immediately on my whistle. I may have to hit VIBE or the TONE to get her attention, if she is chasing chipmunks. Rarely- when she's highly distracted by a car or other hikers or another dog- I give her a Momentary zing on setting 3 and she turns right around and comes to my feet.
Cheryl and I have taken Autumn hiking a few times on unfamiliar trails with other people and dogs. She stays in sight and voice command. She understands and obeys WAIT, WHOA and COMEs on my whistle so we can put her on the leash to navigate around hikers, kids, and dogs. At eleven months old, she is a delightful and enthusiastic hiking companion!
Swimming Through Summer
We are fortunate to be a few hundred yards from the Connecticut River and a beautiful, freestone brook called Grant Brook. It took Autumn a while to get up her courage to go into the brook. When warm days arrived this spring, she began to splash and wade in the deeper water to drink and cool off.
And soon she was swimming in the river like an otter. I never knew that English/Llewellin Setters loved the water so much, but this girl will swim for a half-hour straight. She doesn't want to get out. It's been a long hot summer, so we take her to the river or the brook or both every day.
Today, she finally learned to (willingly!) dive off the end of the dock with me, and even on her own. What a blast! See the SloMo video below.
I promise I won't wait four months for another post. More to come.
Be safe and be kind. Hug your pets and your people (if you can).