by Eleanor Kane on April 1st, 2012

The Quest to be a Farm Dog

We got Russell on January 2nd of this year.  We've wanted a dog for a long time and after settling into the farm, we were anxious to get one right away.  I spent December looking at listings for local shelters and Craigslist, hoping to find one that seemed like a good match.  Theo had grown up with Australian Shepherds, so he was excited about getting that same breed.  I used to work at the PSPCA in Philadelphia and older dogs and black dogs have a tendency to not get adopted as often as younger, lighter colored ones.  This is pretty heartbreaking since it's certainly not the dog's fault.  Darker dogs don't photograph as well, so their online listings don't look as good, and they're much more intimidating to meet.  I was pretty set on getting an older dog so that we wouldn't have to deal with a puppy's energy and house training.

I saw Russell online at the Baypath Humane Society and we showed up when it opened the next morning.  He had lived with a family from when he was a puppy until Christmas and was given up due to their divorce.  He was absolutely perfect for us- well behaved, liked cats (maybe a little too much), very calm and very, very excited to have a new home. He's an Australian Shepherd mix, a little over seven years old and pretty awesome.
So far, he loves the farm.  He gets to run around the fields on his evening walks and lays in the sun watching us while we work.  His other favorite activities, besides shedding on the rug, are chasing the cat, chasing the chickens and chasing rabbits.  He's learned that if he stands in sunlight it will reflect off the tag on his collar and he can chase that too.  Sadly, the best rabbits live where the burrs are densest.  His coat picks up more burrs than I though possible, so we spend a lot of time either convincing him to stay clear of them, or cleaning him up.

We assumed when we got him that our cat wouldn't be too thrilled (he isn't) and that Russell would eventually learn to settle down a bit around him (he hasn't).  We didn't know what he would do around farm animals and we weren't pleased that in his perfect world, Russell would use chickens as chew toys.  Thankfully, all the hens are safe and love teasing him when we have him outside.

His old family must not have done much training with him, so we're slowly teaching him come, sit, down and how to walk politely on the leash.  He still jumps on people when they come to visit, which we're also working on, and he gets really anxious when he can't see one of us.

We started taking him to obedience classes at Pack of Paws in Southbridge.  We love the trainers there and it's fun to watch Russell learning new tricks every week.  The goal is to get his basic training skills really firm and then see if he has any aptitude towards herding.  He was never a farm dog and I'm pretty sure he's never seen a cow or a sheep, but years and years of breeding have brought out instincts in a lot of these breeds.  There's a good chance that he's predisposed towards herding.  If not, we'll still love him for all his other great qualities- laying on cold feet, getting excited when we come home and being the best companion ever.

Posted in Farm Life    Tagged with Farm dog, herding


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