Stella, our pride and joy. Well, besides Bentley of course! Stella is an Australian Cattle Dog. By definition she is "a breed of herding dog originally developed in Australia for driving cattle over long distances across rough terrain." Wikipedia goes on to tell us that, "the Australian Cattle Dog has a high level of energy, a quick intelligence, and an independent streak.... It was originally bred to herd by biting, and is known to nip running children. It forms a strong attachment to its owners, and can be protective of them and their possessions. It is easy to groom and maintain, requiring little more than brushing during the shedding period."
Well, Wiki got almost everything right. Just not the easy to groom part. She sheds constantly! You could spend hours and never get her deshedded! But, I digress...
A little background on Stella. Stella grew up with plenty of yard space outside of a major city. So when we needed play time, we hopped in the car and went to the fenced in dog park. Or, we hopped in the car and went to doggy day care. We worked all that energy out without the mess of having to be on a leash for too long. Since well, Stella doesn't do so well on a leash. In fact, in order to walk her, I ended up getting a gentle leader. What a Godsend that product was! And all was fine and dandy in the house of Smith, until.... we moved to Amsterdam. Where we needed new resources to teach an old dog some new tricks.
So now I had to learn to help Stella with her leash anxiety. (Ya, I didn't know that was a thing at first.) In a city where dogs are everywhere, and off leash to boot, how did I reinforce to her that she's okay and we're okay? That she didn't have to chase after the dog down the street? Or stop what she was doing and growl incessantly at the dog next door? And how could I get her energy out and help her relax while doing all of this?
At first I had to start slowly. Positive reinforcement with treats while walking to train her to associate going out with something positive. And then Lee and I took her to Vondelpark for her first offleash experience. One Saturday we got the tennis balls, collectively held our breathes, and took her off the leash. And, well, she did great. She ran after the balls and obeyed commands. She sniffed other dogs when they came around but that was it. It was amazing. However, there still remained the problem of her anxiety while on the leash to get to the park. After a few weeks of trying to train her I decided to get some professional help. We hired a dog walker.
In comes reinforcements...
Now we have someone used to helping dogs learn to socialize here in the city. Twice a week her personal play buddy comes to take her to Rembrantpark to play and socialize. Soon she'll also learn the skill of running beside the bike and not tripping the person on the bike. Also, we're taking her out what nights we can to also do more socializing/playing in the park. We've made leaps and bounds in the last two months!
But it's not all perfect. She still needs to learn to not chase balls that aren't hers. (Usually the balls belong to little kids.) And I've yet to figure out what to do about running, jumping, shrieking children. (Did I mention that we live by a school?) Ha! So, she's not perfect. But that's not what we're aiming for. No, what we're aiming for is a happy dog. A dog that can run around off leash and socialize and play and be happy. And that's where we're going. It'll take some time (and patience on my part) but she's getting there. She's finally adjusting to life in A'dam. Which is awesome because, after all, she is part of the family.
And here are both of our babies!