I have heard people say that it takes up to 6 months for a rescue dog with baggage, to really settle into a new home. I always thought that seemed a long time, but I now believe they have a point.
Although Twiggy latched on to me from day 1, she has continued to have her issues. Fear of going through doorways if anyone near it, fear of collars, harnesses and leads, clicking noises, and a real wariness of people. I have trained her since she arrived, and she is obviously extremely bright, but would learn tricks and behaviours that were close to me ie: hand touches, lefts, rights but as soon as we tried any distance work, ie: waits, recalls she would go into panic mode. For a month or so now I have been doing a lot more work with her alone, walking her alone, and also having her work for her food so I have every coat pocket bearing liver or chicken. It is all the stuff that we do with puppies from the start, and that is how I have had to treat Twiggy. She is about 14 months now but in her behaviour and attitude more like 6 - 8 months. I feel quite silly sometimes telling people the new thing she has just learned, and then realising their dogs did that much younger, but Twiggy lost the first 6 months of her life.
Twiggy has been with me 6 months this week, and whether its true what they say about settling in period, or whether its the way I changed some training methods, or a combination of both, she has suddenly started to blossom. Small successes have become a regular occurrence over the past couple of weeks.
When the other dogs are off doing things in the field, or at a show, she has started to turn to me, grab the tuggy and want me to play with her. She then went up a gear in the new behaviours stakes and has learnt to offer 2 on 2 off position on various boxes, washing basket, stairs etc. I introduced the contact trainer and not only did she get straight into position, she now runs straight to it when I let her out, and when all my Agility nuts are screaming from their crates, or kennels she still focuses on me and the job. Today for the first time ever, I took her out to our favourite 15 acre field, and let her off, but to work. Armed with a good toy and her favourite toy, plus a lot of sausages I started. First we did circle work, fast and slow, both ways and she was with me all the way.
Then we did send ahead to dead toy, from restrain and from a wait and she was like a rocket! Straight back to me every time. I then did some wait to recall, actually now getting about 10 yards from her and again perfect. Not once did she go off focus, or worry about me getting hold of her to do the restrains. We finished with a 5 min chill out wander along the field before she sat for me to put her lead on. She sat for me to put her lead on!!!! Without flinching!!! That brought tears to me eyes!!!
That all may seem like nothing special for a 14 month old collie to people who have trained for years and had their dogs from puppies, but to me it is bloody incredible! I skipped back home this morning, with a very happy Twiggy by my side. I have a feeling my Irish Secret has settled in.