Sadie Graduates

I have never had a dog like Sadie before.  Mostly we've had "working dogs" like Australian Shepherds and Border Collies.  The best dog we ever had was a Border Collie cross.  He was whip smart and perfectly trained by yours truly.  It never occured to me that I would end up with a dog I couldn't train.  Enter Sadie.

At the dog rescue, they decided she was a Border Collie/Black Lab mix.  They could be right.  I was really banking on a Border Collie brain but got something else.  Sadie is almost completely black with a bit of white on her nose, under her chin and on her chest and feet.  She is heavier bodied that a Border Collie but not quite as heavy as a Lab.  Her hair is Lab-like.  She is a sweet dog and doesn't have a mean bone in her body.  But, and it's a huge but, she generally hasn't learned to come when she's called or follow any directions.  She is highly food motivated meaning if you have a treat in your hand she will "sit" and "down" like a champ.  Without the treat you get nothing.

I think Sadie is a happy dog.  She is always excited and eager.  She loves to run and always comes with me to feed the animals.  The downside is that whenever we have people at the house, Sadie is in her crate.  I couldn't figure out how to teach her to calm down, to keep all four feet on the ground and not try to jump up on the little kids.  All four of my grandchildren want to know where Sadie is when they arrive.  She is in her crate.  OK.  They will come in and play and do whatever as long as they don't have to deal with Sadie.  And they generally shriek when Sadie comes walking through the living room.

When my brother moved in with us last summer, I explained that he would have to make his piece with my crazy dog.  He and Sadie managed to bond pretty quickly and he became just another member of the stable family.  Whew!

If you look up descriptions of Labrador Retrievers you discover that they all turn out to be amazing dogs when they are ___ years old.  Insert some number between 3 and 7.  They are not good puppies nor are they good immature dogs but somehow manage to become so wonderful as they mature that they actually convince people to get a second or third one.  I was hoping this part of Sadie's heritage would kick in at some point.  She is now 5 years old so I've been hoping for at least two years.

Just in the last couple of weeks Sadie has matured and turned into a much more wonderful dog.  She was running around outside when my son arrived with his wife and two daughters.  She was running around outside when my daughter arrived with her two sons.  When my youngest grandson spent the night here last week, Sadie only went into her crate when she was super excited and needed a little time to calm down.  Sadie had the run of the house and didn't make any attempt to bother him while he slept.  It was glorious.  She has started to listen to me and do what I ask.  She is better with the livestock since she is listening to me.  Somehow she achieved whatever the magic age is for whatever portion of her is or is not a Lab.

I always thought I was a wonderful dog trainer.  Nope.  Just lucky, I guess.  Somehow I always had dogs that thought like I do or that connected at some level.  My friend Nancy Whitbeck, who knows a whole lot about dogs, told me to stop thinking of Sadie as less intelligent and start thinking of her as whip smart.  She was right.  That changed my interaction completely.  Cesar Millan of The Dog Whisperer says you get the dog you need not the dog you want.  Yup.  Sadie has taught me so many things I never learned before including patience and a level of respect for an intellect that I don't really understand.  Am I the perfect pack leader?  Nope.  Am I consistent and always calm?  Nope.  But I'm working on it and apparently so is Sadie.