Josie The Wanderer
I thought today I’d finally share a little update on Josie now she’s 18 months old. We got Josie at 9 weeks old and boy did she arrive with a bang, she’s the first dog that I’ve owned as an adult and in just 14 months she’s taught me an incredible amount. As well as sharing a little update on her I also thought I’d finally give an insight into how we deal with Josie and her wanderings. The idea for this post came about after I mentioned that my beloved little hound tends to roam and my inbox instantly filled with questions about how we deal with it. We’ve come along way lately, I've not cried in the woods at all and here is everything we have learned.
IT’S possibly A GIRL THING
Now, I cannot speak for every hound but 90% of hound owners I speak to who have had a girl or have a boy and a girl generally say the girls are the ones that tend to wander. Which is not something I expected at all, there are ups and downs to each gender of course and it’s all down to personal preference of what you have but Josie’s tendency to roam is not something I ever expected. It could also be down to her bloodline, which is working dog. As I’ve only ever had girl dogs throughout my life then I only know their temperament, they’re usually pretty stubborn and their willingness to learn is somewhat lacking shall we say. They’re not completely untrainable but we’ve certainly had to creative in the ways we’ve taught Josie to listen and do as we ask. Which has been stressful but it has also meant that progress has been even more exciting.
sighthounds are called sighthounds for a reason
When you feel frustrated about training your dog it’s really easy to either blame them or blame yourself and completely forget the nature of the breed. Sighthounds are called sighthounds for a reason, they can see incredibly far and like most dogs, they want to go and investigate which isn’t always a negative thing but of course, it’s not always appropriate. But with the breed comes their prey drive, some is stronger than others and we’re lucky that the girls have an incredibly low prey drive and with the type of walks we take them on we’re very lucky that we’ve not come back with anything dead. We never want the girls to hunt but we also have to recognise that it is in their nature and always something we have to bear in mind. Whenever I’ve felt at the end of my tether with training I’ve had to remind myself that sighthounds are a little different when it comes to learning and that is ok.
If there is one thing I regret in life it’s that we didn’t take Josie off her lead as soon as she could go on walks. After reading far too much online about sighthounds and the fear mongering that other dog owners had put on me about her never coming back I was terrified to ever let her free. She was nearly 5 months old when we first let her loose and obviously she had been desperate to run and I’m so sad that she had never had the chance to zoom as a tiny puppy. With Edie, as soon as she was free to go on walks we took her straight off her lead and now her recall is absolutely brilliant and it’s my number one piece of advice to any dog owner, start as you mean to go on.
LETTING HER BE A DOG
Although Josie’s wanderings can be a little worrying, it’s nothing too extreme (I've heard much worse from none sighthound owners) and she’s never gone that long and I never want to take away her curiosity to explore because she’s a young dog, of course, she’s going to be curious. She's gone 5 minutes at most unless she’s got herself stuck somewhere which has happened quite a lot lately but even then she gets herself back instantly. Obviously, when your dog has wandered off in some woodland 5 minutes can seem like an eternity which is why I bought Josie a small set of bells to go on her harness. That way I can still hear her but they’re small enough so she can still hear me and hearing those bells tinkling away gives me peace of mind as well as letting any wildlife know that there is something around. And because she's a long slender girl something else I purchased for her was an orange jumper, it not makes her incredibly easy to spot but it also keeps her warm and dry.
josie’s general off lead progress
For months, we really struggled with Josie being off lead in somewhat busy areas as she wanted to go and meet everyone and everything and obviously it’s not appropriate that she do that. And going over to dogs a little too excited is still a problem for us so whenever we see another dog we call her back (which is huge progress in itself as before she would bugger off instantly) and put her on lead so she can meet another dog and then take her back off it’s an appropriate situation or leave her on so she’s still meeting dogs but in a somewhat calm situation. I'm expecting that we'll still need to do this for a few more months, maybe until she's 2 but if it gets her to the place she needs to be in her training that's all that matters.
Where she has made the most progress is not going over to walkers or cyclists, she’s completely fine off lead as she doesn’t go over to them at all anymore. We lead her past with a treat just in case but we’re able to generally let her be which is such huge progress for her and I know that slowly we will get there with dogs too. There were points when Josie was a puppy where I felt helpless, the dog training that we took her really didn’t do much for her at all as they stuck to a very basic training method so finding our own ways of working with her has been much more effective. Something else we have done is work in whistle training, it's not something we do all the time but for when we can't see her or it's urgent that she comes back we use a whistle and it's something we've found to work really well. We started off small, blowing the whistle and giving her a treat when she responds to it and built it up from there.