Buddy is an English Shepherd. They are all around farm dogs – protector of the family (and livestock, if you have them, we don’t anymore), varmint control manager, lay-at-your-feet and/or adventure companion. Smart as heck.
Buddy, he came from a part of a pack. Puppies and dog parents and human parents. He was raised on a farm and went on walkabouts with the pack. They followed and came when called. Buddy did all of that here, too, when he first came. But then he got a little bolder, one day crossing over the stone wall and headed to the neighbor’s house, despite me calling him to come. And trying the running-the-other-way trick. But he kept going, and every time I got close he’d move just a little bit more ahead. He’d done that one other time, too. This time, he wound up in some brush which slowed him down and gave me time to grab his collar. But a little bit more trust was broken that day. I was no longer comfortable assuming he’d just stick with me. He now is on a long lead or dragging it, or I find places I’m comfortable letting him off-leash – like a fenced-in ball field, an upper soccer field at our local school, or on forest walks with Addie the Golden Retriever, who is very reliable and he will stick by her (it’s also hunting season, so I don’t want to take any chances of him wandering too far off into the woods).
Today I decided to take him up to the soccer field. We brought his tennis ball. I was going to tire this puppy out! We also were trying out his new bungee leash that hooks into a belt that goes around your waist. (I like it! Not sure how Buddy feels about it.) We walked up to the field with Buddy on his leash. Then I reached into my pocket for the tennis ball, unhooked the leash, wound up to throw the ball and….there were a man and his (big) dog on the other side of the field. As soon as I saw them, Buddy saw them. I told him to come, then wait, or whatever I said I really don’t remember. But he stopped, plopped his butt down, and watched them as I came up and clicked his leash back on. And praised him profusely. By the way, this is exactly what my Aussie Koda used to do. I could never get her to turn back around and come. But she would sit, watching, and wait for me to come to her.
Well, now my plan of running Buddy off-leash was shot. I didn’t trust that he’d not want to follow them to see where they went, now that they were out of view. So we headed in the other direction onto a trail. I let Buddy go on a sniffari (this is a term I learned in a puppy Facebook group, where you just let the puppy walk around and smell all the smells). Buddy was pulling a bit on the bungee leash; I kept reminding him to walk nicely, and we went along like that for a bit.
Then, all of a sudden, a man ran in front of us across the trail juncture directly ahead. It startled both of us. Buddy plastered himself against my leg and we both just stood there for a minute. But here’s the thing. After that, Buddy was on alert and the pulling stopped. He stayed right near me. I think he was protecting us. (Although it would be me doing the protecting at this point, should anything happen. It won’t be long, though, he’s getting bigger every day.)
We hiked this way for a while. It was very enjoyable. Eventually, he relaxed and started pulling again. We got back to the field, I looked around, and there was nobody in sight. So I decided to try the tennis ball again. I did three throws and on the third throw, I realized he was done. So I clicked his leash back on and we walked back to the car. On the drive home I reflected on his behavior and was amazed – again, it’s a daily thing – at this little dog of mine, already living up to his English Shepherdness.