I always seem to have some sort of dilemma to think about. At the moment I still haven’t sorted out if I want to study in September, whether to explore dog training, or do something in the field of disability which would be useful for my work and for future employment.
Right now though, our mischievous bundle of fluff, otherwise known as Dougal is causing the problem.
We got Dougal in January 2007, when he was only six weeks old. I felt that he was too young to be taken away from his mother, but the people selling the pups were moving house and wanted to sell them ASAP. I chose him because he was the more confident independent pup, because he liked being handled and didn’t mind being away from his parents or littermate, who was the complete opposite. My nephew Jack and I often wonder how different things might have been if I’d chosen the other pup!!
Dougal was always unbelievably independent and strong-willed. He is friendly and likes to be cuddled, but only on his terms. Pick him up when he doesn’t want to be touched, and he will quickly let you know he’s not happy. He dislikes having his paws touched and can be quite possessive about his toys or his bed. For this reason, I can’t relax with him around children. He is fine with my nephews who know his personality, but you can never be sure.
Dougal is a difficult dog to watch because he was so hard to housetrain. Crate training was the best thing I ever did, but we always have to remember to take him out regularly during the day or there will be accidents. His recall isn’t great, so when he gets outside off-lead if a door has been left open, he will run down the road and try to find something to eat (and this dog eats anything!), resulting in a dirty and often ill dog afterwards.
Dougal has a number of issues that make him difficult to look after, and a lot of it is due to inconsistent training from myself and my family. Its very difficult to convince everyone to treat him the same way that I do, and to put as much work into him as I have. I am concerned that when I move house, things will become much more difficult. He mightn’t get as many walks, or the consistent obedience training and attention he needs, resulting in more disruptive behaviour and my parents becoming frustrated with him. I am unable to keep him with me during the week because I am out during the day and I would be afraid he would bark and annoy the neighbours. I will live beside an extremely busy road, I’ve had one dog knocked down before and I couldn’t go through it again.
Its frustrating for me because when I’m with him on my own he is usually fine, and I know he has the potential to become a great dog. He loves other dogs and is great company for O.J, which I think is a great benefit when we meet other dogs in public because O J is so relaxed and doesn’t really make a big deal out of it. I like him to be able to have free time with other dogs when he is not working, and I think guide dog owners often under-estimate the importance of this.
I need to seriously think whether I will keep Dougal or rehome him. Living without O.J there will be a big adjustment for him, and if he doesn’t have something to occupy his day, then he will become an unhappy, distructive dog. I will know the reason for this and constantly feel guilty.
I have never rehomed a dog before, and swore it was something I would never do. I want to learn more about dog training, and feel like I am failing already if I give up on Dougal. I love the challenge of working with him and trying to shape his behaviour into something more manageable.
On the other hand, I need to think about the future and about when O J retires. My parents always said that they would look after him if I felt that I wasn’t in the position to care for two large dogs, but I’m not sure if they would want two dogs either. Dougal is will be hard enough for them on his own. By that stage my parents will probably have retired and would enjoy having a dog like O J around. By then Dougal will probably be eight or nine years old, and it would be more difficult and stressful to rehome him then.
If I do rehome him, I know its better to do it sooner rather than later. I would have very specific requirements as to the type of people he lives with, but how would I know that they are the right ones? Would I keep in touch with them or would I just be better to rehome him and forget about him? He would be somebody else’s dog then, and not my responsibility anymore.
So, now you can see why my heads spinning. I don’t know what is best, and I really don’t want to regret anything.