|Know what type of dog you’re adopting
We recently had a 6-year-old sheltie surrendered to the shelter by a very frustrated owner. She and her family had the dog for three years and were at their wit’s end by some of the behaviors he displayed.
As a second-time sheltie parent, I could only nod in agreement as she listed all the behaviors that both my shelties had and have. Maybe there was an additional element of some anxiety thrown in with this little guy, or maybe it was just normal behaviors going unchecked that made him seem so frustrating. If you aren’t familiar with the breed, I could see where you might think he was a bad dog.
The litany of complaints wound down, and I had to ask, “Did you know anything about shelties when you got him?” Of course not! She had not planned to get a sheltie specifically but was in the market for a dog, and a friend trying to help someone out that needed to place the dog suggested she meet him.
The good news is that he’s absolutely adorable. When she brought him in to us, he had been freshly clipped and looked just like a tiny teddy bear. Smedley is very small for a sheltie, which gives him a puppyish look. I could see everyone wanting him just based on his cuteness factor. But shelties, like other herding breeds, are not easy dogs to live with. They were bred to be working dogs and are usually very active. In addition, that herding instinct, if not well managed, can easily get out of control. Put a herding dog in with a group of children that are running around playing and you have a high probability of an ankle nip. Just rounding them up and trying to get them to stay together!
My first sheltie’s name was Sparky, but his nickname soon became Barky Sparky. That’s a hint that this breed is noisy. I think it’s the way they herd the sheep – just bark at them until they get a headache and want to leave (that’s my explanation for their barking and I’m sticking to it!). When I got Poppy, my current sheltie, I actually thought she had been debarked she was so quiet. It was a welcome contrast to Sparky but only lasted three weeks. Then she took ownership of the home and hasn’t shut up since. Shelties and collies are one of the top breeds that used to be debarked because it is so hard to control their vocalization. They feel the need to announce everything that is happening in the neighborhood – oh look, a leaf just blew by; oh, oh, someone’s riding their bike down the street; and look there, a neighbor just went out for a walk. It’s difficult convincing them we really don’t need to know these things. They are the original neighbor snoops – be aware it would be rather difficult to sneak something past one.
So poor Smedley is once again looking for a home. Hopefully, this time with someone who is knowledgeable about the breed and is willing to work on his out of control habits. They are super smart dogs and excel in obedience and dog sports. Shelties and border collies reign supreme in agility and rally as well at many other games. Maybe he just needs a job to do so he’s not inventing his own to keep busy. He might benefit from some Prozac or other anti-anxiety medication to take the edge off his hyper-reactivity. Probably shouldn’t be in a home with young kids that would get him all wound up and encourage his herding nipping behavior.
The lesson here is how important it is to do a bit of research about the breed of dog you are thinking of getting before you bring one home. Especially if the dog is being rehomed (was there a behavior issue that is the reason that the dog is available in the first place) or a young puppy and you are a first time dog parent. It could save a lot of heartache down the road.
Smedley is now sitting in a shelter hoping his third chance is the lucky one.
• No More Lost Pets: Free microchips and pet ID tags are available for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. Stop by the shelter during our open hours with your pet to get one. The shelter is open Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 1-5:30 p.m., and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.
• Fix-it Clinics: Free spay and neuters for cats and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 pounds) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.