Friday, October 8, 2010

One Collar For Life - A Generational Perspective

As a kid there were always animals in our family home. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, a chook, a rat...

The first dog I remember was a rough collie cross called Basil Brush (we called him Barry mostly). He had a flea allergy and always had a bald patch near his tail. He was pretty old when I was a kid and I don't remember interacting with him a lot. My dad used to put his shirts on him. He was a pretty cool dog. His flea allergy could have been dealt with pretty easily nowadays with regular application of Frontline or one of the other very effective flea spot ons.

Then there was a border collie cross called 'Rags'. Rags jumped the very short fence and got hit by a car. She was a bit of a manic dog. Again I was too young to really handle her or appreciate how smart she was. She didn't make it past 9 months.

After Rags my mother swore not to get another dog, but probably a week later we came home with a little brown pup from the pet shop. He cost $10. This was Rusty. He was a Kelpie cross. He turned out to be a bit foul tempered. He used to snap at my brother and I but we did like to test his boundaries by lying on him and pushing him around, or standing over him and pretending he was a 'horsie'. Rusty had the same collar for almost his entire life. It was a red studded buckle collar which came from the pet section at Kmart. His vaccinations were always up to date but he ate cheap dog food from the supermarket, and again, hardly any flea prevention. He was very territorial and liked to terrify the postman or anyone else who came near his boundary fence. When I was 14 he became my best mate, and I used to walk him every day. He liked to swim in the river and he always came back when I called him. I was always watchful and made sure he didn't eat any toxic blowfish. He had a couple of close calls but never actually ate one. He was never really taught anything the way my dogs are trained he just picked things up as we went along. He definately had dominance issues, he used to push through doorways to get out first, and he didn't like anyone interfering with him when he was asleep on the couch. When I left home, I think my dad walked him occasionally but I don't think my mum liked to because he would pull on the lead. When I went back to visit he would spend the whole time glued to my legs, and would cry for hours when I left.

Compare his life to the live Bender and Barbie have now.... they eat top quality kibble, are on very effective flea prevention. I remember when I was a kid I thought that all dogs had fleas and that was a given. There are no fleas on my dogs. If they scratch or bite themselves I always check them and check the calendar to make sure I haven't missed their flea prevention. Barbie already has her second collar, and will probably get more as fashion accessories. She also has a sleeping coat and a t-shirt. I will get her a cooling coat for summer. Bender is also on his second but I think I may have to replace it because the plastic buckle is starting to be less secure. They both have harnesses, and Bender has been through a few leashes (one which fell apart on the way to doggie daycare one day). There is no way one collar would last a lifetime on one of my dogs. They go out too much. Their leashes are used every day, sometimes in rough conditions (at the beach or river). Bender is particularly hard on collars and ID tags because he is always on the move. I have paid for training courses for Barbie (Canine Good Citizen starts tomorrow! yay!) and I spend time almost every night training them. They are both microchipped so if they get lost we don't have to rely on their collars staying on or their tags being readable when they are found.

The difference in how the dogs are looked after is striking. I definately have more disposable income than my folks did, back then. That is definately part of it. And the dog doesn't care if it has a $10 collar or a $30 collar, as long as it has one. I think the awareness around positive reinforcement training for me started when I got my first dog, and realised that I didn't want my dogs to be like grumpy old Rust. Bender in particular is a model citizen in this regard. When we were lying at the river watching the Avon Descent on the big screen, a random 13 year old girl just leapt on him for a cuddle. He wagged his tail and licked her. Not sure what Rusty would have done in the same situation.... putting more effort into recall and obedience happened after my first dog, Lucy, got hit by a car because she decided that she was going to take herself for a walk after escaping out of the front door. Both dogs have health insurance. When I was a kid private health insurance for humans was even a bit of a strange concept.

So how has the way you care for your animals differed from your parents? Do you treat the dogs you have now differently from the first dogs you ever had?
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