This story was published in my friends', Tom Stodghill's, ARF Cowdog Magazine. Tom died in 1989, and his daughter Jean and her husband Al, have continued his work in Quinlan, Texas for breeding Advanced Border Collies.
Tom did more towards developing the herding dogs in the USA than anyone else, his were among the first seen stateside. He was a wonderful man that helped anyone sharing his love of herding dogs. Many people owning Border Collies & other stock dogs have Tom to thank...
Many of you have asked me for dog training tips. I don't have any!! I just watch the dog and use a command to match what the dog teaches me. This story will show you how I pick up on what the dogs already know and put a signal to it. I'll add a page to show a few examples.
I have done this with 100's of Humane Society dogs and it does work. My problem?? Most times I have to tell the owners they need trained... the dogs are just fine, they just don't know what the owner wants from them.
To my old friend, Tom, my Mr. Teddys' Story:
I ended up with Teddy, not by choice. He belonged to a lady in New Douglas, IL, and was kept on her farm where our horses were stabled. (Originally, Ted was at Binney Station, IL, Breeder of English Shepherds/Border Collies, Ethel Schwartz.) Ted ran loose on the farm but wanted to be around people from a pup on. If no one was on the farm, he'd run to the nearest neighbor and "visit'.
Then one night his owner went after him. She had Ted tied in her car trunk with the lid tied half-way closed. Ted jumped out and was dragged about half a mile on a gravel road. Needless to say, he was a mess!
I took him to a vet, but he figured he would be too much trouble and would die, anyway. Now, I wasn't "taken" with Ted (at first), but he was a beautiful dog, and I felt he should have a chance. A friend of mine and I decided to pool our medical skills and try to save him.
We froze Ted's legs and pulled out the gravel for several hours; his chest had a larger piece of rock that we had to probe, my little finger crooked got it out. We used Steri- Strips on the larger wounds and packed them to avoid infection. Old Prid Salve drew out the rest of the gravel.
Through all of this, Ted seemed to know we were trying to help him and didn't try to bite us. It took us ten days of continuous care, and weeks after that of me carrying him outside every few hours and holding him upright, but he pulled through beyond belief, his spirit was intact, and he only had four small scars! Ted and I were inseparable from then on.
He'd never been kept as a house dog, yet he was completely housebroken. I was often complimented for my "training ability" with Ted. I always told people the truth he "trained" me.
We made a game of matching hand signals to what he did naturally. I started out by holding my hand up for the "sit"; Ted would sit every time he saw my hand up, even from a distance. From there, I used a different signal for "down"; each time he went down on his own, I used the signal.
I couldn't figure out hand signals quickly enough for Ted; he picked up on signals we I used when having a horse on a long-line. He knew a wide sweep of the left arm was "cover left field". At the word "hup", he'd look for a different command or change direction.
I goofed by using words rather than hand signals only. At the time, I was playing "by ear" and just didn't know what I was doing!
Tom asked me if Teddy would jump gates or try to go under. I didn't know, so I decided to find out. I set him at a small gate and he sailed over easily. I kept at it over a few weeks, until a signal would cue him to jump. He would jump through a car window on command also. He never got into any car without being told first.
I couldn't believe how quickly he picked up on my moods just as easily. If I had an "off" day, Ted would clown around until I laughed and petted him. Tom told me Ted's crazy behavior at the farm and his running away was probably because he wanted to be around people more often. I agreed with Tom 100%. After being with me a few months, Ted was a different dog.
I've been around dogs all my life but never have seen a dog so willing to learn. Ted made a believer of me; "herding dogs" are a breed apart. I can't say enough about their natural ability and common sense!
I do want to point out Border Collies are not for everyone!! They are usually an active dog and require more human contact than other breeds. Ted was a pain type dog until I brought him home, I really didn't like him at all when he was on the farm.
When they are made to mind and have close contact with the owner, they are at their best.
I'd take Ted around children who were afraid of dogs and tell him "easy"; he'd move in a slow-motion and freeze if I told him. He taught many kids to love dogs. Many of these kids would stop every morning on the way to school and bring Mr. Teddy "goodies".
He'd take anything the kids gave him and put them in a pile. It would include apples, oranges, and other "goodies" that he would not eat if he had to! He seemed to figure out the kids wanted him to have these gems, so he'd make them happy and take them. I explained to the kids Ted would be just as happy to be petted, but the "goodies" never stopped for 16 years.
Many parents thought Mr. Teddy was a Senior Citizen who lived with me and sent, via the kids, MORE ~"goodies"! I was lucky, Ted would eat cookies by the tons but leave the bulk of his loot untouched. (Our vet appreciated this to no end!) Our house, to the kids, was where Mr. Teddy lived.
I used Ted for bringing in stray animals, usually neighborhood dogs, that wouldn't come when called. He'd run with them, and when I called Ted in, the other dog always came, too. He'd play in the yard with our cat, and cars would stop to watch them. He'd let the cat on top of him and she could touch the tip of his nose and he'd freeze and never hurt her.
I didn't think much about it; I'd seen Ted "baby-sit" a litter of kittens at the farm. The mother cat would go "mouse" and leave her kittens lying on top of Teddy before she left! I'd never seen a dog "tip-toe" before, but when he "babysat", that's the only way to describe his movements.
He wasn't always perfect, nor did I expect him to be! He hated to be on a leash and would bite at it the whole time. I'd give him the end to hold in his mouth and he'd stay by my left leg with no problem. It was another "trick" Ted taught me.
There were some people Ted wouldn't behave around. He'd act "hyper" and just wouldn't settle down. I never did figure out why, but since he was fine with everyone else, I didn't worry about it. It seemed like once a year he would push me to see if he could get by with something.
I'd make him mind, and it was over for another year! I always figured it's one draw-back of having a smart dog... they can acquire bad habits as quickly as good ones. If caught, they will not push it and continue to misbehave.
My "MISTER Teddy NO", would cause his tail to drop and his head to drop also. He was fine once he knew all was ok, he just did somehting he shouldn't and all was ok between us.
He would hike a leg on Moms' roses or the grape vine, a NO, would stop him cold. Something people couldn't believe. He loved our vet and I'd pat the stainless steel table and Ted would bail up with no problem. The vet said seldom would a dog do that, I told him the truth... Ted knew I'd have a hand there to stop him, we trusted each other.
He had me trained just as well... in the kitchen I'd be close to the cookie jar and he'd go into a Lassie pose, sit up and have a paw crooked just so. Never failed, he always got his cookie from me.
His favorite was school busses. I'd be at a gas station and he'd know kids were in the bus next to us. He would sit up and stare at the bus driver and every bus driver would come over and ask if Mr. Ted could come visit. Ham he was, he'd go in the bus and mind those kids just as good as he did me.
He did the same thing at any fast food restaurant. I'd eat outside so he could be with me and make him lay down. Didn't take long for kids there to learn he loved french fries, and a piece of hamburger wouldn't be bad either. He would take the food so carefully from a kid that parents let toddlers hand feed him.
No secret, I'd feed him something and tell him "easy", I'd hold the piece of food tucked behind my fingernails with a small edge sticking out. He learned that easy meant to take the piece from my fingers carefully.
The last two years with Teddy were hard on both of us. He wanted to run his 30' circle by hand signals, same as always. I knew he was going downhill and tried to slow him down. He'd lost weight, had arthritis in his front legs,but still pranced when he walked and had a beautiful coat.
I found a vet who would work with me regarding medication, and we tried to keep Teddy going as long as possible. The day I saw Ted lose his balance many times and walk instead of "bounce", I knew the time had come. I called the vet and told him it was time.
He begged for some cheesecake that day, and no big surprise... he got it... We spent the day together in the back yard and like many others, was fun for Ted & for me. Even knowing I would be taking him to the vet.
I felt he would take it easier if I went in with him. It wasn't easier for me, but it was the last thing I could do for him. Ted went the way he lived, as my best friend, and next to me as always.
I brought Mr. Teddy home and buried him in the mint bed he loved to smell. His love of smelling flowers and the mint was another part of him that brought me many smiles.
Year 2000 now, but whenever I see the wildflowers bloom there and mint, I have to smile and be very grateful I had Mr. Teddy in my life!!
I haven't found a dog that's "for me" yet. I wanted to wait until I was ready and wasn't looking for Mr. Teddy at every corner! Those of you who have lost a favorite dog know what I'm talking about.
I did have one... but my Buddy is another story. In between I have foster cared many "rogue" dogs and am able to match them up with the right people.
The dogs let me know who the right people are. If I don't see a "match" the dogs stay with me. Figure I spent many hours learning each dog, and what they know or like and they deserve the people they respond best to.
Many of these dogs I babysit when the owners go on vacation. They never forget no matter how many years it has been between visits. It is one of my favorite things to do.
I'm no different than anyone else, I just trained myself to pay attention to what each dog is like and work from there. You can do the same thing.
If one method doesn't work, then try another one. Like with Ted, I never could get him to walk on a leash, but give him the end of it in his mouth and he would heel and never break away from it.
When we visited a place that required a dog to be leashed, he was leashed. Just led himself wherever I went. Didn't make him a bad dog, just one that was smart enough to convince me it was better that way.