Living with the High Drive Puppy … An update on Tesla

Just less than 14 years ago, I got my first high drive puppy, the Border Collie who came to be my second Heart Dog, Claire. She was spunky, happy, sensitive, and learned faster and better than any dog I’d ever had before her. She was also more work than any dog I’d ever had to that point. After all was said and done, with lots of very challenging, albeit fun work, she became the best working dog I’ve ever had. Out in public, I considered her to be a poor example of the Border Collie breed, because her training and amazing focus on me made it appear that she was easy to live with, and ideal for anyone wanting a well-behaved dog. Whenever I took her to work, my non-dog-savvy co-workers would say that they wanted a dog just like her. My reply: “Really? You want a dog that you have to get up for at 5:00 in the morning to take herding before work just so she doesn’t get destructive or problematic during the day?”

Claire moving the sheep

Fast forward 13+ years to Tesla, whom many of you met several weeks ago here in the HDDog Blog. While I will never expect her to get into my heart the way Claire has, I have to say that she’s turning out to be a wonderful working dog. Nevertheless, she is taking an enormous amount of my time and energy just to keep her out of trouble, her particular brand of which includes digging up the vegetable garden, trying to tear up furniture, and getting into our daughter’s toys. While I hope that she, too, will eventually be a “poor example” of the Border Collie personality, for now, it’s quite a challenge just to keep her sane and manageable.

Stick ’em up, Tesla!

Since adopting her just over three months ago, she has been enrolled in the following training courses:

So, in just under four months, she has completed 4 six-week training courses, and is currently enrolled in 3 more. Her typical work week looks something like this:

  • Monday – Agility training one-on-one practice
  • Tuesday – Agility basics class
  • Wednesday – Obedience for Dog Sports class
  • Thursday – Intermediate Training class
  • Friday – Flyball box turn training
  • Saturday – Flyball training with club in morning; Flyball or other training class in afternoon
  • Sunday – Day “off” to play in the yard with kid and our other dogs

In addition to the structured classes listed here, I spend time daily with her working on desensitization to running things (people, dogs, bikes) at which she likes to bark, puzzle toys for her meals, or between meals to work her brain, and numerous short training sessions to work on her many tricks including

  • Stick ‘em up
  • Bang! (lay down and play dead)
  • Spin and Twirl (both directions)
  • Roll over
  • Heel / Side
  • Tada (take a bow)
  • Look left (will add “look right” when this is solid)
  • Touch nose to the stick (flyball training exercise)
  • Touch nose to the target (agility training exercise)
  • Go around the post (agility training exercise)
  • Retrieve the toy
  • Retrieve the ball to the tug (flyball training exercise)
  • Turn on a wall (flyball training exercise)
  • Don’t herd the kid when she runs by (she and the kid have improved SO much!)

Did I mention that I’ve had her for just over three months? When I adopted her, the shelter staff actually told me that they didn’t think she had much drive, and they could not have been more wrong! Although she has what many trainers call an “off” switch, it will not function if she doesn’t get enough mental stimulation throughout the week. As I write this, after a morning play session, 2 puzzle toys, and a short afternoon training session, she is now snoozing in the sunshine on the patio. (The other dogs prefer the shade.) This evening, she will have her Intermediate training class, then most of her dinner in a Kong before bedtime.

I am fortunate to work as a professional dog trainer, so I can take her to work with me (which has allowed 13-year-old Claire to have her well-earned retirement.) I have colleagues who help me with her training, including working her in my classes so that I may be freed up to teach, and others who step up to watch her when I cannot give her the exercise she needs. I shudder to think what may have happened had she ended up in a pet home, and I’m reminded of many a client who has inadvertently ended up with a dog like her, ill-equipped to fulfill her needs and thus ended up with a big problem. And I hope that anyone considering bringing a high-drive dog into their home for the first time will give serious consideration to the time commitment needed to keep them mentally and physically fit.

Train on!!