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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

To Rescue Or Not To Rescue, That Is The Question

by Mary

This Cabo and Keva, formerly Nala

This Cabo and Keva, formerly Nala

This past November, we were faced with the reality that our 15 year old rescued Aussie may be diagnosed with bladder cancer. We have had over 7 dogs, all different breeds and ages. Losing all of them to one sickness or another. Some came expectedly, some unexpectedly.

While my husband and I sat in our living room, grieving over what might be in our near future, we were faced with our 3 year old Blue Heeler/Aussie mix. He had never known a life without a companion. Years ago, we decided we would always have at least 2 dogs to keep the other dog company. Sam, our 15 year old Aussie, has helped us raise 4 dogs. Teaching them canine manners,and what is expected good behavior at our house. Her maternal instincts are second to none. I even had the great honor of meeting her one puppy she birthed 9 years ago.

My husband and I debated on which breed we should consider adopting and did we want a puppy or a young dog. Since puppies are usually hard to adopt, we knew that would mean most likely a purchase from a breeder.

We have raised pure breds and rescues. But as we head into our silver years, I wasn't sure I wanted to contend with the rigors of puppyhood. But having raised several rescues of varying ages, there is the unknown. What their history entailed, who owned them before, do they have any training, are we dealing with a clean slate?

I took in a foster dog, knowing up front she came from a questionable up bringing. I spent several hours in books and online trying to understand her different forms of aggression. Until finally I came to the realization I could not fully rehab her broken soul. She was given to a single man with no other dogs. Even my beloved Sam, came from my husband's family. Severely overweight, and mostly outdoors, she had little socialization with other dogs. She was very sweet with us, but the other dogs she had little interest. We received her when she was about 6 years old. My son quickly realized she didn't even know how to play.

When our then 16 year old Shepherd mix died, all hell broke loose. We were faced with several major dog fights that appeared to be to the death. We learned then, we were going to have to clean the slate and start all over with the training, handling and disciplining of both. And eventually it worked. Bringing in a puppy that had no idea of hierarchies or socialization seemed the only way to go. And it was much easier, but sadly, we lost him at 4 years old unexpectedly.

So recently, I went to my trusty Aussie Lover Newsletter to find breeders and rescues. We would take it easy and weigh our options. When we discovered the Kentucky rescue Nala. Living in Atlanta, we drove the 6 hours, with pack in tow, to meet her. Everything seemed great, she was young and active. Not unexpected for 1-1/2 year old Aussie. The Heeler and Nala seemed to get a long great. Sam, as usual, indifferent to the new dog, but didn't seem anxious at all. And so we made the 6 hour trek home. That's when our concerns materialized. The fighting began, the territorialism started and the two young dogs didn't seem they would ever get along. Now a month and half later, they can't live without each other.

My point in all of this, is it better to buy a dog from a breeder or rescue a dog from the unknown. I'm not sure if I still know the answer. I know this, both are work. Both require a huge amount of patience and unconditional love. And both can reward with a loving relationship, and disappoint with unfulfilled dreams. But I have been in the middle of the debate that there are many rescues out there that need a home. And I have tried to accommodate the aid to those animals in need. It's not knowing what you may face in behavioral issues that takes a lot of patience.

Our Nala's world was flipped upside down. She needed space and understanding to come to terms with her new environment. And what worked with our other dogs, did not necessarily fit for her. Flexibility is a must in adapting to a new pack member. So would it have been so different with a pure bred puppy? I don't think so, just different.

All are different personalities in their own right. And there are characteristics in all three that I love and that I struggle with. But it's always a new experience when new pack member chooses to go home with us.

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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

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