Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover


Home at last

Spike: Before

It was a Friday evening. Claire Hayes was looking through Agilitynet and clicked on the Rescue Me page. She wasn't looking for a dog, but you know how you just have to look. Go on, admit it, you do, too! Staring back at her was Spike, an eight month old collie who suffered, not surprisingly if you'd heard his history, from severe separation anxiety. If you count Battersea and his foster home, this little lad was looking for his sixth home.

A feeling I could never even attempt to describe, and yet recognised immediately as the same feeling I had had when I first saw my other two collies, struck without warning. For a reason I still don't know, I emailed the address given and asked if Spike was still available. That same evening I received an email back saying he was and giving me the phone number of Jodie, the lady who was fostering him.

 Reality check
My Mum tolerates my dogs because she knows my life would be pointless without them. She let me get a second when I convinced her I needed a pup for Obedience training. My first dog was a rescue and had gone about as far as he was going to. I was told two was the maximum. I then started trying to convince her my first dog was nearing retirement and I needed a third dog to train up! She said it was alright to phone Jodie, but she would have to think about it. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after four days of torture she gave in. I phoned Spike's foster carer, Jodie, on the Tuesday and told her the good news.

By that Friday Spike was home with me and renamed 'Spy'. Battersea were not exaggerating Spy's separation anxiety. Even if he could see me through a window or baby gate he would bark and mess himself in complete panic. He had little or no recall and almost no basic training.

Obsessive, compulsive & anti-social
As is common with collies without mental stimulation, he had developed an obsessive behaviour. He was fixated on toys and his brain would go into overdrive at the sight of them. He was the sort of dog who would have followed a ball over a cliff. I knew it was going to make training him harder because he was oblivious to commands and signals around toys.

Spy had no social graces with other dogs. If he wanted a toy or bone he would take it and if they tried to stop him, he would shout in their faces until they gave up. In many ways, Spy was the equivalent to a spoilt child. Except he wasn't spoilt; he had just never been shown where the boundaries were.

The first night I took him to agility training I let him wander about to look at the equipment. He wasn't at all phased so later that evening I decided to have a go at some basics. Off came the lead. It then took three of us twenty minutes to catch him. He ran off after other dogs, refused to come back and was completely out of control. If he had the ball he would run away. If I managed to get the ball, he would outrun in anticipation of it being thrown. His brain had shut down. I was beginning to think it was going to take months before I could even let him loose again.

Six weeks later...
Spy now copes with being left for short periods without barking or messing himself. He still worries but the panic has subsided. I have removed all toys so the only access Spy has to them is through me. Toys are for interactive play and Spy has learnt how to work for their reward. With mental stimulation he no longer obsesses over them. He knows where the boundaries are with other dogs - with only a few minor injuries during which time he was known as Spyhole - and with people. As long as he understands what is being asked, he will usually comply.

Quick learner
After just four sessions Spy was a fully trained Flyball dog. He loves it. The other day he tried tapping the side of the collapsible tunnel and looked most confused when it didn't throw him a ball! He knows 'over', 'close' and 'side', 'back' and 'right', 'tunnel' and 'tyre'. He is only jumping 15" but is already doing small jump and tunnel combinations. He is also showing an understanding of his contacts. He will wait while I pull the lead and listens for his release command. I can train him even when he most exciting dogs are running courses and he is so tuned into me, he doesn't even notice them.

Spy has also been 'broken' to harness. My dogs go sledding with a bike both for fun and endurance work. He runs on really well and is a complete natural. Sometimes we go through the woods, other times along the beach. Spy hadn't been to either before as he came from London and he revels in the freedom.

I am very proud of this little collie.
He has made massive progress in such a short time. I can't wait to see how much more he will change in the next few years. Spy has got a wonderful temperament. He loves everyone and greets them like long lost friends.

Speaking of long lost friends, there is one friend of Spy's we would both like to thank - his foster carer, Jodie. No doubt Jodie had a big hand in helping Spy trust again and in so doing, helped to make him the secure, happy dog he is now. I know Jodie still misses her 'Little Spikey' and I also know he hasn't forgotten her. From day one I have been making a video diary of Spy, from first time adventures through to his flyball and agility training. There is an extra copy for Jodie, so she can keep a part of him forever.

I wouldn't be without Spy now, I can barely remember the days before him.

And my mum? I caught her the other day rolling on the floor with him squirming all over her. 'D'ya know,' she said, 'I couldn't let him go now. I don't know how Jodie did it.'

Neither do I, but I'm so glad she did.

About the author...
Claire Hayes started in Obedience with her first dog, a rescue tri-colour collie called Laddie. Labelled 'uncontrollable and difficult to train' Laddie won soon won her out of pre-beginners and beginners at Open Obedience shows.

She later got a Woodsorrel pup, Indy, to continue obedience but as fate would have it, began agility training for fun and got hooked.

She still competes with Laddie, now ten and a half, and has had a few placings already this season with Indy, nearly three.

All of her dogs do flyball and run in harness for fun and fitness.

Spy and his new doggy family >


 Copyright Agilitynet