In my last blog about Leela’s health, I wrote, “That brings me to the next blog about Leela: canine enrichment, or how to be with your dog in a way that plays into your dog’s natural instincts. I’ve spent a lot of time going in the opposite direction. Now, I see how doing what she loves can benefit me, as well.”
Since I last wrote about the many breeds Leela may carry in her DNA, I believe I’ve discovered her dominant breed: Australian Kelpie. Take a look at the photos I've included up top. The first, an Australian Kelpie. The second photo is Leela.
I can see the differences, too, and I see more of the similarities, so much so that I joined a Kelpie group on Facebook, who guessed her DNA as Kelpie, Cattle dog, and Staffordshire Terrier. The brindle color is probably the terrier but her behavior is all Kelpie.
Reading up confirmed all my opinions about this:
“One of the smartest of all breeds, the Australian Kelpie can also be one of the most challenging to live with. His superior intellect, combined with his independence, intensity, and passion for keeping busy, are his best features – and the ones that make him unsuitable for most homes.
This sharp-eyed, quick-thinking, fanatical workaholic must be allowed to do his job with livestock, to learn advanced obedience or agility, to accompany you jogging or biking, or to chase balls or Frisbees.
Without physical and mental stimulation, Australian Kelpies become bored and hyperactive and will drive you crazy with obsessive, destructive behaviors as they seek creative outlets for their energy.
High intelligence means they learn quickly – including how to do anything they set their mind to. They are master escape artists (going over and under fences) and zealous gatherers of cars, bikes, joggers, cats, other dogs, livestock, and running children – circling, poking, pushing, and nipping if the person or animal or object doesn't cooperate.
You must stay one step ahead of this brilliant breed, and most people are simply not up to the task.”
So, when a friend said, “Linda, you’ve finally met your match” she wasn’t kidding. I posted on Facebook, “Anyone have any sheep you need herded?” I wasn’t kidding, either.
Now, there’s also a meaning to the word Kelpie: a water spirit of Scottish folklore, typically taking the form of a horse and reputed to delight in the drowning of travelers.
Oh, great. Since she hasn’t taken the form of a horse, I’m going to let this one go. For now.
Here’s where canine enrichment comes in, though, and I’m just learning about it so please forgive the simplicity of what I write.
Leela loves to forage. She won’t eat all the food in her bowl, yet she’ll go out and forage and scavenge the backyard for tasty morsels (albeit not to this human’s observations).
My first trick: I turn over a muffin tin and put her dry food in the bottom of the tin. Just testing the waters here. She immediately went over and started eating and ate most of it; sometimes, she eats all of it. This morning, I brought the tin outside so I could have my coffee in the backyard. Leela didn’t seem as interested in the muffin tin food outdoors, so I grabbed a handful and tossed it on the grass. She had a blast foraging for part of her breakfast. Now, I understand that this isn’t always possible, and she doesn’t find all the food, so there’s that. And yet, what a natural instinct for her; one that also seems to be fun! Quite accidentally, I learned that she seems to respond to ‘come’ more when there’s something to see or do or my interest in her involves something she likes to do. Maybe that will eventually lead to her responding to ‘come’ when I want her to. Could it please do that?
I’m struck how important breed is when it comes to training. Whether Leela’s the Kelpie, Cattle dog, Terrier or Occasional Hyena, her own instincts make training possible, not my will or wanting and certainly not my controlling her. We’ve come a long way since, “A good leader always …” We humans are also who we are and our leadership must come from that, too.