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How Does the Started Working Dog Adjust to a New Home?

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This is a question that occurred to me while reading the "AKC show bred puppies for $1,500.00" thread.


I suspect the answer is “just fine.”


I often experience a twinge of annoyance at the term “forever home.” It strikes me as being a little on the Disney side. (All families are happy ones, there is no divorce, and when there is, the children trick their parents into falling in love again.)


Divorce happens. Sometimes there is a very good reason for it. The same is true of rehoming a dog. Sometimes it’s better for all concerned. Sometimes it is unavoidable.


In my many years of Collie rescue I never saw a single dog that had much more than a short blip of depression/confusion with going to a new home. Most had no reaction at all, except “Hey! Check it out! This person lets me get up on the sofa!


I would imagine that a pup that has been well and truly started on stock will form a bond with its handler/owner. So what does the dog feel when sold to someone?


Knowing what little I do know about working Border Collies, I expect the dog’s internal dialog runs like this: “Oh, phew! He/She has sheep (or cattle). Cool. What’s for supper?”


But I wonder… Is a dog that is being retained for starting on stock, with the intention of selling it when it proves out, treated any different that dogs which will be kept? If so, how?

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Depends on the dog. Mine are all raised in the house, taught basic obedience and manners, socialized in public. They are already good house dogs and make excellent pets if they don't turn out on stock. I raise them all as if I am keeping them, because I have no idea which ones will stay and which ones will move on. It sure makes it a lot harder to sell one. I cry every time and I miss them, even years later.


On the other hand, I bought a started dog from Wales who had only ever lived in a barn. She had a two day flight, changed planes several times, had a layover in an airport kennel. She bounced out of the crate, happy as can be, and then let me bath the stink off her minutes after meeting me. She never once tried to bite. It was several months before she was happy in the house. At first she thought the ceiling fan was going to eat her, the TV and microwave were monsters, the flushing toilet was an entrance to Hell. In time, she realized it was ok and came to enjoy spending time in the house. I would not say the transition has been entirely smooth, but it was not anywhere near as hard as adopting an untrained dog from a shelter.

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I just brought a rescue dog home today. Found as a stray with a bit of chain dangling from his collar and going blind. Has been in the shelter a few weeks - no one looking for him, no ID. Suspected to be a working dog that got away or who was booted off.

So far so good. Tied him up by the door today so he could come and go and investigate the house and garden safely. So far all toiletting done outside. Put a knuckle bone in the crate to tempt him in. He took the bone out of the crate into the garden to eat. Didn't like me trying to move the bone and so far won't go in the crate!

Tonight should be interesting.

He also carried out one of my slippers and later tried chewing the fur trim while I was actually wearing it. He seems partial to woolly hats as well but so far has not tried to eat anything else in the house and is not phased by the TV. Comes bounding up on recall (mostly) but not many safe areas to let him off the leash at the moment. I live on the end of a farm lane and when a quad bike with sheep went past he was desperate to be out at them and would have been out and over the wall if not secured. He is a large active dog - estimated 8 years old - and the farm traffic has him almost pining at the gate poor thing.

However he is very affectionate and hopefully will make a good house dog. A neighbour came to see him while he was sitting in the door way and the only reaction was a thumping tail. So perhaps not a guard dog.....

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I'm not sure Wilson/Hutch actually qualified as a "started" dog - but he was definitely a "move 'em across big landscape" herding dog. He got separated from owner/herd somehow, and was never listed in the area as "lost." Folks in one area (no houses in immediate area) knew he was there through a winter (mild, but still very cold), and fed him. Eventually he jumped or fell into a yard with a high block wall and couldn't escape. He ended up in our very good local shelter for 6 weeks; our very savvy, kind, quiet shelter manager eventually got him to LOOK at her. Nobody ever was able to touch him. Long story short: I know a sort of "dog whisperer" many many miles away. She agreed to take him - with no promises - and work with him. He had to be noosed to be crated for a flight; covered and never uncovered until she had him home. He is now her best buddy, has seen her through some major illness, and LOVES playing with other dogs. I don't know if he's been on stock since getting there. But it took an incredibly special person to bring out his true personality. I don't think I could've done it.

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I honestly feel when you work beside each other, dog and handler, there can be a more intensive bond formed. It becomes a partnership, a mutual dependence on each other that is not necessarily the case in other circumstances. I think how they transition depends some on the dogs personality and partly where it is placed.


How closely does the new owner and work suit the dog? I believe we can take our time and do the dog and person justice and find that real good match or we can simply see the dog. As Liz said even the pups that I am sure from the start are not staying are raised like the ones that do. I think the best possible situation is to try to match the dog with the home and work needed. Sometimes that happens and in a couple weeks to months it all is wonderful. Sometimes things do not go as planned.


I believe most younger dogs adjust very well. I have bought working dogs as old as 6, some do not miss a beat It is as if they were always your dog- others take some effort to form a good bond, still others never seem to click.

I know my mom who is here daily has no problem with my younger dogs - getting them in /out of crates, kennel the house, feeding and the dogs eating ect. The older dogs - the ones I have really bonded with over time they are more difficult. Some will not eat, some look for me, some will not go back to the kennel ect.

I would think it is potentially more disruptive to sell/ rehome the older dog than to a younger one. They are more set in their ways just like people. I also feel those that did not have the greatest life if they get to a place where things click bond fast and forever. I imagine it is more than just feed me and I will be happy.

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