Husky prey drive - not safe for cats!

This morning, I heard a funny sound in the backyard. A puppy? A lost dog? A sad dog, it was definitely an unhappy sound.

I looked out and saw this... 

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That’s not a lost puppy or small dog. That’s my 9 year old husky. In full prey drive mode. Oh dear!  

(Prey Drive has different impacts on different breeds - selective breeding has allowed humans to manipulate it so terriers hunt rats, retrievers retrieve game and herding dogs herd sheep. In many arctic breeds, prey drive has been left unmodified, and in some cases encouraged, where dogs have been allowed to hunt for their own food in summer months, as part of the traditional lifestyles of various indigenous peoples.)

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I raced down the backyard. Some huskies can be trusted with small animals, but many are a danger for possums, guinea pigs and even small dogs. Bolo is walked in a muzzle because he can’t be trusted to tell the difference between a white arctic hare (not that we have many of them in Melbourne!) and a white terrier like a Westie or a Maltese. Frankie is pretty happy to live and let live - with the right introductions and combination of personalities, I could see him happily living with a confident cat or bossy little dog.

Czar sits right in the middle of these two. He has been known to catch young possums and snatch low flying birds out of the air. He attends Obedience Classes and Trials very happily, surrounded by dogs of all sizes. But off lead parks became very stressful, as sometimes Czar’s prey drive was triggered by other dogs running past right under his nose, and it was always questionable whether he would just chase or whether he would actually catch and hurt a smaller dog.

And this morning, it was Czar who had something cornered up a tree, inside our backyard. So I hurried down the back stairs and down the back yard. To my relief, Czar “recalled” beautifully, coming out of the garden bed when I called him. I’ve seen him in full prey drive mode completely unresponsive, even to being dragged on a martingale collar (in an Obedience Trial, to my disgust!) Today wasn’t so bad. I took him inside and gave him a lots of praise and treats. 

Do you want to know what he had trapped? 

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To be honest, I’m really a bit cranky about this. We live right by multiple areas of National Park and I’m surprised the local council doesn’t have more restrictions on cats to protect our native wildlife. Since we moved in, the Wee Monster has enjoyed spotting possums (high in the trees, out of husky reach), cockatoos, rosellas and kookaburras in our garden, and I assume that most of the locals are here to enjoy the greenery and the birds. So I’m surprised to see a few neighbours let their cats roam - they’ve been in our front garden quite a bit, but this is the first time in the back, that I know of. But I’m also really cranky about the disregard for the cat’s own safety. Nearly every house in our street has at least one dog, many have two. Maybe not all of those dogs have the same prey drive issues as huskies, but I still think many people are cavalier about their cat’s safety, if they let their cat roam. Cats can be very happy indoors and in cat runs. Why run the risk of them wandering into a backyard and into the jaws of a large dog?

Please, folks, if you love your cat, keep it safe!! 

The problem child - Bolo in the New House

We moved house recently. One of the issues about moving house with dogs, especially Siberian Houdinis, is making sure the new yard is secure. And that can take some time, especially when you have builders working on the property. But this week, we finally felt like everything was secure enough to leave the dogs home alone and both go to work. I mean, what can go wrong right? Ha!

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Firstly, we had the old fences taken down and put back up. And then J found Bolo wandering up the street. He'd dug under an old gate, slipped around the garage and through the shubbery between the garage and the side fence. Fortunately J drove home just in time to find Bolo on the footpath just a couple of houses up the hill.  Phew!

So J spent a couple of days putting up the Hotwire and putting down the biggest concrete pavers available. Meanwhile it's been raining and we've been trying to get the dogs to adjust to having an undercover deck to relax on and stay dry.

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Yesterday I came home from work to two dry dogs and one dog with wet and muddy feet. I'll let you guess which one was wet. It turned out Bolo had tried to dig under the house. J tried to block the access.

Today I came home to two dry dogs and one wet and ridiculously muddy dog. Unbelievable! Fortunately the Hotwire and fence have held. 

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Clean! 

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Clean! 

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Not so clean! 

J is currently down at the hardware shop, getting supplies to reinforce the wooden skirt around the base of the house.

Meanwhile, J has also been busy updating the dog's microchip information with our new address. Frankie and Czar both came up on the central database easily, but there has always been something hinky about Bolo's microchip - his number has a different number of digits and the central database tells us it's unlisted. This time J was able to do a universal search, and he found Bolo's record, in a different database. People who work with rescue dogs will understand how exciting this is - it was his ORIGINAL record! We now know his real birthdate, rather than his estimated age when J got him out of the Lost Dog's Home about ten years ago. When J first saw him, he was filthy and emaciated and refused to make eye contact with anyone. In four years of running the Siberian Husky Club of Victoria's rescue group, Bolo was J's worst case. They estimated his age at around 18 months old and gave him the default birthdate of 1/1/2006. His real birthdate is actually March 2005. Now, the difference between a one and a two year old dog is a bit hard to pick, it's more about muscle and condition than simple height or weight, but J and all the vets and rescue folks all agreed that Bolo, in his malnourished, skeletal state, was around 18 months. Realising now that he was closer to 2 1/2, puts a whole different perspective on his physical and psychological condition. J has often said he thought Bolo was very close to death by starvation when J collected him from Lost Dogs. Maybe he was closer than we thought.

So, while we are currently living on tenterhooks, waiting for his next escape attempt, worrying that he'll be successful, we are very glad to have our problem child. He's given J and then me and now our Wee Monster so much love. We've very lucky to have him.

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