Find the perfect home for Lexi

Lexi is a Huntaway/Collie cross. A Huntaway is a breed of working dog, originally used for cattle herding. They have great stamina and intelligence and use their bark to herd animals. It’s made her a friendly, energetic, intelligent and sensitive dog. But, she can be quite nervous and is finding living near a town very stressful, which is why we need to rehome her in her perfect home.

We’ve been looking after Lexi for 18 months now. She’s come on in ‘leaps and bounds’ in that time and with the help of a fantastic dog behaviourist has learned a great deal. We love her very much, but have sadly reached the understanding that our home is not right for her.

Lexi’s story

When we met Lexi, she was a 9 month old, untrained farm dog — she’d never set a paw in a house before! The farm sadly couldn’t keep her for work and financial reasons so we took her to our house. We suspect that she was left tied up quite a lot. When she arrived at our home we had to carry her up the stairs because she didn’t know how to climb them! We slept in the living room with her for the first two nights so she didn’t get too nervous.

For the first couple of days, she was gentle with us, but very nervous. She was too scared to eat if we were near her, for instance. After a couple of days she was much more relaxed with us, including our 11 yr old child, but was very nervous and barky when she met people in the street. For at least a month, it was quite difficult to get her to go outside the front door, but with a lot of treats and patience she would eventually walk down the road to the nearest field.

We started a training programme based on rewards.

We quickly learned that some things made Lexi anxious, like:

Car trailers
New people and visitors to the house (though this varies a lot based on how confident they are with dogs, loudness, space and situation)
Food blenders
Vacuum cleaners
Town (the noise, roads and lots of people, make her very, very scared)

Things that make Lexi happy:

Her ‘pack’ (she loves curling up with us)
Other dogs (she’s very well socialised and confident with most dogs, although she can occasionally be barky and snappy with some terriers, especially when she meets them ‘head on’)
Leftovers (she has a strong constitution and can eat almost anything)
Training (Lexi loves clicker training, learning new things and the mental stimulation makes her properly tired)
Car journeys
Sticks in the river
Tennis balls
Playing with toys — tug of war, flinging around old teddies
Having loads of fuss and strokes

One thing Lexi is great at is being left alone in the house alone. We can go out for fairly long periods — 4/5 hrs — and she shows no signs of stress. She just curls up on the sofa and sleeps. (She has been known to chew the odd sock — but nothing more serious than that!)

Lexi is amazing to train. She learns very fast. Within weeks she could sit, lie down, go on the mat and wait and come here. She knows what quiet means and responds well to it, unless she’s very stressed. We can let her off the lead (in places where there aren’t too many people). She’s ok at recall if she’s not too distracted.

However, there are some things that are very hard for Lexi. Unexpected visitors can make her anxious and barky. She isn’t aggressive, but her barking can seem alarming to people who aren’t familiar with dogs. Larger people make her anxious, and if she is stressed by strange people, or traffic she will flail around on the end of lead. It’s important to have a secure lead and keep her moving in forwards direction, when she’s in a ‘reactive’ situation. We put a fluorescent bandana on her with Give me space on so that people realise she is nervous. That helps.

A bandana that says: ‘give me space’ is helpful

She does have a strong guarding instinct, and our dog behaviourist has said she mustn’t be put in a position where she feels like she should defend her owner, because it makes her stressed. We have a couple of dog-confident friends who can come round and look after her and take her for walks, but it took a while for her to trust them. The exception to this is people who come round with dogs — she is instantly fine with other dog owners!

Sadly, for us, one of the main difficulties is that we are unable to allow our daughter to have friends coming in and out, and for sleepovers. Lexi is very gentle with young children (usually tries to lick their faces), and is absolutely fine with our teenager, but other teenagers coming in and out is too much for her and makes her stressed and barky, which is difficult for her and risky for visiting children. People with children may want to consider this issue. However, we’re pretty sure that a garden and another dog friend would make visitors less stressful for Lexi as she could have somewhere ‘safe’ to go. Unfortunately we don’t have the space or the money for this. Our house is small and we only have a yard, rather than a garden. We have nearby fields, which has made life easier, but ideally Lexi needs a lot more garden space, preferably away from the noise of main roads. It’s also worth noting that she lunges at cats. She not aggressive towards our cat, but she does run at him and try to ‘herd’ him, which makes the cat pretty angry.

Lexi having a ‘sleep-over’ at Harley’s house

We know that Lexi is happier when she is in a more rural area away from main roads, because we have experimented with this. She sometimes stays overnight with a friend of ours who lives a bit further out of town. The quieter area and the company of another dog makes her much calmer and happier.

We think that she would make a happy, energetic companion for someone who is confident with dogs, especially farm/working dogs. She isn’t actually able to become a working dog. A local farming couple did try to train her as a sheep dog about six months ago, but Lexi wasn’t interested int he sheep. She was very happy at the farm, though! Unfortunately they really did need a working dog, so they had to give her back to us.

If Lexi finds it too stressful at the Abandoned Animal Association, we would have her back. We feel very responsible for her and love her very much. Although it’s very difficult for her and us in our present situation and we’re pretty sure that she will be better off in the long run if a more suitable home can be found, we would prefer that she isn’t ‘set back.’ Please do let us know if you are unduly worried about how she is coping, because we’d be willing to consider taking her back if necessary.

Thanks so much

Alex and Tanya

Lexi with her Husky friends