Every year that I taught 3rd grade, I read Shiloh to my class. The story made me want, more than anything else, a beagle of my own. Recently, after my friend's daughter died suddenly and proceeds in her honor were to go to the Sean Casey Animal Rescue and, after our beloved Jack Russell Terrier, Phoebe, died after a long and happy life, it happened that I was on the SCAR website looking at a photo of a dog named Jefferson. The site said he was a "beagle mix," probably because of his blue tick coloring where normally the fur is white. His sad brown eyes haunted me and I decided that I would go an meet him.
"Jefferson" was not at Sean Casey's 3rd Street shop when I went to see him, but was housed instead at the new Sunset Park facility on 39th Street. My daughter, Elsa and I went over on a Sunday afternoon to meet him and some other beagles who had come in from Kentucky. Volunteers are allowed to take dogs out for walks and spend time with them. We walked Jefferson first. He was happy to be out. He pranced and pounced when he saw other dogs and children. He walked very nicely on his leash. The second beagle we walked was very frightened of the world and the third was overweight had a coughing fit after running about 30 yards in the park. By comparison, Jefferson seemed the best adjusted and a good choice for us.
We sent photos of him to my friend, Sugar, who thought the dog might be mixed with Australian Blue Heeler-not a good breed mix, she felt, for a city dog. She did not recommend adoption. Sadly, I tried to forget Jefferson.
But I couldn't.
For the next two days, I rushed out after school to visit and walk him. On the second day, the handler at Sean Casey mentioned that he was the only dog in the kennel who willingly re-enters his crate after being out. "I have to lift the rest of them in." It was at that moment that I decided that Jefferson needed to become part of our family. He was SO sweet.
I brought Jesse James home on November 28th.
I have always heard that beagles are hard to train. I've heard that they are difficult to housebreak, they tend to howl, they eat incessantly and will jump up on the dining room table to get food, and that given the chance, they will run away. But, as an experienced dog owner, a former race horse trainer and a current teacher of 6 year olds, I was confident that I am up to the task of raising a beagle.
This dog isn't even really difficult-he has a very docile temperament-but no part of having him has been easy!
So, let's run down some of the challenges we have faced:
1. Jesse is not house broken. The first night in his crate, he peed in it, and has almost once every day since then. The second night we had him, I left the crate door open so that if he had to, he could use the newspaper I left down on the kitchen floor. He peed on the newspaper, but he crapped on the kitchen floor. He pees when he's had too much water. He pees randomly, even after being out four or five times in a day. I'm tearing my hair out trying to figure out how to housebreak this dog. I've read four books on the subject. Most advice is for puppies but most say training the older dog is much the same. Reward, reward, reward for going outside.
Another problem: Jesse is indifferent to treats, (I've tried two kinds) so rewards have little impact.
So, I have Jesse on a schedule. He walks at 6:30 am, 12:30 pm, 5 pm and 10:30 pm. I have to drag him out in the morning. He HATES getting up. But, once I let him sleep in until 7:30. Too late! He peed his bed. I've had to hire dog walkers for the midday walk while I'm at school.
His last accident was Christmas eve. Keep your fingers crossed.
2. Jesse does not like any treats I give him so rewarding him for good deeds and encouraging him to follow any commands is difficult.
3. Jesse knows no commands. We are signing up for obedience class which will begin January 6th. In the interim, we are working on SIT, COME and HEEL-but this he does naturally, thank goodness. He won't even come to me in the house, or follow me when it's time to go to bed or to eat. I have to leash him indoors to bring him any where. I've never had to do this with ANY dog before!
4. Jesse likes many people. He likes men and he loves the woman who owns IT'S A DOG'S WORLD on Coney Island Avenue. But, he doesn't seem to like me. He doesn't listen to me, he doesn't obey me, he doesn't respond to me when I call his name, and doesn't like to take treats from me. He takes treats from the Dog's World woman, and from his walkers, but not from me.
This is baffling to me. I'm nice. I've spent over $500 on this dog. I take care of him 24/7. What's up with this?
5. Elsa came home during the day last week to have lunch with Theo. While they were eating, Jesse jumped up onto the dining room table. Elsa sent me a photo, otherwise I would not have believed he would do such a thing. I asked her, "What did you say to him?" She said she told him to get down, after she took the photo.
6. The first day we brought Jesse home, I took him out into our large, lovely FENCED yard. He loved it and jumped around excitedly, ears flopping. Within minutes, he had scoped the perimeter of the yard, found an opening under the fence, and took off into my neighbor's yard. He was loose and I had to run around the house, unlatching the locked gate, and chase him down. Fortunately, Jesse didn't realize that the neighbor's main gate was open, otherwise, he would have been gone.
7. The next day, my husband was unloading groceries from the car and, not realizing that we have a NEW dog, let Jesse out onto the sidewalk. "How far can he go?" he wondered. Ha! When Jonathan went back out for the next load, Jesse was nowhere in sight. Jonathan had to call to me and with me barefoot, we chased the dog down Stratford Road, only by chance happening to see him, ears flopping, duck into a neighbor's yard. Thankfully, once we caught up to him, Jesse did not run from us and we were able to bring him home.
8. Jesse is remarkably silent. He doesn't bark, hardly at all, but he will whimper and whine if he sees a dog or something he wants. He does not 'ask' to go out. He does not indicate, in any way, that he needs to go out. Jonathan happened to take Jesse to Thompkins Square Park one night, to the dog run there. Jesse saw a rat through a fence and did that beagle howling thing, over and over. I've never heard him make such a sound, ever.
As you can probably tell, I love this dog with my whole heart. Still there is lots of work to be done, and I have so many questions that I cannot seem to get answers to:
1. Is our crate too big? Jesse is 31 inches long. Our crate is 35". The Sean Casey volunteer said I should buy a 30" crate, but won't that be too small? I honestly don't think it matters because Jesse WILL lie in his pee, something all dog experts say that dogs WILL NOT do.
2. At the Sunset Park SCAR location, they have 'state of the art' crates for dogs that allow for easy cleaning, i.e. there is a grate that allows the mess to fall and the tray then can be easily hosed out. Does this practice then, UN-crate train an animal that is NOT supposed to pee and crap in the crate TO pee and crap in the crate? If they are not walked, the animal has no choice. Is this why Jesse is confused?
3. To choke or not to choke: is use of a choke collar passé? The SCAR volunteer suggested one, Richard Wolters of City Dog recommends using them, but the Dog's World woman hates them and the Beagles for Dummies does not like them either. Jesse walks relatively nicely, but responds better when he's wearing a choke. Should I use it for training only?
4. How much training should we be doing at this point? Should I wait for obedience class or should I begin?
If you have suggestions and/or opinions, please leave me a comment.
Great things about rescuing a dog:
1. For each dog adopted, there is one less in a crate 24/7.
2. Jesse is older and more mature. Even though he makes mistakes, he doesn’t have the puppy behaviors that can be so challenging (although also fun!)
3. It feels good to support an organization such as Sean Casey’s. He works tirelessly to place dogs in homes. Volunteers are needed to walk rescues every day, if you’re interested.
4. Jesse’s new life with us is most likely a big adjustment for him as well, but I do get the sense that he is happier and he’s beginning to enjoy himself.
5. Jesse is a great running companion. He can do 3 miles around the park easily and will build up to greater distances.
Here is the link to SCAR: www.nyanimalrescue.org/
SCAR also has a Facebook Page that lists events and happenings as well as adoption stories: