In March 2015, about a year before I was due to retire, a picture of a Border Collie popped up on my Facebook newsfeed ‘Free to a Good Home'. Heart breaking. I tagged my husband into the post not really expecting any response. However, whilst I was in work, he arranged to meet the dog that evening.
She stole my heart the minute I saw her. She was so excited to see us and squirmed her way onto our laps one at a time. The story was that she was born on a farm from working stock, but got kicked by a horse and was deemed unsuitable to work. The lady who had her took her from the farmer on NYE having lost a Border Collie some time ago. Bonnie was about 4 months old at this point. Then, due to a change in personal circumstances, this lady found herself back in full time employment and Bonnie was home alone for about 12hrs a day. After a long chat and many tears, we left for home with Bonnie clinging to my lap, trembling and dribbling not knowing what was happening. That night my husband slept downstairs with her.
The following morning, I took her for a walk before I went to work and got a glimpse of her true persona. It took ten minutes to walk less than 50 metres as she lunged and swung on her lead accompanied by high pitched yelling, with me hanging on for dear life. My street is like catworld and Bonnie has a pathological hatred of felines. Later that day she scaled the 6ft perimeter garden fence in pursuit of a cat across the back and it took an hour to retrieve her. We had been told that her recall was variable but it appeared it was non existent. During the first week Bonnie went over the wrought iron garden gate and slipped her collar whilst chasing cats. Each time it took ages to get her back.
The first time we took her out in the car we discovered her hatred of wheels and in particular bicycles (now also known as devils´ device). Although secured by a harness on the back seat, she would scream and tell at the mere sight of a bicycle and lunge around trying to get at it. Car journeys were a nightmare; walks were a nightmare. She appeared to have so many triggers and such a high prey drive that taking her out became a constant battle trying to control her hysterical behaviour whilst keeping her and me safe.
During our time at ActionPetz we started agility training in the hope it would give Bonnie some focus and although she was quite good when she put her mind to it, she was impatient and vocal waiting for her turn and would then jump out of the enclosed area into the dog park and refuse to come back. It was whilst agility training that I first met Lisa. ActionPetz Cardiff then closed. However, a friend from agility training put a post on Facebook about doing a Mantrailing introduction course so I contacted Lisa and made some enquiries. I was concerned that Bonnie's reactivity to so many stimuli would make her an unsuitable candidate for Mantrailing but Lisa encouraged us to have a go.
On our Mantrailing introduction course it was evident from the outset that Bonnie ‘got the game. For me it was joyous. Here was a dog who had absolutely no interaction with me on a walk apart from the constant battle to do her own thing, transformed into a focused, attentive collie. That was April 2017. Since then we have regularly attended Mantrailing training two or three times a week. Bonnie has grown in confidence and her ability never ceases to amaze me. She is wiley enough to find the shortest trail distance to make her find and is learning to cope with things she finds overwhelming. She still reacts to bicycles and other triggers when trailing but is quick to come back to the job in hand. She has on occasion been so focussed that she has trailed past bikes in close proximity.
Mantrailing has given me a bond with Bonnie which I had come to believe was impossible. Whereas my walks always result in a fight with her over something, Mantrailing is nothing but a positive experience from start to finish. She succeeds and gets praise always. My girl loves it and gets excited from the minute I start preparing the Mantrailing bag. When we are on a trail she interacts with me eager to show me the way. Our training sessions are a bit of a social event where we get to meet like-minded people, who may also have dogs with issues. From feeling isolated and despondent I now feel supported and hopeful.
Lisa Gorenflo, Founder and Head Instructor at Mantrailing UK has a wealth of knowledge about this sport for pet dogs which she imparts with a relaxed, easy style and ensures the training sessions are varied and fun. We get to train in some amazing places some of which are themselves a challenge to find. We have even trailed in a busy city centre with so many distractions (bikes, push chairs, skateboards and, of course, people). Bonnie and I are grateful for the support we have received over the past eighteen months and would recommend Mantrailing as a great way to have fun and bond with your dog and keep fit in the process. There is no doubt in my mind that Bonnie has benefited hugely from Mantrailing and has been able to relieve some of her frustration by just having a job and as such Mantrailing has probably saved my sanity.
Written by Denise