I'll change topics soon, really. Just not quite yet.
I've had a week to get to know Bella now, and she's proven herself to be a very nice and well-behaved young lady. She's perfectly housetrained, which, yay! A thousand times yay!!! I hate
housetraining dogs--I find it really stressful because you have to walk a fine line between communicating to the puppy that it's done something wrong when it relieves itself indoors and not being so stern that you wind up creating a phobia. Through my inexperience, I almost did the latter when Linus was a puppy, and I'm very relieved that the whole issue has been taken care of for me with Bella. She doesn't have a very strong "I need to go out" signal, but neither did Linus, so I'm used to guessing when a dog needs a pee-break, and she hasn't had a single accident. Which is pretty impressive given that she's only nine months old and has been dealing with the stress of a major life change herself.
Tollers are generally high-energy dogs, second only to border collies. Of course, they all have their own personalities, and some are more high-energy than others. Bella, thankfully, is not one of the high-strung, perpetual-motion types. She's quite happy to lie on her pillow next to the couch when I'm reading or on the computer. She walks beautifully on the leash. She'll wander off to sniff things when she's on the extendable leash, and occasionally she'll try to dart after a squirrel, but otherwise she pretty much just walks beside me. I don't think she really knows the command "heel"; I think this is just her way. She's a very gentle dog and only needs gentle corrections.
She's also a pretty quiet dog. She sometimes barks when she hears strange noises (like the huskies howling next door), but not very often and not for very long. She's all wriggly happy in the mornings and will play-bite my hands, but she has a soft mouth and hasn't come close to hurting me. She hasn't shown any kind of aggression at all. I had to take a paintball out of her mouth on Christmas Day, and she let me do it without complaint. Her sit command is coming along really well. I've just started making her sit and wait before she gets to eat her meals, so that'll help even more.
I took her to a retriever trainer a couple of days ago, and she gave me several exercises to do with her. She actually does most of them already: she'll lie quietly beside me when I sit down, she makes eye contact readily, and she kind of knows "wait," so it's not hard for me to get her to follow me out the door instead of the other way around.
Her retrieving instinct isn't very strong--sometimes she'll run after a thrown ball, but she'll just as often ignore it. We'll have to work on that--I like throwing things for dogs and having them bring it back to me, and it's a good way to tire them out. She definitely needs work on her recall, and I hope we (i.e., the trainer and I) can deal with this soon because I want to be able to let her play off-leash in appropriate areas. And she's decided that she likes chasing the cat, so I've had to be more strict about that. She's great with Jim's brother's dog. He brought her over on Boxing Day, and the two of them chased each other around the backyard at top speed and then got into a serious rough-and-tumble wrestling match, all in play.
Bella's two biggest problems are that she likes to "counter-surf" (she's very food-motivated) and she's rather timid around new people, especially children. She often comes and stands behind me when MiddleJim, LittlestJim, and their cousins are around. She's still tied to my waist when she's indoors, which takes care of the counter-surfing, and I've told Jim's kids to give her treats often when they see her, so she'll come around there too.
Linus, bless his furry little heart, was an insatiably curious, excitable, perpetual-motion dog. He was filled to the brim with joie de vivre
, which was fun to watch but could also be tiring after a while. Bella's not a couch potato, but she does have that all-important off button, which makes her a remarkably easy dog to live with.