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Dogs are Special

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Posted on : 8:45 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

We got a puppy a week ago, who is now 7 weeks old. Most animals that people keep around a farm are what I would say are a few meals away from being feral. They are unpredictable, and training is based on repetition and/or food. Cats are smart, but they are indifferent... for example, when we brought the puppy home our two adult cats peed on our bed and pooped on our blankets - which they have never done, ever. Obviously smart enough to stage a protest but not willing to suck up to us.

Dogs are unique. They are extremely sensitive to your feelings of approval or displeasure, and your sadness and happiness, and they are willing to accommodate you in response to that. I've had quite a few dogs, and read quite a few dog training books, but most often my relationships with these animals was temporary since I often rescued them and passed them on or we moved and had to give them away.

My first dogs were Bear and Panda, two Collies. Bear was sable and very smart, and his brother Panda was black and white and very dumb. I was only 8 years old so I didn't train them very well but I remember them being fairly calm and affectionate and that I taught them to sit. We moved years later and eventually had to give them away, but I think Collies, despite the long hair which gets everywhere, are probably the most intelligent and gracious breed you can get.

Previous to Bear and Panda we had Keisha from a shelter who seemed so sweet, but a few days after bringing her home she began biting our ankles and herding us viciously. It turns our she was an Australian cattle dog who had such a drive to herd things that it consumed all her thoughts. She also tore apart a fox in our backyard. The lesson here is that you should always choose an appropriate breed for your family, and also remember that dogs will do anything to get out of the shelter. They are smart enough to schmooze you. We had to give her back to the shelter and hopefully she got a good home. If you can't spend time with your dog or can't give it the one on one training it deserves, it is important to give it the opportunity.

Much later I got two separate puppies when I was a teenager on two separate occasions that did not work out. The first was a Lab/Springer Spaniel mix named Annie who was the last of the litter, which I knew wasn't a good idea but I felt bad for her. Springer Spaniels are also not very smart and so she was very hyper and not submissive. She was going to be quite a challenge so I gave her to a lady who trained dogs for a living. The second was a Collie mix named Dante I took from the shelter, and he was very young. He would have been a great dog but he caught Parvo from the shelter and I paid $600 of vet bills then returned him to the shelter so that at least he didn't die. When you adopt a dog the shelter provides documents that the animal is disease-free and since I was a teenager the vet bill took all of my savings and I couldn't afford to keep him since his health was so compromised. I felt glad that at least I probably saved his life.

The best dog I ever had was Kiri, and she was a bit controversial because she was an illegal wolf mix. A friend asked us to take her because they were moving, and a shelter would immediately put her down. She was spayed so I didn't see an ethical problem with it. She was a puppy, although a very big one, and super intelligent. She was also very different from a regular dog in that she had to have a pack with an alpha male and alpha female, and so we had to be careful when John and I were relating to each other (this was before we had kids). She was my dog, or was protective of me and so if John sounded angry, even in play, she would feel defensive of me or concerned. At the same time she was wasn't as submissive to me as she was to John and so punishment had to come from him. She had instincts about people that bordered on psychic ability. We would meet people for the first time and she would make an immediate judgement, either barking or wagging her tail, and it seemed completely random. We soon learned though that the people she barked at were always those that had some issue, people that we simply wouldn't trust. She was easy to train, could sit and stay and lay down and would love playing hide and seek in the forest. In the end we moved and had a baby and she found a lovely home on a farm and lived very happily.

So now we have Nora, our purebred (but paperless) golden Lab. She's sweet, willing and will be a good protective little beast, lol. After all the mistakes I made as a kid with dogs, I now feel as though I understand them pretty well. Dog training doesn't have to be a method, but rather an understanding that dogs have instinctive needs that are somewhat similar to humans: the need for love, affection, a close group, consistency, regular meals, and work to do.

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