Dobby, my 11-month-old Australian shepherd, took to camping like a duck to water. Speaking of water, he also took to water like a fish. While my two previous Australian shepherds, Darth Vader and Muggle, enjoyed a soak in a cool stream on a hot day, Dobby takes his passion for getting wet to an entirely different level.
Keeping him out of water, whether a pond, stream, or just a puddle, is akin to keeping an 8-year-old out of the motel swimming pool after a day of driving. I don’t even try to hold him back. I figure a wet and muddy dog is a happy dog. His swimming antics make me laugh and I delight in his obvious pure joy; it’s worth a stinky and soaked mutt.
The adventures of Dobby continue, as does our more formal training. Over the past month, we’ve been taking the Canine Good Citizenship class at Laramie’s Rockin’ E Dog Training and Consulting. Next up is the final test to see if Dobby becomes an official CGC graduate. The best thing about the training is not so much to teach Dobby good manners but to teach me how to elicit the good behavior. Instead of training dogs, the classes mostly train owners.
Dobby is coming along. I’m hopeful, but not positive, he’ll pass the test. He has good days and not-so-good days. We move forward some days and, on others, take two steps back.
That’s exactly what happened the other day. Dobby and I go to an open field near our house and on the edge of town every evening. While we enjoy a long walk during the day, the evening session is mostly to practice commands and to dissipate some of Dobby’s Aussie energy.
We work on sits, lay-downs and stay commands. I always look around for the three pronghorn antelope bucks who hang out in the area, “Curly, Larry and Moe.”
On this evening, the trio was nowhere to be seen so I opted to let Dobby off leash to practice some distance recalls – an important requirement when he is with me in the field in my work as a wildlife biologist.
Dobby came back with enthusiasm two times and earned his treats. The third time, something new caught his eye.
I called and, instead of coming back, Dobby paused and looked back at me over his shoulder. He waivered, but his lack of impulse control took over. To my dismay, and then alarm, he took off full tilt. His path took him across a paved road where I could hear an approaching vehicle. I ran, waiving my arms like a crazy lady, hoping to warn the driver to watch for my dog.
Thank goodness they slowed and even stopped when they saw Dobby. By then he was on the other side of the road, checking out the object of his curiosity.
It was Pedro, the mule, who had his head over the fence, feeding on the grass that must have been greener on the other side.
To Dobby’s credit, he showed no aggression towards Pedro. He didn’t bark and didn’t growl; he just sniffed. At one point, his nose touched Pedro’s snout and, as if taste-testing, Dobby gave it a lick. Pedro was calm as a cucumber. He was the first equine Dobby had ever seen and Dobby was enthralled.
Dobby totally ignored my pleadings to come to me, even with offerings of tasty Pup-peroni. He is a smart dog – too smart – and stayed just out of my reach.
From my Rockin’ E training, I knew that yelling at him would not help. Dobby is no fool; he certainly isn’t coming to a human who is mad at him.
I remained calm and pet Pedro, talking in a cheerful voice, hoping that Dobby would relax his guard so I could nab him. If I went into the pasture through the barbed-wire fence, Dobby went on the other side. If I can back through, Dobby did likewise. His prowess at keep-away was impressive.
It took about 30 minutes for me to finally grab him. I forced myself to stay calm to let him realize that coming to me was a good thing, and would not result in punishment.
We were walking back along the gravel road when Pedro’s owner, my friend and former professor, Mike Smith, came up to us via bicycle. He said he was watching from his house up on the hill and, for the life of him, could not figure out what I was doing.
I explained that I spent that entire time trying to catch my dog and get him back on leash. Mike just laughed and said he wanted to warn me that Pedro is prone to kicking dogs when annoyed. Lucky for Dobby, he was just curious towards Pedro and that lack of aggression likely prevented any negative response from Pedro.
One of these days we’ll meet Pedro again, but in a controlled manner. I’ll even bring Pedro a carrot to thank him for his patience with my dog-in-training.
On the plus side, Dobby is anything but boring. The adventure continues.