Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dickens the Defender

If only he'd concentrate this hard on training...

Dickens and the Deluge

Rain + dogs + carpets = indoor play.

A few months ago I embarked on a renovation of the backyard deck. The work went more slowly than I'd planned, so when it began raining today--really raining, not the drizzle we've had up until now--the back yard where the deck used to be turned into mud.

When I let Dickens out this morning he acted as if he'd never seen mud, and liked what he saw. A lot. So much, in fact, that he tried to bring a few pounds of it back into the house with him on his feet. As previously mentioned he doesn't like being handled, so toweling off his feet was an adventure. He flopped, he squirmed, he mouthed the towel. But eventually he gave in.

Daisy, who has been through many more winters here, simply stood patiently while I cleaned her feet. She enjoys a vigorous rub with the towel to dry her coat, and afterward she gave me a look that said, "What's his problem?"

Last week I went searching for an old tracking harness that Winzer and I won at some dog show or club outing to see how Dickens would respond to it. Along with the harness I found three cloth gloves that I bought to train Winzer for some exercise in the Utility Dog class. I've often wondered if Daisy had any notion that Winzer was gone--it didn't seem to affect her at all when he died, except that she got me all to herself--so I offered her one of the gloves that surely smelled of Winzer to see what she'd do.

She approached it cautiously, sniffed, and then began wagging her tail, something she's not prone to doing often. I can't say for sure that she recognized the scent of her old friend, but I'm going to go ahead and say she did.

As winter closes in, my afternoon motorcycle rides will become less frequent, replaced by drives with a couple of dogs in the car, and subsequent walks. I need to get Dickens out of the house more often to get him used to other people and dogs, and I expect some more leash time will smooth out his heeling. But today we're going to relax. I'm going to make a crock pot of soup, and the dogs are going to catch up on their TV shows.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dickens The Domesticated

I've been asked to do an update on Dickens and his integration into our pack. I haven't been writing much lately because there hasn't been much to write about. At some point Dickens dialed the crazy way down and decided to go with the flow. Since then life has been easier for all of us.

I've been stepping up the training to include the exercises Dickens will need to get his Canine Good Citizen certification, the first step toward being approved to visit hospitals and care facilities. Recently we've been working on stand on command. So far this has consisted of me telling Dickens to stand, offering him a treat as an enticement, and then watching him take the treat and sit down again. When he does this I take his collar in one hand and reach under his belly with the other and lift. While Dickens doesn't mind being touched, he dislikes being handled, and he immediately flops over on his back.

A very welcome change in his behavior concerns the dogs on the other side of the fence, who Dickens regards as an affront to his very existence. I used to have to break up the barking contests by hauling Dickens into the house by the collar. Now I call him and he comes running, no doubt having decided it's preferable to the old method. The cookie he gets doesn't hurt, either.

The couch drama seems to have ended, too. When I leave the house I put two dining room chairs upside down on the cushions, and there have been no problems.

A note about Daisy. She has figured out that Dickens is sometimes all bark and no bite. She is less hesitant to snap at him if he plays too roughly, or if he tries to steal a ball from her, or if he simply gets too close to her while she's relaxing. Dickens has become more deferential in matters of toys, too, probably as a result of a well-timed nip or two on the nose. All in all, a welcome development on both sides.