Chance is six months old. We’re still learning each other. I’m trying to discern his nature, apart from the energies and behaviors typical of his life stage. What I know: he definitely has a sense of humor, makes his doggy jokes. He’s a thief, not to be trusted with kitchen counters, shoes or socks (thievery also is part of his humor). He has a superb internal clock. He’s hyperaware of his environment: sounds, sight, motion, scents, seemingly in that order. He needs to be with his people, hates to be alone; he’s very loyal and loving, but aloof with strangers. He’s vocal: not just a barker / growler, but a talker (if anything would still convince me there is Aussie in the mix, it would be that). Most importantly, he is clearly a beastie who was born to DO something, relentlessly: in an ideal life, he would be chasing down stags, say, and afterwards lying on a vast stone hearth in front of a roaring fire, contentedly chewing on a huge haunch of something while his people drank goblets of mead.
That’s not even remotely likely to happen (except, perhaps, the mead in regular glasses). The wide-open farm country he was (however accidentally) bred in, from strong dogs who were originally acquired to work, no longer has any use for his kind; had his litter not been rescued and brought to the city, they’d have all been killed. So, I am searching for work to give him in the environment we’re both stuck with. Though he’s appointed himself my guardian, I’m not sure he’ll make even a home hearing dog. (I’m not quite giving up the idea yet; just observing. He’s got the sensitivity, but he is still just a rowdy pup, too early to tell).
We had a big schooling breakthrough this week, though it sort of horrified me: one of the trainers told me the martingale collar I’d been using was way too soft, and so we put him into a prong collar. Though its advocates say they’re more humane than a chain collar, I kind of shudder at the medieval look of them. But it really does get his attention where other collars don’t, and fortunately, I’m able to use it ‘dead’ – with both chain loops held by the leash. He immediately responds to quick, gentle pressure rather than the sharp correction a single loop would provide. It felt a little like putting the right bit on a horse. His ‘heel’ immediately, vastly improved, and we’ve begun working up to what will become the first of his jobs: accompanying me on the daily two-mile-or-more, brisk, steady ‘power walk’ that is part of my neglected physical therapy. (He gets a loose-leash, sniffing / exploring alley walk of his own, later). He can also do Paul’s morning mile. Taking care of this athletic boy will help us both to actually take care of ourselves. That’s win / win, however it is accomplished (and later on, I’m told, we will be able to switch back to the gentler collar).
For the rest of his physical needs, like daily running, I’m still experimenting, seeing what occupies and motivates him (and gives Lupe a break, though they do play daily; she’s ten years old). This week I tested some cheap-o stuff. Though he immediately broke both two-for-a-dollar small frisbees, he really liked chasing after their gliding aerial action, so I’ll invest in another, sturdier, flexible kind. I tried a lightweight smooth soccer-sized ball, too: he warily barked at it for a few days, I suspect because it moved on its own in the wind. As soon as he learned to play with it, he loved it, but it promptly popped like a balloon. So, this is his sort-of half-birthday present: it was an immediate, HUGE hit. Run, run, run! He played for over an hour, brought it back indoors, and napped with it.