Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dogs Will Be Dogs

I signed up Indy for a "Reactive Rover" class at the Oregon Humane Society before agreeing to dogsit Trixie. The "cousin" dogs are quite the pair. Trixie is a typical stubborn little German who pushes Indy around. She's small enough to walk underneath Indy, yet he always backs off to let her have her way. I'm grateful that Indy's such a gentleman, although he is a little bent out of shape since Trixie squeezes in wherever he goes.

The Reactive Rover class is for dogs that get overly excited or aggressive at the sight of another dog. Indy is basically a friendly guy who lunges at other dogs and people when excited. He's nearly tripped up me more than once, and pulled over my mother a couple of years ago. Although OHS is quite a distance from our current location, I grew up in the neighborhood and all of our family dogs are interred at the OHS columbarium. So it's a familiar place and its training program has a good reputation.

Indy is doing quite well in the class where we are learning different techniques to distract our dogs and prevent the escalation of excitement that triggers the unruly behavior. Our class includes Tom the Pembroke Welsh corgi, Dave the border collie mix, Ollie and Kitty are fluffy lap dog breeds, and Sarge is a shepherd mix. The trainers work in pairs, one giving instruction and the other leading around a variety of dogs to attract the attention of our lesson dogs. Our first session involved a stuffed dog, but we've since graduated to live dogs from the shelter.

Today we worked with a red hound dog (redbone?) and an English setter. The hound dog was calm and quiet but gave the handler a healthy tug when he discovered an interesting scent. While I was working with Indy to reward him whenever he looked at the other dog without barking or lunging, the hound decided to look out the window by stretching to full height with his paws on the sill. I don't think he was trying to escape the intimidating (LOL) Fluffy Puppy -- more like he wanted to search for scent tracks outside.

The English setter was pretty laid back. After a few trots up and down the classroom to challenge our dogs he (she?) started laying down on his side whenever stopped. When Ollie's owner told him to sit during his practice session the setter obediently plunked down also. Too funny.

Tom the corgi is just plain cute no matter what he does. Dave the border collie has the breed's intense expression. He's quite a challenge for his owner but only doing what he was bred to do. Sarge has improved quite a bit since our first session but still a notch below Dave in intensity. Ollie and Kitty are lively characters that don't scare anything when they bark. All are dogs just being dogs. But society imposes rules on our pets as well as us -- so sensible canine behavior is expected.

As my grandmother always said, you have to be smarter than the dog to train it. Hmmm.

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