September 14, 2010

You can’t always get what you want…

With humans in charge of the world, it’s hard, as a dog, to always get your way. You must be manipulative while still maintaining that cute, adorable quality. You must make the human think that they are in charge all the while ending up with your desired outcome. As the years pass, I’m developing quite a knack for wrapping humans around my paw, but when it comes to manipulating dogs, it’s a whole different story.

Canines are not so easy to manipulate. Okay, if they’re younger than you (like puppies) you can sometimes get your way, but if you don’t know them very well or if they are older, it requires a lot more finesse.

For instance, today we walked Ollie first thing in the morning. Since I’ve known Ollie for quite some time and since Ollie is younger than I am (and since he LOVES and ADORES me), I can pretty much get Ollie to do the things I ask of him. Today we went to the dog park, which is about a twenty minute walk from his house. Of course, it’s all downhill so the walk back up is a thigh burner. We rarely go to dog parks, but today the dog park was relatively empty and everyone seemed like they were friendly so we made the trek down the hill for a romp.

Anyway, when we got there, Gretchen pulled out a ball for me to fetch. She knows that playing fetch keeps me out of trouble. Unfortunately, Ollie isn’t as interested in the ball as I am. Instead, he likes the treats that Gretchen always carries so he sticks close to her. Therefore, I had to use my manipulative powers to pull Ollie away from Gretchen’s side.

Unfortunately, my charming good looks and powers of persuasion weren’t enough. Instead, I had to employ some of the other dogs at the dog park…namely a white, fluff ball about Ollie’s size to entice him to race around and have some fun.

It took some time, but eventually, Ollie found that running around was a blast and while I chased after the ball, he entertained himself in various ways.

That took a lot of work and energy on my part so much so that the hike back up the hill was a bit slower than normal. Good thing I got to rest at home after that while Gretchen took Rosie out for a walk and her own game of  fetch.

Gretchen’s learned a lot from me about how to get dogs to do what you want. Rosie, for instance, can be kind of stubborn. While she’s good at using her nose to find treats in the grass, she’s not so sure she likes obeying the commands Gretchen’s been trying to teach her. For instance, down/stay and come.  It’s gotten better — especially the come, but while Rosie is happy to do the down, she’s not so keen on the stay. But after months of practice, Rosie is getting it and seems pretty happy with her success.

Perhaps my toughest dog challenge is Saber. You’d think it would be Gemma, but actually, she’s pretty easy to figure out. Gemma is all about the chase and using her mouth and body to move us in the direction she thinks she wants us to go. Saber is all about stealing whatever I have in my mouth (usually my orange and blue ball though today it was a tennis ball we found at the courts) and if he gets that thing in my mouth, I must use my “death stare” to retrieve it or chase him down until he drops it.

Yesterday was a classic example. Gemma was waiting for us to run, chased after us when we did, and then during our wrestling matches, she refereed by biting our ankles and ears. But when Saber stole my ball, she wasn’t much help. Nope, I had to call upon my inner reserve of patience to wait for Saber to accidentally drop my ball so I could retrieve it — well, that and getting Gretchen to employ and liberally distribute the treats in her pocket to entice him.

And once the ball is retrieved, we play — hard and fast and with big smiles on our faces.

It’s not an easy job, but as the years pass, I feel I am perfecting my skills. In the process I’m learning that you can’t always get what you want, but you can sure as heck try!

Until tomorrow,

Rubin

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