December 3, 2019

This is MINE!

True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation.

-George Washington

 

Waldo is one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known. The only time I’ve heard him growl is when he’s playing. His bites are love nibbles. He wants to meet every dog and person we meet on the rail-trail. If the other dog(s) growl, or in some other way show aggressiveness, Waldo just shrugs it off and continues walking. If people show body language that says “Leave me alone,” then, again, he just goes on his merry way as if they weren’t there. He’s a sweetheart.

But, there’s always a but, he is stubborn, and that can cause problems.

We spent some time in training getting Waldo to release his grip on things he holds in his mouth. When I first got him, we quickly learned how to play fetch with a tennis ball. I guess he got bored with that because it wasn’t long before it turned into keep-away, where he would fetch the ball and then not return it to me and not drop it. So, we learned drop it, but on his terms. It was difficult to teach him because nothing is more important to him than keeping whatever object he has. He ignores pleas and treats, and I know for a fact that he understands what I want him to do when I say, “Drop it.” It just isn’t a game he wants to play.

Finally, we made some progress, playing with two tennis balls. I would throw one and he would gleefully chase after it. Once he got it, I would bounce another and command that he drop the other ball. He loves to chase balls, so he soon learned that if he dropped the ball he had, I would throw the other one and he could go chase after it. That lasted for a while, then he decided he would drop the ball he had until I threw the second ball, then he would grab the ball he just dropped and ignore the ball I threw. Now we’re looking for a treat that is so enticing that he’ll drop what he’s got for it.

When it’s sticks he has in his mouth, this is more than a game – for me. As I’ve mentioned before, he loves to pick up sticks (and other things) and carry them in his mouth as we walk along. This is okay for me until it comes time for us to go in the house. The past couple of weeks, the damn dog has gotten it into his head he doesn’t want to drop the sticks. I am not letting him take the sticks in the house, so I try to get him to drop them before we go in. Treats don’t work. At first, I would pet him and wait. After a bit, he would drop the sticks, but as soon as he did, he’d pick them up again. So, then I would shorten his leash so he couldn’t get his head down to the ground to pick them up. His response was to refuse to drop the sticks. Frustrated, I put my fingers at the base of his jaw and forced his mouth open, removing the sticks. He let me do this for a while, then he clamped down harder and wouldn’t let me open his mouth.

The other night, I tried to grab the sticks and force them from his mouth. He growled softly and tried to get a better grip on the sticks, but bit my hand instead. I lost it and yelled at him. He let the sticks go. I shortened the leash so he couldn’t pick them up again and brought him inside, all the while fuming. He followed obediently and then came up to me, licking every part of me he could get close to.  Almost sheepishly, he entered the apartment without any other problem.

Jesus, how could I stay mad at that?

He seemed to understand that he’d crossed a line because, afterword, he was more willing to drop the damn sticks. For a while, anyway.

Now I need to continue to work with him, enticing him with treats, and show him that he’s going to have more fun doing what I want him to do, and getting rewarded for it, than doing what he wants to do. I do not want him to feel that he has to do what I want him to do or there will be consequences.

I am not alpha to him, I am his friend.

I am a good boy!

2 comments

Kathie Giorgio

He IS a good boy!

Susan Loughmiller

I used two balls. Tossed one, when she came back with it she would drop it to be ready to chase the second. As she dropped it, I said “drop it”. She picked up the term as an action.
Good luck.
I enjoy reading your adventures with Waldo.

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