Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart. --Winnie the Pooh
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Facing Down the Dark Side
Ever notice how for every desirable canine trait -- there's a "down side" to that same trait if it's not properly channeled? Well, at about 3 months old now, let's just say that our dear little Alfie is in need of a lot of...um...channeling!
His self-confidence makes him a delightful companion, as nothing seems to rattle him at all. Just what you want in a future guide dog! But by the same token, Alfie's also completely convinced that he should be in charge around the house and is having a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that not only is he NOT in charge...he never WAS in charge...and never WILL be in charge...EVER! To try to help him with this one, I've had him tethered to me by a double-long leash for the past couple of days. This cuts down on any mischief, and it's also starting (let's hope!) to help him see that I'm the leader, he's the follower.
But you don't understand; I'm a natural born leader!
That innate intelligence that we just love to see in working dogs has its dark side, too...Alfie's always trying to use it to get a step ahead. For example, he quickly worked out the basics of potty training, and has learned to shake a string of jingle bells hanging on the back door when he wants a potty break. When I started tethering him to me a couple days ago, though, he figured out that he could ring the "doorbell," pretending that he had to go outside; then I'd let him off the leash by the backdoor; and ZOOM, quick as thought he'd slipped my grasp and was running all around the house in doggy hysterics, practically laughing his head off that I'd fallen for his little scheme!!
Then there's that incredible ability that service dogs have for "reading" people...they're constantly alert for minute changes in our mood, body language, voice, even scent. Eventually, Alfie will use that ability to help him watch out for his human companion...but at the moment he has more sinister purposes in mind! He's a very keen observer of my every move and when I'm stressed...under a time crunch...on the phone...or distracted...AHA, THAT is the one moment he will choose to grab my pants leg or run off with something I need! It'd be pointless for him to pull such shenanigans when I'm focused and calm. No, much better to bide his time and try for the maximum reaction!
I called Michelle, our puppy program manager, for help and she dropped by to give additional pointers on doggy discipline and (just as important!) moral support. We're very excited about Alfie's awesome potential and natural abilities. For the new year, the task remains...turn him from the dark side!