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Archive for July 30th, 2009

Obedience

For a long time, i used to say that Buddy was “well-behaved, if not obedient”.  I imagine that he has a little Airedale in him and i read in a book that they can be very strong-willed.  They said that if you want to train an Airedale, you had better catch them young – and Buddy came to me at age eight.

But i have been realizing that Buddy is actually very obedient in almost all respects.  If we are walking down the road and i see him headed for the road or towards roadkill or towards anything else i don’t want him to get into, it takes nothing more than a not-very-loud “Uh-uh-uh!” to immediately redirect him.  If Lucy is running with us and similarly heads for the road or other trouble, me calling her immediately brings Buddy towards me – even when he was doing nothing wrong and even when Lucy completely ignores me.  And in so many other ways, Buddy is tremendously and immediately responsive to my commands or even wishes.

He just won’t “come” if he really doesn’t want to or sees no point in it.

One day we were hiking near a deep river gorge.  Buddy is, in general, pretty careful about such hazards, but i couldn’t see him and started to get nervous – and when he didn’t reply to my progressively more insistent calls, i got significantly nervous.  At times i almost thought i heard him back in the 20 feet or so of bushes between me and the gorge, but when he didn’t come i figured i was imagining this.  I finally spotted him: about 15 feet from me, chilling back in the high weeds right next to the path, watching me and wondering what i was getting worked up over: “Hey, i can see you, i know where you are, so what’s the problem?”

This obstinacy around coming mostly manifests when i want him to come in the house.  He comes quickly in if he has some reason to: thunder (or other loud noises), heavy rain, cold, hunger – even sometimes, i think, loneliness…like he just wants to be with me more than he wants to be outside.  But, absent any of these factors, he is liable to just look at me like I’m cracked.IMG_2095

A lot of the time, i end up deciding that he knows better than i.  I may think that it’s just too damp or cold for him to spend the night outside, but there’s just no way that i can calculate just how much instinctive recharge he gets from spending the night outside – i think that probably i do err sometimes on the side of being overprotective.

Other times, i do trust my instincts (thoughts, really) more than his.  He doesn’t have a concept of “arthritic hip that needs some protection from damp nights outside”, nor access to radio forecasts of thunderstorms during the night.  But, short of grabbing him by the collar and dragging 45 pounds of inert dog out of the doghouse, what works is simply attaching the leash to his collar.  He knows at this point that he has no options and no longer resists.

(When he as new to me and had figured out that the sight of this collar meant that our walk in the woods was over, he would absolutely run away from me – i had to apply it earlier and earlier before we got near the car.  These days he would never defy me that way, anywhere but in our back yard.  And even this just doesn’t seem like defiance so much as simple non-agreement.)

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