Monday, March 20, 2006

Young Dog, New Tricks

We just spent a few days at my family's resort up north. Savage had a spectacular time just being a dog, playing with the other pups, sniffing around and exploring. At 17 weeks old, he is getting pretty big to ride in front of anyone on a snowmobile, but he's now nice and relaxed about it, and the weather has been nice enough that we don't need to wrap him up in a blanket. When he's riding with R. he feels that he needs to keep an eye on me and my snowmobile, so he has to try to twist around and find where I'm riding at. He's still startled when the engine starts up, but then realizes we're going on an adventure and tries to climb right up onto the seat (which he still needs help with).
He's getting more comfortable with the other dogs - Baylee and Petey (brittany spaniels), to the point that he tries to assert his dominance over them. Sometimes this works his way, sometimes he gets a sharp bark to put him in his place. But I trust them playing together. He needs to learn "dog-speak" as well as human commands. Bayshek the shepard is a different story, more moody than the others, and I have not let Savage even meet with him unsupervised yet. He is not a "dog's dog" and doesn't like puppies as a rule, so that's something we will have to address when things are more relaxed and quiet.Even so, I'm in no hurry, and Sav has other puppy friends to hang out with. My parents' dog, Brisco, is a husky/springer mix. While I'm allowing Savvy around him (supervised, of course), I'm not letting my puppy try to play with him, since Brisco has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with him. My dad says Brisco is a "cranky old bachelor" and he gets insanely jealous over other dogs. I do not trust them together and probably never will. Ted the dane, on the other hand, continues to be best friends with Savage, and I can't wait for Sav to get the same size so I'm no longer worried about playing too rough. Savage does seem to be setting his own boundaries with Ted, and they understand eachother well. This promises to be a healthy, life-long friendship between them. Ted's owner's rottweiler, Roger, supervises play sessions with the two danes, but is much too reserved to take part very often. My little dog occassionally hangs out with other dogs, but these constitute the main gang.
Savage got his distemper vaccination a few weeks ago.No difficulties or complications, and the puppy seems healthy (and hungry!) and happy. Today he got his final dose of roundworm treatment. I will bring in another stool sample to the vet's office in a couple weeks to see if he's clear. I only noticed worms in his poop once, and that was weeks ago, so hopefully he's back to normal. The melting snow in the yard is exposing little "puppy land-mines" everywhere, but I'm assuming that's from long enough ago that they are not a re-infection threat. And Savage finally found a place to the side of the yard that he prefers as a toilet, so his bathroom habits are easier to monitor and clean up after.
Now that I've settled on an ear-taping system that is reliable, we've been taping up for 7 days, and off for however long it takes for his ears to begin drooping. I realize some people think it's healthier to leave the tape off for a day or so, but I see no infection or irritation, and I'd like to make sure that on his "day off" his ears don't have a chance to get used to being down. This system is working exceptionally well, in my opinion, and yesterday he had seven hours of awesome ear upright-ness before the tips started falling. His appearance without tape is so striking and impressive. Every time I'm wondering if the ear-cropping decision was too much of a pain in the butt I only need to look through his un-taped pictures. A dane, even at 4 months old, is certainly the most noble-looking breed in the world. In my humble opinion, of course, but just look at the pictures!!
We're beginning to take longer walks, and as snowmobile season winds down we will be exploring the un-used snowmobile trails. Savage has a lot of energy, but also just crashes on the futon when playtime is over. Being at my family's place really wore him out, after spending two days following the brittanies around and meeting all the family. I'm making up exercises and games to try to stimulate his mind as well. I'm amazed at the process of teaching his last trick. Let me explain: whenever we go through his commands (come, sit, shake right, shake left, down) he inevitably ends up in the lying down position, at which point he gets lazy and tries to do all the tricks again while lying down. So I worked for about 7 minutes with him to teach him "up", which would be my command to get him to his feet again. This was a bit confusing for him, plus I'm using hand signals with all the commands, but there was one point at which I could see the lightbulb go on, so to speak, and after that it was easy! Then as usual he got bored with this "game" and we went outside and chucked around the whiskey bottle for awhile. The reason I was so thrilled is that the way I'm teaching seems to work for him so well. He gets it, and doesn't end up confused. In this way he is actually understanding me and we're having fun learning new things. At least every other day we go through the tricks to keep him refreshed. Loose-leash walking is going slowly but surely(?).There are just so many things to explore outdoors! I'm also anxious for summer and open water, so we can go swimming and boating. Living where we do I know it's really important that he becomes completely comfortable with being in, around, and on the lakes. This is when I think that getting a puppy in the summer would have been a smart idea, but at least next winter the snow and cold won't be unexpected. And he does love the snow. Now as the sun comes out more often Savage has discovered the luxury of lying in sunbeams. As I'm typing this, he's relaxing after playtime with Ted, completely stretched out on the carpet, soaked in sunlight, a tired but happy little dog.


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