Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bird Dog!

The (half-hearted) effort is underway to make Savage into a bird-dog! I originally planned to hunt grouse this season as an excuse to spend time out in the woods with my puppy. So bright and early this morning we all headed out to begin Sava's first hunting adventure. Now, my little dane is not much of a hunter, anyway, preferring to harass sticks in the trail as opposed to unneccessarily wasting energy chasing live prey. But he has shown a great interest in grouse ever since we came upon a mother and her covey of babies a month or so ago.
I believe his excitement today was mainly because of R.'s and my excitement over shooting birds, but he had a great time anyway. We walked for miles along old logging roads near the Gunflint Trail, and though Savvy didn't spot any birds on his own, once he heard one of us loading the shotgun he went absolutely wild. It was necessary for R. to hold onto Sava when I was shooting, and vice versa, because when the puppy spots a grouse he doesn't hesitate to go for it. This might be a problem when it's just me and him, but I'm assumming I'll end up shooting more birds in trees after Savage has flushed them up, and him getting in the way won't be an issue.
We allowed him to retrieve the first two or three grouse just for fun, but if given a chance he will chew up the meat. He eats turkey backs every day, after all! I would never expect him to be a retriever, or a pointer, or anything like that, but having him along with me on the hunt is so much more fun. Watching him pounce into the brush going after a shot bird is fun to watch. Once the grouse were killed and I was carrying them back to the truck, Sava lost interest in them and went in search of live ones. Altogether, R. and I bagged 7 birds this morning, and my baby dane enjoyed every minute of his first hunt.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Excuses *sigh*

First of all, somehow the charger for my digital camera disappeared and it's been a hassle finding a replacement. Therefore, I haven't got any updated pictures of my beautiful puppy. The above picture is from when he was around 17 weeks old. Yes, he still sleeps on top of my boyfriend even now, at 10 months old!
Work on the new house has been progressing, but that means I work there from 8am to 3pm, and then go to my "real" job at the bar from 6pm to 1am. Savage goes to the property with R. and I, and though he gets to run around there and chew on wood scraps and such, he was missing out on one-on-one training for the past few weeks. In addition to not getting scheduled walks and training sessions, he has also been off-leash for that time. The reason for that is when he was wearing the choke chain for help with heeling, it seems to have worn off some of the thin fur on the underside of his neck. Then that got irritated and Savage began to scratch at it, further irritating the injury. So I decided to leave his collar off until the hair grew back. We ditched the choke chain and bought him a fabric-covered nylon martingale-style collar, but his skin is only now returning to normal. No collar means no leashed walks, no heel training, etc.
Well, yesterday we went for a long "heeled" walk and Savvy seems to get right back into the groove, so that's promising. The great news is that with the help of treats (tiny bits of cheese) Savage is now coming when called quite consistently. If I had to estimate, I'd say he responds to recall about 88% of the time, which is fabulous.
Our main problem is that he still becomes uncontrollable around other dogs. Not to say that he fights or even barks, but he's so excited to play that he will not respond to "come" or "heel" or "no" or anything. He absolutely craves contact with other puppies all the time. My dog is so incredibly social and his best times are when my friends and I take all the dogs (2 to 7 at a time) out running off-leash. Savvy is growing up to be a very friendly guy, with no sign of aggression at all. Even with Baron and Duke, my employer's two shepherds, Savage is very polite and submissive. Baron is a classic alpha dog with somewhat of a temper, and insists on keeping Savvy in line while playing, with short barks and occassional nips. I believe if Sav ever growled or otherwise stood up to him, there would be a fight. But I'm comfortable with them together because my baby is so passive. However, like some other danes I've met, he has never been "spooky", shying away, or putting his head down and his tail between his legs when he's startled or corrected. He seems to take everything in stride.
We often go to the lakeshore and play, where he fetches stick in the shallow water and splashes around. About a week ago, my friend S. and I went out and paddled a canoe around the bay while the pack followed us. Little Savage couldn't stand to be left behind, and spent a half hour or so swimming, getting out and shaking off, and then jumping back in. My hope is that he will gradually understand that swimming is not difficult or scary and start to really enjoy it. Two days ago I spent an evening at my parent's resort. While my sister and I cruised around in the paddle-boat, Savvy followed us and seemed to be having at least a little fun. He's so funny looking when he swims, with his legs going every which way and his big ears sticking straight up. At the end of the dock he obviously was conflicted. While he desperately wanted to swim out to us, he couldn't quite make the leap off the dock. R. lowered him off the dock into the water twice, and though I was wary of that approach, Savage didn't seem to mind much, and was not scared of the dock at all after that. I'm so proud of him.
I continue to feed him his regular diet, and he seems to be requiring more of it lately to keep him at a good weight. I try to add some variety, even if it's only a different brand once in a while. He got to try green sunfish, which I caught fresh, and earlier this week he was given three backs/necks from freshly killed grouse. Before feeding him the grouse, I made sure there was no bird shot in the meat, and the sunfish needed to be filleted to check for hooks. People are simultaneously shocked, fascinated, and very interested when they hear what I'm feeding my boy, and it's given me the opportunity to open up some minds about the raw diet, which is working out very well for my happy, healthy dane baby.
As the leaves start to turn orange and yellow and the weather gets chillier at night, I'm looking forward to winter, but know I need to take some precautions with Beautiful. Last winter when he rode with me on the snowmobile I remember being obsessed with keeping his ears warm. They seem to get cold so much faster than the rest of his body, and I'm (maybe irrationally) afraid that they could actually freeze. Of course, who knows if his size will make it possible for him to snowmobile this year, but he does need protection even just out walking on very cold days. I just bought him a hooded sweatshirt online (finally found a dane-sized one) and am hoping it will help keep him warm, while the hood can be pulled up to warm his ears. I used to scoff at people that dressed up their dogs, but even the other night in the boat returning from the resort, Savage was obviously uncomfortable with the weather. The hoodie I ordered is bright red, so maybe we'll use that on walks during deer season instead of an orange safety vest.
So, for everyone that made it this far through this loooonnnng post, thank you so much for your interest in Savvy, the most wonderful puppy in the world. I'm always surprised by the number of people that actually read the site, and I promise to post lots of new pictures when I get the new charger.