Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Training

While the Convalescent napped this morning, I took the dogs to the woods to take the edge off their energies. It was a bright, clear day. The kind of day when you don't care that the temperature is in the 20s, because it feels like spring anyway.

When we returned, the little goats were clamoring to be let out of their pen. This time I was ready. I had Wolfie on the leash and made him and Lexi lie down and stay while I opened the gate. Blossom and Alsiki scampered out and started racing up and down the yard, right by the dogs' noses. They leaped about, all four legs off the ground at the same time, greeting the new season.

I made Wolfie walk with me towards and away from the goats. I made him sit close to them, then lie down. The goats were unfazed. They got closer and closer, until they touched noses with Wolfie, who was so shocked it didn't even occur to him to lunge. Either Blossom and Alsiki are extremely stupid, getting that close to a dog who is so much bigger and faster than they, or they are extremely clever, and had figured out that he was under my control.

I walked Wolfie around on the leash some more, and then I sat on the picnic table in the sun and the dogs lay down on the squishy wet ground and the goats settled down to clearing our lawn of last year's dead leaves. I was relaxed, Lexi was relaxed, even Wolfie was relatively relaxed. The chickadees twittered, and a pastoral calm descended on us all.

I now know that Wolfie will eventually be reliable around Blossom and Alsiki. I can tell by the way he holds his body, his tail, his head, his ears. This ability to watch closely and read a dog's body language (which I am just starting to develop) is the greatest benefit from the zillions of hours I have spent in dog training classes, more important by far than all the obedience exercises put together.

Wolfie is still far from perfect--I'm sure he'd chase the goats if he had the chance. But by the time we were finished today I had the feeling that he and I had reached a new level of understanding. I can't wait to work him again tomorrow.

What, you might ask, is the point of all this? It certainly isn't to teach him to herd the goats, because I haven't the least idea how to go about doing that. The language of herding--"away to me" and so on--is a mystery to me.

What I want is, first of all, for Wolfie to NEVER chase the goats for sport. I want him to be "calm-submissive" around them and pay attention to me when I ask him to do something. After that, who knows? I'm interested to see where his instincts will take him. He certainly is concerned, when he and Lexi and I go out together, about keeping both of us in sight at all times. He can usually be found exactly half-way between Lexi and me, and if I lag behind, he comes and gets me. How that will translate around the goats, I don't know. It may drive him crazy, having to keep constant track of all of us.

It's going to be an interesting summer.

5 comments :

  1. "While the Convalescent napped this morning, I took the dogs to the woods to take the edge off their energies." (Frankly, the first thing I thought was "She means my energy.."

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  2. i'm glad wolfie looks like he's going to be ok with the goats. but i'm very sorry about the convalescent. it's HARD to see someone else suffering.

    i'm in boston until tomorrow, and doug has a bad cold. coughed all night last night, he said. i'm not sorry i wasn't kept up by his cough, but i feel like i should be there to share his pain.

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  3. Indigo, my energy doesn't have much of an edge these days, but it is getting better.

    Laurie, I'm not even sure the menfolk WANT us there to share their pain, but boy, I know what you mean about the compulsion to be there...How was your speech?

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  4. speech went ok, i guess. that's a long time to talk. i am very glad to be home.

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  5. I hope you found your convalescent on the mend?

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