Surprise Dog

"My husband got me a Surprise Dog," I told Pat, the grandmotherly woman who works at the pet store after telling her that I was looking for a stainless steel food dish.

"Oh? What kind of dog is it?" she said, helping me to choose a dish of the appropriate size.

"She's a Golden Retreiver--about two. I need a toy for her, too, like a rope toy. Where do you keep them?"

She pointed me in the right direction.

"I need to have something I can train her that she is allowed to chase--unlike the chicken she killed this morning," I explained, then immediately corrected myself. "Alright, not killed, mutilated--then I had to kill it. Not what I was planning on doing in -20C and eighteen feet of snow on a Friday morning."

She had been raised on a farm, so she sympathized with me as she rang up my dog dish and dog toys.

Apparently, my husband does crazy things when he is left alone for prolonged periods of time--like drive four hours (one way!) to pick up a dog. He had his reasons, but I was definitely surprised when he told me about it on the phone last Sunday!

Sunshine is pretty sweet, but as a retriever, her chasing instinct is strong, and she hasn't been worked with a lot to channel that properly--a fact that became painfully obvious this morning when she barged into the barely-open coop door, chased chickens around for awhile and seriously maimed one of my laying hens. I am hoping that this particular flaw is workable, since she seemed more interested in chasing than killing (although much longer and the bird would have been dead by her paws--and teeth--anyway.)

All that aside, she has some definite positive characteristics--she seems to do great with the kids, and she hasn't attempted to leave our yard (yet--and I'm hoping it stays that way). She needs training, but she seems to be smart, and there is evidence that she might be a quick learner. However, it is too soon to say whether the evidence is a "lesson learned" or "mere coincidence" at this point.

Jason got Sunshine in an attempt to keep Koda, our 17-month-old European Malamute/German Shepherd cross, from wandering over to play with the neighbour's Shepherd pups (almost a year old, now) at every opportunity. Sadly, that has only partially worked out. He seems to be content to play with Sunshine during the day, but if we leave the dogs loose at night, he'll wander off anyway. It's very frustrating. He has been spending a lot of time tied up because of that, which isn't good for a dog, and he has started to get nippy with the kids. Jason finally bought a kennel last weekend (about 9'x10') but that is only nominally better--especially since it is now being occupied by two dogs! However, as long as he stays around during the day, at least he can wear off energy all day long with another dog and not be tied up for most of each 24-hour period.

After regaling (notice my clever euphemism for "whining"?) my friend L today about the emergency chicken butchering (I also needed to call her for advice, since she has been my "chicken butchering mentor" so far, and I have now only actually done it on four birds), she gave me a great idea to work with Sunshine that I actually started doing this afternoon.

After catching Sunshine in the act of mauling one of my best Ameracauna laying hens, I knew two things immediately: I was going to have to butcher a chicken today (a thrilling thing to note when you are still in your pajamas under your winter coat) and I had a serious training issue or three to deal with in our new dog. As I tried to drag Sunshine back to the kennel so I could deal with the injured bird, I noticed that she did not seem to be submitting to me at all, pulling back stubbornly against me or jumping up on me. Not wanting to let the chicken (whom I had instructed Noah to take into the house and put in the bathtub) suffer too long, but not wanting to let this unacceptable behaviour on Sunshine's part slide, either, I had Jude bring me a leash so I would have a little more control than when just using the collar, and worked with her on the "Down" command (a huge one for submission) for about five minutes, requiring her to obey it several times on the way back to the kennel. Then she got shut up until I could do triage on the most urgent situation--putting Emily out of her misery. (Jude named the chicken last fall--and yes, I think it was after his longtime "crush" on my friend Amanda's daughter! When he first came in to tell me about the fiasco that was ensuing with the dog and chickens, he was in tears because Sunshine had "killed Emily." Poor guy.)

Anyway, L suggested spending some time training Sunshine while the chicken chores were being done, which I began doing today. When Jude went out to feed the chickens at lunch, I went with him, putting Sunshine on the leash and making her heel/sit outside the straw-bale windbreak we have at the front of the coop, watching the proceedings. Her entire body was quivering--I could tell that she was wanting desperately to get in there and have some more "fun". However, after only a couple of reminders for her to sit, she complied pretty well. After that, we spent a little bit of time doing some "don't chase the cats" training, since Simba was taking advantage of the afternoon sun for a siesta on the front step. I am planning on working with her every time the chores are being done (so, twice a day) for the next several days, or as long as it takes, for her to figure out that chasing the chickens and cats is not acceptable. That's also the reason for buying her toys--to give her something she's allowed to chase. (I probably would have just used sticks, except they are all a little inaccessible under the mountains of white stuff currently. I am SO ready for spring!)

I think the real reason my husband decided to get a second dog is to give me less time to think about wanting to adopt a kid--if the dog gives me enough trouble, maybe I won't want another kid, is that it, Honey? *wink, nudge* Good luck with that! :-)

(Sorry, no photos of Sunshine, yet--she was too busy trying to get at the cats under the shed on Wednesday when I attempted to photograph her--and my computer is also currently undergoing renovations. I am waiting for my new photo editing software, since my old one is incompatible with Windows 7! Stinkin' Gotta love technology!)