By Scott Hunt
The Dog Grumbler
A NEW dog is always a challenge.
If you get a pup you need to wait 18 months to two years while its brain develops and you need to avoid mistakes during that time.
A pup will always test you; it will refuse to learn something that should be simple.
It will destroy something valuable to you and cause you grief and embarrassment.
Of course, the rewards are worth the trouble or people wouldn’t keep doing it.
A dog adopted as a pup is a weighty responsibility but once it has grown up and hopefully become a good dog, you can take all the credit.
You will have a dog who knows only you; who has learned your routines, likes and dislikes and knows no other life.
This is not to say that you should not adopt a mature dog.
Chances are you will be rescuing a dog which would have been joining the thousands put down every week in Australia through no fault of their own.
It will be grateful and appreciate a second chance but will still need to learn a whole new system.
Hopefully, it will have a fully developed brain and save you a couple of years of work and frustration, but you may find difficulties and they may be complex because usually the dog’s past will be a mystery to all but itself.
It may take just as long to iron out problems in a mature dog as it is to train a new one, but in both cases the journey is a rewarding one and should be a learning experience for you both.
These are the things I think about as I hang out with Milo.
Milo is a two-year-old pointer. He was saved from the pound.
His default setting is a joyous lope, tongue and ears flapping behind his head.
If he can’t do that, he’s eating or sleeping.
Milo has a wonderful disposition but sees himself as a forward scout.
If you are walking northward, Milo is loping ahead.
If you try to catch up, he lopes faster. If you call him, you are dreaming.
He’s clever and obliging in private — does just about anything you ask.
But let him loose in the dog park and he needs to smell the whole thing really fast. Twice.
Let him loose anywhere else and he’s gone until you give up and collapse exhausted.
I am working on strategies.
I figure when he’s scouting, Milo wants to smell things before we scare them away.
When I change direction southward, Milo and his ears and tongue eventually appear out of nowhere to lope away to the south.
If I stop and sit, he eventually comes and sits with me.
I think this is because while I’m sitting no direction is “ahead.”
So, we go to the off-lead parks and walk around, resting frequently and waiting for Milo to turn up.
I usually have one or two other dogs with me.
None has ever felt like challenging Milo for the forward scout gig.
Some stay close, some range and return depending on things nasal.
When it’s time to go, they all hear my keys jangle wherever they are in the park and all but Milo immediately head for the car.
Sometimes the others have to watch from the car while I go back and wait for the forward scout.
I am confident that eventually Milo will get used to his new name and see the benefits of coming when called, but I’m not fooling myself — it won’t happen overnight.
Like most dog training it will take time and faith and patience.
And as I sit here in the dog park and watch the various other teams engaged in similar pursuits, I tell myself it’s worth it; Milo is teaching me to be patient.
A noble virtue, but it won’t happen overnight.