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January 2, 2012

Go watch the house

The first thing I did after we bought this property was to tell Dog#1 to "Go Watch the House." So he did.

He went out on the deck, sat there, and commenced to Watch The House. Titan didn't just meander out and flop down - he intentionally marched out there, took up a strategic vantage point, and watched. Good dog.

The other day Kai and Zander were goofing around inside a little too vigorously. So I told them to "Go Watch the House." So they did.


Zander was a little nervous at first, and the weight of the responsibility seemed a little much for such a young pup to bear. But then he sat a little straighter, held his head a little higher...and watched the house.  Good dogs.

I think they are watching the goings on in the barnyard. But Kai takes this very seriously. She's not just laying at repose... this is her guarding stance for the house. She always sits in the same way in the same place. No fooling around. Since we got Zander she's taken on a new role. She's not so much the goofy puppy she was just a few short months ago.

Bringing Zander into the pack has really given her a push into a different position - with other jobs. She's been helping me round up the chickens at night and I've even sent her outside to "go bark at something" - which is normally Titan's job. She's also spending a lot of time with Zander - to wear him out - and mostly to teach him how to behave.

Even tho we give our big dogs a "reverse time out" so they can get some peace from the pup all of the dogs still spend a lot of time together.  Aside from being cute and getting lots of rest, Zander's most important job right now is to figure out how to be with other dogs. All of the dogs will learn to work together as a unit - and also separately as individuals.

Now that the bad weather is on us and there is a lot less time to be outside, so we are working with the dogs to learn more difficult commands. And they are learning to accept commands as individuals in the middle of a group.  This gives them a lot of mental stimulation - and keeps our tight ship running smoothly.

For instance today we played fetch with two balls. Lucky got to fetch the ball assigned to him and Titan got to fetch the other ball. Kai and Zander don't understand the fetch thing - but they like to run with everyone. This actually helps the learning process. Ti has to focus on us to see when he gets to fetch - even tho The World's Most Annoying Little Sister is bouncing all around and Zander is trying to bite his tail.

And then within all this activity the dogs are sorting out their pack order. Sure Kai can run with Ti to get the ball, but she can't grab it or get in his way too much. If she does, Ti puts her in her place. She has to respect the order of the pack. And no one, and I mean no one, ever jumps up on us to get a ball. Even little Zander has learned that good dogs sit and then they get toys (or food or loves). Zander likes to carry around his own ball and show the other dogs. But he's also started to bring it for me to throw for him...when he isn't rolling it down the hill to chase.

When we are done playing fetch we all go and get a drink and the dogs have to give up the toys and head inside. As we are walking in they look to me for their assignments, "Ti, you can stay out", "Kai and Zander go up on the deck," "Lucky come in the house." I do this by looking at each dog, saying the command, and pointing for them where they should go.

Zander has really learned this well. At first he'd just take off running. But after I stomped after him and carried him back like a sack of potatoes a couple times.. well.. he figured out just to pay attention and learn the commands. He's also learning to look at me for direction. This is great - I'm already working with him to learn hand signals and not just vocal commands.

We are also working on individual commands in the house. I'll instruct which dog or dogs may come out of the gated dog area and into the living room or the kitchen. This way I'm not trampled by a herd of dogs....and they respect that we "own" the house. 

Learning to function both as a group and also independently is really important. This enforces that we are the boss of them, refines their discipline,  and also helps me get my work done. "Lucky go and scoot that chicken in, Kai stay here with me."

Good dogs.

Happy Monday everyone! Did you all survive New Year's eve?