Thursday, September 01, 2011

how do you manage a maniac? (living with a dog smarter than me!)

A firecracker .. but not a maniac
not a maniac - in fact a very steady rockstar

uusual? yes
quirky? yes
maniac ? no

Sally is lame. Three legged, won't touch her toe to the ground lame. She came up sore in the very last 5 minutes of our walk at Point Petre. My fellow walkers were worried and so was I but she is hard on herself. Lame for a few minutes is not unheard of for the Sally girl. Since we got home she has been fairly good about resting but knowing Sally it won't last long.

Why do you push yourself so hard Sally?
This is an uncrateable dog. She will happily lie in a crate for as long as it suits her so people don't realize how uncrateable she it. For Pete's sake I can put her in the shortest of xpens and she'll stay in it for ages as long as it suits her. The minute no, the nanosecond, being confined doesn't suit her she leaves. I have no idea how Houdini dog has gotten out of some crates (including a varikennel). When she is locked in a run with a lid like she was for 3 days two weeks ago she hurts herself. She'd better not be lame for long and moderate rest better be the only recommendation I get. Crating her for 3-6 weeks would either require me to take her to work daily or to take a leave of absence (and while my employers are sympathetic and supportive of the animal work I do I'm pretty sure our huge HR department would have a melt down if I requested a leave to watch a dog in a crate!)

This made me think about life with nutty dogs. (Yup, more than one, I've had my share)
Living with them is largely about management. The old adage a tired dog is a good dog is very true - but if you get a maniac too fit tiring them out can be difficult. I have learned that mental work is an important component to the kind of tired that lets me surf the net in the evening. Actually truly ignoring a maniac can be tough. When Sally barks because she needs wants to do SOMETHING, AnYtHiNg (right NOW) doing nothing is virtually impossible if I'm a) on the phone b) talking in person to someone. When I am alone she doesn't bark at me - she simply stares optimistically at me so I KNOW I have taught her situations that I will respond to a bark. And to be fair to her any response on my part is fine - asking her to do directional turns, lie down, or throwing a toy for her are all perfectly acceptable reactions for me to offer her. My reward for being so easily trained? Silence.  Golden, sweet silence.

Decide what is acceptable and stick to it. If going downstairs ahead of your dog matters to you - then do it every single time. (in my house I actually send the dogs ahead of me)

Routines are something I had always striven to have BS*. Maniacal dogs love routine. It lets them predict opportunities to be nutty which, in my experience, is not always a great thing. Sally actually does better with a little variation in life. If food always appeared at exactly the same time I'm sure she would develop a complex routine of her own to enhance her eating experience. I vary the dispensers she eats from too - as well as the location. Anything to make her think! Most dogs will learn to go to one mat/place/bed when sent to it (say when the doorbell rings)  ..  Sally understands the concept of place and will go to anything that fits the criteria in her head .. include the stairs in the front hallway.

Giving Sally jobs was a big part of appreciating life with a nut. If we didn't give her work she'd make up stuff to do and that just wasn't always the best plan (Remember this silly job? She still does that). Sally is responsible for supervising my work with the rabbits and chickens and watching for escapees. She tells me when a cat uses a litter box (she came up with this one but it works for us). She helps us weed and wood and shows us the path on the atv. She watches for whoever is out to come home. She is fabulous at entertaining other dogs who need to be entertained! She collects toys that are left around. She would certainly be type A if human. The word "No" is not in her vocabulary.

Our Whole Lot of Dog takes a whole lot of thinking ... and she's worth every wonderful second of it!

* BS - before Sally - a time I can hardly recall already ...


Muttsandaklutz said...

Say it ain't so -- total bummer that she's still lame :-(

Really hoping whatever it is gets all back to normal, asap.

Seems like there's always something when one has animals in the family...

andrea said...

she's fine now ..
she is so hard on herself I don't really panic until she's been three legged a couple of days in a row