Sandy Meets the Other Dogs
from Collie Rescue
As far as Dan was concerned, the summer now looked like it was going to be a total bust. Sharon had left for camp, and his good friend Dick was traveling in Europe with his family. Dan felt left behind with the obnoxious rescue dog Sandy. Then there was the new litter of pups, which might have been fun if Sharon were still around, but without her it just seemed like work.
"Have you cleaned the litter box yet?" his mum asked.
"Yeah, yeah," said Dan. "What do you want me to do now?"
"I'd like to take Sandy out for a play with the other dogs. It's time the poor thing got a bit of off-leash exercise."
With Vicky occupied with her pups, there were just the three adults to go outside with Sandy - the tricolour Rory, a four-year-old sable female named Tasha, and a two-year-old blue merle male named Sigmund. Mrs. Peterson let them all out into the large, enclosed yard and then she had Dan release Sandy. Keeping one dog on a leash would only add to any problems that might occur.
Sandy had no dog manners at all. She raced up to Sigmund and started to pester him, pulling his thick tail and then rushing round in front of him to bark sharply in his face. Sigmund romped enthusiastically with Sandy, barking right back at her, and Dan felt things were going just fine.
Then Sandy left Sigmund and raced to Tasha, trying the same technique she had used with the young male. In an instant she was pinned firmly to the ground. It looked like Tasha was ripping her face off, but Mrs. Peterson knew the flashing teeth were all for show. Tasha wouldn't hurt Sandy, but she would certainly put her in her place in short order. Unable to get up, Sandy began to scream in a bloodcurdling fashion.
"Tasha's killing Sandy!" Dan was quite distraught. He had seen mock battles between two dogs lots of times, but never a mock battle involving a dog he felt personally responsible for looking after.
Mrs. Peterson laughed.
"Tasha won't hurt her. She will help you out with your job, though. She'll teach Sandy some manners, and learning to play with other dogs will let Sandy get rid of some of that pent-up energy that gets her into so much trouble."
Once Sandy had learned to be properly submissive to Tasha, she had a wonderful time frolicking in the yard. She and Sigmund ran round and round in circles, and even Rory joined in occasionally with a little romp. Once the dogs had had a good chance to run off some steam, Mrs. Peterson began doing recalls with her three.
"Tasha, come!" Tasha ran straight to her owner, and she was rewarded with a small piece of liver.
"Okay, now you can go and play."
"Sigmund, come!" The same process was repeated with Sigmund, and then with Rory. The three dogs were pleasantly surprised to get rewarded for a simple recall.
Gradually Sandy began to notice what was going on, and to take an interest, particularly in the liver. When one of the dogs would go to Mrs. Peterson, she would follow along. Mrs. Peterson ignored Sandy. Then she went over to her son and gave him a good-sized piece of liver.
Mrs. Peterson told Dan to let Sandy see and smell the liver, but not to let her touch it. When she couldn't get hold of the liver, Sandy returned to playing with her new friends. Then Mrs. Peterson and Dan went to the far end of the enclosure.
"Now, I'm going to call my three in, and you call Sandy. I can guarantee she'll come when the other three come. Then give her the piece of liver, praise her like mad, and release her to go back out and play."
Mrs. Peterson called first Rory, then Tasha, then Sigmund. When she called Sigmund, Dan called Sandy. Sure enough, Sandy followed along with Sigmund. She was rewarded with the big piece of liver.
"Good girl, Sandy," said Dan.
"Not just 'good girl'," said his mother. "Like this. What a wonderful puppy. Sandy, you're just so clever. Aren't you the smartest dog in the whole world?"
All four dogs waved their tails ecstatically at the sound of Mrs. Peterson's high-pitched voice.
"You're clever, Sandy," muttered Dan.
Mrs. Peterson smiled. She had taught many obedience classes, and at the beginning of the classes she had often run across a problem with some men who didn't praise enthusiastically enough, and some women who had a problem with any form of correction whatsoever. By the end of the sessions, the men were usually praising their dogs with the best of her handlers, and the women had come to realize that no cruel form of correction was ever used in the class and they could relax. While the dogs learned a lot of commands in the ten weeks, they also played a lot of games and had fun.
"Maybe you can practice your praise when you're alone with Sandy," Mrs. Peterson said. "Some people find it a little embarrassing to praise effectively when they're in public. You'll find while all dogs respond well to praise, collies are particularly sensitive, and they'll do just about anything for you if they like you and want to please you."
"Too bad you don't teach your classes in the summer," said Dan. "Where am I going to go to get Sandy used to working around other dogs?"
"You can start right here," said Mrs. Peterson. "These three should provide enough distraction for awhile. Then, when you think she's getting solid, you can work her at the dog park. What you want to do is have a short training session, and then allow her to run and relax as her reward."
"I have that dentist's appointment tomorrow morning," said Dan, "but I could take her to the dog park in the afternoon. I could take a plastic bag full of liver with me, and I'll bet she'd come if I called her."
"No way," said Mrs. Peterson. "You can't take her off-leash in public until you're sure she's totally reliable. She has a long history of not coming when she's called! You can take her for a leash walk, though, because I'll be taking Rory to the vet's to see about his arthritis so we won't be available to work with you."
"She was awful the last time I took her for a leash walk," moaned Dan.
"Well then, she's got lots of room to improve," said Mrs. Peterson philosophically.
"I'm used to walking with well-behaved dogs," said Dan.
"You don't think they started out that way, do you?" asked his mother. "I've never met a pup yet that was born knowing not to chew on shoes, or jump up on people, or bark inappropriately. As for running free, the important thing to remember is that once you've trained your dogs to behave, then they can be allowed to have some fun because you know you can trust them to come back."
"Well, I sure wish old Earl had spent a bit of time training Sandy," said Dan. "Now I'm the one who's going to get to look bad when I take her out."