Another Training Walk with Teddy

The new Halti setup wasn’t great at first, but after I reprimanded Teddy, he was ready to surrender and found it was no big deal. The lighter leash and connector were good, too, but strange for me. I’m really NOT used to NOT feeling a dog at the end of a leather lead. This one is a type of climbing rope with what I would call an “ornamental” carabiner as a clip. Ornamental in that no climber would use it as a life-saving or life-preserving climbing tool. It’s good for this, though.

He’s (as is his breed) a very observant dog. He’s seen me walk back to the car placing my hand on Bear’s back or her head. I realized today he’s trying to make that happen with him. The problem is he’s too little. He keeps kind of jumping up to reach my hand which is annoying and, for me, confusing.

I was trying to figure out what he was after, and it hit me. Given the impossibility of my walking with my hand on his back or head, I just stopped every 20 steps or so, had him sit, and petted him. That’s good for him and for training. By the time we were on the last leg of the return, he was walking perfectly at heel like it was the most natural thing in the world. I’m sure he doesn’t realize how absolutely great that would be for him down the road and how it could enhance his social life.

Two cars went by. Teddy was pretty good — a lot better than with the old non-Halti system.

This transformation isn’t going to happen overnight, but I’m glad we have commenced it.

Teddy and Fall Update

I might be a little achy today, but it’s essential to carpe the diem, so after lunch I put his regular halter on Teddy and then the head collar. He was VERY happy, sure we were going somewhere. I soon took it off. Then I took my time getting ready for a walk having learned he would sit still for me to adorn him in his new control apparatus. The regular halter connects to a “seat belt” in the car and Teddy recognizes it as his “coat.” “Put your coat on” means we’re going for a walk.

When he was a puppy, I tried the head collar, and he wouldn’t have anything to do with it. He did what a lot of dogs do; he pulled at it with his front legs, tried to rub it off on the ground, and generally STOPPED walking with it so I gave up. Today was completely different. He’s not a puppy anymore; he’s a mature dog of 4.

I made Bear stay home since this was going to be Teddy’s Day to Learn, Dammit! My goal was to take him to his favorite place to his favorite walk and show him nothing would change except he’d have a head collar. It was a good strategy. For a while, at first, he tried to get it off but all the good smells tempted him away from that and pretty soon he was just walking along as usual except that when he pulled, the head collar made him turn around and look at me. I’ve long understood that when Teddy is under the spell of “the wild” his mind empties of everything else.

When I took other dogs to puppy school in days of yore, “Watch me!” was the first command they learned. That’s what you want your dog to do; know you’re there and pay attention to your commands. Since I long ago quit commanding dogs around, I didn’t emphasize this with Teddy.

Bear didn’t need to be taught and Huskies don’t learn it. I also think living with Huskies made me a lazy dog owner. They are what they are and it’s pretty much take it or leave it, and, like Huskies, Bear is less mastered by her human than she cooperates with me. Teddy is another kind of dog completely and I haven’t had one like him in a long time — if ever. He’s incredibly smart. Dusty was the last “normal” (and he wasn’t normal) dog I have had. Bear and I did obedience school together, but after that, I used the head collar with her. I knew her by then and there was no reason for me to command her around. She responds much better to a soft voice saying, “Bear, walk with me,” than she did to “Bear, HEEL!” I now know that dogs of her type are just like that. Their whole mission in life is to keep everything calm so they can recognize the enemy if one appears.

Yesterday showed me I had to get on the ball with Teddy. By the time we’d gone 1/4 mile, Teddy got it. The thing about the head collar is that if he pulls too far ahead, the collar will turn his head back toward me. He loved that. It was as if everything that drew his attention away from me happened but then, to his surprise and joy, he found me again. Only one other dog in my experience reacted that way to the head collar; Persie the Sweet Pit Bull.

We had a wonderful walk; slow, because I’m achy, and my knees hurt, but peaceful and successful. A car came by and Teddy was no problem to control. I’m proud of my little dog for learning so quickly.

Who Owns Whom?

Took the dogs out this morning. I had hoped to take Bear by herself, but Teddy the little tyrant strategized me out of that. How? He’s just a dog, right?

Yes, but he’s an Australian shepherd. Here’s what he did…

1) He sat in the living room like he understood it was just going to be Bear, I had told him to “stay,” and he knows the command.
2) He didn’t come near me while I was leashing Bear, leading me to believe he was a Good Boy;
3) When I opened the back door he was OUT. He had to have FLOWN the 20 feet from the living room to the back door.

From there? He ran into the garage. The door to the yard was open. He hid until I opened the back for Bear to get in. He jumped up. I just looked at him and said, “Get into your seat,” and, to my surprise, he understood that sentence. It’s very hard to get a harness on a Napoleonic dog who is in the car and afraid you’re going to pull him out and put him in the house.

One thing for sure; you cannot be vain about your intelligence when you have a dog who’s smarter than you are. Grrrrr…

My Smart Little Dog

In other news, I took the dogs out on this spring-like day (grrrrrr) for a walk. I’d hoped only to go with Bear but Teddy is smarter than both Bear and I. On the first half, Bear walked beside me while Teddy pulled to the left and smelled things and left his own smells along the way. On the other half, Teddy decided to walk beside me at heel on my right — Bear’s side. Noticing this, I loosened my hold on Bear’s leash and let her ramble and smell to my left.

To my total amazement, Teddy walked at heel on my right the whole way back, allowing Bear to sniff and pee and roll in the snow. He has learned this ON HIS OWN and decided to do this BECAUSE HE WANTS to. Until now, if Bear was going to get a slow dog-ramble, I had to take her by herself. I can’t let each of them walk loose-leashed because they are pretty powerful together and will find things to fascinate them that are in opposite directions. 😀

I’m so impressed by the intelligence of that little guy. As we walked along he kept watching me to be sure he was doing it right. It’s not like I didn’t teach him this; I did but this is the first evidence I’ve ever had that he remembered the hours of training back in 2019 when we had more opportunities. He seems to have put the whole thing together and determined that if Bear gets to ramble and sniff on our walks, he gets to go every time. He discovered the appropriate compromise.

The Fruits of Consistency

Things are always relatively relaxed around here. Even Teddy — who’s pretty energetic and wound up — is a very chill dog. I’ve been realizing more lately what a great dog he is. I’ve experienced life with a lot of puppies and how — until they’re about 3 — they’re more puppy than dog. Teddy is almost 3 and he’s turning into a very responsive, intelligent little guy. There are some things I think — because of his breed — he’s never going to “learn” such as heeling on the leash 100% of the time. I don’t really care if he never learns that. He’s never going to stop being over the moon when people he likes come through the front door (including me). Every breed of dog has a behavior blueprint in its DNA. I guess we do, too.

All dog trainers stress “consistency” when training a dog and that is the most important thing, keep doing it even though the dog doesn’t seem to get it at all ever because there will be a moment when suddenly your dog “understands” what you’re asking. Teddy has reached that point and it’s wonderful to watch, to participate in. Lately he’s been responding to hand signals without my ever having taught him to. When I saw him do that the first time — and it was a complex “sentence” (Come around the table and you’ll avoid Bear) — I realized how much attention he pays to everything I do, looking for messages. Since then I’ve tried a few more signals with him and it’s amazing. One signal is as if I were happily wagging my tail at him as he is happily wagging his little nubbin of a tail. He wags his tail even faster and smiles. Another is a silent call with a “come here” gesture either with my index finger or my whole hand combined with raised eyebrows, “Come and get a cookie.” I never “taught” him these things. Val, from “A Different Perspective,” said Australian shepherds attempt telepathic communication with their people. It is something like that — but not just from him to me but from me to him.

In all my 20+ dogs, I’ve never had a dog like Teddy. If it’s not his turn for a walk, and I tell him to stay, he stays. I am not sure — but it seems — he stays in the same place the whole time I’m gone OR returns to that spot when he hears the car (which is actually cooler).

I’ve now taken both of them on a walk together — a big relief for all of us. I waited until the injured shoulder was indisputably as good as it’s going to get. Bear walked perfectly at heel on my right the whole time. Teddy trolled the edges of the road for smells. It was as if Bear knew that, with the little guy along, she needed to make my life a little easier.

Yesterday I had to take Bear to the vet for her shots. I always hope there are no other dogs when I arrive with Bear, and I was lucky. We had the waiting room — the entire practice — to ourselves at 4:45. Bear doesn’t like unfamiliar things and she didn’t want to climb onto the scale so I got on with her then hopped (ha ha) off quickly. She gets a lot of attention at the vet because she’s so unique. There are not many Akbash dogs around and most of them are farm dogs that roam the countryside with their sheep. If they are vetted, it’s at the farm. Very few are pets. I love watching people meet her. She’s so gentle and calm. She stood quietly while the vet examined her and gave her the shot which made me feel a little proud of myself for having made a point of “examining” her often when she was a puppy. I could just imagine a vet trying to examine a giant livestock guardian dog who was unwilling to be touched.

I think dogs are great teachers for the universal truth that every other being on the planet is a separate self and doesn’t automatically submit to our will. From living with multiple dogs at once, I’ve learned a lot about that from watching them together, establishing their boundaries with each other, usually ultimately amicably, sadly not always. I seen them adopt each others behaviors and form packs of dissimilar beings just to live together because that was the reality of their existence.

Quotidian Update Update

It’s been a weird few days but after a wonderful walk with Teddy, and all the helpful comments on the post I put up this morning, I realized there’s nothing I can do about “those people.” I don’t even have to understand them. And, while I’m not a praying person in the usual sense, this is the time for it. Someone or something with more influence than I will ever have is going to have to bring home the point to “those people.” It’s not my job. Anger and bewilderment over them is just a waste of my life.

On our walk today, Teddy had a great time with many splendid smells and I enjoyed the comparatively cool breeze. The same three cranes (I’m pretty sure) I’ve been seeing flew over us. Later on, I watched a young bald eagle carry out a successful hunt. Lots of raptors right now as they’re migrating south.

Teddy would like everyone to know he had a great time.

“That was great, Martha.”
“I think so too, little guy.”

The featured photo is one of the larger ponds. The cattails right now are so pretty. This is looking southwest.


I was driving home from the shelter with Teddy, I’d just gotten him, ostensibly to foster (ha ha) Eric Clapton started singing from Mohammed’s Radio. Little Teddy, still with his puppy coat, sat in the seat next to me. Teddy is absurdly friendly and manically alert. He was hiding his nervousness (fear?) in a little coat of cuteness. For some reason I started singing along with the radio, and Teddy’s little ears perked up. He cocked his head, he looked at me. I put my hand on his little head and I kept singing. In the back of my mind were the words to the song. Promises. I’d just made one.

How had Teddy — the cutest smartest little dog ever born — ended up tied up and abandoned outside a convenience store? Who would not want him? I thought of the nice lady who’d rescued him and then brought him to the shelter in case someone was looking for him.

I didn’t know it, but only a few weeks later my 15 year old barky black dog, Dusty T., would have a stroke, and I would have to put him down. I didn’t think that in Teddy I was bringing home a pal and a job for Bear who was going to mourn that big black dog as much as I would. I didn’t know any of this.

Teddy took to Dusty right away and Dusty protected that little dog when he thought Bear was playing too rough. Here’s a video of Dusty protecting his little “son”, hopefully, you can see. I couldn’t download it from Facebook 😦

As I drove home, I kept singing. Teddy clearly liked it. Now, I always turn the radio to some soft rock stuff when I’m in the car with Teddy and if it’s humanly possible, I sing.

Pretty Day in the Big Empty

The sky is clouded over. The smoke has dispersed. The wind is blowing from the west. Drops are falling. The temperature is cool. Teddy got a new harness as a present. Clearly the imperative is a jaunt to the Big Empty.

It was lovely. No dramatic photos, but this beautiful primrose was blooming by the road and Teddy is, of course, superlatively cute.

Walking with Teddy is a different experience from walking with Bear, but it’s still fun. He’s alert in a completely different way and his method for showing his happiness is as over-the-top as his personality. He just stops in front of me, stands on his back legs, wraps his forelegs around my arms and looks at me in adoration.

For that he gets a big hug.

No cranes today, but HUNDREDS of Canada geese moving from pond to pond.

I also found a huge nest fairly low in a cottonwood tree. I’m pretty sure it’s a magpie nest since they LOVE the four or five trees that line the road in one spot, there was a male in those trees in the spring ACTIVELY begging for love last spring. and photos on the sagacious Internet look a lot like what I saw. Like this…

Today we heard a truck coming and turned out it was driven by a friend. Seeing friends in these times is just incredible, and that should remain the case when this bizarreness is over.