Trains With Squirrels


In the spirit of the movie, Dances With Wolves, I’ve decided to call myself by the Indian name, “She Who Trains With Squirrels”.  I’m finally moving my lazy, retired derriere outside to the back two acres to train my dogs.  That means I must compete with one of the worst outdoor distractions a Border Collie can endure, the dreaded tree rat.  In Oregon we had to deal with gophers, who pop up through the lush grass at outdoor obedience rings.  Yes, that has happened to me, right at the ring entrance.  It was only a match so it was very funny.  My Golden Retriever thought it was the best dog show he’d ever attended.  Here in Florida we don’t have very many outdoor shows so the squirrels are safe from a deluge of canines near their nests and thoroughfares.  My back yard though is their domain and my dogs are intruders.

My dogs all know what I mean when I say the word, “Squirrel”. It is their cue to run to the base of the trees to bark.  Now, early in the morning in May, the back yard is a prime place to train for the obedience ring, using the tree rats for distractions. The older Border Collies can tune out the squirrels while they are working, since toys, balls and treats are more tangible at that particular moment.  And I must say no squirrels run across the ground while I am training. Maybe they are fascinated by the training?  Little Catcher has not learned my lesson to ignore the rustling in the trees above while I’m working him.  I’m finding he can be motivated by a tennis ball though. But this is something we are working through.  Which has the higher value, the thought of actually catching a squirrel or me?  For the record none of my dogs have caught a squirrel since I moved here in 2008.  Only Levi caught a rabbit one night and delivered it to my hand, which I thought was pretty darn smart of him.  River, now a few weeks shy of his twelfth birthday, has had ample opportunities to catch wildlife in the back yard.  He seems to get right up to the squirrel or rabbit and not have a clue what to do at that point. The fun is in the chasing, not the catching.  As a side note, he is the same way when he comes face to face in the house with my cat, Essie.  He barks, the cat sits there and stares at him and he walks away, disappointed.  “What the heck”?  He seems to say.  That’s why squirrels are so much fun.  They run away, go up the tree, down the tree, jump over the dog’s back from the tree to the ground and seem to skim over the grass, slipping through the holes in the wire fencing into the neighbor’s yard.  It is entertaining  to watch the supposedly dumb squirrels out fox the dogs.

I’m sure there will be more temptations to distract the dogs while training in my back yard. Florida has a bigger assortment of wildlife than what I encountered in Oregon.

You notice I don’t call myself, She Who Trains With Snakes.  Nope. Game over. I’m grabbing the dogs and going inside.  To quote the Indiana Jones character in the Raiders movies, I hate snakes!