Yesterday will be a day that I will remember for a long time. It was the day that my cute, little, blond Border Collie, Bodie, went from being a quiet submissive puppy to a teenager, complete with hormones. When I had trained him the day before, he was compliant, energetic and eager to engage with me in our training. Within twenty-four hours he had developed a mind of his own.
Each training session begins with play. Bodie doesn’t care what kind of toy we use to play tug. He loves to bounce and twist and growl (softly). Like any game it has rules, my rules. The dog must release the toy when I say “out” and more importantly, must not re-engage until given the word to tug. Bodie is learning the release from playing tug, although it isn’t easy for him since tugging is something he could do for hours. The second rule, not grabbing the toy back into his mouth without permission, is coming along, slowly. I like to keep all my fingers and don’t like to be surprised by sharp dog teeth grabbing at something in my hands. I certainly don’t like having to hide the toy or hold it up high away from him. At that point he has to earn the toy, a concept he is learning. So he follows me as I hold the toy and move around the room as I set up for formal training. When he does an exercise successfully he gets the toy back. He does what I want and consequently, I give him what he wants.
The tug game, followed by working, was coming along smoothly until yesterday. For the first time he did a stand on voice command only. So there I was patting myself on the back that my smart boy had learned a hard exercise. And there was Bodie thinking, where’s the darn toy? I asked him for a sit, a drop and another stand, at which point he stood and then jumped up on me. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that he had changed. He was telling me how to play the game, that he wasn’t waiting for the toy, and that furthermore he wasn’t even working for the toy. He was demanding the toy. “Oh, really,” I thought. When he was finally allowed to play tug his engagement with it was more intense. I knew then and there that Bodie had gone to the dark side, to the rebellious teenage months. Let the fun begin.
Sure enough when we went inside Bodie “offered” behaviors that told me he had decided to take control of the house too, that is, if I allowed it. He is now counter surfing (which will earn him a shot in the head from a water-filled squirt gun), and he’s chewing on things he usually left alone. At no time did I get mad. He’s testing me. My job is to teach him that he is not alpha dog, head bitch or whatever PC name one gives a newly hormonal puppy.
So the question is, the joke, the contest I’ve suggested to my friends, is guess how many months I can hang on until he’s neutered? I’d like to wait until he’s 16 months old. But if he gets too brash then off he goes to the vet’s office. The safety of the pack is the most important determining factor to an earlier operation.
There’s another part of this newly acquired need for control. He may soon test the recall across the yard, which would be a shame. Bodie is one of the best dogs I’ve owned and trained for coming when called. I think that’s due to the fact that we have a good, strong bond. He has always followed me around the two acres, or at least kept me in sight. He is really a good dog, intelligent and loyal. We just need to get through this year without me getting more grey hairs or losing my patience. Then again, I have Razzie to help me. She is the keeper-of-the-peace, my assistant, keeping the pack in control. Every dominant female needs a head bitch to back her up and that role goes to my smallest dog.
Watch out, Bodie. You don’t stand a chance against Razzie and I. Bring it on, sweet boy.