Friday, June 3, 2011

The Rules

Every house has rules.  Businesses have rules.  Heck, every social interaction has rules, whether you consciously think about them or not.

So.  Life with a dog also has a lot of rules.  Most are for safety's sake.  Some are for the sake of convenience.  Many are a matter of preference.  As an example, some people don't want dogs to lick them. I don't mind and Jim doesn't mind.  So, Elka licks.  She has so much tongue to share, after all!

I already discussed that Elka is allowed on the furniture.  She must, however, move over or get off if one of us says so.  She may not have a stuffed kong or a pig ear on the couch.  If she has a rawhide, she must chew it on a towel.  

The tennis ball in the back yard rules are reasonably simple.  When Elka gets the ball, she must return to me with it, and either put it in my hand or drop it on the ground.  We will not play tug with a tennis ball; she gets three "mistakes" on this, and then we're all done.  

The long leash in the park rules are similarly simple.  No pulling, keep moving, come when I call you.  Recalls on the long leash are particularly fun:  I will whistle, or call Elka's name, and crouch for her.  She runs at me as hard and fast as she can, her ears turned sideways like airplane wings, a big doggy grin on her face.  The reward for recall is that I let her go back immediately to what she was doing (typically).

Walking on the short leash is probably what has the most rules of our day.  When I put that back on after our long leash foray in to the park, I tell Elka that it's time to "be civilized".  On the short leash (the current one I use is wide, four feet long, and braided at the snap and at the handle), Elka must be loose leash beside me.  We aren't competition heeling, nor are we likely to ever be, and so I don't mind if she occasionally sniffs, so long as she keeps walking.  No lunging at things, be they passers by, dogs, or fire hydrants.  No surging ahead.  Sit when I stop.  Take treats gently  (my thumb can attest that sometimes treats are too exciting for care to be taken.  We're working on that)!  If a dog is barking, be it in a yard, in a house, or on a leash, I say "On by" and we walk on by without pause  (this is also  not perfect, but improving!) 

 Lately, I've noticed that many people seem to take a perverse pleasure in their 20ish pound dog barking at my 77 pound dog, and I'm not sure why.  Perhaps the person thinks their dog has a lot of spunk, or perhaps they think of the saying "It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog" or something similar, but there are some things I feel they should be taking into account.  First, excessive barking is a nuisance to humans, stressful to dogs, and a person may receive a ticket from the police for permitting it to continue.  Secondly, if my dog is three times your dog's size and dog aggressive (Elka is not), your dog might end up dead.  Thirdly, a good percentage of those small yappers are in fact very afraid.  For whatever reason, the dog owners do not pick up on fear body language in their own dog, and I feel sorry about that.

Because I am the primary cook in the house, we do also have kitchen rules.  If I drop food, Elka may not immediately seize it, but must wait for my okay, if I'm inclined to give it.  Not everything that I cook is okay for dogs to eat, and I also don't want her racing me to pick up a dropped knife or similar implement.  She may not counter surf (and has only once in her life; she ate a tiny corner from a block of mozzarella cheese, without disturbing anything else) and she may not take from peoples' plates.  If she does these things, she may not be in the room.  In the household, Elka does very well and requires little correction, and she's gotten better and better on the leash, especially after I began using the clicker.


  1. Hi Elka! You're a pretty doggie! I'm so glad I stopped by to meet you. :)

    Happy Friday woofs & hugs,


  2. Well thanks very much! And thanks for reading ;)