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Titles, toileting and treats

When I went to Good Citizen training classes with Buddy we met a lot of new people and dogs. Which was great for us both. Except that I'm not very good at recalling names, and suddenly I had lots to remember. The other problem I had was that many of the owners I met had given their dog a traditionally human name, which just added to my confusion. So I had not only to memorise Tara and Katie, Ellie and Sally, Nick and Harvey, and Connie and Sally, but I also had to remember which was the dog and which the person.

In my case I feel I was much kinder to my fellow handlers, as it was fairly clear that Julie was me, and Buddy was the dog. I've lost count of the times that I've had to apologise for calling the person by the dog's name. I realise that many of you reading this may have bestowed a very human name on your canine, and I have no wish to offend you. I also acknowledge that there is a growing trend to steer clear of names associated with dogs - Fido, Rover and so on - and move towards more individual names. But please, I beg you, particularly if you're going to attend training classes, make it easier on those you will meet and don't call your dog Lucy or Kevin, or similar.

Our dogs have proper (again no offence intended to those who bestow human names on their dog!) dog names - Buddy and Star. They are good dependable doggy names that I don't feel embarrassed about calling out at the park. Star has recently been displaying some funny behaviour while at the park though. She has always had a tendency to lift her leg when weeing, and lately this has become more and more pronounced. She can't always keep her balance on three legs, and the result is that she lifts her leg, then drops it quickly to the floor to steady herself, only to whip it back up into the air, then within seconds it touching the floor again. It almost resembles a John Travolta style disco dance.

She has also taken to backing up to stumps or posts and trying to lift her leg to mark them. I don't know if it's because she is an assertive little soul or because she has lived her adult life with only male companions (and indeed had two brothers in her puppyhood!) so she just thinks that's how it's done. She is the only bitch we've had, so I have nothing else to compare it to. Do you have a female who insists on lifting her leg to toilet? Is it a Bichon thing? I have to say that even if I never get to the point of understanding exactly why Star has developed the habit, it's just one more of those things that endears her to me.

Talking of Star's strange habits, her attitude to treats is another odd thing about her. Buddy, like all Labradors, is very food motivated. His dinner is gone in a few gulps, while Star takes time to savour hers. Although savour might be the wrong word, as she never attacks it with relish. She also has very particular requirements when it comes to treats. She doesn't like crispy or crunchy, she likes chewy. And it has to smell right before she'll take it into her mouth.
Her tastes are incredibly fickle too. A treat that she has happily accepted on one day will be unceremoniously rejected the next. Treats offered at the start of a walk will be turned down, but later on when she is tired and hungrier she will munch them eagerly. It is not unknown for her to turn the same treats down again later in the same walk. It makes motivating her during training very difficult, so it's a very good job that she is so motivated simply by her love for Jenny.

Does your dog have such particular tastes in treats? Have you found anything that's a sure fire hit? Again - is this a Bichon thing?

While I mull all this over Buddy and Star are gently snoring on the sofa beside me. Complete with their funny behaviours and their steadfastly doggy names, they snooze happily while I write and think. They accept and get on with life, while I think and try to work it all out - is that the contrasting canine and the human condition defined? I'll try and work that one out another day.

Take care,

Julie x


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