By Scott Hunt
The Dog Grumbler
I HAD a lucky break.
A client acquired a new puppy and I get to help raise him.
I’m embarrassingly excited for lots of reasons.
For a start, I get to give him back — like grandchildren.
Not that I don’t enjoy every minute of his company, but the short timeframe gives me much more control over events, sequences, rituals and olfactory overlay.
For a while each time we meet, I can control the things he experiences and the smells he sleeps on.
He won’t forget what we did and will take up where we left off next time we meet.
Secondly, I get a boy in my Wednesday crew.
He’s not been neutered yet and the three girls in the crew seem to sense it and treat him differently — like a prince.
He accompanies his new grown-up step-sister and she is principal tutor, but the kelpie and the poodle are teaching him too.
They behave like aunties, ignoring him as he climbs over them, biting ears and lips with needle-sharp teeth.
He’s just 10 weeks old and imprinting, so I can help set him up to be a great dog.
We go lots of places and smell things — short trips, short walks, short stays, short rests.
Then home to sleep on it.
When I click my tongue the three girls react and form up.
When I take out my car keys, the three girls fall in line and head for the car and when I open the door and say, “Hupt!”, they jump in.
The pup needs help with the last part, but he wants to jump.
The clicks and the keys are sinking in quickly as he relates them to the responses of the others.
We meet lots of well-behaved dogs in places that smell of happy dogs and relaxed people.
We wait patiently in the car because the boss always comes back soon.
We play with balls and each other and his step-sister chases the pup down like a rabbit and throws him on the ground.
She takes his head in her mouth and holds him there and when she lets go, he charges back for more.
This part of his schooling is largely over my head; it’s dog business and tied up with scent and hormones and protocols he needs to learn.
It’s taught in his language — the one they used in the litter.
I will show him cats and horses and chickens and sheep and alpacas in the company of these calm, wise adult dogs and navigate footpaths and intersections and busy streets.
He will learn much more from them than from me.
I will be facilitator, as we all show him how to behave.
To be a dog in a human world.
We’ll try to include bicycles, prams, lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners, hoses and sprinklers, people in hats.
These first few weeks after a pup leaves the litter can make or break a dog and way too many people blow it because they never thought to ask.
They just wanted a dog.
They thought they could buy a good one, but it doesn’t work that way.
A puppy’s head is like a big blank slate where memories imprinted early are writ largest and nothing gets erased.
A pup needs to learn the right things in the right order at the right time in the right way and for some of those things, nothing beats the company of other well-adjusted dogs.
Nobody can be a perfect owner or trainer for every dog, but anyone can take care of some obvious things early and give a pup a good start.
It’s a wonderful thing to be part of and too many dog owners miss out.
And way too many pups never get a chance.
Too many dogs miss out on an education during the vital weeks of their imprint period and grow up to be misfits.
Not this one. This one hit the jackpot.
So did this dog guy.
You bet I’m excited.