Embracing our Desperate Dogs and their special ways

We have another twelve acre field in Braselton, about a mile from the ranch, that we use to run our own dogs and those rehab clients that need recall work, or hunting breeds that need to get excited about life again after abuse situations and sometimes just to do specific exercises to build trust.
This morning, I was up there with my own dogs, enjoying the slight nip in the air, when Nelly my ten year old male weimaraner, came towards me with a bit of a fresh carcass in his chops parading it like it was the trophy of all trophies and settled down to chomp it. I was talking on the phone to a friend of mine who about barfed into her coffee cup when I told her what he was doing, and I explained to her that he’s a hunting dog and this is what he needs to do. My only problem with it was that Nelly, when he does this, doesn’t want to give it up until its finished and if we aren’t at home when this happens, I can sometimes have to settle in for a long wait….lol
The reason I wanted to share this story this morning, was because first of all, it highlights the differences of perceptions and value between us and the dog…to us, its a gross, vile thing that we might be inclined to take off him so he doesnt have dried animal blood and guts around his chops when he gets home. To the dog, a born hunter and scavenger, its Godiva chocolate, gift wrapped in a box, Christmas, birthday and Easter bunny all come at the same time!
Nelly seriously thinks when I approach him and he has something like this in his chops, that I really want it for myself!
Years ago, when I was new to this dog business, I used to think that I had to exert my authority over my dog and take what I wanted to get from him just to prove that I am the pack leader/ head honcho/ Billy Big bananas…..These days, unless its not something thats safe for him to have, I accord my dear friend Nelly the respect of allowing him to enjoy the moment, to savour this great delicacy and to feel like a great hunter with this well earned prey. Yes, I can take anything off him if I choose to because I have trained him using the ‘fair exchange programme’ whereby he gives to me, so he gets something great in return. But a carcass that he’s found or killed in a field? Well, thats a huge deal and of humongous importance to my dear ole boy, so I let him enjoy it without even getting involved.
I don’t go too close to him when he has these moments so that he doesnt feel threatened but of course, there comes a time when he have to head home, and instead of chasing him, calling him, threatening him when he won’t come because he is jaws deep in a jaw bone…what do I do? I go back to the car, turn it on,  rev it up a little bit so he can hear it, and head for the field gate.
This morning I got as far as the corral before he dropped the carcass and came bounding after me, panicked that I was going without him. I stopped the car, opened the door and in he jumped, thankful that I hadn’t left him behind. I was able to do this because we have a ten year relationship of love, trust, friendship and respect. This dog is like a brother to me…….and I am like a mother to him. So, when faced with the difficult choice of tasty carcass or cuddles on the sofa this afternoon, he chose to leave the carcass. Great relationships with your dog don’t always come easy, they don’t come quick sometimes, but are so worth taking the time to build, because you can then call on that relationship when you really need it, knowing the dog will make the right choice.
Enjoy your Sunday and spend lots of quality time with your family, including the four legged members!
The above was posted originally on http://www.facebook.com/desperatedogsusa on October 28th 2012

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