Sunday, October 30, 2005

Farm dogs vs Town dogs

They're actually like two different species. For the first 20 years of my life, a dog followed you around with a wagging tail and a panting tongue, but never wore a leash. He knew which cars to bark at and which were ok to allow in the lane. He didn't leave the property, and I don't know how he knew that, except that he followed the tractor back and forth across the field. Most of all, he always did his pooping on the barnbank. In 20 years, I don't ever remember stepping in a pile of dog crap.

Imagine my disbelief when I moved to a the only nasty street in a fancy affluent town on the lake shore, and discovered on my walks that people were actually--get this--following their dogs around with plastic bags! I mean, I was grateful, once I did finally place a foot in a steaming pile, and didn't want that to keep happening! I just couldn't get my head around it. Didn't these dogs know that you should have one place to poop? Then I looked around and realized that I was being unrealistic. There were no barns anywhere, let alone a barn built into a hill where the dog can do his thing. Poor dogs. Poor humans.

Now that I've been a reluctant townie for 14 years I've learned a lot about dogs. You have to teach a townie dog to walk on a leash. That's for the neighbours. You might know that he's not going anywhere but you have to make everyone else feel better. You can't go anywhere without a plastic bag. You have to have a fence around your yard, because for some reason townie dogs don't know where their property ends.

And, most townie dogs do not have a doghouse. You know why? Because the house is their house! Of the four dogs we had in my youth, only one was allowed in our house. For about two days. Then my mom got really sick of mopping up his messes and he took on his rightful position in the barn, in a nice little bed of straw right beside the farrowing sows, where it was warm and dry.

As I type this, my first housedog is snoozing on my lap. He's also my first small dog. In fact, he's the first dog I've had that doesn't have any German shepherd in him. Like me, he'll spend much of his life in two worlds. At our real home, acting townie, and our second home, running through the pasture field like a maniac.

I just hope he develops one solid farm dog habit: we have been taking him, all five days that we have had him, to one specific spot in the backyard to do his binness. I want all the dog poop behind the shed, not in random places all over the back yard.

Because I grew up on a farm man! All the excrement was contained and you never stepped in it unless you were intending to, and had the footwear to deal with it. I asked my old man how he trained the dogs to poop in one place. His answer?

"I don't know, I don't remember. I don't think I trained them specifically to do anything. I just expected them to do what I wanted."

So I hope that kind of gentle hick dog training technique works on my lap dog. Whether or not my puppy will feel the need to follow a tractor remains to be seen....

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