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Saturday, March 14, 2009

More than a huntin' dog!

Photo: Chance (on the left) is a welcomed and well mannered visitor for Kosmo and Lizzie Manning.

Chance is a German Shorthaired Pointer, 5 years old. His master, Dusty, is an old friend of ours from Yakima. Chance and Dusty took Leadership Class back at Manning Dog Training when the dog was about 5 months old. After that, they took intermediate and advanced obedience courses, rally obedience, and even agility.

Dusty's had several Shorthaired Pointers in the past, and he knew they could be a challenge. Their drive to hunt is so great that many times they can focus on nothing else. They can be bundles of quivering, nervous energy just waiting to point a bird. Dusty knew he wanted more out of this dog than he'd gotten out of his others. He wanted a companion, first and foremost...a companion who could peacefully share his home, accompany him on hikes, get along well with his friends' dogs, and--oh yes--hunt!

The two of them came to visit us here in Montana for the weekend, and this morning I told Dusty that Chance was the nicest Shorthaired I'd ever been around. When I say something like that, the compliment is meant for the owner, not the dog. Our dogs are entirely what we make of them. It's the owner who determines what his dog is going to be like, and the training requires countless hours and effort. But it's so worth it when you have a dog you can take anywhere...a dog who has manners in someone else's home!

Dogs like Chance have well-rounded educations, and that's what makes them nice to be around. Just like people, an accumulation of varied knowledge, from varied sources, makes for a better rounded individual who's better able to deal with life's varied circumstances. A Pointer doesn't have to just hunt. A Bichon doesn't have to just cuddle. An Australian Cattle Dog can do more than just herd. A bloodhound can do more than sniff. They can all do agility, obedience, therapy work, and even weight-pulling. With varied experiences comes confidence. With confidence comes poise. With poise comes a relaxed, balanced dog who can live a full, enriching life.

Whatever skills you've already taught your dog, practice them every day. Strive to teach new skills and introduce new experiences with regularity. Sign up for a dog class or a new dog-related activity. Your dog will become welcome anywhere and, like Chance, will be a perfect house guest who's an absolute pleasure to have around...even when it's not hunting season!

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