Rob's Blog Archive

October 25, 2015

All’s Well That Ends Well










Motor Man had had one owner and not a lot of contact with other people.  When Steve died, he was left alone.  Matt warned me that Motor Man was a bit aloof, but warmed up to him.  I figured that moving, being with different dogs, and having a different owner would make warming up to me take longer than it had with Matt.  That said, I was also going to run him on a team in his familiar wheel position the next day.  It might take longer, but it would happen.

I remembered that Shoshone, my shyest dog, wasn’t sure about me until he went out on his first run.  After that, I was cool.  Of course, Shone had been in the yard for months and that yard included dogs that he had known, including his dam.

Less than 12 hours after Motor Man arrived at Silly Lake he was pulling an ATV with my A-Team.  My m.o. is to let all the dogs I’m running off of their tethers, then walk over to the gangline, call each to his or her spot, and then hook him or her up.  With this all being new to Motor Man, I took him on a leash over to his spot at wheel.  Harnessing was familiar and some of his tension went away as I did this.  The run itself was also something he knew well.  Aside from the fact that, as a sprint dog he never trotted---he’ll learn---he did great. 

After the run, I again took him by leash to his platform, stopping along the way at the water bowls I had laid out.  I wasn’t sure if nervousness would keep him from drinking.  It didn’t and he enthusiastically gulped down the water.  I then walked him to his platform, hooked him up, and gave him his treat.  This done, I proceeded to call each of the other dogs to their platforms and give them treats as well. 

I had run the A-Team late and decided not to run the B-Team.  Instead, I’d let everybody out for yardtime that evening.  With Motor Man’s being new to everything, me included, I figured I’d let him run with everybody else, but with a leash attached.  It would still be a risk, a smart dog with a leash can keep me from catching him close to indefinitely, but it’s a lot harder than if he has no leash.

Yardtime started well.  Motor Man came over to me several times.  His postures were submissive---he just laid down---and I did use it as an opportunity to pet him.  With this, I decided that, even if he didn’t come right away when I called him, he would come quickly.  So, I took off the leash. 

Between then and when it was time to get all the dogs back to their platforms Motor Man continued to follow me, albeit with a little distance.  I was able to slip him a treat.  With that, particularly, I figured I was set. 

There are two reasons hooking dogs back up goes well.  First, they are getting back to their houses and these do make them feel secure.  Second, there’s a treat involved.  Most dogs are amenable to bribery and while, if the choice was between freedom and a treat Siberians would often choose the former, yardtime is in a fenced yard and nothing like a real walkabout.  In that case, his or her house along with a treat generally wins.  And so, starting with Prudhoe, I began to hook dogs up.  I wanted to show Motor Man what this was all about, being back at his home as well as getting a treat. 

Cameo, Kennicott, Quid, Lolo, Gaiya, and his neighbor, Omaha, all happily came.  Then, “Motor Man!”  He came, but not close enough to grab, either by slowly reaching or a fast grab.  I tried for a few minutes, used every tone of voice I could from sweetness to command tone, and got no difference in response. 

I tethered the rest of the yard, Mitzi, Tok, Tempest, Fondue, Lamia, Daisy, Murphy, Sybil, Thor, and Shoshone, then closed the gate to the play/hook-up yard, Motor Man in the main kennel, and tried again.

Actually I tried pretty much everything I could think of.  That included letting a few dogs off of their tethers and back out into the play yard where Motor Man had come to me and I had taken off his leash.  Throughout this, he’d come and take a treat, but he never came close enough for me to catch him.  I got everybody back into the main kennel and all the other dogs back on their tethers---they did each get another treat.

I’m not totally sure this wasn’t something of a game at the start, but I think he realized quickly that it wasn’t.  If it had been, he would have given up.  In time, I realized I had only one choice and it wasn’t one I was happy about.  I’d have to run him down. 

The reality is, if he and I ran similar distances, I wouldn’t stand a chance.  Even at a three or four to one ratio of his distance to mine, he’d eventually win out.  My edge would have to be mental toughness.  Keeping him a little stressed by chasing him and never letting up would be my only hope.  I’ve always said that one of the reasons I can do well with dogs is I can out persist them.  That proclamation was about to be tested.

I would have liked all his initial experiences at Silly Lake to have been positive.  Chasing him down would nicely set me up as the alpha, but it would also be stressful for him---that is how I’d get it done in the first place.  I didn’t like the choice, but I saw no alternative.

And so the chase began.  I’d jog and run across the yard, he’d run near its perimeter.  Occasionally, I’d change directions a bit with the goal of forcing him into rhythm changes and making this more stressful than plain old laps.  Still, he was a racing dog in his prime and I’m a human long past mine.  All I could do was continue to pressure him psychologically as well as physically.

I don’t know how many miles we covered, but an hour and a quarter later, it happened.  He ducked under Mitzi’s platform---she’s dug a pretty nice den there.  I reached under and grabbed his front leg.  He didn’t object and I was able to pull him out.  He had submitted.  I grabbed is collar and let go of the leg, walked him over to his platform, hooked him up, and gave him his treat.  He submitted and I accepted and I wanted him to know that, with that, he was still my Motor Man. 
Since that first yardtime, I’ve kept a leash on him and that’s worked well.  He is learning to trust me and that I’m actually a pretty friendly guy.  During yardtime, he frequently sets himself up for me to scratch him, which I do.  Dog runs too---he’s had seven in less than two weeks---have gone very well.  He even understood immediately that the water he was going to get was in the bucket and three bowls I had walked him past that first run---he definitely prefers drinking from the bucket to drinking from a bowl. 

One change I have clearly seen is that he spent most of the first few days here under his platform.  Now, he happily relaxes on top of his dog house.  I always knew I would give Motor Man a great life.  It’s less than two weeks since he arrived here, but I think he’s figuring that out as well. 



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