Monday, December 8, 2008
Mina's ancestry solved, a new device used
It's been another dogful week. But then, a lot of life is more interesting now; it's not just go to work, cook dinner, go to sleep. This little critter is a big part of our lives. And we just learned a bunch of new things about owning her.
When we adopted Mina, they told us she was a dachshund/lab mix. Being that kind of person, I've been looking at photos of "dachsadors" or "doxadors" (or, dear me, "labraweenies") online to see what her mutt-mates look like. And without exception, that mix seems to result in a stumpy-legged dog. Mina, though, has proportionate legs to her size; she looks like a half-sized coonhound. For a while I was convinced she was in fact a German Pinscher, which is a match for coloration and size.
Finally I contacted the woman who had been fostering her before we adopted her, and asked if she had any more information on the pooch's ancestry. She said she'd contact the previous owners and ask what they knew. And sure enough, in a couple of days we had our answer.
Turns out the hound is a mix of beagle and springer spaniel, with some dachshund thrown in the mix as well. The beagle part made a lot of sense to both of us; we'd always both thought she seemed "beagley" in a way. And she has a cute, funny "aoww wow owww" noise she makes when she's playing that you can imagine coming from a beagle hot on the trail of game.
All three dog breeds in her lineage are bred to hunt, and are nose-oriented and can be stubborn. And my girl is sniffy as anything, and loves to chase and tree squirrels like it was her job. One of the unfortunate results of her hunting passion is that she does tend to pull on the leash when we walk; so much so that her foster mom only ever walked her on a harness. We'd trained her to be pretty good on a regular collar, but there still have been some frustrating walks when she insists that she wants to go smell that thing over there right now! And pulls like a sled dog to get there. Or stops to smell and digs her heels in to resist going any further on the walk until she has a good snootful.
We'd tried a lot of things to get her to stop pulling so much, but recently, I had an interesting conversation with a dog-loving friend about his experience with the dog he and his husband own. The prong collar did the trick, he said. Dog pulled once, realized that wasn't going to work, and has been good ever since (or something like that).
Now, I'd been sort of conditioned by various positive training sites online to think that prong collars (aka pinch collar, or more kindly, training collars) were the equivalent of a dark ages torture device. That guy in the DaVinci Code movie used one to punish himself, right? You don't do that to a dog! But hearing the results my friend had, I decided to do some research on my own. Turns out that prong collars are actually more used, and considered safer, by most trainers than choke collars. The prongs are supposed to simulate the teeth of the momma dog on a puppy's neck, gently reminding it to knock that behaviour off. I went to the store and bought one.
Still, I worried. Would she kill herself by driving the spikes into her throat? I wrapped the thing around my leg, on the skin, and gave it a few hard yanks. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt much at all. I had to really pull hard to feel any real pain. I put it on Mina and we started off...and the first time she lunged ahead, she didn't even get any real leverage on the leash before she backed off and fell back next to me. And sure enough, we had a two mile walk with almost no pulling at all...just a tiny bit, which she immediately stopped each time. I felt as though my dog had been switched out with some sort of super-trained special companion dog! We had a nice, relaxing walk together, her trotting along happily by my side, and me grinning like an idiot most of the way. It was lovely.
The second walk was just as good, and I think we've got ourselves a solution. The true test will be when she sees her very favorite dog in the world, little Quincy the teeny yorkie who we often meet on our walks. She could pull a sumo wrestler along in her attempt to get to her friend, as much as I want her to approach politely. I will be interested to see whether she can do that next time Quincy appears in the distance.