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Archive for December, 2013

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Little Bear hates having a bath. He’s not unusual as I suspect most dogs dislike our penchant for making them sit in warm water while shampooing away all those delightful doggie aromas: mud, stinky puddle water, poop (LB loves the fox variety but will settle for cow pats at a push) and his particular favourite, dead stuff. The day he rolled in a long dead rat is still chillingly fresh in my memory as is the sight of him swaggering home, proud as punch not realising that six baths would be necessary to rid him of the stench.

Bath time blues
Little Bear is now six so I’d sort of resigned myself to the fact that bath time would always be a necessary evil where he turned on the puppy dog eyes with the occasional shiver for good measure and I ended up feeling guilty.

Positive reinforcement
As a big fan of positive reinforcement I’ve tried using toys and treats over the years but he largely ignored the toys and took the treats with a reproachful ‘this isn’t working you know’ glare.
So imagine my surprise when yesterday, LB jumped into the bath on his own!

Bath time Bear
We’d been out for a long forest walk and he was really muddy. But as he’d only had a bath last week I decided to let the mud dry and brush it out. Bear though had other ideas.

While I was hanging up the towels in the bathroom he trotted in, rested his nose on the bath and wagged. Then came the cute over the shoulder look to see if I was looking and another wag. I quietly closed the door, usually a cue for him to dart out of the room, but he just stood there wagging at me.

Now LB loves chasing stones in the ford and over the summer he’s been playing in a paddling pool my mum found for him. He’s so obsessed with the stones I’ve got a handful in a jug in the bathroom in an attempt to make the dreaded bath time more bearable.

I picked up the jug and before I could do anything he had jumped into the bath! What’s more he was wagging fit to bust!

Needless to say he got his bath but not until we’d played stones for a long time – it seemed only fair after he’d asked so nicely!

Lessons learned
Yesterday reminded me of an incredibly valuable lesson: never underestimate the power of a positive reinforcer – they work, but they’re often not the things we think they are.

(Please excuse any formatting issues, I’ve had to write this on my iPhone as he’s fast asleep on my lap and looking way too cute to disturb!)

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Annie the Labrador with two toys in her mouth

A bit blurred because she wouldn’t keep still long enough.

This will be Annie’s fourth Christmas with us. The drama that surrounded her arrival is still so vivid in my mind that it seems hard to believe it was more than three and a half years ago.

The shut down, terrified, flea ridden dog that wouldn’t come out from under the dining table for three days is thankfully, nowhere to be seen these days. To say that she’s blossomed is an understatement of grand proportions.

The real Annie was in evidence yesterday as my mother arrived for Christmas. The dogs excitement was so off the scale that I have thought about not giving them their Christmas treats this year but instead sticking a bow on ‘grandma’ as by all accounts she’s all the present they need.

To see Annie take her new soft toy then steal Little Bear’s too and refuse all of his attempts to take it back was such a joy.  That she was enjoying her new gift was obvious by the frantic wagging, but to us it was a sign of just how far this girl has come.  There was a time not so long ago when she’d only take a toy to please you, but obviously had no idea what to do with it.

As Dog Rescues all over the country brace themselves for the influx of the Christmas puppies that will, with depressing predictability, be dumped upon them in the weeks and months ahead, I hope anyone looking for a dog will first consider a rescue. A dog like our Annie who far from being broken, just needed a chance to be loved.

Annie the Labrador with her new toy.

And so to bed. Annie and her new toy.

 

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