12 October 2009

The Routine of Boot and Sock Duty

Now that I am feeding horses every day, Molly has the regular job of removing my boots and socks when I come back in. She actually seems to thrive with the job, loving that she has something that she has to do. It is probably the border collie need to work in her.

The advantage of this is that her skills have improved significantly and she's gotten quieter in the process. Removing a tightly-fitting pair of jodhpur boots is not exactly easy task. Having no hands with which to do the job does make it more difficult.

Molly firmly grasps the heel of my boot with her teeth. The heels are soft enough rubber to allow her teeth to sink in and get a good grip. She then backs away pulling it off, often struggling to hold her footing on the slippery floor. I give her a treat or two after she hands me the boot.

Before going onto the next boot, she removes the sock from the first foot. She's very careful when getting a grip with her teeth to avoid nipping my toes. She then backs away pulling it off. Again, Molly is treated when she hands over the sock.

The entire process is repeated on the other foot.

Shawnee has learned that if she sits quietly and stays out of Molly's way, she also gets a treat. I'm very relieved I no longer need to tell her what to do. When she was younger, there were often problems with her getting in Molly's way or trying to help when she didn't know what to do.

We have actually decided it is time to start teaching Shawnee retrieve. We started the other night at my in-laws without clicker. The dogs were little bit bored so we set Molly to work retrieving my keys and handing them around. To activate Shawnee as well, we took turns holding the flashlight on my key ring and encouraging her to take in her mouth. She did so several times despite it being metal.

Yesterday, I dropped the strip of leather that I use when punching holes with a thonging chisel or awl. Molly was occupied somewhere else, but Shawnee was immediately at my side. I pointed at the piece of leather and told her take. It took her a few tries and little encouragement, but she finally picked it up gently in her mouth and raise it high enough for me to be able to take it from her. Of course, she was showered with praise from both me and DH. This is a big step for her, because she is not good at returning a toy to our hands. Part of the reason I actually want to begin retrieve training her is the hope that it will pay off in a play fetch.

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