Dog trains man

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Week Under The Wings of a Guardian Angel

Soon after our Norway trip we unexpectedly found ourselves traveling to Holland and Germany again.

On such short notice we could only rent a tiny cabin in a very busy park with a lot of off-leash dogs. A perfect scenario to totally freak-out Viva, and I didn't want to find myself in a situation where I had to have her locked up in a car and a cabin for a week or more.

Unable to arrange something that would accommodate Viva's reactive needs, only me and Kenzo therefore left for the trip.

I thought that some serious one-on-one time would be excellent, and Kenzo would enjoy my undivided attention. At least in the evenings, during day time he would come with me to the office. Of course, that was not how events unfolded.

When we arrived at the busy park, the tiny cabins were almost build up against each other. Luckily we had the last one in a row giving us a forest view on the rear of the cabin. Our direct neighbor had two dogs that barked continuously. The paths between the cabins, campers and trailers were a myriad of excited kids and the occasional off leash dog - not allowed but nobody seemed to care about that.

Keeping an eye on the path at all times
Normally Kenzo would have marked the cabin as his territory and barked at anything approaching that I could have missed. In stead, he looked curious at his surroundings, kept a good eye on the two barkers next door - which even barked more because of that. In the late afternoon we went on a trip to the beach. While navigating through the park, dodging kid's toys and passing lunging dogs behind fences I was proud of Kenzo. He was on his best behavior, and ignored all the disturbances.

He bullied a couple of off-leash, "in your face", adolescent male dogs, that made a rude attempt for a greet, accompanied by the obligatory "my dog is friendly !" from an owner somewhere. Apart from these instant lessons in dog etiquette, he kept stiff on my side and ignored all the park could throw at him. How differently would it have turned out, I thought, if Viva would have been with us.

When we made it to the beach I started to worry. It seemed he didn't want to play fetch or swim. Which is very odd as he usually goes ballistic when we are on a beach. This time, he didn't seem to seek his high. When I sad down on the beach to look at some kite surfers and waiting for the sun to set, Kenzo laid down as well - picture on top - and kept his place. Again unusual. He didn't seemed depressed, or sick for that matter, at all.

I was puzzled. We done this before. He can handle new places. We just returned from Norway, where he seemed to find so much pleasure in exploring his new environment. Continuing our beach walk, while trying some fetch again, I noticed he did play when the ball was within approximately 5 meters from me. Any longer and I could get it myself. I went for a swim. Kenzo followed.

So those were the new rules. Kenzo, recognizing that the family not being with us was odd, decided to keep me under his wings. Keep an eye out, not to leave my side whatever the temptation, and make sure I was safe. He appointed himself as my guardian angel for the week. And he would keep on doing that until we got home again. Nothing I could do about it. When Kenzo decides - like a Hovawart -, he takes his own decisions in situations like this and is determinant as well. The Born Protector.

Stranded in Germany
Fate was not finished with Kenzo and me. Driving back home after a week in Holland, we stranded with car trouble in Germany - so much for the new Hovie Cruiser but that is another story.

Suddenly my newly self-appointed guardian angel was driving on my lap in a tow-truck with a strange driver next to us. Found himself in a car repair shop with loud noises, visited busy hotel lobbies and stayed in a hotel room with lots of sudden sounds on the hallway and adjacent rooms. Kenzo just got very busy.

I helped him as much as I could, "It's Ok", "Nice person coming". And when he is alert and vigilant, I better make sure to tell him that, or an unavoidable arrest would be carried out - fast and accurate.

So far, Kenzo hadn't barked the whole week. That's a first. Neither did he make an arrest. The "It's Ok" kept him re-assured we had everything under control. But it meant I had to be as alert and vigilant as Kenzo at all times. And that my friends, is wishful thinking.

I crashed together with Kenzo on the outside restaurant of the hotel. A nice couple came in and sat down on the table next to us. They had a Dachshund that barked a couple of times. We don't know of what. Kenzo remained balanced, sniffed a little from a distance, and ignored the Dachshund. We were having a conversation in German and I was so excited with this opportunity to brush off my German I got carried away.

The thing is, for Kenzo a waiter has always been a little like a mailman. They come straight at us, he barks, and they go away. At least he thinks. Who can resist such a reinforcer? I knew that of course, so the first times the waiter came at us, "It's Ok" had the expected effect. After a couple of times he accepted the waiter. Talking with the couple, I let my guard down. Kenzo barked, and came forward about 1 meter, although I had him leashed. The volume of the Hovawart bark silenced the whole restaurant and I noticed from the corner of my eye, another waitress with my appetizer's was standing behind me, now shaking and looking very worried. Kenzo seemed to have a proud smear on his face like he was saying: "There is one you missed dad!".

Doing my best impression of a responsible owner, I took Kenzo to our room and returned to the restaurant without him. Made a couple of jokes to the persons with the most worried faces, to diffuse the situation, and made an apology to the waitress - plus she got a huge tip, that instantly returned a big smile for the rest of the evening. The waitress took it good, "He takes good care of you". She was spot on, and described my week in a nutshell.

That was the only time he barked that week. Still amazingly well done. Especially for a Kenzo on high alert. For me it was a whole new experience to see Kenzo so focused on his task. It is kinda nice as well, to be appointed the center of the universe, by your dog. Albeit for a week. We closed the week off with a reunion coming home. It was heart-warming to see how Kenzo and Viva greeted each other with excited squeals and ear-nibbles, and first when they were done, they said hello to my wife and me.

I wonder how that would have made Kenzo feel of himself. Not wanting to give him human feelings and reasoning, I do think he must have been pretty proud of himself. Bringing dad home and reuniting the family. The first thing we did, was play some fetch, and indeed, the 5 meter barrier was broken.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kenzo & Viva On Walkabout

We've been Walkabout. That means, according to the alternative - of the alternative - definition: "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian Aborigine Hovawart as an occasional interruption of regular work".

Our first adventure together. A long way up, all the way above the tree-line, on the tundra of the "Hallingskarvet" National Park in Norway - this link has a 360o panoramic view of the "Hallingskarvet" area.

From the tundra, seeing those white patches of snow on the moutain ridges, it was hard to resist knowing Kenzo's birthday was coming up, to get even higher and get a taste of winter wonderland. After all, we are on a Hovawart Walkabout and it was Mr. K's B-day.

So we did. And in the midst of summer, Kenzo re-united with his best-friend-forever. They cuddled and hugged like there was no tomorrow.

Trying to reassure him this was what they called eternal snow so he shouldn't worry it to melt any time soon, possibly only made it worse. Kenzo was not leaving.

I think it was only the thought of missing out on actually swimming in water that was not frozen, that lured Kenzo down towards the valley with us again.

Crossing those wide plains with sights that seemed to never end, I couldn't have wished for better partners. Although I was equipped with a map and a compass, as a regular human with a goal, Kenzo & Viva showed me it was much easier to just let go and follow their lead.

They were home. They tracked the trails. They spidered for prey and what was alive around us. They found the fresh water creeks where we could enjoy a break. The masters of the walkabout. I would only need the map and compass to find our way back to the cabin - glad to have at least some of the responsibility delegated back to me again.

They didn't found a lot of obstacles on their way. Where I needed help of improvised bridges to cross the wildest of waters, they just swam across.

Kenzo surprised me even more when he guided the way through a rocky river bed, jumping from stone to stone. Was this the same dog for which the obstacle course in our tracking class was his weak spot?

I wondered if I had created Walkabout monsters? Would it ever be possible to return to the dullness of living under a roof again?

They balanced those two life-styles very well. Every day, like real Sofawarts, they crashed on the sofa of our rented cabin. Renewing their energy for the new day to come.

We had a tent with us, but I think it was good for us to rent a cabin where we could spent the night, so we they could relax and regain energy.

Viva did so well. She never got issues with the spondylosis in her back, and she could keep up with our pace easily.

I kept Viva on a 3 meter leash at all times - dogs must be leashed in Norway during summer anyway - to prevent her from running or jumping. She did excellent. Nothing could keep her down and she walked for miles and as long as there were hours in a day.

I just made one terrible mistake that will always be remembered and never forgiven. Soon after we came home they got a good ... bath.

Not the ending they expected. A whole week of rolling in fox-poo and other fine odors, going literally down the drain. Thanks dad. We demand another Walkabout.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hovawart TV: Obedience Is Fun

Hovawart Maya showcases that obedience can be fun, and all you need is a toy or two:


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The King is dead. Long live the King

Today is a day of mixed feelings. One of my favorite dog blogs, Will My Dog Hate Me, with Wonderdog Frankie and his muse Edie Jarolim, is closing shop.

I am horrible at saying good-byes, so I am glad I don't have to, as Edie is starting up a new blog. Freud's Butcher, where Edie will take us on a journey through her family roots, going back to the days in Vienna where her great-granduncle was Freud's Butcher.

And I am sure we will not miss out on hearing how Frankie is doing. There is still Facebook. But I am going to miss being challenged, questioned and enriched by Edie's and Frankie's regular contributions to the pet community. Always providing a different angle, another view, and more than I care to admit, changing my opinions.

Whatever the subject, it was always brought with a smile. I never left without a laugh. And what I learned on Will My Dog Hate Me, got me off my butt too. Like traveling more safe, and applying BAT to get Viva more social with other dogs.

Wishing Edie the best of luck on her new voyage. May it bring all that you expect and more. We are looking forward to your new blog and book, and already know it is going to be just as exciting, if not more, to follow you along this new road. The King is dead. Long live the King.
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