Lest ya’ll think I neglect my husband and son at the expense of my horse and trailer, I also have a dog. At six months old, Benny is well on his way to being a solid citizen, both in training and in build. I now make noises every time I pick him up (he weighs more than a 50 pound sack of feed) and because he’s usually some combination of wet and muddy. Benny is 100% Labrador, in that his happiest place is in the nearest body of water. His daily rituals consist of watching me pee, waking his boy up, and licking the shower walls once we’re done. There is no such thing as “too wet” weather with this dude. Thankfully I have finally, at 32 years old, found the correct combination of footwear and outerwear to keep me comfortable outside with him in an Oregon winter.
I had some hesitations becoming a puppy owner, I knew going in there would be struggles and just a ton I didn’t know, but friends and books and Benny himself have steered us well so far. Advice I took to heart included getting enough exercise every day, but also instilling an off button; having a multitude of safe chews to choose from at all times; being borderline obsessive about potty training and ensuring he goes out often enough; and buying training treats by the bucketful. Stumbling blocks have included sleepless nights (months past us at this point thankfully but vividly remembered!); his occasional skepticism towards vehicles; and his 100% recall…in that he’ll come back to me when I ask, but if he’s not on leash about half of the time he’ll go see whatever catches his fancy, usually people. Cyrus truly spoiled me on this one. We could work in the front yard or the garage and he’d never budge from his spot in the yard or on the porch, no matter what temptations walked by. Benny cannot help himself, and I do have a tie out for him, but that usually ends with him just sitting and looking pathetic.
Other than not bolting, our current training focuses are working on “hold” or “wait” before galloping after a toy or treat, heeling, and more equine exposure. One nice day when I have ground support, I’m going to ride around the orchards or my friend’s neighborhood while Benny is off leash and see how Benny and Tarma do. She tolerates him and hasn’t shown any aggression except for one time he sniffed her supplements and she gave him mare face, but no teeth or hooves were involved, and she’s ridden with other dogs on trail just fine. We’re still a long way out from a trail ride together, but we’ll get there in stages. My friend also cobbled up a long Velcro leash for both our dogs, that if pulled just right (for instance, if a horse steps on it) it disconnects without injury, and is long enough to be handled from the saddle, so I also have to work on introducing that concept to Tarma before I put Benny on the other end of it.
Now, could someone tell me how a lady with a mild dog bed buying addiction (Cyrus, at one point, had no less than 10 beds scattered between house, vehicles, and trailer, plus a special one for camping), ends up with a dog who has yet to once sleep on a dog bed? Benny huffs and digs in kennels until he’s on the bare pan, sleeps on the couch or dramatically throws his body down somewhere on the floor, making half the house shake. I have two, not one but two different types of bed in the office, and no amount of treats or bribes gets him to stay on them very long. Also, if anyone has any tips for drying off said Labrador other than constantly doing loads of towels (I swear, the Lab requires more laundry than Kade the toddler did!) I’d appreciate it!