Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ad hoc training of Ridgebacks in San Jacinto

When I was still working I lived in Garden Grove which isn't as congested as NYC but much more so than San Jacinto.  In those days the dogs and I didn't walk, we jogged.   I spent a lot of time jogging with Trooper and Heidi.  I used normal collars and leashes and a stout belt holding up my trousers.  I would hold their leashes in my left hand, grab hold of my belt with it and off we'd go.  If my left hand got tired I would switch to my right.  If they winded me, I'd slow them back down to a walk, but as often or not Heidi or Trooper would want to stop to sniff something before I got winded.

But in San Jacinto when we can't make it down to the river (because the days are too hot down there), we do walk on leash.  There are no good places to jog, at least I didn't think so – at least not with dogs.    The streets and sidewalks are poorly lighted and poorly cared for.  There are lots of things to trip over which I discovered to my rue.  Also, I developed some eye problems.  In short, I injured my left arm at some point and had to change my philosophy a bit: no more chasing after rabbits or squirrels while I had hold of the other end of the leashes.  

I learned to snap the leashes.  Ginger gave up pulling almost immediately, but Sage was more intense.  But even she gave it up after awhile.  Rabbits and squirrels can now run by in front of us with nary a quiver from Ginger and only a bit of one from Sage. 

What Sage may do now is push the envelope – out on a dark night on an empty farm road when there is an interesting smell or sound up ahead.  I don't mind her walking out front and I don't mind a bit of eagerness, but there is an imaginary line which she sometimes crosses.  So she gets a refresher snap on her rump – sometimes two.  As I said, she is intense. 

Susan, as I may have mentioned is a slightly built lady who at 5' 6" never got above 125 pounds.  It was Susan who insisted on a "big dog" and eventually selected the Rhodesian Ridgeback.   She took Heidi and later Trooper to training classes so she could handle them.  She did use the pronged collars and choke chains at different times.  And yet Trooper got so good with her that she could have walked him off leash if she'd had a mind to – in busy places with people and other dogs passing by. 

So if you are a strongly built fellow who likes to jog or hike then formal training may not be important.  But if you are a lightly built lady who nevertheless wants a powerfully-built dog then you must allow yourself and your dog to be trained.  I never went through the sort of training Susan did, but I often went with her to the classes and saw what she put herself through.  She was a very committed lady and perhaps that level of commitment is necessary. 

I must add, however, that the Ridgeback was not my choice for Susan.  I was still working in those days and wanted her to have a protective dog while she was home alone, but good grief there are many protective dogs much smaller than the Rhodesian Ridgeback.  So my initial advice to Susan (which she rejected) was to get a medium sized dog that is also protective: A Standard Schnauzer, Irish Terrier, Airedale, Boxer, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Sharpei, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Puli, , the Welsh Corgis

But Susan would rather go through the pain (both physical and mental) of training a large energetic hound than endure the presence of any of the "ugly dogs" I listed above.


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