When Molly Met Sally

Sally the Goat was not particularly impressed when I brought Molly the Bitch home.  One can hardly blame her. She has not had a good interaction with dogs until now.  She was very suspicious, and clearly at first could not figure out what to do.  Normally if a dog was around she would come and stand beside me for protection.  But here was a dog in that very position and I was not doing anything about it.

Molly, on the other hand, was very interested in Sally.  At first I could not be sure how it would go, and I stood by ready to intervene. But it was soon apparent that Molly wanted to play.  It was also apparent that Molly is not as mature as I thought she was.  She still exhibits puppy play tendencies.  The problem is that puppy play is mock aggression  and Sally doesn’t know the difference.  Sally decided , bravely, not to run but to meet the problem head on. Literally.  Goat style.  Butt.

This delighted Molly who dodged the horns nimbly, and clearly thought she had found a new sparring partner. I watched for a short while until I realised I did have to intervene before things got out of hand.  Molly was determined to play hard and Sally did not like it.  I was not sure whether Sally’s courage would turn to panic.  I did not want her injuring herself trying to flee.  She won’t get through the fence again since I repaired it.

A short, sharp, angry sounding “No Molly!” was enough to call the dog off.  She responded immediately.  She only wants to please me, and does not want me cross.  I just had to keep an eye on them for a while. If Molly forgot for a moment and approached Sally to play, a quick word was all that was needed.   Since Molly was spending all her time with me nearby, keeping an eye on her and teaching her how to be a companion dog rather than a community mongrel, it was no problem for me. Molly goes where I go for now.  I was not going to leave those two alone until I was confident Sally was safe.

By the third day, it was quite apparent that Sally had figured out her protected status. Goats are just as smart as people say they are, and as science has confirmed.  Now she was actively taunting Molly by occupying any territory Molly might consider “hers” for the moment, such as in the vicinity of her food bowl.  A few more sharp commands and Molly got the message. Leave her alone.  She too is a quick learner.  I was actually able to leave them alone and unsupervised together  this afternoon while I had a wee nap. There was no barking and no bleating.

There is quite a lot of training to do with a dog such as Molly.  Even the best cared for community dog is not treated the way we whitefellas treat our pets.  Never having been allowed inside a house before, she is not house trained.  She has never had a bed.  She slept wherever she could find a comfortable spot.  Having had to fight for her share of food amongst  a pack of seven or eight dogs, she is greedy and ready to scavenge.  She chews things.  That can be costly if she picks the wrong thing.  The best way to accomplish the necessary training is to keep her company all the time, watch what she is up to, and intervene. Luckily my job allows me to do that.  A sharp word is all that is needed when she transgresses because she is so desperate for my approval.

So Molly has already learned not to get on my bed or on my armchair, not to forage in the kitchen rubbish bin (though putting some laundry powder in it as a deterrent helps) and hopefully soon, she will know not to chew my stuff. In the meantime if I don’t want it chewed I must keep it out of reach or keep her in view and tell her off when she tries.  Her one toilet mishap in the house was my fault. I was not paying attention.

The biggest mistake anyone can make when training a dog is to hit them, especially if they have just come to you in submissive posture. The posture means they already know they have transgressed.  The strike they receive seems to them to be for the last thing they did, that is, for coming to you.   I learned this many years ago when I was training my German Shepherd, Mach, who became an obedience champion.   It did not take me long to get control of Molly by voice alone.  When she does something wrong, a sharp word makes her stop whatever she is doing and come to me.  Then she gets praise and a scratch behind the ears, or a cuddle.  The sharp word teaches her that what she was doing displeases me, she has been distracted from doing it, and her relationship with me is positively reinforced.  Of course it does require one to be alert. Dogs can always find new mischief.  Even as I was writing this, Molly left her position at my feet and grabbed a pack of paper kitchen towels from the pile of things I don’t have room for in the cupboard, and was about to start chewing when I called her back.

I gave her an old punctured football this afternoon.  She left it outside. I had better go find it.

It’s only a box with a blanket and a bit of foam, but it is MY OWN BED!

Author: Uisce úr

Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass, And pluck till time and times are done, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.

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