These are the mornings you dream of when you think of moving to Vermont. About four inches of fresh, fluffy snow, bright sunshine, not too cold, and a puppy who wants to romp in the snow. Yesterday was a morning for snowshoes, and Miss Cassandra and I tramped up the field and back, stopping from time to time to do a little work on her “Come!”
The challenge in training for long recall, the experts tell me, is that you have to be more interesting to the dog than anything else in the area. Roast beef works for us, larded with heavy praise. The technique I was taught is to say “Come” only once, stand still and wait for the dog. It’s okay to talk encouragingly, but you don’t keep saying the command or the dog’s name, which are loaded words. When the dog does come, you give a really good treat and praise for a full thirty seconds, which can seem very long when you actually do it.
It is only one command, but Cassie is doing well with this one, better perhaps in the open field than in the back yard where she wants the freedom to roam the yard outside the fence or to visit next door big dog Jake. We are having our little clashes of will over the back yard, but I intend to win, since the big payoff is knowing that Cassie is safe from traffic and pedestrians and wildlife. The big, wide world is no place for an unattended dog.
Toby and Max got very good at recall, with the result that I could take them anywhere and know how they would react off leash. I want Cassie to have this freedom, too, a freedom earned by good manners. So a few times a week, off we go to work on manners.
Yesterday morning, though, did not feel like work. It was sheer joy to be outdoors. This may be the most ideal snowshoe conditions I have ever experienced. Tramping along, feeling long muscles stretch and sunshine on my face, I was a happy girl. If anyone had seen us out there at the back of my neighbor’s field, they would have seen a figure in black and red, striding in time to the iPod, with a furry streak loping lazy circles around me. They wouldn’t, of course have been able to hear me singing along, “You can’t always get what you want….but by and by, you get what you need.”
We might even have danced a little, snowshoes and all.