2001-Wed Dec 07 11:24:56 EST 2016
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
It took nearly a year to convince my husband to consider
adopting another dog after the death of our
dearly beloved Old Man Doug. “How does never sound?” was his usual answer to how long before we adopt. He needed time to
grieve and I needed a
dog while I grieved. One October afternoon, we ended up at an adoption event where we spotted Ranger Boy, sitting there, taking it all in.
His official documents say he’s a terrier/hound mix and was approximately a year old. Ranger Boy, who looks like Pete the Pup from
Little Rascals, scooted close to me and then flipped on his back while I scratched his tummy. Later, I realize he knew darn well he should be on his best behavior.
On the way to the pet supply store, we decided to change his name to Hank. The only history we had was that he was rescued from a West Virginia high-kill shelter. Hank seemed liked a good Southern boy name: solid, with a country music twang and a theme song about inheriting bad behavior. Little did we know then how prophetic that would be.
Well, hello, Hank! The trip to the pet store went well. He chose his own bed, and we stocked up on food, bowls and what the clerk said was a top-of-the-line crate.
Things were dandy until his first walk. In his defense, he probably had never been on a leash, in a city, on a sidewalk or even on a walk. He is 35 pounds of pure predator instinct. The minute we opened the door, he launched himself into the world,
dragging me down the sidewalk as pedestrians scattered in terror. “Hank!” I yelled as he treed a city squirrel, jerking me halfway up the tree with him.
It took both my husband and me to pull him back home and into his crate. We needed a minute to think. The next thing we knew, he destroyed the crate, peed on the floor, ripped the squeaker out of his new toy and looked at us expectantly. Next?
The adoption contract states you have seven days to return him to his foster home. I didn’t have time to sign up for obedience training. I had a week. And it wasn’t about the refund; it was about making sure Hank had a good adoption chance. I shuddered to think of the new description on the pet website if we did return him: "Through no fault of his own, Hank was returned to foster care."
We needed a professional evaluation. Pronto.
I hauled him to a respected local trainer. “You got a terrier,” he says, reminding me how he advised I stay away from terriers and hounds. (I don’t take advice nearly as well as I give it.) The trainer bent down and talked to Hank and they went for a brief walk. He declared Hank not only trainable but also a good
dog. Of course, I would have to do my part in the training process. I signed up for six weeks of (expensive) personal training.
The biggest obstacles to
walking on a leash are the dastardly city squirrels. Hank’s prey drive is so strong he would dash across the freeway after a squirrel. He would drag me to my death for a squirrel.
This is not my first squirrel dog rodeo. Doug was a
country squirrel dog who actually lived in the country, and the squirrels were rightly terrified.
But in the city, dogs trot alongside their owners, sit at the curb and I swear, they watch the lights turn before
heeling neatly across the street. The squirrels are not at all afraid. In fact, they have spread the word about the new kid on the block. Now, they come at us in group, chucking nuts from trees, chattering, taunting and just out of reach. “Hey ya Hank, come and get us!”
Miraculously, after six weeks of dedicated
positive reinforcement training (and trunkfuls of liver treats), Hank heels nicely on a leash, will sit, stay and lay down upon command.
He is also learning to control his instinct to murder squirrels. That extreme effort is almost painful to watch as he trembles and whimpers at the sight or smell of them.
“Oh, Hank,” I think. You were born to run in fields and hunt for
birds and varmints. When you twitch and cry in your dreams, you're dreaming of forests and hunts, not sidewalks and poop bags. On the other hand, you are alive and part of our pack now. It’s probably not what you dreamed about, but it’s going to work out just fine.
More on Vetstreet:
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
We combed through 505,270 kitten
names to determine the hottest male
and female monikers of the year.
We scoured our database of 1.1 million
dogs to find out which male and female
monikers reigned supreme this past…
Christmas trees, fatty foods and other
seasonal items may bring cheer to your
home, but they'll cause harm to your…
Dr. Sarah Wooten takes a closer look at
this curious sleeping habit and what it has
to do with canines’ ancestry.
The Kromfohrlander is said to be
descended from a mixed-breed dog
who was a mascot for American troops.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.