Can't teach young dogs new tricks, either
s an avid outdoorsman, I usually have a dog or two, or sometimes three, with me. We may not be hunting or hiking, but the dogs enjoy the outdoors as much as I do. I try to take one or more with me whenever I am going to the farm. The only one tha...
s an avid outdoorsman, I usually have a dog or two, or sometimes three, with me.
We may not be hunting or hiking, but the dogs enjoy the outdoors as much as I do. I try to take one or more with me whenever I am going to the farm.
The only one that concerns me is Duke, the mastiff. He is a fine-looking specimen in the back of the truck with his face flapping in the breeze, but I get concerned when he is around water.
We have had a couple close calls when Duke has been in water over his head. The dog can not swim. We have a lot of ponds on the farm and dogs naturally go into them to get a drink or just to cool off after a run. It is scary to see a giant dog floundering in water just a few inches deeper than he is tall.
I have attempted to give him swimming lessons. This is not as easy as a person might think. The water is still extremely cold, so I am not going swimming with him. Even if it was warm enough to go in, I am not so sure I want to swim with a dog that might panic at any time and attempt to sit on my shoulders to save himself. He weighs as much as I do. I am a strong swimmer, but not that strong. We have been working at fetch the stick, just a little farther out in the pond each time. He seems to be developing the basics of the doggy paddle.
Sunday was warm and sunny. The grass is green and growing with great abandon at the cabin. Since my wife loves to mow and I will use any excuse to not have to paint the front of the house, we decided to load up the dogs and go mow at the farm. It was just too nice of a day to waste doing household chores.
It took only a few minutes for the dogs to figure out my wife was doing really boring things like mowing back and forth between the cabin and the beach. I, on the other hand, took off on the tractor with the brush cutter looking as though I was going someplace interesting. All three dogs followed me.
I drove up the dam, across to the other side along the hill and up to the top gate where I turned around came back to where I started. After one round, Dulce, the poodle, figured out I was going back and forth, just on a longer pass. Before I started the second lap, she went over and laid down under the big oak tree. Coty, the Lab, and Duke followed me faithfully. Coty usually ran down to the pond and swam about a bit as I went across the side hill and would catch up on the return. Duke followed closely, every step of the way. About the fourth lap, Duke decided to go down to the pond and get a drink.
A mother goose has been nesting on the island. Though he was near, I knew he would not bother her since he would have to swim from the dam to the island.
What I did not know was her mate was sitting quietly in the grass at the bottom of the dam. Duke almost ran over him as he plowed through tall grass heading for a cold drink. The gander honked and flew a short distance out into the lake.
Duke, ever the hunter, took after him intent on catching dinner, for himself, if not for the rest of us. In three giant bounds, Duke was in over his head. My swimming lessons must have resounded with him in his time of need. He took out after the goose with feeble dog paddle motions.
Apparently, this was not the first time the old gander had been attacked on the water. He recognized weakness and came at Duke with full fury. It was at that point I decided I might not be able to teach a young dog to do much more than a feeble dog paddle, but that goose did a remarkable job of teaching him to swim and to swim well.
Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.