We have a year and a half old Australian Shepherd mix named, “Paul”. Dogs have always been part of my life since I was born into a family with a beautiful Boxer named, “Duke”. Our dog family has come and gone over the years from German Shepherds to wire-haired Dachshunds to Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Cairn Terriers and Labs and now finally to our most recent addition of “PePa”.
I’ve never had an Australian Shepherd before, but I was aware that the breed was known for being smart. Paul was a little over 3 months old when we brought him home from the pound. We knew we had a happy, bouncing pup but also realized that he probably should have come with his own herd of miniature Alpaca Goats to herd. Referring to his being ADD-like does not begin to cover his energy coupled with a quick attention span. My husband and I both failed our obedience classes (respectively). We just didn’t make the time (or have the energy) to put into the homework training for our little guy. I often apologize to Paul that I don’t have a ten year old child that he can go with to bounce and play!
With that said, we are finally getting used to each other now (we go on lots of long walks!) and Paul is paying attention to commands and words so much so that I have to pay attention to what the heck I’m telling him (i.e. saying, “go get your chew toy” while on the commode to make him go away will only invite him to actually go get his chew toy and bring to the bathroom and await for my next command….). Recently I was sent yet another YouTube video of a smart dog (Aussie!) who would only fetch the ball on his master’s specific command. I really know that Paul is smart enough to carry off training like that and that it is me who has to learn how to train so that he can win.
Therein lies the lesson of Paul 101.
When I told Paul that night that we were going to learn a new “trick”, he jumped to rapt attention (how the heck did he learn the word “trick” so quickly?!). I put him on a sit stay, walked 10 feet away and made sure he was staying, placed the chew toy at my feet and then stood up. After a few seconds I released him to retrieve the toy. Oh what great fun we both had?! Of course he wanted to do it again. We repeated it a few more times but then he got bored after awhile without the game changing up. My initial goal was to get him to the point where I could go into the next room and “hide” the toy for him to find after being on a sit-stay. After all, this was a game I played with my Golden Retriever who loved it! Upon contemplating this further I realized that my ultimate game might only create real anxiety in Paul since what he was bred to do, the very nature of his breed, is to keep his eyes on the flock at all times, gather up the stray lambs and bring everyone home (we may end up with a herd of goats yet!) I am now thinking up new games to play with him that accentuate his purpose on this Earth rather then create anxiety when there really need not be any.
What I also realized was that it is so obvious for me to see what Paul’s purpose is and what he was bred to do. I wonder if that is how we people are as well. Put’s a new spin to thinking about what breed of dog you would be if you were a dog. In many ways, I believe I’m a Shepherd. I love to have a good day’s work to do. I certainly would eat the fur off my back (if I were a dog…) if I sat around all day with no real purpose.
Why would we treat ourselves any differently? What were you naturally born into this world to do and how can you do more of that which you are here to do?