Samstag, 30. Mai 2015

Puppy school

We live in a neighborhood surrounded by green. Behind us is a beautiful cemetery with open green spaces for people to hang out (where I've not spent much time since getting a dog; they're forbidden in the cemetery), next to that are the community gardens and on the other side of our building is a big school field.
But on a sunny afternoon, I like to take my 4 year old Basset to the path that winds between 4 new large apartment buildings. These apartments are full of young families and the children come out to greet my dog and we have, what I call "puppy school."
Bassets have a reputation of being friendly to other dogs and small children, but as Penny excels at being the laziest of bassets, she's also the friendliest of bassets. Kids can sometimes be unnerved by her droopy eyes, which expose some of her third eyelid, but they love her massive paws and her strange stature. With Penny (who has immense patience for small humans), the children learn how to approach a dog. They stick a hand out to pat her head and then pull it quickly back when Penny thrusts her head forward to sniff their hand. "Sie wollte mich bissen!" (she wanted to bite me!) they say. I then explain that dogs need to smell things that come near them. They don't know names and so they have to have a sniff of a person as an introduction. The children then let Penny sniff them and are rewarded with a doggy tummy as she throws her short body on the grass or asphalt and they learn which parts a dog likes to have rubbed. They learn that when a dog moves it's head quickly, it means that they are not pleased or curious.
Last night, we had some friends to dinner and thy brought their sweet son Lars. Lars knows Penny and seemed less nervous around her with his increasing height. He learned quickly - as many children do - that Penny respects a "no!" or "stop!" from a child more than any other command from anyone else. He played with her with a pingpong ball and when she gave it back to him without crushing it, he would give her a treat. He did this by letting her take it and then feeling around her teeth as she tried to take it in her mouth without chewing his fingers. Luckily, she's good at this, but we had to remind Lars that only doctors should investigate an animal's teeth.
There came a time where Penny was taking a well-deserved rest from playing with a toddler. "Penny Ufstah!" (Penny get up!) lars said over and over. Penny offered her belly in a show of disinterest and we explained to Lars that she needed a rest. "Schlaf guet" said Lars and he went to give her a good night kiss on her side. He then thought it was funny to try to kiss her nose. "Hünde han das nüt gern Lars" (Dogs don't like that Lars) his parents told him. But he gave it a few more goes and Penny lunged for him. My heart was in my throat. I was devastated. Lars seemed ok, but i was so fearful that we may have just given him a life-long fear of dogs. His mother - who has admitted a "respect for dogs" in the past - calmly and off-handedly told him that that is Penny saying no more kisses on the nose. Lars giggled and kissed Penny on the rump and Penny pretended to relax (her shoulder would show any dog-owner that she was not truly relaxed.)
We got Lars to play a different game and all was forgiven. At the time that Lars was trying to kiss Penny and I was on the other side of the room and it was Ivo that was overseeing the interaction (along with Lars' mother.) I think that I'll need to train Ivo in the art of puppy school. 

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