It’s . . .
Pam Adams wrote:
Your family’s gundogs would laugh themselves silly if they ever met the hellhounds. I think these guys are the worst trained dogs I’ve ever had and that’s a combination of their—most especially Chaos’—cluelessness+, and my lack of grind.
No- it’s in the genes. Gundogs (and herding dogs) need to have strong ‘obeying’ tendencies. Those who don’t pay attention get flung out of the gene pool. Sighthounds need to chase. If they spend too much time listening to direction, they will lose their prey. Same argument with scent hounds, sled dogs, and terriers- their genetic drives (that we put there!) often outweigh any tendencies towards sweetness, light, or obedience.
Of course, thick-headedness doesn’t help.
Some of it is in the genes, certainly. But a good gundog will hunt down a wounded pheasant or other critter without waiting to be told ‘a hundred yards to your right and check behind that hedgerow’. And you want your having-taken-the-initiative sighthound to bring its catch back to you.
My guys’ dad, a pedigreed whippet, had got his super-extra-whammy companion/obedience 24-carat golden star and ruby-studded collar when he was eighteen months old, which is pretty good going even for one of the classic obedience breeds. And Darkness is, or would be, very trainable. My favourite example of this, although there are plenty of others, is that it took him about a fortnight to figure out picking up his front feet one at a time to have his harness put on. Chaos, three years later, is still thinking about it. If I only had Darkness, or had two Darknesses, I would have posted that video of the three of us Spanish-walking down Main Street long ago. But I have one Darkness and one Chaos.
At the same time . . . even though on nearly a daily basis, after some tragic confrontation between Chaos and his harness, I am heard to mutter, you are so thick . . . he isn’t. He’s just not very trainable as someone without a lot of experience in the far-flung vagaries of canine temperament understands training. But he’s the one who figured out that the sound of the computer being turned off means I’m about to move, for example. At going-home time in the wee hours he will probably stagger from the dog bed and go collapse by the door. (Darkness waits to be called.) In the afternoon or evening he’ll solicit a hurtle. But I often don’t turn my computer off at late-hurtle time—yet more often than not he still seems to know when my going for a pee is purposeful and will be followed by the putting on of shoes, and when I’m just emptying out the last cup of tea and going straight back to my desk-equivalent (having turned the kettle on again on the way). I have no idea what signals he’s picking up—there are other examples of this too—but he is undoubtedly responding to something.
I tend to think, whew, I’m lucky they’re this way around—that Darkness is the trainable one, and that life with Chaos can be coped with because he’s so fixated on me. Darkness comes when he’s called: Chaos merely runs back to me if I wave my arms and shout. Doesn’t matter what I shout. Hellgoddess: shouting: he attends. It makes me wonder if there’s a type of dog temperament here—that someone like Chaos needs someone to organise himself around. That that’s just how his brain [sic] works.
My favorite is when First turns to look at me to see if I’m not paying attention before doing something he shouldn’t. Second runs around frantically happy to follow rules completely unrelated to any great training, but First… if he sees I’m distracted, he gets creative.
Yes. It’s still an awful lot in the individual personality. As Pam Adams said, sighthounds are very one-track-CHASE-minded. As above, my two litter brothers are astonishingly different personalities, but they’re alike in that the danger with both of them is that if the CHASE switch gets flicked, they turn into hunting machines. You’ve got a crucial fraction of a second longer to get your counter-order in with Darkness than you do with Chaos. But if they’re just mooching, Darkness is likely to be the creative one—and you’ll probably miss it, because you’re busy intently scanning the horizon for the perilous approach of Chaseable Things. Gah.
Remind me again why I have hellhounds. . . .
* It was Diana Wynne Jones’ birthday yesterday. I’d forgotten. Knew it was August. But her old friend Dave Devereux tweeted it yesterday. Sigh. . . .
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