Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Good Student, a Rebel and a Hotel Bell

It appears that our two canines have figured out yin and yang. When one dog is misbehaving, the other behaves like an angel. While Kirby, the puppy, usually gets the majority of "NO!" commands from us (after which Baxter is the model dog), today it is Baxter's turn to be a bit naughty, while Kirby is getting As for effort.

We'll start with the good stuff... A couple of days ago we bought one of those little bells that are often used at hotel desks. We figured this might be a way for Kirby to tell us he needs to go outside when we are not in a position to make eye contact. You see, Kirby's preferred method of telling us it's time for him to go out is to sit by the back door. If we're making dinner or engrossed in a movie and miss the silent signal...well, a couple of times we've found little wet spots on the rug next to the door.

We introduced Kirby to the bell by first dinging it ourselves, then taking his paw and showing him how to do it. The first few times he yanked his paw away and backed up suspiciously. After a while he would approach the bell, but he just didn't make the connection between hitting it and the door opening to go outside. Yesterday evening he got it. My husband went to take him outside, sat him down by the door and told him to ring the bell. Kirby looked at it, stuck out his paw and dinged it twice. Out he went. Today when Kirby had to go out he walked right up to the bell, hit it and looked up at me sweetly.

Of course, all this bell-ringing resulted in heaps of praise being lavished on the little guy, and I think the big guy may have gotten his nose bent out of shape in the process. As the counterpart to Kirby's brilliance today, Baxter has decided to be the rebel who sits in the back of the classroom and sulks. He has decided that he doesn't have to listen to a word I say. "Come" is pretty much ignored. "COME!!!" is met with a nonchalant saunter in my general direction and a stop about two feet away. My husband tried "Drop it" on Baxter this morning, after Bax had managed to wrangle a tiny, choke-hazard-sized piece of rawhide from the end of his chew. Bax clenched his teeth and acted as if he didn't hear a word.

Rebel days are pretty rare for Baxter. He is, under most circumstances, an extremely well-behaved dog. He usually comes when called, drops something when told to, stays out of areas we tell him not to touch, etc. Once in a while he gets a little fiesty, but most of the time he's eager to please. And having a gonzo puppy around makes Baxter seem all the more refined. But today Mr. Grumpy isn't feeling particularly refined or service-oriented. Perhaps he figures Kirby has somehow won a higher place in the pack for having learned the bell thing. Or perhaps he's just not used to the puppy being the A student and learning things Bax doesn't already know.

I'm sure there will be many more opportunities for Baxter to be on the A list again and for Kirby to find himself in Detention (I'm anticipating a time when Kirby starts dinging the bell just for the fun of watching us come running). But I'm hoping these guys eventually can come to a nice middle ground, that place where nobody has to be the rebel, nobody grades on a curve and everyone's intentions are as clear as a bell.

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