June 16th, 2015
Like the child catcher in the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” movie, Bailey has a real talent for knowing when children are around. It seems that she can smell them before they come into sight (or my sight at least). Her tail starts to wag quickly back and forth as she heads in the direction of a small (often equally excited) little person. Bailey has also learned that children can be found on the numerous yellow school buses that pass by us on walks. Upon catching sight of a bus, she will slow down and wait to see if a child gets off. We live on one of the main school bus routes because our home is only a 7 minute walk from the school. I feel sorry for Bailey when she realizes that the bus is not stopping. She lets out a sigh and resumes our walk. This mood does not last long. Children are always plentiful if walks are timed with school starting and ending.
Her obsession with children began soon after we brought her home to Wabush. I pondered how to get Bailey socialized positively to children and them to her. When Bailey came to us at 9 weeks of age, Labrador West was still experiencing winter temperatures. This weather would continue for two more months and Bailey wanted to spend time outside. But, for humans, we needed to be moving or it is downright miserable. A couple of weeks went by before I thought of a solution. She would walk to and from school with our 12 year old son while I came along to provide guidance. If she met any children along the way, we could work with her to discourage jumping up and biting. It was not just other children but also our two sons who needed not to be toppled over or nibbled on like a favourite chew toy by an enthusiastic Bailey. Cheese was the answer.
One of Bailey’s highly valued treats is cheese – any kind. Although these days, I believe that most foods are considered highly valued given her recent 6 pound weight gain in a week. The boys were each given a container with a very small piece of cheese. They were instructed to only let Bailey have it after she had calmed down and was in a sitting position. My oldest son, who goes to high school, comes off the bus at the end of our driveway to be greeted by Bailey and me. Once she does what he has commanded, Bailey is rewarded with her treat. I cannot help to notice that his bus driver and school mates eagerly look on to see how Bailey is progressing each day. Then, she and I walk to my other son’s middle school where the procedure happens again. My son is usually accompanied by friends who also want to give cheese to Bailey. To keep things from snowballing, I provided an extra cheese treat to be given out by one of them if Bailey remained sitting. The children are good at keeping track of whose turn it is to give the extra piece to her. And Bailey quickly figured out the rules to get the reward. Over the last few weeks, Bailey has transformed into a better behaved puppy. I can see the positive effects from participating in Bailey’s training on the part of my sons and their friends. They have learned patience and consistency with a puppy is worth the effort. It is wonderful to see their eyes sparkling with delight and hear their excited voices rejoice when Bailey responds to their requests. The soft tongue and muzzle grazing one’s hand for the treat is nice too! Sometimes lessons can be learned outside of school doing the most everyday activities.
As the school year comes to a close, I wonder if Bailey will miss these moments. Then again, we can always hang out at the playground. What has Bailey learned? Children go not to school but, to cheese factories. School buses carry children with cheese. Children have cheese for her. Hence, where there are children, there must be cheese!
P.S. At 20 weeks, Bailey is now 27.5 kg or 60 pounds 10 ounces.