Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BRINGING UP PRESTO! A Yarn About Tugging

Long before the first time I held him in my arms and he gave me nonstop kisses, Presto! had really close friends.

His breeders, Mike and Maureen Inman, have a nine-year-old daughter named Jessica.  And Jess has a friend named Jenna.  As Presto! was handed over to me in O'Hare Airport, I was told that Jess and Jenna had given him his pre-adoption bath that afternoon. And that they had been his caregivers . . . and had fallen madly in love with him.

Jenna and Jess had made "cards" for me on sheets of colored paper.  One said:  Dear Willard, please take very good care of Presto! for us.  We know you will.  He is an amazing dog and we love him.  Thank you for taking care of him.

Along with the cards came a special toy.  Jess and Jenna had woven strands of colorful yarn into a little tug toy . . . just right for my eight-week-old guy.

That toy, made of yarn and love, became an important part of Presto!'s earliest lessons.  I used it to teach him to tug . . . and release!  Any dog can tug, but the trick is to control the game. -- to teach him to surrender the toy on command.

It took Presto! about one short lesson -- four reps -- to figure out that the word "Give" would instantly be followed by a little treat in exchange for the toy.  By the second lesson he was tugging with one eye on my left shirt pocket, from whence cometh the treats.  When the hand went to the pocket the tug toy was released. Proving for the umpteenth time that my border collies are smarter than I am.  But at eight weeks??!!

Yes, Jess and Jenna, Presto! is an amazing dog.  And yes, I'm taking very good care of him.


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