Our first cold front of the 2012 winter has just arrived. The high today predicted for 83 degrees. Professional football started Wednesday and the college games are playing all day Saturday. Fall and spring in Houston Texas can be perfect, having mild temperatures with low humidity, days to leave the windows open allowing a comfortable breeze with fresh air clearing out the air conditioned stuffiness of summer. I can take my long haired dog for walks without her panting and suffering with the hot asphalt burning her paws. Cheerful thoughts of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas peeking from my subconscious brain, bringing a smile to my lips, it just feels good to be here.
The Chow Chow likes the fall and loves the winter. She wears a long hair double coat all year round and Texas summers are hard. Out in the yard the bird population is changing. The Yankee birds are arriving and the Texas birds are heading for Mexico. I am still waiting for the first Robin to appear while the Hummingbirds are becoming less and less common. The squirrels are gathering supplies and the beetles are digging deeper. For now the pace is relaxed and unhurried, with later more intense cold fronts the effort will take on an urgency, this is just the start with only a few tree leaves floating down.
Today is the first long outdoor walk for the Chow in many months. I use a thirty foot leash allowing her some freedom to roam. The walk is exercise for me and training for her. The lesson is simple. It is the dog’s job to watch me; it is not my job to watch the dog. I walk where and when I wish giving no advance notice to the Chow. If she goes north, I go south. When she reaches the end of the leash she is abruptly reminded that she should have been watching me and not following her nose. All my dogs have quickly learn this basic lesson. She looks to check where I am going every few seconds and it becomes very hard to catch her unaware. She uses her sense of smell, hearing and sight to track my location. Having a pack leader gives her a level of comfort, confidence and happiness. Dogs are pack animals, as are humans, and following a competent pack leader feels natural. She probably wants the pack leader role herself but I didn’t allow for any election to the position. She has accepted this outcome without complaint. With time and reinforcement I will be able to take her out minus a leash and she will stay within 30 feet without any effort from me. For now her Chow like natural sense of independence needs molding.
She loves the afternoon walk, for a dog it is the hunt for prey, a romp over hill and valley searching for dinner. After the walk she gets a healthy dinner in a clean dog bowl. I don’t allow actual hunting with a kill but the similarity is close enough to make for a good dog life.