Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Dog Blog Post #142: Henry loves apples, and it seems he has already figured out that he can pluck them straight from our fruit trees. I'm a little surprised by this, as it seems a bit of a stretch (pardon the pun) for a twelve week old pup.

Beau used to to do this. When rearing on his hind legs and stretching out his neck, he could reach five feet and would pluck his intended "prey" as delicately as I could. But as Zachary never saw the attraction, and has never demonstrated the behavior, I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I saw Henry do just that at lunch today.

Of course, the apple couldn't have been more than two feet off the ground (the ultimate in "low hanging fruit"!) but the technique was definitely there. He got under it, reared straight up, tugged gently, and held on as it came free and he returned to all four paws on the ground.

And it was a good-sized apple, too, about the size of a baseball!

With "prey" in mouth, he trotted over to a favored spot and commenced peeling the fruit. He started with small bites in one area, to break through the skin, then grasped a bit of skin and pulled down. This exposed the juicy flesh, and enabled easy access for additional bites.

(Zachary just stared at his apple (which I plucked for him) then begged me to throw it!)

Despite good technique, the apple was large, his jaws were not, and so I took advantage of this and offered to hold the apple for him. This was obviously a good thing from his perspective, and worked well with one of my puppy lessons, namely "Chewies: I hold, you chew."

From this lesson, Henry learns that me reaching for, grasping, and holding a valued object is a good thing, not a bad thing. He learns there is no need for resource guarding; the apple is safe in my grasp - I will not steal or eat it. And he learns that he needs to be careful when his teeth are so near my hand, as being scraped or stabbed by a tooth causes an over-the-top reaction from me (think: "Ouch!!!" followed by extraction of hand (still holding apple, of course) for a few seconds while I "lick my wounds".)

I find that when I return hand and apple, he is much gentler and more aware of where my fingers are relative to his mouth. I can feel his whiskers, so I know he must be able to feel my hand, and I'm working on him learning to pay more attention to those feelings!

I love it when lessons and life intersect!

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