Thursday, February 4, 2010

Old Dog's New Tricks

Standard Poodles are retrievers, so it makes sense that Tula likes to carry things. Actually, she had a canvas bag that she carried for the first 3 or 4 years of her life while we were on walks. It started off as my bag, that I used to carry my keys, her dog license and a few plastic bags. Somehow, it ended up that she carried it around all the time; and it quickly became known as Tallulah's Purse.

I treated it as a reward - she could only carry the purse when she was behaving herself - but I think that she considered it a job. I think that carrying that purse gave her something to concentrate on, and it resulted in a definite improvement in behaviour. When she had that purse in her mouth, she walked on a loose leash, almost in a heal position beside me; and rarely stopped to stiff or pick anything up.

As Tula matured, her behaviour improved a lot; and it eventually got so that she didn't need to have her purse (job) to help her behave herself. As time went on, I used it less and less and then I eventually stopped altogether. That doesn't mean that she never carries things on her walks anymore, though. She likes to find and carry sticks along with her; or if it's a warm day in winter, I'll let her take one of the gloves off my hand and carry it home.

Lately, she's been reaching up about half way around most of our walks, and taking my glove. It's been warm enough out that I don't really need gloves, and I can always stick my hands in my pockets. More importantly, though, I love to watch the way she prances when she's got a prize to carry home. She's been taking my glove so often lately, that it's become a routine.

Something else that has changed lately is that Tula has been slowing down on our walks. I can't help but notice that by the time I'm 5 or 6 blocks from home, she's walking behind me instead of in front of me. And it seems like the closer we get to home, the slower she goes; and that's had me worried. She just turned seven, which makes her a senior citizen according to the vet, and I'm hyper aware that she's going to get old soon.

Already, I'm looking for the signs: are our walks too long? Are her joints bothering her? Am I pushing her too hard? (This when I'm finally starting to feel better, and am hoping to be able to start jogging again in a few weeks - I need my jogging partner!) The way she's been dragging behind at the end of our walks, I've been envisioning having to go to the vet and start up on what I was sure was going to become the overwhelming expense of caring for a geriatric dog.

I figured it out, though.

Last night, I refused to give her my glove and she walked home beside me with no hesitation at all. Tonight, I gave her my glove. She started to slow down when we turned toward home. After a block or two, when she had the leash fully extended behind me, I turned around and walked in a different direction. She sped up and walked beside me until I turned around again and started back toward home... then she slowed down again.

I think that Tula has caught on that I take the glove away from her when the walk is over. I think she's trying to prolong having the glove to carry, and she's doing that by slowing down and taking longer to get home. I think that my dog's not getting old, she's getting too smart for her own good. And I also think that I'm going to have to go to the Salvation Army and get her a glove of her own.


  1. Oh Tula!! You sweet, smartie!! My 12-year old Jackson would like to walk with you because he carries his frisbee or leash in his mouth on all our walks too! But he really DOES tire out after about 7-8 blocks!

  2. Good for Tallulah, it's fun to have a dog that keeps you thinking.