Friday, November 30, 2007

Berna in the morning

Berna is my house guardian. She has this job because her prey drive is too strong for guarding poultry. Ursa, who spent the summer as an outside dog, has decided that 13-year-old bones do better in the warm, dry house. She still needs to patrol the front yard and upper bird pasture regularly, however.

I was headed out to do the morning feeding, and Ursa wanted to come along. Unfortunately she takes much longer to get up and moving than Berna. Bear took one look at the open front door and went from flat on her side snoozing to loping down the stairs in about half a second. First she chased all the bantams back into what was once a dog yard, and then dashed down the hill to see who else was chaseable.

For the next 10 minutes she ran after chickens and I ran after her. Then she ran down a rooster, grabbed him by the wing right at the shoulder, and took off. She pranced all around the woods, the buildings, up and down the hill, holding a bird bigger than her head. Finally her hearing returned, and she heard me suggesting we go back in the house. She looked at me - dazed bird in mouth - suspecting a trap, but thought her house was the perfect place to further examine this full-grown rooster prize. She trotted up the stairs and waited for me at the door.

I grabbed her collar, gave the "drop it" command, and with a little prompting she released the rooster. He took that opportunity to disappear, and appeared to be uninjured. Berna got lots of praise and some really good treats in trade. I got 20 minutes of serious aerobic exercise.

While the "come" command obviously needs a lot of work, I was pleased that "inside" and "drop it" were both (eventually) recognized and obeyed. I am also pleased that Berna, while loving the chase, doesn't seem inclined to actually hurt the birds she runs down. But I don't think she's in danger of a job description change any time soon.

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