Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks
Training Dusty’s Dozen | Sharon Henry
I’m a sucker for pair of puppy dog eyes and when there are eleven little balls of fluff running amok and rolling over for belly rubs there is a danger of a cuteness overload. What a riot! Eleven, 11-week old puppies, wagging tails, dishing out free kisses and play fighting. If this doesn’t get the ‘ah’ factor you’re probably made of stone – or a cat lover.
Watching the spectacle with amusement is Governor, Lisa Phillips, the instigator of this little get-together taking place on Plantation lawn. Well actually it’s her black Labrador, Dusty who is the original instigator.
She too looks amused. These puppies are the consequence of a clandestine excursion she took a few months back which resulted in 12 puppies (less an absentee today)- Dusty’s Dozen.
Getting The Band Back Together
Finding 12 homes wasn’t hard and the list was long. Prerequisites for fenced-in gardens so dogs weren’t tethered, human company for some of the day and agreement to attend training classes whittled the list down and each owner was vetted by the Governor. The pups weren’t sold but owners made donations to the SPCA.
Today is the first time this cute little line up has been reunited since going their separate ways.
Like any good Momma and top dog would, Dusty called each of the brood into submission and after the initial excitement and general puppy exuberance waned, canines and owners settled down for the real reason they came – training. Although like toddlers, at this age they just don’t have the attention span for such things and are easily distracted.
Dog trainer, Paul Laban pre-empted the concentration deficit by keeping it simple. Today was all about getting used to walking on the lead and learning to sit. With varying success!
Not Just A Cute Face
Actual, serious training doesn’t start until after they’re three months old.
The pups already have lovely temperaments and their Labrador genes should give them the potential to become working dogs. Labradors are one of the world’s most popular breeds and are extremely loyal, good-natured and intelligent.
‘Rolex,’ one of Dusty’s dozen is to be trained as a therapy dog, to interact with care home clients, hospital patients and schools across the island. Another, ‘Janey’ (named by Governor Lisa after St Helenian Governor Janish) is to become a Customs & Excise sniffer dog. Dusty herself is a drugs and firearms Customs dog. Plans are in hand for little ‘Bandhu’ to be trained by Paul to detect early symptoms of cancer through breath, swab and urine samples. Amazing.
And as crazy as this may sound, little ‘Porshe’ is used to help her owner overcome an irrational fear of dogs! Talk about confront your fears head on – it works and the two have forged a bond. Just being in the presence of 11 puppies is a testament to that.
This family reunion is to become a regular thing, to help the dogs become trained, socialised and generally good citizens. They’ll not stay puppies for long and will need plenty of interaction and stimulation. Already each is showing traits of their individual personalities. “After I have left,” smiles Governor Lisa, “the puppies will be part of my legacy.” And what a lovely bunch they are.