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Scott Rall: No two are the same

SCOTT RALL Daily Globe outdoors columnist When I interact with people on the street, they often tell me that they like the columns about my dogs the best. Dogs are just a universally loved animal. I have a saying that if you can't love a dog or a...

SCOTT RALL

Daily Globe outdoors columnist

When I interact with people on the street, they often tell me that they like the columns about my dogs the best.

Dogs are just a universally loved animal.  I have a saying that if you can't love a dog or at least be touched a little by their devotion, then there must be something wrong with you.

Each of my four black lab dogs is different from the others, but if you look at them from a distance they all look a lot the same.  I have four black Labradors and I bet I hear 30 times a year, “How do you tell them apart?” Even my friends that see my dogs often need to look at the color of their collars to tell which one is which.

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That might be the case early on, but after you get to know them, their behavior and their habits are a dead giveaway of their identity even if you closed your eyes.

When I sit in a chair in my kitchen reading the Daily Globe newspaper a dog will always come and lay down on top of my feet.  Shoes or no shoes does not matter.  The dog that does this is named Tracer. No other dog I have has this habit.  

Another character trait that Tracer has is tardiness. I let all of the dogs out in my fenced-in back yard to do their business; when they are done they will all pile through the doggie door and wait in my screen porch to be let back in.

It never fails that all of the dogs but one will be in that initial group. When all of the other dogs are in the house and on the rug, only then you will hear the doggie door open and close again and Tracer, nicknamed the pokey puppy, will appear. He is dead last almost every time. I think he just likes the peace and quiet of being outside by himself.

When I sit in the recliner with my feet up and the tube on, a dog will come up on my left side and stick his wet nose on my arm or close to my face as if to say, “Now would be a really good time to pet me.” The only dog that does this little trick is Sarge.  

He is the biggest dog I have and he is by a mile the most affectionate. You could pet him till next Wednesday and he would never leave your side.

This will happen about five times a night. None of my dogs jump on people, but Sarge will jump up and down about 12 inches off the ground all the while never coming in contact with me.  He is so excited he can hardly sit still. None of the other dogs do this, either.

My dog Axle was purchased from a kennel in Sunberg, Minn., and I got him when he was 6 months old.  He is a great dog and hunts well and is now 7 years old.  He is the most timid of the group around the house.  

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As a result if him being in a kennel till he was 6 months old he never really got socialized very well. He did not get enough human contact at that young age, so he has some unusual behavioral traits.

The most noticeable one is that he is a spinner. When you let him out of the cage he will spin around one complete circle and then off he goes.  When you let him outside the same thing happens.  When you open the door to let him in he spins one time and then runs in.

I don't think he will ever stop doing this. I don't even try.  It is a glitch he has but it does not hurt any thing so I just leave it be.

My new puppy has his own unique habits.  He lays on his stomach at the water bowl and drinks just as fast as he can.  It does not matter if he just had a run or woke up from a nap.  Drinking like a camel is his deal. The water bowl holds about two gallons, so tipping this over is no small chore to clean up.  

He is almost a year old now and he has done it since I got him at 7 weeks.

He is also a licker. If he jumps up in the chair with you he can give your face a tongue bath in five seconds flat. You cannot pet this dog without at least one or two slaps of his tongue. I am working on this, but it might never go away.

When it comes to dog traits it is my experience that these behaviors pass to the next generation almost completely and virtually 100 percent of the time.  If the mom of the litter was a licker, the puppies have a very, very good chance of having that trait as well. If the parents are affectionate, the puppies will most likely be as well and vice-versa.

Tracer's grandma was a dog named Shazam.  She always wanted to put her foot on you.  In your lap, on you leg or just for you to hold like you were teaching the dog to shake. Three generations later these dogs still want to do this. Where it came from or how it started I will never know, but that behavioral trait has passed down three generations and is as persistent as ever.

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When looking to buy a puppy, take some time to look over and interact with their parents because there is a very high likelihood that your puppy will act just like them. If you don't like the temperament of the parents, pass on a puppy from that litter.

Social behaviors almost never change.  This does not by any means infer that all behaviors can never change.

I will give you an example.  I took my youngest dog Raider out hunting for the first time all my himself last week.  He was a little intimidated by the cover.  The grass was really thick and six feet tall.  He would run around a little and then come and sit by me. I encouraged him and off he went again.

He did this over and over. This is a behavior, but not one that will persist.  As he gets more experience he will gain confidence and as this happens he will not feel the need to check in with me so often.  I do want my dogs to do what I call “check up” with me from time to time while in the field hunting.  This is a pass by to say, “Dad, I am right here.”

The best way to deal with bad dog behavior is to deal with it before it becomes a habit.  Quitting smoking is a lot easier if you have only smoked for a week.  The longer the behavior goes on, the harder it is to change it. As I have explained, some habits are almost impossible to break and others are easy. The key is knowing which ones are which.

Personality traits will likely never change. Things like licking, timidness, eating all of their food in three bites, scared of lightning, being super excited, being very lethargic and the like might very well persist for the dog’s entire life.

Other behaviors like barking, jumping on people, whining excessively, chasing cars and digging holes in the back yard, which are not personality traits, can most likely be corrected by the right training.

Even the rat terrier Skeeter has a few dog behavior tricks up his sleeve.  If he wants to be in your lap and you won't let him he will sit at your feet and shiver as if he is freezing to death.  Almost every person who sees this will cave into the dog’s wishes and then let him sit in their laps.

Dogs are really smart and if you let them they will rule your kingdom.

There are things about dogs everybody loves and some things almost everybody hates.  Finding a dog with the right list of desirable personality traits before you buy it will go a long way to making your life with the dog much easier. I love each dog for the individual personality they have. You can tell the difference even with your eyes closed.

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