Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shoveling snow with three-legged Murphy

Two days ago, it was 60 degrees here.
Tomorrow, it's supposed to hit the mid-40's again and stay there or higher for the rest of the week.

Today, it's 20 degrees and I have 3-4 inches if wet snow on the ground, the bottom layer being solid ice.

This, coupled with my 100+ foot long, steeply-inclined driveway, does not bode well for my need to get our of here in a couple of hours. My SUV is at the top of that ice slide, and a big ditch sits just across the road at the bottom.

So I went out to shovel the snow off the top, chipped away at what ice I could, and put down 15 lbs of snow-melt salt. Come on, sun. Get to work. I also took Murphy for his morning walk, and along the way, I stopped to talk to two neighbors who were clearing their own driveways.

Now Murphy is normally a nice dog when it's just the two of us. But when I am trying to talk to someone else--on the phone or in person--he acts up because he doesn't want to share my attention.

First he plunks himself down in the snow right between the three of us. Then when that doesn't do it, starts jumping into and out of the snowbank until he gets some ice up between his paw pads, at which point he comes whining to me, hopping on three legs with the iced paw held off the ground. I take his paw, brush the ice out, and resume talking. He goes right off and does it again. And again. Funny how I've never seen this happen when it's just him and I together. But as soon as there's other people in the mix...

Then I walk back towards the house with one neighbor. We're trying to talk but Murphy is now turning and trying to grab the leash from me and turn it into a game of tug-o-war. When I push him back, he jumps at my gloved hands and tries to get my gloves off, or failing that, he grabs my forearm and tries to pull me down. It's all clowning (granted, he's 68lbs and doesn't really appreciate his own strength) but it's also nearly totally distracting, which is, I suspect, the point. Like I said, he never does this unless there's another person around or I'm trying to talk on the phone. He finally got to where he was jumping up in front of me so high that we were almost face to face, and I had to grab him in a headlock, order him into a "sit", and make him hold it as kind of a time-out. At that point, the neighbor went up his own drive, and Murphy reverted back to calm dog again. And even though we walked through quite a bit of ice and snow on the way home, he never seemed to get any more stuck between his paw pads.

Crazy dog.


  1. Dog training is all about consistency. You demonstrate the behavior and then repeat it. You provide positive reinforcement when the behavior is correct and negative when it is wrong. You repeat until the behavior is ingrained and automatic.

    Murphy appear to know how to train very well. His regimen will provide excellent results over time and I believe he has the fortitude to see the program through to the end.

    You will wind up as a model human that any dog would be proud to own.

  2. Anonymous10:06 AM

    Wow. Murphy sounds almost exactly like my dog. Same attention-grabbing tricks and everything.

    I think Murphy and Scooter would get along just fine... if Murphy didn't eat Scooter for stealing the spotlight. And FWIW, Scooter would probably try and eat Murphy first, but Scooter's a Bichon and weighs all of 20 lbs, so... yeah. He'd lose. Wouldn't stop him from picking a fight, though. He's stupid like that...


  3. Yeah, Ed. I'm not sure who's training who sometimes.

  4. You are now officially prepared to parent a human child. K and S never need to tell me anything until I am on the phone or speaking with another adult. Then my immediate attention is required. We are working on their respect factor in much the same way you are training Murphy - headlock, and time out. And so far, my technique is about as effective as yours, which is to say, not at all...

    Good luck with that. I will let you know how the cattle prod works...


  5. I can't do better than Ed did...LOL