Advantages of a Mentor Dog

Cochise Mentor dogIn previous posts I have talked about Dolly and her amazing ability to nurse, mother and mentor other dogs who have come into or though our home. We lost a really good one when she passed away. But Cochise, who was a paduan learner of hers, has stepped into the void and has proved immeasurably helpful with the dozens of foster dogs that have come here for recovery, socialization and training.

Because we are not dog “trainers” we do not get into the advanced stuff: we focus first on civilized behavior and socialization, then a few basic commands like “sit”, “come” and “shake”, then we get into housebreaking.

The first lesson for any dog is that I am the head honcho, the giver of food, the dispenser of affection, the praiser of good dogs. I share that role with Marie, but since I am the one who is here full time, they see me as the primary honcho: Marie is co-honcho. Then we make sure they recognize Cochise as The Big Dog.

I do that by bringing him with me when I am initiating a new dog to PMFC, I talk to Cochise and pet him, so the new dog sees that Cochise and I are a team. If the new dog wants into The Pack, they have to be willing to take their place. Once that has been established, Marie and I each take a dog – each on a leash: in case things do not go well – and do a formal introduction (butt sniffing session). Cochise (like Dolly before him) is authoritative, but not a bully.

By nature, dogs seek to please their master. Training a dog is best done with encouragement and praise for proper behavior. Communicating what you expect as proper behavior can be tricky. That is where the mentor dog comes into play. He speaks the language. He serves as an example. He is monitor and enforcer of rules in my absence – even if “absence” is just a separation while I work individually with another dog.

When he first arrived here (Cochise was our first foster dog) he was the most pig-headed, stubborn dog I’d ever met. But once we came to terms, he has become our constant companion, good friend, and best helper. And Blondie Bear is learning.

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