Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Born to chew, chew, chew

With a young pup around the house and garden, nothing is safe from those needle-sharp teeth.

Born to chew, chew, chew

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Sparkle, in a snapshot from early spring, loves to chew. Here, she's found some leftover leaves from last fall that have blown under the deck. It isn't cute; it requires immediate correction.

Just like every other puppy we've raised, Sparkle is a compulsive chewer. Her gut reaction to almost anything she encounters is to grab it up in her mouth.  Out in our fenced backyard, she'll go for sticks, leaves, stray toys and balls -- anything that catches her roving eye. Yesterday, she brought a taped-up Wiffle Ball up onto the deck. I'm sure it was from the neighbors' backyard and got accidentally batted over our fence. Luckily, she "retrieved" it rather than chewing it to shreds.

 The trick here is constant observation and consistency. When she grabs anything, we say firmly: "Drop."  You don't have to yell or even really raise your voice. She knows, and she'll drop it. She is also very slick at grabbing up debris in our neighborhood walks. She can go nose-down, swipe up a Big Mac wrapper, and not even break stride. Again, the command is: "Drop."

The other big puppy no-no is jumping up. She leaps high to try to snag food off tables and counters as well as mobbing visitors with affection. "I know, you came just to see me!" seems to be her welcome to everyone who rings our bell. We tell her "Off!" and gently push her down. Then, we can give the "sit" command, which she already knew when she came to us.  For good measure, "rest" is the command that Seeing Eye uses for the dog to stay put. We're still working on that one! Of course, always praise, praise, praise when she does things right.

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About this blog
George Carter, The Inquirer's weekend national/foreign editor, has always counted dogs among his closest companions. According to family lore, he learned to walk by clinging to the side of a saintly patient mutt named Spanker. In turn, one of his earliest hazy memories is of tossing treats to the family dogs gathered expectantly on the porch of their Maryland farmhouse. It was only natural then, that when George saw a newspaper ad looking for families to raise puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, N.J., he bit at the chance. From the start, it has been a family project, with teenage daughter Betsy as the official puppy-raiser. First there was Porter, a big-hearted yellow Lab born on Memorial Day 2004. A few years later, the Carters raised Velma, a gorgeous Lab/golden cross. Just a couple weeks ago, Velma's 7-week-old daughter Sparkle arrived as the latest family charge. George, Betsy and mom Cathy are thrilled that Sparkle is from Velma's very first litter. You can reach George Carter at 215-854-2411 or by clicking here. Reach George at gcarter@phillynews.com.

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