Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Qualities of a Barn Dog

When I got a dog, I knew that it was only a matter of time before they would come out to the barn with me. That didn't mean that my dog would necessarily be a barn dog, but I always planned to test them in that setting. Luckily for me (and for Eden), my little dog turned out to be a great (part-time) barn dog. He comes out with me every time I go to the barn (about 5 times per week), and it is his happy place. There are certain qualities that make Eden, and the other dogs, good barn dogs, and these are just a few:
Eden doubles as a part-time barn dog
An appreciation of the finer things in life. In Eden's opinion, the enjoying the finer things in life involves eating a lot of gross things. Horse manure? As delicious as an ice-cream sundae. Horse treats? Far superior to the dog biscuits that I give him. Horse hoof scraps? Literally the best thing in the entire planet! Both a toy and treat. A two-in-one!

Horse poop, yum!

Who even knows what he is chewing on here...
 A lack of fear. You would think that being around giant thousand-pound animals with hard hooves and often-nervous temperaments would make a little 11-pound dog just a tad scared at times. But Eden has no fear of horses. You would think that this would be a bad thing, that it would be good for a small dog to fear a big horse, but when you think about how dogs react to fear (barking, growling, snapping) then you come to realize that if a dog is afraid of horses then it could lead to a really bad situation. Since Eden is not afraid of horses, he mostly just ignores them. Which allows the horses to mostly just ignore him. And so everyone gets along in a clueless kind of way.
No fear of horses!
Maybe a little fear of cows though
Endless energy. When we go out to the barn, Eden does not rest at any point. There is too much to do! He has to run around in the fields, eat all of the gross/delicious things, play with his best friends, sniff the cat's butt, bark at the scary ATVs next door, follow Mommy around, sneak into the arena and then get chased out, and avoid getting trampled by horses. There is so much to do at the barn and there is no time for rest. Of course, as soon as we leave the barn, Eden falls asleep in the car. Like completely passes out and won't wake up for anything. All of that running around does take a toll on a tiny dog.
Endless running
Only slightly talkative. Since my barn (and I would assume most, if not all, barns) is out in the country, it is very quiet and peaceful. There is nothing worse than a yapping dog to destroy this peace and quiet. Eden is definitely not perfect in this regard. He has some very specific phobias (bearded men, ATVs, the barn's fat cat) and if they appear then he will bark incessantly, BUT for the most part, Eden is not a barker. Part of this is just his nature, but the other part of it
Intelligence, or maybe just trainability. I try really hard to be consistent in my training with Eden. He has set rules and there are consequences if he chooses to ignore the rules. I make the rules according to Eden's safety and the safety of the people and animals that he might interact with. One such rule is that he is not allowed in the arena. Ever. NO EXCEPTIONS. This is a rule because Eden is really little and horses are really fast and spooky and I don't want anything bad to happen. Even though this rule was created for his own safety, it was really hard for Eden to learn. He loves to follow me around, so when I go into the arena to free-lunge a horse he wants to come with me. I tried for weeks to teach him to stay outside of the arena. I would yell at him and chase him out when he entered the arena. I would reward him for sitting outside of it. I really tried everything, but I couldn't seem to train him. I can't even take credit for the fact that he now knows this rule. He was actually taught by Casino, a really grumpy Thoroughbred gelding, who was being free-lunged one day and decided to take a kick at Eden and then chased him to the arena fence. I was terrified in the moment, positive that this was the end of my dog's life, but it only took that one life-threatening incident for Eden to learn the rule. And so I have Casino to thank for helping me to train my dog.
He might look silly at times, but he is very smart
Loveable. There are many people and animals at the barn and if a dog does not get along with any of them then the dog does not get to roam around on their own. This a very specific rule at my barn, but I would imagine that this rule exists at many barns simply because of liability issues. Eden gets along with everyone and so he is allowed to be on his own at the barn. He puts up with the lesson kids picking him up and cuddling him. He lets the fat cat chase him. He greets every single car with a wagging tail. He plays with all of the other dogs at the barn. He is incredibly loveable and loving. Not every barn dog has to be super friendly and people-oriented, Foster (the primary barn dog) is really independent, but in order to be in such a busy setting where people are coming at going, being loveable is a really great trait.
Both Eden & Calvin are very loveable
What qualities do you think a great barn dog has? Did I miss any?

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