Loki Is A Trickster And A Delight

The shade, though

We brought our newest family member home on September 26th when he was 8 weeks old. We’re now beginning our 21st week with our little mischief-maker. We’ve spent the past five months figuring him out and trying to get him adjusted to our life here. We’ve taken him to puppy socialization classes where he excelled at holding his own against dogs far taller and heavier than he is. We tried him at puppy training classes at Petsmart, only to be foiled by two very small, very barky, very distracting miniature schnauzers that made it impossible to hear the dog trainer and practice commands. We finally went back to the trainer who ran the puppy socialization classes, Lynn, and signed up for Delightful Dog class. Loki had a real affinity for Lynn, so we knew this might be the person who could help us get him on track (although we already thought he was a delightful dog).

Loki paying attention to Lynn’s pointers

Fortunately for us, there were only four puppers in the class including Loki. With fewer doggy distractions (and no excessive barkers), we were in it to win it. Lynn gave us plenty of wonderful tips for positive training. It’s all about treats and clear messaging for positive behaviors and lots of patience. Loki came to class already proficient in Watch Me, Touch, and Sit, plus a couple fun commands we worked on just for giggles, Spin (self-explanatory) and Boop (he has to put his nose through the hole of a donut toy). Our first real challenge with him was Down, which is hard to teach a dog who only has six inches of ground clearance. He thinks he’s already pretty far down and doesn’t see why we want him to lower himself. Lynn showed us how we could sit on the ground and lure Loki under our bent knees, which would force him onto his belly to get underneath for the treat. Once his belly hit the ground, we let out an emphatic “yes” and gave him a reward. It took about five minutes of this before he figured out that Down meant flat on his belly. Over the course of a couple weeks, we got him to the point where we can say Down and point to the floor and he drops onto his belly. Such a good boy.

Loki loooooves treats

We were still working on Stay and Come when time for the class final arrived. I was nervous on the way to class. I told Loki not to embarrass us during his test, but I knew he probably would, at least a little bit. Lynn did a great job of not making any of us, dogs or humans, feel anxious once we arrived. Loki blew through Watch Me, Touch, and Sit like a champ. Then he showed Lynn that he had learned Down. Loki did pretty well with Leave It, ignoring the treats in my open palm in front of his face. He did an okay job with Stay, but when it came to Come things went off the rails. With his leash off and other dogs and humans nearby, it was a Loki free-for-all. Despite my treats and emphatic cries of “Loki, COME,” he was what you would expect from a corgi named Loki…all mischief and tricks. But, that’s okay. He’s an adolescent corgi. We can keep working on it. He will get there eventually. He’s a smart little guy who loves treats and has patient parents who want to see him succeed.

The Graduate

When all the dogs had cycled through the exam material, Lynn played “Pomp and Circumstance” and handed out diplomas, with tacit acknowledgment from all the pet parents there is still plenty of work to be done. For us, it’s going to be many more walks to perfect loose leash walking, along with time focusing on Come and Stay. I would also like him to learn Place and Wait. And I will never stop teaching him tricks. If I taught him to use Inside Voice, I’m pretty sure I can follow that up with Crawl, Stretch, Shake, and a few others. Teaching a dog to behave is hard work. Teaching a dog to be cute is fun work. We’re proud of our little graduate. He only got a B- on his final exam because of the disaster with the Come command, but he gets an A from us for making us laugh every damn day. Good job, little Loki.

To Corgi Or Not To Corgi

That face, though

We have an almost five month old Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy named Loki. Years ago, our youngest became obsessed with Corgis and passed his love of them on to us. It wasn’t a hard sell because Corgis are cute. But there are things to know about these sweet, funny puppers before you add one to your family.

They are herding dogs, which means they are definitely not for everyone. Because we’d already owned a herding dog, when we began looking for a second dog, we were well aware of what to expect from one. By nature, herders are incredibly intelligent and energetic. Perhaps the most difficult part of owning a herding dog is understanding that they know what they want, and it can be very difficult to convince them to do something they are not interested in doing. When our border collie was a pup, I took her to training. She would do the requested behavior three to four times and then decided she knew what I was asking for and had enough of doing my bidding. She would then stubbornly sit down and refuse to play any longer. We have discovered some of this same stubbornness in our Corgi, but this is softened because he is highly food motivated and will do almost anything for a snack. Herding dogs are good at amusing themselves, which can be a positive if they do so by playing with a squeaky toy or a negative if they do so by chewing on your carpeting. Overall, we found herding dogs to be our favorite group because of their intelligence and independence, but they can be handful until they are trained and settled in with your family.

Corgis have become quite popular in the last thirty years. Depending on the list, they rank somewhere between 11th and 20th in breed popularity. They draw a crowd wherever they go. We can’t take him anywhere without people stopping to ask if they can pet him. He is eager to meet everyone too. He loves all dogs and all people. I’ve heard them described as the clowns of the herding group, and that is absolutely correct. They can be doofuses. They are endlessly entertaining, tearing around the house with their unlimited energy doing their zoomies, sliding under furniture with their stubby legs (Corgi translates to “dwarf dog” in Welsh), and dramatically flopping themselves down into a Corgi sploot when they are tired or annoyed. They often sleep on their backs, which is adorable. Their appeal is undeniable.

Although Loki is only 19 weeks, he is almost fully housebroken and already knows several commands. He has most of the basic commands (sit, come, watch me, touch, and leave it) and is learning to walk on a loose leash. I’ve also been able to teach him some tricks. He will spin in a circle on command, stick his nose through a donut toy (I call this command “boop”), and use an “inside voice” (quiet bark).

Boop

But it hasn’t been a non-stop honeymoon. There were a few times over a few weeks when I wondered if we had made a mistake. He is super high energy. On days when we don’t give him enough exercise or mental stimulation, he can be a giant pain in the ass, barking a lot and chewing on every single thing he can find (including our flesh). Since we discovered that our lack of attention and lack of puppy exercise leads him to boredom, which ends in angst, life with our Loki has been infinitely better. We have created a routine that keeps us on track with him. He eats, goes outside, get training time and then play time or a walk, and then gets a nap. With that cycle more or less in place (minus eating more than twice a day), Loki is a charming and sweet little fellow.

During those moments when I thought perhaps we had chosen a demon, I took solace in the fact that in corgi groups on Facebook, many people had multiple corgi dogs. Certainly people wouldn’t purposely subject themselves to several demon dogs if they didn’t at some point become amazing family pets. And, indeed, like many dog breeds, when you understand them and what makes them special, you can curb the less than ideal traits and harness the good ones. Although we were around Loki all the time, on some days we weren’t giving him the mental stimulation he needed. As soon as we changed how we interacted with him, everything turned around. It’s all about understanding the creature in your house.

So, would I get another corgi and join the legions with multiple, short-legged corgi floofs? I would, but I definitely do not think these dogs are for everyone. I knew enough about the breed to realize that naming our puppy after the Norse trickster god of mischief was a good idea. If you aren’t prepared for situations like this, you might want to skip over corgis and get yourself an affectionate lap dog:

This sums up corgi ownership…mischief saved only by cuteness

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling….Rawhide!

Me and my riding shadow.

Tonight the kids are staying with their aunts, so hubby and I are enjoying a quiet, relaxing dinner and a bottle of wine, right? That’s what any rational American couple temporarily released from the bonds of parenting would be doing with their free night at home. That’s not, however, how it works in our lives. Instead of savoring the solitude of an eerily vacant house, we’re getting our bike gear together because we’re meeting friends at 6:45 a.m. tomorrow. It’s almost 10:30 and on our night off we’re getting ready to go to bed. No. Really. To bed. To sleep. Our Saturday plan is to get in a vigorous 80-mile bike ride, hopefully before the skies open up and we get hailed on. Why are we doing this? Because it’s our final opportunity for a serious training ride before we do the Colorado Bike MS 150-mile ride two weekends from now and because, well, we’re insane. That’s the only logical explanation I can come up with right now.

I like to ride my bike, especially with friends. I enjoy it as much as I can enjoy any activity that is technically exercise and therefore is good for me. But, the getting ready, the gearing up, the waking up early, and the first ten minutes of the ride are pure torture. Once I get going, I truly do like riding. It’s the getting there that kills me. I try to live in the moment. I do. But, right now, I wish I could fast forward to 4 p.m. tomorrow when I’ll be finished doing the 80-miles, feeling the rider’s endorphin high after burning about 3,000 calories. Sitting here in bed in this moment, though, I am already exhausted simply thinking about 80 miles tomorrow. I would give my sons to the devil if he could make the next sixteen hours finish in an instant. All right. Maybe I wouldn’t give my darling boys to Satan, but I’d be tempted.

I know I will have a wonderful time tomorrow. I know I will enjoy it, even when it gets tough, because deep down I relish the opportunity to push myself a bit. But, as the idea of tomorrow stretches out before me, I am not enthusiastic. I am tired and I am going to sleep. And, I am praying that my forty-four year old legs are well rested, my new bike tires repel sharp debris, and the 800+ miles I’ve put in so far this year on my bike (mostly on its indoor trainer) will make this outdoor ride bearable. No matter what happens tomorrow, I can guarantee you two things: 1) tomorrow at 4 p.m. I will be drinking a beer that I truly earned and 2) tomorrow night I will sleep like the dead. Wait. Maybe that’s why I do this? 😉