I have written a whole lot about the difficulties that I had with him when I first got him. However, after three, I must say, very stressful weeks, he got the idea that I was in charge and things became much more relaxed between us. It is all a matter of Love, Patience, and Persistence. He is a wonderfully affectionate animal, a good companion, and when I have had the energy to skijor with him, he has pulled like a locomotive. I have tried to teach him Gee and Haw according to the advice of the mushers in Jack Pine Mushers, but that is something he does not seem to be able to learn. Oh well, not every Siberian is a leader. As far as skijoring is concerned, he is a dynamo.
Let me begin telling my tale about MacKenzie and myself by saying that I had already owned, (more correctly put, was possessed by four previous Siberians. I already knew that they could be willful (a sled dog that obeys blindly is a dead dog, and so are you), whimsical, and that some are affectionate some are aloof. Therefore, I thought that I had some idea as to what I was getting into when I went thru Adopt A Husky to replace my beloved Fallon, who had died of cancer a few months before.
MacKenzie was found wandering in Eau Claire Township, Wisconsin some time in the late winter of 2001. Nothing was known of the animal. It could only be observed that he "sang" a lot and clung close to humans that were around, indicating:
1) that he had received very little
affection wherever he had been previously, and
2) that he was an affectionate animal.
When I wrote Adopt A Husky, explaining that I needed a replacement Siberian because of Fallon's death, I explained that due to my health and limited finances, I could afford only one Siberian. Therefore that Siberian would have to be an affectionate Siberian.
Well, when they hooked me up with MacKenzie, they sure got the affectionate part right! I will give Adopt A Husky A+++ for that.
When I went to pick up MacKenzie at the
vet who worked with Adopt A Husky in Antigo, Wisconsin, I found out right
away that he was affectionate. He was placed in a chain link kennel run from
which he howled for long periods of time, until he realized that nobody was
going to respond and only then did he become quiet. When I got up in the
morning and went out the door, there he was just outside the basement
upon past experience with Siberians, I thought that he would be playing keepaway. I was afraid that I would never catch him, and that he would just run into the woods. To my surprise, he just walked up to me and placed himself by my side. I knew then that he was an affectionate animal. I reached down and just hugged him and gave him a real good rub.
However, as I was soon to learn, there
was a reason why he was abandoned. He was SUPER WILFUL. I found that out as
soon as I got back home to Gwinn, MI where I was living at the time. Part
of his wilfulness was because he was young and very playful, and the other
part had to do with the fact that he had his own agenda.
Let me run down some of the problems that I immediately started to experience with him:
1) Because he had been in a kennel for a long time, he was no longer house trained. Therefore I had to start crate training right away. Fortunately, because he had been house trained previously, it took just five days for him to get it again.
2) He loved to play "shoot out the door." It required a great deal of vigilance on my part to intercept him trying to make a break for it. However, the few times he succeeded in getting past me, I just refused to play "keep-a-way" and he came back in on his own, rather disappointed, I might say. He did get the idea rather quickly that I did not like his game of shoot out the door. If I was able to swivel around so quick, I was successful in pinning him against the doorframe. When I was able to do this, he just wagged his tail as if to say, “you got me!”
3) The other really big problem that I had with him was that he thought that it was O.K. to jump up on a chair, rip off a big chunk of turkey or chicken, and crunch it down, bones and all. I had to catch him in the act at least a half dozen times before he got the idea that this was unacceptable behavior. I corrected him by shaking him a bit by the collar and at the same time, I said "BAD DOG," in a growly tone of voice, similar to the way his mother did to correct him. I did also use a stick and carrot approach. I corrected him when he jumped up on the chair and grabbed the turkey, but when he crawled under the table and begged politely, I gave him some chicken as a reward. To this day I must be careful to make sure that the lid to the garbage pail is on, and weighted down with a couple of heavy rocks. If I leave it off, and get distracted, he will still grab the bones and crunch them down, even though he knows that he should not be doing this. It is much like trying to keep a cat off a counter top.