Don't let looks fool you,Duke is smart, too smart.
If we could only outsmart our intelligent chocolate lab, all would be well.
Labs are often trained as guide dogs because they understand complex commands and can remember up to one hundred and fifty requests.
I could complain for this entire post about my still not trained chocolate lab who is brilliant enough to act stupid when it suits him. However I will limit myself to two antidotes and then I will astound you with his gardening skills.
We adopted Duke (Marmaduke) when he was nine months and he stubbornly clung to several bad habits that were just too much fun for him but a pain in the neck for us. For example, he constantly leapt up right in my face, to engage in some sort of mock fighting. Since he is only 14 pounds lighter than I am but all muscle, he is the definite victor in these contests of strength. After one frustrating confrontation, I harshly commanded Duke to stay "down" and to "sit" about ten times. I finally threw up my hands and said,
"Oh, why don't you just go get a toy instead of attacking me?"
Duke suddenly stopped in his tracks, his ears perked up, he looked at me with wide opened eyes and then quickly put his nose to the ground and began to search for his hidden toys! Duke surprised everyone, especially since this now works every time.
Another secret weapon that halts mock fighting is an invitation .
"Come on up and cuddle instead of attacking me."
These words instantly transform Duke into a passive lap dog. After a couple of hours, of sharing a crowded couch with such a huge dog, one of my daughters pushed Duke off the Chesterfield when he refused to move. The intelligent dog's reprisal? He purposefully stuck his tongue in her coffee while maintaining eye to eye contact, slurped and then turned right around and stalked out of the room.
Way too smart for a beast!
No wonder trainers can turn labs into finely tuned, obedient guide dogs.
For all his faults, Duke is an excellent gardener. I know that this seems absurd but trust me. I speak the truth!
This last fall I was pulling out old grape vines around our property. Duke pushed me out-of-the-way as I struggled to dig up roots and he proceeded to dig furiously with his front paws. Very impressive.
As I pruned over head branches, often I only managed to cut half way through a branch. I'd tug and pull but it was Duke who deserves all the credit for finishing the pruning. He'd leap incredibly high, grasp the errant branch with his teeth and then hang his whole ninety pounds on the branch. That dog saved me hours of work.
Now if we could only outsmart our dog, all would be well.