DEAR OLD TRAINER: I have a working dog that I treat as a pet and give a lot of affection.
An old rancher told me that I should never give the dog any affection because then he will work harder trying to please me. Is that correct?
-- Questioning, Pawhuska, Okla.
A: Ask the old rancher if he uses the same strategy with his wife, Questioning.
That theory is not only false -- it is the exact opposite of the way to treat your working dog, or any dog.
One of the grand pleasures in life is sharing affection with your dog. Any owner should make sure he spends at least 25 minutes a day doing just that. Petting him, walking with him, playing games with him -- any activity will do.
Working dogs are no different from any other breed. The more affection you give them, the closer the bond between you. The closer the bond, the more they strive to please you.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: Do you have any experience with Samoyeds? I live in Phoenix and want to get one. Is that a good idea?
-- Waiting For Your Answer, Phoenix, Ariz.
A: Yes, Waiting, The Old Trainer has a good deal of experience with Samoyeds, and, no, it is not a good idea to bring one to Phoenix.
The Old Trainer was fortunate to share his life with a beautiful Samoyed for 12 years, including taking her skiing at Homewood Ski Resort every Wednesday during ski season. She could ride a ski lift like an expert.
But there are two major problems with your idea. One, Phoenix is far too hot for a Samoyed, a breed that thrives in cold weather (see next letter), and suffers in extreme heat.
Two, they are as energetic as any breed in existence. They developed as a breed with the nomadic tribes of Siberia, and moving all day is in their genetic code.
It is routine for them to run 20 miles a day, day after day, and never get tired. Beneath that massive coat of hair -- no breed sheds more than a Samoyed -- they are as lean and muscular as a whippet.
They need to run, and they need exercise every day. Unless they get it, they can cause problems. There is no way you can get a Samoyed the exercise it needs in the heat of Phoenix.
Check with your local shelter and rescue groups in Phoenix. It can tell you immediately the breeds that are successful in the desert.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: I am moving to the High Sierra and can't wait to get a dog. What dogs do well at high altitude? Also, is it true that dogs don't get fleas at altitude?
-- Excited, Merced
A: You are in for a treat, Excited. Having a dog in the high country is a wonderful experience, and all dogs love to frolic in the snow.
Samoyeds, Huskies and Malamutes are common in the Sierra and thrive in winter weather. They are impervious to cold, preferring to sleep outside in the snow on even the coldest nights. Norwegian Elkhounds and Keeshonds are also popular breeds. All of the above have thick, almost impenetrable coats that are made for snow and cold.
But some short-haired breeds, such as Labs, handle the cold with ease, and you see them swimming in Lake Tahoe even in the dead of winter. Golden retrievers and the various collie breeds flourish in the Sierra.
My personal favorite is the Samoyed, but you can't go wrong with any of the above.
Yes, it is true that fleas don't last long at high altitude. They don't keel over the minute you climb past 5,000 feet, but they don't survive at high elevations.