One-dog circus

Wilson, who recently came to Best Friends after a shelter closed, is the kind of guy who can make dog trainers beg for mercy—though you wouldn’t think so to meet him. He’s friendly enough. In fact, he has most people laughing hysterically in minutes. Wilson is his own traveling circus, which is part of what creates the challenge.

Here’s one way Wilson likes to pass the time: First, he finds a random object and focuses all his attention on the thing. Nothing else matters. Fire ants could be gnawing on his tail and he would ignore it. He’s in the zone. Next, he flings the object far away, and then pounces on it like a cat chasing a lizard. Zingo! After catching his elusive quarry, Wilson digs like crazy around the unsuspecting toy, sinking it into the ground.

By now, anyone watching is usually chuckling.

Once the toy has sunk deep into the earth, it’s time to start barking. Wilson shoves his head underground and lets loose with a racket that has every groundhog in a 20-mile radius wearing earplugs. Next, Wilson tosses the toy somewhere else around the yard and the fun starts all over! After his first day at the sanctuary, Wilson’s play area already looked like it had been used for missile testing.

So okay, the guy’s a little excited. Why does that make him such a challenge for trainers? Think about it this way. Why would he ever want to learn how to sit when a trip to Wilson-land is just around the corner? Here’s a dog who could entertain himself for hours with pocket lint.

His trainers and caregivers are determined, though. While it may be fun to watch a dog like Wilson do his thing, it’s not healthy to stay that focused (i.e., crazy!) all the time. So they’re working on a strategy to help him use his brain in more, shall we say, constructive pursuits. At least some of the time!

In addition to working on basic manners, he’ll have enrichment activities, such as agility training and learning new ways to play with toys. Also in the mix: some structured down-time. For example, Wilson will have crate sessions in which he spends time relaxing with a treat-stuffed Kong. Dog trainer Ann Allums describes this activity as a kind of "crossword puzzle for dogs." When a hyper guy like Wilson sits still to figure out something, that’s a very good thing.

Nobody is out to change what makes this goofball so likeable, but he’ll be a whole lot better off once he learns there’s more to life than adrenaline. So, wish the caregivers and trainers the best of luck. At least their job won’t be boring!

Story by David Dickson


Photo by Gary Kalpakoff

You can learn some dog training tricks of your own in our online resource library.