After several traumatic experiences with our dog, Axle, we wanted to find him a fur friend who wouldn’t try to kill him and who would fit with our family. I had wanted a Spaniel, preferably an American Cocker or a Cavalier, but after meeting a friend’s Boykin Spaniel, I knew that’s what I wanted. According to the breed standard, Boykin Spaniels are low maintenance in the grooming department and would do well in an active family.
There was just one little problem — the standard also said they were intelligent.
You might be wondering, “Why would an intelligent dog be a bad thing?” Well, our other dog, Axle, is too smart for his own good. If he ever sees you do something, he can mimic it, including opening drawers, trash cans, and doors. I didn’t want two mischievous dogs. I wanted a dog smaller than Axle, and dumb and goofy enough to not care if Axle did something as flagrant as taking a treat right out of her mouth. Yes, that’s right, I wanted a dumb dog.
Well, a dumb dog is exactly what I got. Although the breed standard notes Boykins are easy to train, training Remi, as we named her, has been … well, almost impossible. We adopted Remi from a family who got her from a breeder and, in their friend’s words, “didn’t need a dog.”
They couldn’t housebreak her, so they put her outside, where she excavated their yard until they couldn’t take it anymore. She was 10 months old and a bubbly, goofy ball of brown fur. We fell in love with her at first sight. Axle also instantly adored her, and she seemed to take to housebreaking easily enough.
It quickly became clear that the previous owners didn’t talk to Remi. We have talked to Axle since the day he came to live with us, and he has quite a vocabulary. Even if he doesn’t know what you’re saying, you can see the wheels turning behind those deep eyes of his. Remi’s eyes, however, would just twinkle and she’d sport a goofy grin as though you were telling the greatest joke.
I will give her credit — she has learned sit and take it/leave it/drop it. That’s about it, though. She is incredibly hard to train and has an awful memory. She can’t figure out even the simplest treat puzzles, and she has yet to learn that following my finger or foot when I point means there is something yummy on the floor I dropped while cooking. Bless her heart, she can’t even eat from the food bowl without knocking it out of its holder and sending food flying everywhere. She also hasn’t learned that she should stop barking after the threat is neutralized or gone. She’s like the Energizer bunny; she just keeps on going, and going, and going …
Regardless of hours spent walking and running, playing chase with Axle, and playing her strange version of fetch with me, she still digs. She likes to dig mostly small, narrow holes that aren’t very deep but can still turn an ankle in a flash. At first, I thought it was because she didn’t have enough toys, attention, or exercise, but I later learned that she’s actually a certified mole hunter. To date, she has excavated, caught, and killed one mole.
While she’s lacking in intelligence and is quite clumsy, I wouldn’t trade Remi for any other dog. She’s sweet as can be and just too cute! She has also done wonders for Axle. The friendship they have formed is wonderful, and it’s great to see Axle able to communicate appropriately with another dog. She also does great on the play dates we have with a family member’s dogs.
We haven’t given up on her training, but we have resigned ourselves to the fact that it will take a little more time and a lot more patience!
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