Scott Rall: Dog personalities are so unique

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I now have four dogs. Visitors to my home always ask how I can tell my dogs apart. Three are all-black Labrador males and of adult size, and the other is an inherited rat terrier that was my wife’s dog before she passed.  It is not all that hard to tell them apart after a few days, but it’s way easier after a few weeks.

The reason it is easier for a stranger to tell them apart after a short while is that they can recognize their different personalities.

The dog for this week is named Tracer. Tracer was a replacement for my dog Ace that died of cancer seven years ago.  I wanted another one like Ace, so I got a puppy from a litter from Ace’s sister, Maddy. The new puppy’s name had to have Ace in it so Tracer was the result.

Many dog owners would not want a dog like Tracer. I picked him from the litter because I wanted a high-energy, driven dog. I picked the wildest male puppy from the bunch.

Tracer is 7 years old now. It is almost impossible to take him for a ride in a truck and let him ride in the passenger compartment.

If it is just Tracer and me, he will start in the front seat and then start running laps in the cab.  He will move to the back seat, look out the window, move to the other back window and then back to the front seat again.

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I drove to the Twin Cities about five years ago and he sat on the seat the entire way. Looking and looking and watching the birds on the shoulder of the road. He never laid down once in the three-hour drive.

He will sit in the back yard and watch the snow geese migrating at 20,000 feet overhead, hoping one will fall to the ground so he can bring it to me.

Intense is a little too weak a term to describe Tracer. He is medium build and smart as any dog I have ever had.

The smarter the dog the more concentration and attention the owner needs to employ. There is a saying in the dog world, “Fast dogs require a slower dog handler.” Tracer will do anything he can get away with as long as he is not breaking a command. If I tell my dogs to sit, all of them will sit.

The release from the sit command is “OK.”  I will have all of my dogs sitting and then answer the phone.  If in the conversation to my caller I say the words OK, he will break from the sit position and start to run around.  I did not say the word OK to him but he heard the word and knew he would not get in any trouble for getting up and running around.  

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All of my other dogs will be sitting where I told them to.  This is called an operator error on the dog owner’s part. This is one smart dog.

Tracer is not much of a loner.  He will sit near me and often will lay partially on my feet if I am standing. If we are standing in the field, he will heel on my left with one of his feet on my toes. He will not lay on the couch next to me for more than about five minutes and then he moves and lays on the dog mat by the fireplace. He is never very far away, but never on your lap.

He is one of the best pheasant hunting dogs I have ever owned. He will hunt from sun-up till sundown with no change in the intensity level.  

He is the kind of dog I need as I hunt many days each season and need lots of dog horsepower.

He is impervious to cold, but I still pay close attention to the conditions. If it’s hot, he would easily run himself to death before he would ever consider giving up or slowing down.  This, too, requires attention to keep the dog safe.

One of the last days of this season I saw him kind of half-running and half-limping.  He was still hunting aggressively, but I called him over to check him out. A stem of bluestem grass had poked through his foot. There was about six inches of grass below his foot pads and about three inches sticking out of the top of his foot. He was still hunting.

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I laid him down on his side and gently removed the impalement. I did the best I could to ensure there was nothing left still in his foot. And when I was done, off he went back to chasing pheasants like nothing had happened.

He would have hunted the rest of the day with a stick through his foot if I had let him.  That’s a high-desire, high-intensity dog.

Tracer has been trained to a high level and can do more than most other dogs. I friend told me there is no such thing as a perfect dog.  This is true. But when it comes to Tracer, he is about as close as I will ever get.

That’s all the bragging I will do about this dog.  If you really want to see how good he is, you will have to follow me in the tall grass next fall. His actions speak louder than my words.

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