Scooter’s Barn Dog Training

By Terry Golson

For ten years, Good Dog Lily was Scooter’s guiding light. Wherever she was, so was he. Granted, she was the active one, keeping deer away, hawks out of the sky, and snakes out of the pond, while he, well… he sprawled out in the sun. With Lily gone, Scooter is not about to take up the reins of the farm dog.

Scooter is not exactly a leading man sort of dog. He’s always been, and always will be, a sidekick.

Scooter looked around for a new superhero to tag along with. He decided that it should be me.

A sidekick is supposed to stay at their superhero’s side, but Scooter is left at home a lot. This has made Scooter quite concerned and unhappy. However, Tonka’s stable is dog friendly, and I was told that I could bring him. Other boarders leave their dogs in the tack room while they ride, but I knew that wasn’t going to go over well with Scooter. Sidekicks do not let their superhero out of their sight. Turning Scooter into a barn dog would require some training.

On the first trip to Tonka’s stable, (read this account) Scooter met the resident dogs who greeted him politely. He said hello and then ignored them. We had a look around. I brought him a second time, put him in the tack room, left for 30 seconds to see what would happen, and as I expected, Scooter yowled in distress. Leaving him there until he gave up and stopped howling wouldn’t have taught him to enjoy being in the tack room, and it might have made Scooter become more fearful and anxious when I went out of view. So, I quickly retrieved him and came up with a plan to turn the little one into a barn dog.

We returned another day. We went out to the paddocks, where Scooter sniffed manure, but, to my relief decided to roll in plain (and least to my human senses) dirt.


We looked at the horses. Scooters wasn’t much interested in them.


We took a walk. Scooter strutted, (look at those adorable flappy ears!) and quickly tired out. That was my plan.


Back in the barn, I put down his mat. Luckily, Benny the Labrador, was there to show Scooter what a barn dog does on a hot summer day.


Lesson accomplished!


A few days later, I brought Scooter back again. He settled right onto the mat. This time, I walked out the front of the barn and came right back through the rear door. Scooter stood up and looked for me, but he didn’t have time to start yowling before I reappeared. I did that a few more times. A sidekick needs to have confidence that their superhero will always return safely from a mission.

We’ll continue with that scenario until Scooter doesn’t even bother to stand up when I leave. Then I’ll extend how long I’m away. Hopefully he’ll get comfortable with hanging out at the barn, whether I’m in sight or not.

But, there’s one more thing to train, and that I don’t have much control over. Scooter has yet to come across the barn cat. Scooter has never met a cat, and I’m not sure that the barn cat has ever met such a little dog. Until I can be there for that introduction, this superhero will keep her sidekick safely at her side.

17 thoughts on “Scooter’s Barn Dog Training

  • Robin

    As always, I’m impressed by your understanding of animals’ perspectives and how to work with them! Years ago I had a Pomeranian, my first dog, and I did everything wrong with her because a) I didn’t fully understand how dogs view things, and b) I thought I didn’t have to train a cute little dog. Various issues developed particularly with strangers. I brought in an animal behaviorist and she trained me. 🙂

    • Terry Golson Post author

      You didn’t do “everything” wrong – you realized something was amiss and brought in an experienced pro. That’s a step better than most in that situation would have done!

  • Gin

    It’s impressive the way you understand animal behavior. And that is the most action I remember seeing Scooter do. He’s so cute.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Have thought about that. But, so far, Scooter shows no interest in making dog friends. In fact, they stress him a bit. So until he says he wants a dog around, it’s going to be just him.

  • Shelley Griffin

    Love little Scooter, & learn so much as u break down behaviors, what’s present & what’s desired!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      So far, I haven’t gone riding when he’s at the stable. It’s all about focusing on getting Scooter comfortable there. Hopefully, that will happen, and I can leave him in the company of the farm dogs. But not yet! 🙂

    • Terry Golson Post author

      He went off his feed when Lily died. He’s eating again. But even before then, with age his backbone had started to show. I’d like him to put on some weight – he’s on free-choice kibble and I ply him with high-quality treats. But he’s prone to tummy upsets – so it’s a balance!

  • Chickencarol

    I too love your understanding of what your animals needs are and scooter is of course so very cute.

  • Cindi Bajkowski

    Thank you for this post, while my circumstances are a bit different. I am going to adapt your wonderful, caring advice to my two non working dogs when we move next month to a townhouse in an urban area. Very different than the over an acre fenced yard they are used to. I will be the constant they will need in this new environment. Slowly lengthening my time away from them while they adapt to our new home.
    As always thank you!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      The details change, but the perspective stays the same. There’s a lot of great ideas out there on canine enrichment while owners are away. Although, sometimes I think that as long as they feel secure in their beds, they’re happy to sleep while you’re out. Good luck on your move! I hope that there are plenty of places to take them on “sniff walks.”

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