Friday, July 15, 2011

The Differences Between Laurel and Hardy

Although I am not an expert in the comedic team. Laurel and Hardy, I believe that most of us who know anything about them think first of their differences. Laurel was tall and thin while Hardy was quite large and they used those differences in their comedy.
I have my own comedy team in my two Labrador Retrievers appropriately named Laurel & Hardy. Admittedly, when we got our 8 week old female yellow Lab 5 years ago, we named her "Shawnee's Mountain Laurel" to honor the Poconos area where she was bred and Laurel was her obvious call name. She has made me laugh everyday since I got her and when we were looking for another puppy last summer and he turned out to be a chocolate maie instead of the yellow female I'd been imagining, "Hardy" seemed like the perfect name! And since he'd be a service dog too, "Ridge View's Hard Day's Night" (with the lyrics, "I've been working like a dog") seemed an appropriate registered name. Also, having "Laurel & Hardy" helps me with my difficulty coming up with the correct name at any given time. Assuming that I don't call one of them by one of my children's names, or that of one of our former dogs or our cat, I can usually come up with "Laurel" or "Hardy".
Even though I have difficulty always coming up with the correct name, my Labs couldn't be more different! I selected Laurel on my own using some basic temperament testing tools and she is absolutely the type of dog I am attracted to - good and bad! She is high energy, very friendly, very enthusiastic with a real sense of humor and fun about her! She enjoys trying new things and loves to learn! She is very bomb proof in almost any situation and has a great recovery! Her energy and enthusiasm sometimes go over the top and she has little to no natural self-control. She is very sensitive to me which allowed her to be a natural alerter to three different medical problems but also causes her to worry about me.
We worked very hard from the moment we got her to increase her self control; did lots of socialization and tons of training. When she was about six months old, she gave me the gift of alerting to a medical problem (very severe muscle spasms) I didn't know dogs could and went on to alert to two other problems as well. Her ability to alert has changed my life in really amazing ways and she also does typical mobility tasks that allow me to do things without asking for help, risking injury or using energy and strength I don't have. We have always separated those times when she is working in public with "dog time" and as a result, when she is dressed and working, she is much more controlled and serious. When it's "dog time", although she will still alert and do tasks, she is allowed to be her real self: high energy, hugely enthusiastic and friendly without the best self-control. Although we do lots of dog sports (agility, obedience, rally, freestyle) to give her an outlet for her energy and enthusiasm, I am also aware that her temperament is not ideal for a service dog which makes working in public more difficult for her!
Enter Lab #2, a little brown boy our service dog trainer, Sue Alexander, temperament tested and helped select for me. Left to my own devices, he would not have been the puppy I selected and that was the point to having a professional who knew me and what I wanted and needed help with the process. He is a fun, happy, enthusiastic young man who shares some wonderful qualities with Laurel - he is quite bombproof with great recovery; he makes me laugh and can be a lot of fun! Laurel has been essential to his learning process and as a result, when he was about 3 1/2 months old, he alerted to one of my medical problems on his own and since then, has proven to be very accurate and predictive, just like Laurel is. However, in a few but really critical areas, he is as different from Laurel as he could be! He has tons of self control and is by nature, much more serious minded (or as our son would say, "boring"). In fact, he is currently a 15 month old unneutered adolescent male and he still has tons more self control than Laurel does. Also, he can alert and then, usually can let it go. He doesn't tend to worry ... once he has told me about what is going to happen, he lets go of the responsibility much more easily than Laurel does.
I have never seen Hardy "over the top" and he settles and relaxes easily and beautifully. I have to work harder to keep him motivated when we're doing dog sports (right now, for instance, he does't understand why he should worry about sitting up and straight when we are doing obedience or rally) so I'm working to get better at that. I would tell you that Laurel is persistent but we selected Hardy, in part, for his persistence and he wins the award for that at our house (and for right now, at least, that's not something we are always enjoying)!
When I take my young brown boy out for public access practice I am awed once again at how much easier the differences in Hardy's temperament make doing his job compared to Laurel. I will be forever grateful to Laurel for her gifts of alerting and for her efforts to be the best service dog she can be but in the future, I will look for dogs who have temperaments that will make the job easier for them!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Thanks for posting. Barnum has been quite the training challenge, but I am starting to think that, in the end, he might be the better service dog, compared to my previous two. It's really amazing how different each dog is, even if they are the same breed or come from the same breeder, etc.!
    I do admit to being jealous of a dog who is serious-minded and calm at public access! I had that in the past, but now, oh boy! So far to go!