Bear is six months now and he is turning out to be a great farm dog.  I think it is harder in Norway to have a dog, just for the mere fact that it has to be inside a lot of the time during winter.  Dogs can stay outside in the cold and snow but only for a little while, especially when it is -20C.  In Australia we have the luxury of keeping our dogs outside all year long.  In Norway, I’ve had to make a few adjustments to my idea of dog keeping.

Dogs need access to liquid water.  They can eat snow but water is better for them.  As a bowl of water can freeze within 10-30minutes outside in winter, it is necessary to have a water bowl inside for your dog.  For a Saint with droopy jowls, that can be a mess just waiting to happen.  Dog food too is better indoors so it won’t freeze.  But the hair can be a deal breaker.  I’ve never really had to deal with dog hair as my past dogs have always been outside.  Dealing with a molting dog indoors is a trial.  Lots of vacuuming and constant brushing is required.  Dog hair builds up on rugs or clusters together on the vinyl, not to mention any ‘walk by’ hair when the dog brushes up on you.  Lucky we’ve got a short-haired Saint Bernard!  But, there are some big plusses having a dog in the Arctic.  There are no fleas.  No dirt (just snow) and so dogs stay clean.  And doggy-doo often freezes too quickly to pick up so you can just leave it all til spring for the big melt.  Composting!

There is one thing that has been hard and that is getting out to play with Bear.  My natural instinct in the Dark season, when it is cold and dark outside, is to rug up on the couch and sip hot chocolate.  But dogs need their exercise even in the cold darkness.  Norwegians are very good at walking their dogs.  I see them even as late as 11pm going for a walk along the icy roads and paths, often with two or more dogs.  Since the sun has come back it has been a lot easier for me to get all dressed up to go for a romp with Bear in the snow.

Bear has a great sense of humour and teases me when playing tag.  I’ve always preferred dogs that you can jump on and wrestle with, and Bear is always up for the challenge.  I must say, wrestling in the snow is much nicer than grass.

Every now and then Bear would go frantic in the snow, running in circles and digging in his nose.  I just thought that was what Saints did but apparently there is more to it.  Under the snow, farm mice run around in little tunnels.  Bear can sense them and starts chasing them on top of the snow.  He is already showing great skills in sniffing for things under the snow.  He just dives his whole body into it, chasing after the winter mice.  Crazy.

We are very conscious of teaching Bear boundaries.  Because he is so big he forgets his own strength.  We haven’t taught him to shake hands as having a big heavy paw landing in your lap is not good.  Saints must know when certain play and action is appropriate – sitting, running, play-fighting, etc.  Bear is very willing to sit and lay down for us but he takes longer to do it than most smaller dogs as he has to maneuver such a big body.  He is a little too keen on kissing too – Bear smacked one on me big time – nothing like a drooly kiss from an excited Saint – argh!   (Pictured below.)

But Bear is still only a baby and has lots to learn.  He is only 65cm (shoulder height) but as you can see in the picture below, he can give Moose a ‘run for his money’.  (And remember, Moose is 6’7″ so you can see how awesome Bear can jump already.)   Next winter we will start training him for pulling.

It will be exciting to see Bear in the summertime when he gets to play in our grassy fields and leafy woodlands.  He will have the Midnight Sun to play in and I wonder if he would ever think back to the snowtime. 

Related posts: