Hump Day: Who let the dogs out? Deciding roles at obedience school

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I brought my dog Milane to her first basic obedience training session on the weekend. She’s a smart dog and, I must say, a very good dog. She’s quite well behaved and doesn’t bark incessantly outside like some dogs do. I won’t let her. Not only would it drive me crazy, but I’m sure the neighbours would go batty, too!

She’s very rarely off her leash when she’s outside. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times she’s been off her leash since I got her about two years ago. Just the thought of her getting away from me and getting lost or hit by a car is almost too much to bear. I would be an hysterical basket case if anything like that ever happened.

So, I thought that a basic obedience class would be a good place to start. She has reasonably good recall now. Translation: she’ll come back to me if I scream loud enough. Sometimes, though, screaming isn’t enough. For their own safety, you want immediate obedience based on your voice command.

We’re in a class with three other very nice dogs — a friendly young male Labrador Retriever mix who was adopted from a shelter, a beautiful female Bernese Mountain Dog puppy and a small adult mixed-breed female dog who’s very timid.

Everyone did reasonably well during the first hour. Treats and clickers were going off like crazy. Milane was enjoying the new treats (much better than the ones she gets at home with me!) and seemed to be cluing in. In her previous life, she was a champion show dog, so I knew she had some manners and was certainly trainable. I just hadn’t worked with her in that capacity. When she came to live with me, she was just a pet.

She’s turned me into a mushy sap, though. Since I have two cats, as well, I’m just as happy to let them do their business in the litter box with no interference from me. Milane, however, doesn’t use a litter box. Her litter box is the great outdoors, so it’s up to me to make sure she has an opportunity several times per day to get outside and relieve herself. In the time I’ve had her, she’s only had one accident in the house, so I certainly can’t complain about that.

The cats do their thing throughout the day without any fanfare. The litter box is cleaned out regularly and everyone is happy. With Milane, I find myself constantly monitoring the number of times she’s been outside and exactly what she’s done when she goes outside. It’s become quite a science, I tell ya. About the only thing I don’t do is keep a chart and take photos for archival purposes. (That would be weird, right?)

And yes, I find myself talking baby talk to her on a regular basis. “Does the widdle girl need to go peepee and poopoo? Yes she does! The little girl needs to go peepee and poopoo!” Of course, this is all said in a high-pitched voice that gets higher and higher as I go on. Eventually, it’s so high pitched that no sound is coming out at all and wine glasses break all around me while dogs in the neighbourhood come running toward the house. Yeah, just shoot me now. I’m not proud of it. Is this what I went to university for?

I’ve been testing her staying power from time to time lately. She can go a good eight hours without being taken out, but I don’t like waiting that long. There’s no need to wait that long, since I work from home. And if she really needs to go, she’ll start acting strangely, like sitting within view of my desk and staring at me.

Oh, and there’s also that thing where she drags herself down the hall rubbing her behind on the floor. That’s usually a tell-tale sign that a trip outside is required — and required fast! Let’s just say that the five-second rule doesn’t apply if I drop food on my floors. I just throw it out.

I’m not sure how the obedience training will go. I’ve been working with her since the first session on the weekend. Getting her to sit is going to be a challenge. Every other dog in the world knows how to sit. If I landed on an island that’s deserted except for one lone dog, it would know how to sit. Milane — nope!

They say her breed — Coton de Tulear — can be stubborn. Unfortunately, her breed’s stubbornness doesn’t do much for my patience. Will she finally sit if I yell loud enough and push down on her butt? (I hope the trainer isn’t reading this.) I’ll keep working on it. I’m coming to find out that the obedience training we’re following is as much about me as it is about her. I need to find the patience to keep up with it.

Maybe if she was a truly horrible dog who barked incessantly, tore up the house and messed everywhere, I’d be more motivated. I mean, I am definitely motivated. I want her to be obedient when it counts — especially when it comes to her safety — so I’d better work with her as much as possible.

I’m just a bit afraid that at the end of the course I’ll still be trying to get her to sit while the other three dogs are doing complicated math problems and plotting to overthrow the trainer in a coup d’état that would see them commandeer the treat container!

Regardless of what happens, we’ll continue to do our best. I’ll probably get impatient and do everything wrong while she’ll get stuffed with treats in the meantime. I guess life could be worse for this little white dog with the fluffy tail who pretty much owns my heart.

One Response to Hump Day: Who let the dogs out? Deciding roles at obedience school

  1. Love it. We rescued a golden cocker spaniel and she has stubborn down to a fine art, but it was the baby talk part that got me roaring with laughter…I thought “good, we aren’t the only ones in the hood”. Thanks for sharing.