Saturday, 5 April 2014

Lessons in Humility

I've always thought of myself as a pretty good animal trainer.  I broke and trained racehorses and did it firmly and kindly, so that the colts and fillies knew what was expected of them and were always glad to see me.  I groomed and trained some real problem horses and had great success in changing their attitudes.
 Dogs have been a part of my life since childhood and my last three were Jack Russells, not easy dogs to train with their attention deficit, obsessive compulsive disorder and sheer stubbornness.  Their training wasn't anything fancy, just the basics like sit and come and walk politely on a leash.  They were all adults when I got
them and had little quirks that had to be either dealt with or ignored.  Dewey, my latest, is the original dog in the manger and has to have whatever the other dogs have.  If I give them each a bone, he goes through a gamut of actions, including running and barking at the door, to get the others to leave their bones so he can get theirs.  If his yapping at them gives me a headache, sometimes I'll just switch the bones all around, which works until he decides that Corky has a better one and starts all over again.  He's also a chronic runaway and if he gets out of the fenced yard somehow, he's on a mission.  I don't think he has any idea of where he is going but going he is.  When he is on his way somewhere, he becomes completely deaf and doesn't hear me calling, ever.  The only way I can catch him is to run back in the house and grab a wiener, jump in the car and get ahead of him and yell, "Dewey, hot dog!"  His greed is the only thing that seems to be more important than his mission and his little 14-year-old legs make a bee-line to me.  He also has a phobia about cameras, so most pictures of the other dogs will show Dewey leaving in the background.  The picture on the right must have been taken with a cellphone and he didn't realize what was going on, but he's catching on to cellphones and tablets now, too, and gives me a dirty look and leaves.  I've always suspected that he is reincarnated from a famous person and hates the paparazzi.
The point of all this is that my dogs and I get along just fine.  They usually do what they're told and other than Dewey and his rare escapes, they don't do anything horrible or that makes me think I should do an attitude adjustment.
Until now.
I have met my match.
Corky was a year old when I got him and the moment he walked in the door he was my devoted dog.  He lives to please me.  He is relaxed inside the house and ready to play and have fun when he's outside, as long as I'm within sight.  He walks by my side without a leash and comes when he's called.  His only fault is that he is very shy and reserved and when we do agility, he will stop if we have to go towards people.  I have become hooked on agility and Corky's natural grace and quickness to learn made me think that a poodle who wasn't shy could be a lot of fun doing agility work.  Corky's sister just happened to have a litter ready to go and the breeder chose what she called "a very self-confident pup" for me.  And self-confident he is.  He loves people, loves other dogs and loves playing.  Constantly.

My living room is a shambles.  I straighten the area rug and put the cushions back on the couches and within 30 seconds, the rug is sideways and the cushions are on the floor.  I thought I had "baby proofed" the house but didn't count on having a pup the size of a pony who could reach just about anything that I could.

Anybody who says dogs don't have a sense of humour hasn't dealt with a standard poodle pup.  He can't be left alone in another room for five seconds or he comes galloping in to show me what he found, practically says "Woo Hoo!!!" and runs around the house waving his prize.  The game is on!  I used to keep unpaid bills on the kitchen table until I was ready to sit down and deal with them.  Not any more.  House plants, papers, books, shoes, ceramic figurines...if he can reach it, it's gone.  And if everything is put away out of reach, he runs upstairs and raids my closet.  "Weeeee!!!!" Mom's socks!  Mom's bras!  Toilet paper!  Wash cloths!  Woo Hoo!!!!
I was eating my supper tonight when someone came to the door with my CSA order.  Usually he's right there with bells on because he loves people coming to the door but he got half my supper before I realized he wasn't underfoot.
Look at the size of the little stinker!  Not even six months old and he's bigger than Corky.  (Dewey leaving in the background.)  He will not come when he's called outside, although he is getting better coming in the house.  Unless, of course, he has something he shouldn't.  He loves treats but will ignore chicken, turkey and wieners if it means he has to do something he doesn't want to.  His motto is, "Don't wanna, don't hafta, not gonna."
The latest trend in dog training is to reward a dog for doing the right thing and ignore them if they don't.  And if they're into something they shouldn't be, distract them with something they can have.  Good luck with that one with Drummond!
This puppy is definitely a challenge and he has shown me that I have a lot to learn when it comes to dog training.  And if you know a sixty-something who decides to get a puppy, whack them upside the head until they come to their senses!

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