Engage Your Creativity
By Joann Deutch
Sep 19, 2012 - 11:05:21 AM
LAUREL CANYON—I recently rescued an 18-month-old puppy. I thought I was prepared for all contingencies. I quickly learned that I was much too smug about the undertaking. Yes, my puppy was a cutie pie in my eyes. Yes, he was sweet, but he came with unexpected quirks. He refused to “come” when called, although it looked like he was familiar with the concept. Rather than “come” he put his head down giving me the most pathetic look. What could have engendered that kind of response to a basic command? I’ll never know.
I call them ballerina feet
I thought about the dilemma: you can’t have a dog who (or should it be “that” - the answer to that question is a whole other discussion) does not “come.” I mentally shopped around for another alternative. I settled on Vieni, the Italian word for “come.” It had enough syllables to be a command. I accompanied it with a hand gesture. Yes, I watch too much Cesar Milan. It worked! I was surprised at how easy it was.
The next challenge came with the command “sit.” This time it was clear that my dog was clueless about what I was asking him to do. I could practically stand on his hind legs and he wouldn’t “sit” for love, money or treats, never mind enthusiastic ear rubs and Att-a-boy. He just didn’t get it. Well, another obstacle to overcome. After much dithering, I assumed a substitute word would solve the problem. Somehow I landed on BB as the command. No dice. The dog still looked at me as if I’d grown a new head. But he did respond to the hand gesture and treat. Not a perfect solution, but better than nothing. So now I am still trying to connect the hand gesture with the command. I guess I’ll have to report back to you.
I have another more pressing safety issue. The dog loves the pool. I have a pool cover, so I am afraid he’ll walk on the pool cover and get caught in it and drown. Now I am building a baby proof pool enclosure, which my husband not so tactfully notes is “the house that jack built.” And finally, the dog thinks I am a life raft in the pool, so he tries to scramble on top of me when we are in the pool. How to solve this issue? I tried the doggie paddle. He was faster than me, so I couldn’t get ahead of him. The same was true of the crawl - even at full tilt. I even resorted to the sloppy over head stroke with my arms flailing and legs kicking akimbo. I’m sure I am a sight to behold. Nothing. Then I tried the back crawl, and bingo, no dog trying to climb all over me while I swam. Sure, I could have locked him out of the pool, but that seemed a mean solution to one of his favorite activities.
I am comforted that I can be resourceful. Okay, so outsmarting a dog may not be much to brag about, but my adaptability makes him a better companion. There is a lesson to be learned here beyond mere dog training. Change your behavior and get better results.
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