Canyon News
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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