Dog Man

Living with a dog man for 15 years now, I’ve learned a few things about dog training.  But when two different neighbors called within 24 hours this week for advice — jumping up, digging, submissive peeing, and attacking a cat — they didn’t ask for me.  I don’t have the Bearded One’s gravitas.  Love and fear is the magic mix, and I get lost in a muddle between the two.  The dog man just wants to know the breed and the age.
Ruby is a well-trained dog by most reckonings i.e. she can be walked without a leash around other people and other dogs and get a passing grade.
There are no bad dogs, as Barbara Woodhouse used to say, but there are more difficult-to-train breeds.  Huskies and golden retrievers are a world apart.  Still, it’s an authoritarian relationship.  The dog must believe you mean business, that you will go drill sergeant on them if they foul up the maneuvers.  It’s very military.  Think of Sergeant Carter on the old 1960s TV series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.  Love in formation.  Affection at attention.  Early training is all a game with lots of fun and treats.  Once they know the commands well, though, there’s a protocol.  They don’t have a choice.
Here’s what I’ve watched and learned about keeping them trained:
  • Say a dog’s name once.  It’s the pause afterward that they hear and it is powerful.  It creates anticipation which is 90% of the game.
  • Do not hit a dog, especially from above.  Only pop them under the chin to get their attention.  Holding their muzzle and compelling close eye contact is also potent.  The idea is never humiliation, but momentary attention.
  • Set the dog up to do the behavior you don’t want and catch them in the act.  Then make a big deal of it.  Race over to them, swell your chest up big and make them look you in the eye.  Make a scene.  This is the part I hate.  A sensitive, beloved visitor who once witnessed a disciplining scene when a dog ignored the “come” command — the Bearded One doesn’t care who is watching him go ballistic with a dog — was aghast and asked if that was really necessary.  Yes, I said sadly.  You must make a fool of yourself.  Intentional theatrics are the whole point; you can do the job once or a hundred times; once is better.  This is for enforcement, not early training.

The set-up works with cats, too. A variation, anyway. The hoop house plastic arrived, and we are contemplating a catastrophe for Garfield so he doesn’t climb and claw the plastic to shreds.

Hoop house plastic delivered: 24 ft x 55 ft, 40 pounds, $150

He will for sure if we don’t watch him closely, and when he reaches for it, we’ll guard-dog him with a horrible “iNNNNN!!!” nasal buzz that scares and irritates even me.  The Bearded One invented the sound to keep Garfield from following us on long walks in coyote country.  Works like a charm.
We’ll have to rig reminders ever so often.  Like with Ruby and the gardens.  This week I planted the seed potatoes, even though it’s still in the low 30s at night — this has been the coldest first half of April in recorded Puget Sound history — and Ruby loves the bone meal I added to the soil this year.  Potatoes like phosphate for their root development, not so much nitrogen, which is for leaves.

Ruby sniffs the bone meal as I plant the potatoes

The last scene we made with Ruby over the gardens was months ago, so I set up a little fence for a couple of days.  Sticks and flagging.

The reminder fencing around planted potatoes...and back up the hill are the goat barn and chicken coup.

Indiscriminate digging is another problem altogether, and just about unsolvable.  You have to fence-in precious places.  It’s not a problem with Goldens, fortunately.  The set-up technique works for jumping up problems, too, and to some extent attacking cats.  Ruby has had trouble with both in the past, but both of these problems have been solvable.

Submissive peeing is the toughest problem on the neighbors’ list.  It’s usually with one person, and I, unfortunately, have previously been that One with a family dog.  Every time I went to pick the kids up at their father’s house after the divorce, Pepper the Australian Shepard would pee in the entry.  I think Pepper was overwhelmed with confused feeling when he saw me — a dog of divorce — and months of one-on-one, I’m-here-for-you love would theoretically have been the only cure.  It was not to be.  Our younger Twenty Something daughter always had a towel nearby; she adored Pepper.

I will try to make up for all that mopping by taking excellent, loving care of her cat who will be summering here as she works as a nurse at the VA Hospital.  Any advice for welcoming a second kitty into the fold?

Ruby and Garfield

“How old is the dog?” the Bearded One asked the neighbor who called about their Labradoodle jumping up.  The answer, six months, made him laugh, and them relax.  No way could you expect a six-month- old pup to be trained yet, he explained and then added, “It’s a DOG, man!”


5 responses to “Dog Man

  1. This one really started the waterworks…..I love my dogs dearly, and I have always had a problem with disciplining them. However, a well-behaved animal is doubly enjoyable. I know that I can count on them as much as they can count on me, it’s give and take, with them doing far more of the giving! I miss my Daisy, and so do the boys…but my Lucy is the one that misses her the most. This week, I bought Lucy a bag of toys to keep her occupied while I was at work and the boys at school. I think it’s helping a little. I’m trying to get accustomed to the fact that she’s not being my foot warmer under the covers at night, and my couch companion in the evenings, but I know I need more time to get used to it….after all, I’m only human!!! 🙂 Sending all my love to you and your family.

    • I bought two pots of gerber daisies for the garden, Kathie, in honor of your beautiful Daisy. She’s been gone over a week now; you and Andrew and Will AND Lucy have been in my thoughts every day. Dogs are the greatest! We still miss Jake and it’s been a year and half. We are Ruby’s “pack” now, as you are Lucy’s. Loving you, too. ck

  2. Great Blog Seestor! Love the pic of Ruby….mug shot? Not. Just want to kiss her. Love the insights into understanding the canine’s point of view….ever watch Cesar Millan? The Dog Whisperer. I’ve a wee crush on him 🙂 Maybe he has a referral to a Cat Whisperer for advice for this summer’s new addition. It’s all about the “pack”…..and, glad we’re all in this together 🙂

  3. Christine Widman

    Hi Christi,
    Our elegant Afghan, Buffy, and I went to Dog School twice a week for the entire summer that she turned 10 months old? maybe. She loved school and so did I as I learned as much as she did. We came home and practiced our lessons every day. At the end of school, she was given a little award for her accomplishments. 🙂
    I love to see a well-trained dog. A delight to the eye and soul.
    Buffy was that delight for all of us.
    When I am out running in the afternoons, I sometimes pretend I have her running with me.
    Sending love, Christine

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