I am a natural with dogs. I have the calm, haughty authority of the alpha male. Look at the wolf leader – that’s me. He returns from hunting, saunters into the middle of the pack. The others squeal and squirm for his attention. He strolls past, ignoring them. He finds his place, lies down, and only then can the rest of the pack cautiously approach for an approving sniff.
That’s me. A single glance, a snap of the fingers, a sharp command, and dogs do my bidding.
I was never taught this. I suspect it’s tribal memory, a deeply embedded instinct.
Consequently I don’t go to dog school, which Mrs B enrolled in about a decade ago. She has been diligent in her attendance ever since. In fact I think she’d go even if we didn’t have dogs.
But we do. Mabel, 11, a recidivist dog hater and barker Border Terrier. Tilly, 9 months, beyond mad, incontinent, terrified of the wheel barrow, a Boxer.
Both of them accompany Mrs B to school. Largely, I think, to make sure she behaves in class. To be fair, she has made progress. She has mastered all the commands, can perform a perfect finish, and is extremely good with other dogs.
School is one thing. Putting it into practice entirely another. If I whistle, she continues to ignore me. While she will happily walk with me without a lead, and doesn’t run away, she simply cannot keep quiet. She is very clean around the house, but still thinks it’s perfectly OK to come and re-arrange my things. Obviously at her age I couldn’t insist on her sleeping downstairs. One cardinal rule I picked up from the trainer is to ignore her when I return to the house, but this doesn’t seem to be working because she still wants to have a long chat the moment I’m through the door.
As for the dogs, well, we rub along fine.
Hmmm. Well there is only one leader in this pack but it’s me. The dogs know who is boss. Christopher is resistant. I did mean to find a husband training class that I can take him to in a bid to housetrain him better and elicit a better response to commands but frankly the professional view is that after 11 years he may be untrainable. When choosing, I opted for one of good pedigree but genes don’t count for much it seems. Some say that if you take on a rescue case and don’t know much about their origin then you can just work with what you have, rather than trying to train out the inherent characteristics that husbands who regard themselves as show material can be predisposed to. So the footprints on the kitchen floor, messy eating, lounging about on furniture, lack of recall, and so on are likely to be something I just have to continue dealing with. Patiently and without complaint. Because apparently using an electric shock device (like a taser?) on your husband is actually illegal. Who knew?
But when it comes to the dogs Tuesday nights have become our regular night out. Having discovered the WONDERFUL Brian and his LoveK9 training school I am thrilled to say that Mabel, Tilly and I now are in the advanced class. This is despite the fact that Brian calls us the naughty ones. I don’t think I’m especially naughty. Mabel has her moments, and Tilly is off the scale naughty most weeks, but we’re making progress. Mabel has learned that not all dogs require barking at and plenty are actually quite friendly. Her favourite thing about dog school is the treats. She regards Tuesday nights as a trip to the all-you-can-eat-buffet. As soon as Brian or one of his lovely assistants Jean and Vicky rattles the Tupperware box with treats in it, Mabel performs like she’s on Broadway (the stage I mean, not Tooting). Secretly she’d like to be adopted by Jean, who pays her so much attention she thinks she’s teacher’s pet.
Tilly thinks dog school is youth club or speed dating (I’m not sure which) and just wants to hang out with her pals – she’s utterly without judgement (or sense) in making choices – often singling out the largest, intact male dog 8 times her size to be her new BFF. But she will sit, stay, come, down, paw pretty well for 9 month old Boxer. And as for me, I listen VERY hard to everything Brian teaches us and try hard to be relaxed (ish) and not get anxious when we let the dogs meet – but mainly I only remember to do these things when Brian says “BREATHE SARAH” and I realise I’ve been holding my breath for 4 minutes. It’s the most fun hour of the week, and the dogs are so much calmer and content for having some consistency in their routine and some rules to follow and boundaries to observe. Dog school ROCKS! If only Christopher realized how much easier life could be for him if he just gave in to my training!
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