I have been in email communication with a woman from a company that offers dog obedience classes. Much as Gwynn and Tall Sister and I enjoyed our two terms of city-run Beginners Dog Obedience, we feel that a third term would be overkill. And they currently don’t offer an intermediate or advanced class. If we were to re-enrol, he would be surrounded by untrained puppies, and our trainer would re-teach us the basics from the very beginning. I’m sure it will be exciting and edifying for the new-dog-owners (spring is definitely a good season for getting a new puppy), and the new puppies will be very excited and learn relatively quickly how to do all of these important things they will be taught. We could definitely continue working on advancing Gwynn’s skills in all these things up to ‘mad’ level (as in, “You’ve got mad skillz, dawg” *appreciative gangsta hand-gesture inserted here*), but on the whole, I can work on those skillz at home just as easily. At home, I don’t pay for that privilege, and there is less likelihood of puppy accidents filling the room with unpleasant odours. So, we’ve found this new place, and I explained to this contact person that we’d like to be exempted from the “prerequisite Obedience I” requirement of “Obedience II”. Because Gwynn’s skills are nearly at ‘mad’, and are definitely past Obedience I level. She asked for some info about Gwynn’s skills, and about what I’m looking to learn and get him to learn. I tried to be honest in describing his skills, because I’m sure people in this type of company meet a lot of “amazingly well behaved and obedient dogs” that can barely be forced into a sit, even with a pound of meatloaf on offer as reward.
The main thing I want him to learn? I tried to phrase it politely – I’d like to improve his response with distractions. I decided that was kind of vague. I knew they’d get that ‘response’ means listening when I say sit, stay, down, COME (that one is particularly important), but I felt I ought to clarify the distractions. He is most distracted by other dogs and dead things in the woods. In particular, coming when called, when he’s interacting with another dog, or is running around with a dead thing in his mouth. That would be great.
Yup. Spring, joyous spring. The snow is melting, the birds are singing (and the male birds are turning spectacular lady-luring colours), mud puddles are forming, and there are an awful lot of dead things being uncovered. They all look an awful lot like old dead-wood, until I realise just how interested Gwynn is in this particular ‘piece of wood’, and realise that no, that probably used to be a squirrel… before it became rigid, flat, and mostly dehydrated. Mmmm patchy-furry squirrel jerky! He also really really enjoyed the GIANT FISH HEAD he found (fish in our creek can have heads the same size as my dog’s head?! HELP!), thank you people-who-fish-in-the-creek. By the way, I’m pretty sure the levels of toxicity in the creek mean that any fish you eat out of it (especially near its end, after it runs all the way through Toronto and industrial zones) will eventually cause you to grow scales or a third eye.
Clearly I need to work on the LEAVE IT!, and DROP IT!!!! commands. The issue with practicing it at home (in the safety of my house, where he isn’t likely to be leaving or dropping feces or “guess-that-animal” parts), is my parents. They look at this particular obedience training as “Torturing the dog”. Particularly the leave-it command. And I’ll admit, it might seem like it. You make something really appealing to the dog, point it out to him, put it where he can reach it (holding it out in your hand, or eventually putting it on the floor), and then you tell him not to take it. It’s like that handshake. You know – guy-similar-to-Danny-Zuko from Grease holds out his hand in a ‘shake my hand’ kind of way, but when guy-similar-to-that-guy-in-“Can’t Buy Me Love”-before-he-becomes-cool goes to shake it, the Danny-esque-guy jerks it back, in the casual “just combing my side-of-head hair” pose, and looks around at his posse with a smirk on his face. Laughter and jeering ensue, the other guy leaves, head-down and dejected. I don’t laugh or jeer, though… and despite what my parents think, I’m not trying to torture him, I’m trying to make him leave dead things alone. And, as of this morning, cat-food left out by my neighbour for stray (or feral… which are also stray, but in an even less sociable-with-people kind of way) cats to eat. He isn’t a cat, and he isn’t a stray, and while he sometimes exhibits pretty wild behaviours, feral he is not. He is clearly not her target demographic. I also question just how long he’s been planning that escapade, because my brief dropping of the leash was enough for him to make a beeline to the narrow alley between two houses-not-our-own, right to the cat-food container I didn’t even know was there.
Hopefully this new dog trainer will have some tips – I’m going to register for the summer term. Until then, I plan to continue torturing the dog with increasingly delicious things to NOT let him have, in hopes of torturing him with NOT letting him eat that mystery-animal-jerky.