I’ve Been Up but Mostly DOWN


On Wednesday, at the end of a long walk that included some beach time, some time in the woods, lots of time playing with dogs, and a bit of re-training the come-command, I had the wind punched out of my sails.

I’ll admit… I’ve dropped the ball in terms of training Gwynn for the past month or so.  Things have been getting in the way, and I’ve focused instead on making sure he gets enough exercise, stays cool in the heat, and gets a chance to play.

At some point, in the past month, the ‘come’ command dropped by the wayside.  I still used it (or tried to)… but I wasn’t exactly getting the right response.  Check out this link for a post about why this ISN’T my dog’s fault.   And I believe this to be true.  It isn’t his fault that he does EXACLTY what I expect when I let him off-leash – he runs off away from me and finds something gross to eat and ignores me.

"Is the boss calling for me? more importantly... is this something dead that I can eat before listening to her?"

In response to this indifference to the command that was once so effective, I started using the long-line in parks.  I’ve been… foggy.  Muggy… blurry, exhausted, apathetic.  Whatever the word, it translates to this: too blah to actually try consistently to fix the issue.  I’m sure it’s partly to do with general tiredness, both mental and physical, but I just haven’t been able to muster the necessary… anything… to get my act together, get in gear, DO something.  And, like a complete dunce, I’ve gone on almost an entire walk without letting him off the leash – long or short – and then, in a spurt of “what a good puppy you are!”… I let him off-leash, at which point, he does exactly what I was preventing by keeping him on leash.  And further use of the come command would just reinforce that he doesn’t have to listen.

Back to Wednesday.  Nearly two hours into a walk in which Gwynn actually got a bit of time dragging the leash to frolic in the waves with a beautiful weimaraner (and then ran off and tried to eat an old animal skull… shocking, I know… who could possibly have predicted that?), we were on our way out of the park.  Just to be clear – I NEVER let Gwynn off here.  When he was good and listened to the come command, I’d still leash him up just before entering this part of the park.  Partly because this is where 99% of the goose poop is (and he luuuuuves it), and partly because it’s a big field-ey area with lots of non-doggy people, and NOTHING between that big fun-to-run-in field… and a road.

I was kind of surprised to see a man and his two (gorgeous, red) golden retrievers playing fetch on the far side of the field, right next to the road.  These dogs, however, were perfectly in tune with this guy… they were listening beautifully and running around, having a great (and obedient) time.

Inhabited by evil spirits… he went from sweet puppy to this!

Gwynn flipped.  He went nuts, struggling against his leash, desperate to go play with these dogs, desperate to run straight towards the road, to chase the ball, to frolic in the grass.  Having just pulled a rodent-skull of some sort out of his mouth, I wasn’t buying it.  Especially not when he was dancing on two feet at the end of the line, lunging and making mad-dashes in an attempt to break free.  It was like having a mad gorilla on the end of a leash.  This is not how Gwynn usually behaves.  Then again, he also answers to the come-command, so, really, how could I be surprised at this new and highly uncharacteristic behaviour?

Since the man and his dogs are on the other side of a soccer field, I tightened up and shortened up on Gwynn’s 6 ft leash, and kept walking down the path.  He’s had lots of exercise, and play today… and he doesn’t earn anything by behaving this way.

Summary to this point:  Mentally dead Alex knows that she needs to work more on training, knows that this isn’t appropriate behaviour for her dog, and really doesn’t feel capable of doing much more than just get home, and try practicing ‘come’ off-leash, in my fully enclosed backyard… and then sleep.  Yes this post is biased to my side… it is, after all, my blog.

Man with really well-behaved, really pretty dogs, from across the field – “Does your dog bite?”

Frustrated at Gwynn trying to pull my arm off – “Nope, he’s quite friendly, just not good off-leash near roads” (yes, fibbing… the truth:  right now, not good off-leash, at all)

Snarky wannabe Dog Whisperer – “You should try training your dog”

At this point, Gwynn is still crying and lunging, but from a very short leash being held onto for dear life by his owner who is having a mental breakdown.  I realise what it looks like, from a distance, and from the viewpoint of someone who has never seen how Gwynn usually is.  I couldn’t muster the ability to deal with this comment, so I didn’t respond… just smiled vaguely (from across the field, which he is now crossing with his perfect freaking dogs… the perfectly groomed dogs he’s walking with, over to me and my scruffy looking, sand covered dog that smells of swamp from his time in the lake) and kept walking.

The guy laughs (like the snarky snark he is) when he sees that my answer is a non-answer, and jogs to catch up to me.  His dogs come up, the dogs all exchange sniffs and Gwynn calms down immediately.  Friendly to them, but not the demon-spawn I had hooked to the end of my leash a moment ago. As the other dogs tried to initiate play with him, while he’s on leash, he considered it, and then went “meh.  Not now, guys.  I’m not supposed to pull on my leash.”.

The man dog-whisperers (yes, it’s a verb, now… one I clearly don’t deserve to conjugate in the first person) both dogs into sits (literally, touches the one dog on the muzzle and does a very Cesar-like doggy-mind-meld thing to make her sit), and repeats, “You should train your dog – then he’ll listen to you.”

Miserable, embarrassed, pissed off-but-too-polite/ashamed/embarassed-to-actually-tell-him-what-I-want-to-say … and jealous as HELL that his dogs are so prettily trained and not satanically posessed – “He did listen, but he’s not right now, so he’s on-leash until I can work out his come command enough again that he responds.”

Satanic Dog Whisperer wannabe says, condescendingly – “How old is your dog?”

Wants to go home and sleep and maybe cry for a bit (yes, this is an over-reaction, but I’ve been having one of those… months… since about mid-June, and at this point, I’m really frustrated and exhausted, and my hand
smells like dead thing and fish) – long pause to remember what month it is and what month my dog was born in…because I’m a terrible dog owner…“A bit over a year”

Which gets me a kind of pitying superior look from him, as if to say, “over a year old, and not perfectly trained?  What a failure.”  “Also, how do you not know your dogs’ exact age, right now?”

I bet his dogs were born house-trained (he trained them while they were in the womb as well), and this obedient by the time they were 6 months old.

I’m not even sure if I said anything else, to be honest… I just left.  I spent the remainder of the walk home stewing over this guy, thinking of snappy comebacks that I can never think of when actually faced with someone who is making me upset.  I am more of an angry-cry-er than a snappy come-back-er.  And, in the midst of my stewing, ridiculously upset that this stranger had, from what I could tell in my highly emotional state, hit the nail on the head.

How could I be such a terrible dog owner?  I take him to classes… I try to practice… but I don’t have a wonder-dog of any kind, and what the hell other explanation could there be for the brief appearance of hell spawn at the end of my leash just a few minutes before.  I’m just a terrible dog owner, ruining the life of my beloved pooch.  I should give him to someone who can properly train him and make his life fulfilling.  Like I said… it has been that kind of a month, and I am over-emotional.

Doodle could very well be pondering on what to do to exorcise Gwynn’s demons, right this moment. Or she could be cleaning out-houses… one never knows.

Meanwhile, Gwynn walked calmly and loose-leash beside me, even when we walked past some other dogs on the other side of the road from us.  Apparently ‘good dog’ fought off the attempted possession of Gwynn by Hell Spawn.  Not in time to stop me from moping and being generally down in the dumps for the rest of the evening, unfortunately.  And, with my walking buddy embracing her inner wolf-child for the summer, working in the Great White (or Green, since there isn’t any snow in the summer… or black, what with all the mosquitos) North, I had no-one to vent to, or practice training with.  MISS HER!

Before I leave off with this ridiculously over-long post:  Yes, I’ve recovered from this wallowing in ‘failed dog owner’ misery, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to write this as coherently as I did (cue laugh reel).  I’ve got a post on a timer for sometime this weekend for the upward trend part of the story.  A sneak prevue – I totally kicked Debbie Downer out of the drivers’ seat of this mental rollercoaster.

Also… love LOVE LOVE the whole Dog Whisperer thing… I am quite positive that Cesar Milan wouldn’t have been so condescending and jerk-ey… he’d have given suggestions beyond “don’t be a loser- try not to suck so much at life”.  This guy was a false-whisperer, and clearly a wannabe… and a hater.

Also also… the title is from the song “New Low” by Middle Class Rut, and it is a great song, very catchy 🙂

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15 Comments

  1. It is always easy for someone to sit back and criticize someone else. I probably would have told him to pop off. 🙂

    I forget a lot of times too when I am walking the pups. I always have little treats with me and have to get better at recalling them. Of course it depends on what interests them as to how quickly they respond.

    I hate people who’s dogs really listen to them, it makes me feel bad. LOL

  2. Ohhhh I hear ya. Oly is most definitely the most far from perfect dog one could ever be, but also has a lot of great things going for her, but the minute others start judging me for the things we’re still working on I get so stabby.

    It’s hard because we want our dogs to be perfect angels, and there will probably be plenty of things we never manage to master about their behavior.

    You clearly care more than the average Joe who owns a dog, so right there, it’s a fantastic step in the right direction.

    Solidarity my friend.

  3. Oh I just hate snarky people!! He probably didn’t even train his own dogs – probably sent them away to doggy boarding school or something, then takes all the credit himself. You were much nicer with your silence to him than I’d have been. I wouldn’t have been able to resist saying something like, “Well it’s lovely that your dogs are so well trained, but I have a LIFE and can’t dedicate every second to my dog. We’re happy enough, thank you.” Snark. 😉

    It drives me crazy when all my appropriate comebacks to jerky people come hours too late too!!

    • I’ll give him credit – I really think it was him who trained his dogs… I don’t think they’d have been that focused on him, otherwise – for the same reason that Gwynn is a lot more likely to look to me for cues than he is to anyone else in the family.
      Sometimes I wish that the comebacks would appear in my mind when they’d actually be of use to say aloud (and more than just something vague and pathetic like “Well… Your FACE!” lol… Nyaaaahhh… *tongue out*… but they never do. And some of the things I think of afterwards are pretty nasty, and I think I’d feel uncomfortable saying them aloud to a stranger, even if I could think of it. Sigh.

  4. Teenager. A little over a year so your dog is a teenager and teenagers can be jerky sometimes (true ?). Thunder was a terror until he was 18 months old. Seriously, he would walk and then sort of jump up and propel off me (while grabbing and ripping the bottom of my shirt). Then one day it just all went away. Storm could also be a jerk on the leash if she didn’t want to go somewhere or if she wanted to go somewhere…either way it was a lot of pulling.

    That guy had goldens. You don’t. No two dogs are alike and no two dogs respond to training in the same way. Just keep working your training when you can and one day it will all click. You’ll see. In the mean time. When my dogs were acting obnoxious, and if a correction on lead didn’t work, I would make them sit until they collected and then we would walk. If they started up they would have to sit again. Pretty soon they got the picture. The important thing is not to let them get away with the bad behavior, so that is why they would have to sit. You could also do the change direction thing to try to get him back to heel. The not coming when you call is also very common in teenage dogs and you already know not to let him off lead until he gets with the program. I would say you are doing fine.

    Finally, did the guy really come up to you with his dogs while yours was acting up? Not very smart or nice on his part. Sometimes I don’t understand people in the park….

    • You have no idea how reassuring it is to hear that your dogs went through ‘that’ phase as well. An indication that a dog can have this type of jerky behaviour, and then grow out of it
      Sometimes I think dogs are playing a giant-sized version of pinball… and we’re the objects to bounce off of.
      The sitting technique is a good one, and I do that fairly regularly. He knows (on the street, when not acting like Satan’s Hound) that pulling towards another dog on the street will get him nowhere… as soon as the leash gets tight, I’m not moving anywhere, and he generally walks back to me and sits to wait politely. Unfortunately, while I could get him to sit, i couldn’t break his focus on these dogs in the distance, so every time I thought he’d calmed down enough and took a few steps, he’d go right back into the up-on-hind-legs and crying routine. I’ll just have to keep trying, i guess… keep pulling him into a sit and wait longer. Changing direction works to an extent, but when he’s that riled up, he twists and walks on his hind legs, backwards, as I drag him down the street, with the occasional lord of the dance style leap-and-twist.
      I definitely wasn’t appreciative that he came up to me – Gwynn had stopped prancing on hind legs at least, but still… his bad behaviour got the reward of meeting dogs, definitely not a great thing.

      • Yeah you would think Mr. Dog Trainer would have known that he was the one rewarding your dog for its disobedience.

        I have been there with the twisting on 2 legs dog…lol. I also worked a lot on heel with my dogs on lead (and off at home). Eventually that helped the jumping/pulling.

  5. You sound like me when my children act crazy in public! Rule of parenting both kids and dogs, don’t give unsolicited advice!! Snarky dog owner should know that one!

    • One of the things my mother has told me (about the dog, but it is the same advice her mother gave her about children) – nod and smile, and listen (or pretend to) while everyone tells you what to do about your dog(child)… then do what you feel comfortable with.
      One vet told me to definitely ONLY give my dog kibble (NO people food! he doesn’t need anything apart from kibble and dog treats)… he also told me how to clean Gwynn’s ears properly. The ear thing was very useful… I hadn’t been doing enough before, and it really helped to keep things clean. I feed Gwynn carrots and apples and chicken necks, as well as small amounts of leftovers that dont’ contain anything harmful to dogs (no chocolate cake for you, puppy!… not that there’s ever any leftover chocolate cake!), and he is healthy, and it hasn’t caused him to beg at the table, because he doesn’t get people food off our plates.
      It was definitely like if I were to go up to a woman with a crying baby, or a toddler running amuck, and say, “you should try to be better at parenting… your kids suck”… only I’m pretty sure any parent with an infant or toddler would roundhouse kick me in the face for saying that 😛 And I’d deserve it!

  6. I always have snappy comebacks! AFTER the fact. Ha, Ha. I would be stewing about that too but you just have to just let go. You know your dog, you know what needs to be done and when the time is right you will work on training some more. Dogs are super smart. They unlearn quick but they also relearn quick…especially when you have taught them this thing before. Sorry you have been dealigh with a mental rough patch.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks of real zingers … after the other person is out of sight… or it would, in general, make no sense to use it anymore 😛
      Actually, I found that posting that, and hearing comments from so many people saying that this is a doggy phase… really helped with cheering me up. Now, of course, Gwynn’s up north for a week, but when I’m back wiht him… training will happen 🙂

  7. The thing the snarky guy didn’t tell you is that Golden Retrievers are born trained! I wouldn’t worry about it. Sounds like Gwynn is doing great for his age!

    • lol… that would be amazing, if they really were! Though there are definitely breeds that are easier to train (except for the exception-dog, lol – that one is harder to train than any other dog in existence 🙂 ), it definitely does require work to get that kind of near-perfection. Then again, I bet his dogs have something… like… finely honed skills at finding and rolling in dead-skunk… on a weekly basis… even in winter, when the skunks are hybernating. Somethign that makes them less than perfect 😉 or so I hope in my jealousy!

      • Yes – that’s the way to look at it! Perhaps they dine on poo incognito, and then slather him with kisses…

        • lol! absolutely 🙂 That way, he doesn’t even realize that he’s covered in poop-saliva

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