Yes, you read right and you are at the right blog site. This one is for the dog lovers.
Those who know me know I am not a dog lover. I love other dog lovers, but I’ve only liked two dogs in my life – one was very old and the other was exceptional. When they are sleeping, resting quietly on the floor, or trying to save someone’s life they are wonderful. Barking at varmints at 4 a.m., chewing everything that isn’t nailed down, pooping all over the back yard, shedding, slinging drool, sloppily eating, jumping up, snatching food from the BBQ, or sniffing me up and down as if I were the backside of another dog – you can have all that.
Almost everyone in my life (and the world, it seems) IS a Dog Lover. Especially my husband. He isn’t bothered in the least about all that stuff. He needs to have a dog. It’s in his DNA. I see how happy it makes him to have one. And so there will always be a dog at my house. He likes them big, at least 80 lbs, the more energetic the better.
Since I share a back yard with Luke the Large Black Lab, I decided to try and train him to do a few things. Nothing big, I know better than to try and make him bark on command or drink water without sloshing. I’m keeping my expectations reasonable. Get the ball. Sit. Drop (the ball). Stay. Fetch. Maybe even in that order. Walk on a leash without yanking my arm off when he sees another dog.
To be fair, Luke is very smart. He learned Sit quickly and has managed to retain that command. Fetch is his favorite thing in the world. His ball of choice is a neon pink lacrosse ball; he never wants to give it up. He learned to Drop it in a heartbeat for a dog treat. Without treats he will Drop then immediately catch it again in that cavern that is his mouth. He became so pleased with himself that he would ‘drop and catch’ over and over and over again, the single bounce of the ball making a loud noise on the back deck. I thought it clever that he invented a game he could play alone.
Occasionally he wants to play fetch more than he wants to keep the ball. He will sometimes Drop on command and leave it. He’s learning Stay. Sit. Drop. STAY so I can get the dang ball. He understands Stay quite well. You can tell because usually when he drops the ball and leaves it, if I say Stay he immediately gets the ball in his mouth so I can’t grab it. A few times he would respond by dropping the ball at my feet and actually wait for me to get it. Which earned him a lot of praise for Stay and the reward of getting to play Fetch every time he Stayed.
Last week he brought the ball to me, dropped it at my feet and sat, waiting for me to pick it up and throw. Without any commands. He did this two or three times. Could it be he is headed towards obedience? Could it be I’m a dog trainer and didn’t know it?
Emboldened by my success I determined to walk him on a leash. The hardest part is getting the leash on him. When he sees me with the leash he does this jumping-prancing-whirligig thing, making it impossible to hook the leash. Unless I use my firmest voice and can make the hook in 2 seconds. The actual walking part is pretty good. I walk at a good clip, so does he. I’ve made my peace with the fact he needs to stop and smell the flowers (and everything else) along the way. He will even stop walking when I do (given a strong enough leash hold) as well as Stay with the leash slack on his back until I say Go. He hates to Sit while on leash, but slowly, grudgingly and with attitude eventually Sit he does.
The problem is other people and their dogs. He gets so excited when he sees them, ready to gallop over with his big galoot howdy. Which makes some people scared, some dogs scared, and is unpleasant for everyone except big men with big dogs. They ain’t sceered. I have learned that as soon as I see other dogs Luke’s leash has to be pulled in short, my grip firm, my feet planted solidly, the command to Stay given in strong voice. Amazingly it almost always works. When it doesn’t, I smoothly deliver my practiced line: “I’m so sorry, he’s still in training.” I figure I’ll need that line at least 3 more years.
I’m still not a dog lover. But I’m beginning to like Luke. Most of the time.