Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rites of Passage

Brubeck graduated from his first obedience training class today. The instructor even put a little mortar board on his head and gave him a celebratory an ice cream treat (which he promptly threw up. Apparently my dog is lactose intolerant.) Gavin and I stopped in toward the end of the class to witness the pomp and circumstance and, after photos, the dogs had free play, which was great fun to watch.

Our little guy has come a long way. He can sit, stay, come, (lie) down, and leave it on command. Best of all, he can WAIT.

It used to be that the moment I picked up a blanket and a book, he would vibrate with anticipation: Where’sshegonnasit?where’sshegonnasit?where’sshegonnasit? he seemed to say. I’d hardly start to lean toward the chair and, with an explosive bound, he was suddenly in it. With irritation, I would remove him from the chair and hold him in one hand over my head while trying to adjust my position, my blanket, my book and the light while he wiggled and licked and frequently fell right out of my hand (he has a very odd center of gravity).

After he learned “wait!” three weeks ago, all of that changed. Now when I grab my blanket and book he still starts to vibrate, but all I have to do is get his attention and say firmly, “Wait.” He will drop to a lying position, tail erect (what there is of it), ears perky and watch intently while I slowly and carefully choose my spot. I stretch out the blanket. I set down my coffee. I turn on the light. I find my place in my book. Finally, without even looking up, I say, “Come!” and with an explosive bound, he’s in my lap. What an improvement!!!

As someone pointed out at dinner this evening, dog obedience training serves primarily to train the owner, not the dog. I conceded the point eagerly: I admit I knew absolutely nothing about dogs when Brubeck joined our family. Well, I knew the things I didn’t like about dogs, but anyone can complain if they’re ignorant. Within a week of his first class, I knew how to get him to stop jumping on me and barking to get my attention (simply turn my back to him and say “no.”), and why he seemed aggressive with other dogs (in fact, Brubeck is ridiculously social and was not actually exhibiting aggression).

I’m not saying we don’t have a long way to go. My niece, Rachel, asked how long it would be before they taught him not to jump and bark and snap at family members when they came for a visit. Yeah, I’m hoping for that one in the next class myself. So is Eiledon’s flute teacher, I imagine (“It’s not just me, is it?” she asked on Friday afternoon. Poor woman.) But I’m hopeful about Brubeck’s future in this family, whereas before I was starting to think one of us was going to have to go and it wouldn’t be me.

So congratulations, Bru, and thanks to Dan and Eiledon for taking him to training classes, and to LaTasha Hamann for being a fantastic instructor. As long as he can wait until I have my book open, he can stay.

1 comment:

  1. I would greatly appreciate LaTasha's contact information as I have been looking for a good trainer.
    Drop me an email at
    Thanks a ton!