I was always very impressed that my dog could bark on command and come when I called his name, until I read in the newspaper about a dog that saved his owner’s life by calling 9-1-1. Apparently, when his owner had a seizure, the dog pushed a speed-dial button for 9-1-1, barked into the receiver for help, and then opened the door when the responders arrived.
Honestly, though, it’s not a fair comparison. That dog had been trained to save lives, and my dog has been trained… to go potty outside.
Still, it did get me thinking that maybe I hadn’t really maximized my dog Monty’s capabilities. Sure, he could fetch a tennis ball and bark along when we sang “Happy Birthday,” but maybe he hadn’t been trained to his full potential. I mean, a little help with the housekeeping would be nice. So what if my kids haven’t learned how to pick up their socks off the floor: Maybe the dog could.
Although I’d had some success training my husband, I decided I needed a professional to help me with the dog.
“I’d like to get the dog to help me do the laundry,” I told the trainer I had hired.
“Does he sit, lie down and stay when you tell him,” she asked.
“No,” I replied.
“Do you think maybe we should start with the basics before you have him cooking the dinner and picking up the drycleaning,” she asked me.
“OK,” I agreed, not because I thought it was necessary but because I had already picked up the drycleaning that day.
She said the first thing we needed to do was establish dominance.
I told her I wasn’t into that kinky stuff.
She said dogs are pack animals and they need to know their position in the pack.
I told her his position was smack in the middle of the kitchen floor while I was making dinner.
“Your dog won’t do anything you tell him to until he knows you’re the leader of the pack,” she said.
“Just like a man,” I mused.
“The leader of the pack always eats first, so when you feed him, he needs to see you eat before him,” she explained and handed me his bowl of food.
“Let me get this straight,” I said, inhaling the savory aroma of Kibbles and Bits (and bits and bits). “If I eat his food, I’m in charge?”
“Do I lose points if I throw up?”
She demonstrated how I would pretend to eat the food while the dog sat. When he started to get up, she growled at him and he sat back down.
I realized I had hired The Shaggy D.A.
Eventually the dog learned to sit before he could eat. He learned to sit before he could go outside. He learned to sit before he jumped up and knocked people over when they came in the door.
“Clearly he’s good at sitting,” I said. “Can you get him to sit on the toilet?”
She growled at me.
“How is his leash-walking,” she asked me.
“I don’t walk him,” I said. “He takes me for a drag.”
She told me we needed to get him to walk nicely on a leash. I asked her if I needed to eat more dog food for this to happen.
Many dollars later, the dog could sit, stay and walk nicely on a leash. Then, finally, we got to work on some of the trickier tasks.
“Watch this,” I said to my husband as I placed a sock on the floor. “The dog is going to find the dirty sock, pick it up and put it in the laundry basket,” I bragged.
“Monty, fetch sock,” I commanded. He bounded immediately over to the sock, picked it up… and then tore it to pieces.
My husband looked at me.
I shrugged. “Wanna see him sit?”
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