I am not a dog trainer. I am a child trainer. We have two large dogs in our family, and while I have been moderately successful in training my children, I have been mostly unsuccessful at training my dogs.
Training dogs seems easy, especially when you compare it to training children. Dogs want to please you and are unable to talk back, so all of the major obstacles in child training have been removed. If I can teach a small human to behave, teaching a dog to do the same should be a cake walk, right? Not right.
When we first brought home our older dog, who was a puppy at the time, I assumed it would be super easy to just apply the same techniques that I used in raising our children. Show lots of love, be strict, be consistent, and don’t try to parent while sitting down. (I swear someday I am going to write a book called Get Up Off Your A** Parenting. It will work like a charm but no one will read it because my techniques require getting up off the couch and actually physically parenting your own children.)
These techniques didn’t work on my dogs. Okay, they worked a little. The older dog has never gone to the bathroom in the house and will sit as long as she is on a leash. She has a major case of ADHD though, so getting her to do anything when she is not on a leash is pretty much impossible. Also, if you ask for Ritalin for your dog, the vet just shakes her head and hands you a card for a dog trainer.
We got the second dog to help the first dog focus. It actually helped quite a bit, but the second dog came with her own special sort of challenges. Let’s just say that if I were the sort of person to believe in stereotypes (and I’m not) I would label the second dog as very, very blonde. I have successfully trained her to sit. House training did not go so well. If she is upset, she will still immediately go potty right next to my bed. Also, the older dog has trained the younger dog to run away when I call her. This is not what I would call doggy parenting success.
I have actually done more accidental training than actual training. “What is accidental training?” you ask. Well, I have successfully accidentally trained the younger dog to vomit whenever she wants to go outside. This training started when she ate something she shouldn’t have. This dog eats a lot of things she shouldn’t. Being intellectually challenged means she has a hard time telling the difference between her food, and inedible objects such as her bed. Or a shoe. Or carpeting. Or soda cans from the recycling. This experimental eating leads to lots of vomiting. When she was younger and I noticed her starting to gag, I would rush her outside and then comfort and praise her for being sick on the grass instead of all over the couch.
She took note of this praise.
Later, when she wanted to go outside for the 243rd time in a two hour span and I said “No” she tried whining. That stopped working at the 386th time. Then she tried barking at me. That landed her in her kennel. Then she had a rare intelligent moment and tried gagging. Of course I ran her right outside where she immediately stopped gagging, nosed around for a few minutes, and asked to go back inside. For the 386th time. Now, I know it doesn’t say much about my intelligence, but I think she did this almost twenty more times that day before I realized that she had successfully trained me.
Now I have a dog who threatens to vomit every time she wants to go outside, and because I have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not she is bluffing, I have to let her out. Every time. Or risk cleaning up dog vomit.
The second accidental training was actually performed by our UPS driver. He is apparently a very good dog trainer.
Now, my dogs have never been much for barking. The only time I ever hear much out of them is if I am too distracted to notice them gagging at the door, or if there is some aggressive wild animal around. If a strange vehicle pulls into our driveway, they might give a bark or two, if they are feeling especially motivated, but that is about it.
Our UPS driver, being a very bright individual, and also having made a career choice that puts him at a high risk for dog bites, carries dog treats in his truck to toss to especially aggressive dogs. My dogs are not especially aggressive dogs. My dogs would be more than happy to fetch The Pastor’s slippers for the UPS driver, or any other strange man who showed up at our house, if there was only a way for them to understand what fetch means and then focus long enough to bring the slippers all the way from the closet to the front door. There is no possibility of either dog possessing this much intelligence or focus.
At some point, one of the dogs accidentally greeted the UPS driver with a happy bark. The UPS driver good-naturedly tossed the dog a treat. “A-ha!” the dog thought in a highly unusual intelligent moment. “If I bark, this guy gives me treats!”
This resulted in the dogs barking like maniacs every time a package arrived by UPS. To the point where I now have to lock them up every time any delivery or maintenance person pulls into our driveway. Apparently the FedEx driver and the LP delivery person didn’t get the message about dog treats and now my formerly sweet quiet happy dogs scare the pants off of anyone in a truck or van.
This being locked up was very frustrating to my dogs. I was preventing them from continuing the lucrative relationship they had with the UPS driver. Didn’t I know true love when I saw it? True love, for my dogs, involves a man in a brown van filled with a never ending supply of snacks and I was standing in the way of a beautiful relationship.
The dogs decided they needed to act.
Today, a day when we were not scheduled to receive any packages (despite the fact that my birthday is only a week and a half away!!!!) my dogs started gagging at the door. I let them out only to have them immediately start barking like we were being invaded. Was it a thief? Nope. Was it an axe murderer? Not this time. Was it a rabid squirrel? No. The UPS driver was a half mile away and my dogs were trying to woo him to our house with loud barking and growling.
So, trying to look at the bright side, my dogs have been trained to perform exactly two tricks. They can fake vomit, and they can fake attack delivery drivers.
I think I’d better just stick to training children.
maybe I can also train YOU to like and share this blog! your “likes” mean the world to me and your “shares” will hopefully bring a little more laughter into the world.