redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
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Last night was, at long last, the first night of basic dog obedience for me and the floppy-eared monstrosity that I call my dog. (Oh, Trudeau. Your ears are so floppy. It's awesome.) I have to admit to being more than a little apprehensive, especially when I saw the size of the room that we'd be working in -- a conference room at the local rec center -- which didn't exactly leave a lot of room for... well, let's just put it out there. It didn't allow a lot of room for me to keep my dog from getting all up in the other dog's faces. As he does. I probably should've called the instructor first and told her that he had a dog aggression issue -- she looked a bit concerned when I said he occasionally likes to make other dogs cry -- but I'd talked to so many dog obedience teachers by then and had all of them hand-wave my concern away, so I guess by the time I got around to the class I actually signed up for, it didn't occur to me that it might be a problem.

And it actually wasn't, much. He started off the evening a little... well, over-enthusiastic might be the word, and I've always suspected with him that a large part of his dog aggression is just that he's the very big kid who never learned how to play nice. He desperately needs to socialize and play with other dogs, but he can't because he's a bastard, and therein lies the problem. (It's doubly unfortunate because there are plenty of off-leash beaches and other doggy paradises in my neighborhood, and I do trust him to come when called, except that if there's another dog and he gets into a fight, all bets are off. I like to think one day he'll be able to do these normal dog things. It's why we've gone to the professional, to get professional help with our issues.)

In any event, we didn't have any sort of unfortunate mishaps, and thanks to the teacher's magic weapon -- an apparently-delicious cocktail of cheese, kibble and hot dog bits -- Trudeau pretty much spent the hour in the throes of ecstacy. Though initially his focus was all over the place, he soon learned that lavishing me with his attention would earn him delicious delights, and he wasn't as hard as I expected to keep under control... though for much of the class we did stay behind a small chair-barrier that the teacher built for us, to give us a little extra separation from the other dogs.

The class has turned out to be perfect; I really like the instructor (Mette Bryan, for any readers who are actually in Humboldt County, and she's teaching the classes through the Adorni Center and Eureka Muni), and the other three dogs in the class are more or less in the same place as Tru -- pretty good on obedience basics like sit, down and stay, but not so much with the focus in new environments. So we should all be able to advance at the same pace and think up new and interesting things to do that aren't necessarily as basic as your standard beginning obedience class.

The highlight of the evening for me was working on our dogs' recall/"come" in the room. Mette worked with the other three dogs first, and I thought for sure she was going to just skip us for the moment, since even I could imagine the carnage that would ensue if I called Trudeau and instead he decided to surge like a bowling ball into the group of other dogs. And anyway, Trudeau and I work on his "come" endlessly; in fact, I've turned it into a wacky after-hours game in the office. My office is laid out as sort of a square of hallways with rooms opening off of it, and I'll often put Trudeau in a stay, go sprint off somewhere else in the building, and then tell him "come" (if I'm in an obvious location where he'll be able to see me) or "search" if he needs to go looking for me. He'll go tearing around the place trying to work out where I am, and he gets lavishly rewarded with food and love when he manages.

Still, I thought for sure he was going to embarrass us both by harassing the swell golden retriever puppy instead of actually coming to me. Mette put a long training lead on him, so she'd at least have some control over him and could try to catch him in time if he veered off, but no; I showed him the delicious treats that awaited, ran across the room and called him, and he came. Boy, did he ever come. You wouldn't have thought there was another dog, person, or possible source of treats in the world. I've never been prouder. And it was nice getting home and discovering that the excitement and mental strain had knocked him out so thoroughly that he went straight to sleep like an exhausted toddler.

I complain sometimes about Trudeau and his dog-hating, cat-chasing, collar-leaning bad behavior, but the fact is that I lucked out to a ridiculous degree. Adopting from a shelter, as much as I support doing so, can be such a game of roulette. I could've ended up with an animal that was completely unsuitable for my life in every way, and even though I trust my instincts when it comes to choosing a companion animal, listening to the gut and the heart don't always help us make rational decisions. Still, I wound up with a dog who is the perfect amount of lazy, the perfect amount of energetic, (definitely the perfect degree of housetrained!) and the one thing I've always been missing in the dogs I've had before: he is absolutely and utterly devoted. He is my dog right down to his bones, and I'm his human right down to my bones, and if we're maybe a little co-dependent, I think I can live with that for the wonder that is this animal bounding toward me, ignoring all other distractions and attractions for the chance to place himself in my hands.

And if my hands happen to be where the hot dogs are, well, that's just a happy coincidence.

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redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
redroanchronicles

August 2011

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