C’mon Stormy, shake a paw ... no biting
- Dawn Dumont | February 22, 2020
They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. However, as it turns out you cannot teach any dogs any tricks if you don’t know anything about dogs. I assumed that I knew dogs because we always had a dog growing up. But our dog didn’t know any tricks either, unless you count acquiring record numbers of wood ticks as a trick. (I do. It was an impressive number.)
I got my dog Stormy this summer. Sometimes we stare at each other with zero comprehension. He stares at me as I say things like, “Down, down, down.” And he’s thinking, “Why does she keep saying ‘up’, ‘up’, ‘up.’” It’s like we needed to learn a language to bridge the communication gap and Esperanto just wasn’t doing it. (Sorry by dork law, I have to make at least one Esperanto reference a year.)
Also, in the city, dogs mostly live inside and that means they need to learn house rules. So I put my dog in puppy training. We started a little late so he is six months old and twice as large as all the dogs in the class. Also, all the other dogs tend to walk into a room and lie down by their owner’s foot; my dog Stormy lunges on his leash at every other dog if they so much as breath in his direction. When this happens, it is my duty as a conscientious dog owner, to avoid making eye contact with the other dog owners.
All of the dogs in the class exhibit some bad behaviours. Except for a Shih’tzu that is so well-behaved and adorable that I cannot imagine what behavior his owners are working on? Is it like: “We’re here to teach him to take selfies of himself and then post them on the internet. Because we’re so very tired of people asking us for pictures of him.”
Stormy and I started off strong in the class. In the first class, Stormy was the teacher’s pet. He was used as an example twice. This really helped to improve my and Stormy’s confidence because watching him execute tricks – perfectly – showed me that he could be taught. And Stormy found out that humans are capable of more than just staring blankly at him. We left the class feeling that anything was possible.
In the next class, Stormy learned to lay down but it is the quickest lay down you've ever seen. He's down and then up in about two seconds leaving you to imagine if he actually laid down?
Through class, he also picked up the bad habit of barking. It’s something I've never seen before (when we go on walks to the dog park, he generally barks zero times. He does yell when other dogs attack him. This happens a lot.) The trainer started doing time outs with him which means leaving the training area and then keeping him out for three seconds and then back inside. It helps a bit but mostly it makes us feel like outcasts as we both stare through the glass at the good dogs and the good owners.
However, we still have the power to surprise everyone. In one class, the trainer asked everyone if their dogs knew how to shake a paw. I, the class bigmouth, was like, "Zoe" (I always address the teacher by her name like the teacher suck up that I am.), "Zoe, this may surprise you but Stormy knows this trick." And then I said, "Stormy, shake a paw." He held out his right paw and I shook it. He also took a quick nip out of my hand and I screamed - which made both of us look like idiots. I tried to play this off like we had planned it: “It's shake a paw and then sneakily nip your owner's hand - a lot more complicated than the regular ‘shake your paw.’" Everyone looked at us with disgust, even the Shih’tzu.
Stormy was really into variations on tricks that day. Later in the class he turned “lay down” into “crawl into another dog’s area to try to steal his treats.”
Then just to show that I am as big of a fool as my dog, I dropped all of Stormy’s dog treats on the floor – the entire bag. The other dogs lunged at the pile while their owners struggled to hold them. Oddly enough Stormy just sat calmly beside me – the disorder appeared to calm him. Which tells me that he really is my dog.
We are still learning to communicate with one another but he’s definitely learning what I like. Such as when dogs don’t chew on people’s glasses. And I am learning what he likes which as it turns out is chewing on people’s glasses.