Sunday, 16 January 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks

You apparently can teach an old dog new tricks. That stuff about you not being able to is apparently rubbish, which is good news for old dogs and old dog owners everywhere. But can you teach a young dog tricks he never got the hang of when he was a pup, even though you paid for expensive one to one dog training and bought all her expensive harnesses and training accoutrements?

Sonny the Black Menace pulls me on the lead when we go for a walk. So much so that you can see his back and leg muscles rippling through his fur and he has the appearance of a mountain climber scaling a rock face even though he’s on horizontal tarmac. He looks like Tom Cruise in the opening sequence of Mission Impossible 2, but a tad taller and less excitable.

 Horizontal Tom

 I have tried for three years to get him out of this, but to be honest it’s exhausting. He’s so much better off the lead that I have opted for the easy life, and the continued use of my left arm. It’s easier for me to leave him off the lead or if needs must to slip a Halti on his head (think pony harness) and control the problem by dragging his face about than actually persevering and teaching him the correct way to walk with a  human being attached.  He seems to view me as the double decker bus that he, as a contestant of Britain’s Strongest Man, has to drag across a car park.

 A dog in a Halti/My Little Pony

So this year I have vowed that I will teach Sonny the Black Menace to walk with me on a loose lead. If it kills me. Which it very well might.

We are on Day 4 of the new regime. It’s not going that well. I say that, but it went really well on Day 1. In fact we cracked it on Day 1. He was trotting beside me like a Lipizaner pony- you know the ones they used to get in to Blue Peter with Princess Anne? 

 See? He DID do it.

And then on Day 2 we did even better. On day 3 I was so chuffed that I decided to ask Meeester M to come out on a walk with the Black Menace and I to see us showcase our skills. I am confident that he will declare me the new Dog Whisperer and the Black Menace the greatest dog since that ace wee wiry one in Frasier.

Sadly that didn't happen. Once out on the street The Black Menace reverts back to Britain’s Strongest Man like his internal hard drive has been left too near an industrial magnet and the contents have been erased. “But you were doing it yesterday!!!!Heel! Heeel, Sonny!” (to Meeester) “he was doing it yesterday, honest he was...!” I shrieked as my arm is being wrenched out of its socket.

“He’s no Eddie from Frasier, is he?” says Meeester as my heels dig trenches into the road in an effort to stop the drag westward.

So all the books I’ve skim-read on dog training, all the videos I’ve searched through made by slightly mad doggy people on YouTube, all the Dog Whisperer episodes I’ve SkyPlussed- what use have they been? Surely some of these techniques must work? No, not on this mutt, they don't.

But I am not defeated. I have decided that the key is that I must fully understand the psychology of my dog in order for our work together to progress. Once I break into his little freakish mind and find out what makes him tick I will be on my way to success and dislocated shoulders will be a thing of the past. I have decided to give him my username and password to the Misssives so that maybe he could write about his perspective on the situation. Then maybe I can begin to understand the motivation behind the pulling and suss out where it went wrong.

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Steve said...

Sounds like you need the attentions of Victoria Stilwell - the thing she can do with a piece of cooked chicken and a plummy voice is amazing. Dogs literally eat out of her hands.

MmeLindt said...

Ha. Love it.

I am trying to train Daphne at the moment, using cheese and sausage treats.

Like children, dogs seem to respond well to bribery.

Alex X said...

well, you DID christen him The Black Menace. Maybe if you'd called him "The Delightful darling" things may have been different

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Where's Barbara Woodhouse when you need her?

No advice unless you need a place to buy prosthetic limbs cheap...

Cate said...

Thanks for the kind comments you left on my last posts :-)

As for dog training - it's just like child rearing isn't it? All about finding the subtle balance between bribery and leverage...

kim at allconsuming said...

So I take the dog next door for a run with me. She is intent on dislocating my shoulder.

The dude in our local pet shop said to me that you have to mess with their minds to get them to stop pulling on a lead. So, when they start pulling, stop, turn around and walk the other way. Rinse and repeat.

Sure you look weird but it has worked for me - apparently what it does is confuse the dog. The constant changing of direction makes them go, 'what the hell' and then they stop pulling, looking to you to see what direction you're going to change to.

THis may well be what you're already doing, in which case that dog is messing w/ you big time.

Heather said...

That halti thing looks kinda weird. Could do with one of those for my kids though...

misssy m said...

Steve: i have heard the name but never seen her- is she shrill? Dog types often are.Maybe that's my problem- my mumbling voice.

London City Mum said...

Whatever happened to tying your dog to the Hills Hoist in the back garden and letting it walk itself... round and round and round and round...

Sorry. Will stop there. Am now dizzy.