Trainer, Train Thyself!

The dogs just wanted to play with me this afternoon, and we were having a fantastic time fetching.  But then I found pee on the rug and it took all the joy out of it for me.  As I’ve already acknowledged in these blog posts, I’m not a very good trainer.  And Gizmo’s marking behavior – which has somehow infected Munchie since we’ve been in the new apartment; I thought I was buying an area rug to cut some of the noise but evidently what I bought was a $60 weewee pad  – has been a problem ever since I took him in as a foster back in October of 2014.  But when I yell at him and tell him “No!” he gets mad at ME!!

I’ve had animals all my life, but I’ve never managed to learn how to train them properly.  Fortunately, most of my creatures were reasonably well-behaved, with a few notable exceptions (Gizmo is by far the one most in need of correction).  Even when I followed the rules of an expensive trainer, hired to help us with Loki, who from the moment we adopted him had severe separation anxiety, I still failed to get through to the dog.  (Another charming thing that Loki did was scream with joy every time we walked up Montgomery Place in Park Slope to go to Prospect Park, to the point of embarrassment.  I had to sheepishly explain to stoop-sitters we passed along the way, “No, really, I’m not hurting him.  He’s HAPPY.”)  At the trainer’s insistence, to prevent Loki from tearing up the living room and making a poop deposit any time we left the house (and it did not matter for how LONG we left the house –it could literally be a span of minutes), we needed to lock him in the kitchen, which was at the far end of a long hallway from the living room.  As much as I thought this was cruel, we trusted the trainer and did it anyway.  We even locked Alfie, our more “mature” dog, in there as well to keep Loki company, even though Alfie had no such issues.  (Alfie was a GREAT dog but her biggest quirk was that she tended to be easily spooked.  I remember one time she ran away from my boyfriend at the time (and the dogs’ co-parent) in the middle of First Avenue in the East Village, set off by some mysterious trigger.  She also got loose once on Governor’s Island but, short of getting on the ferry, she wasn’t going anywhere we couldn’t catch her.)

So anyway, after saying goodbye down the long hallway to Loki and Alfie behind the gate in the kitchen – there was probably some pitiful whining from Loki and a sad “Do I REALLY have to be in here?” look from Alfie – we headed out.  A short time later –a couple of hours, at most – we came home and peeked around the door and down the hallway to the kitchen.  There were the pups behind the gate, happy as could be that we had returned!  “Good boy, Loki!”  I said as I went to move down the hallway, thrilled that he hadn’t been traumatized by being caged.  [An aside:  Following advice from other dog owners, we had tried to crate him on the first couple of nights he was with us, but HE CRIED.  Incessantly.  We couldn’t take it.  We had to bring him into bed, and he basically never left.  See?  Horrible follow-through.]

“Uh, Nan . . . “ I heard from behind me.  I turned to look, and I saw what was in the living room:  mounds of couch pillow fluff with a huge poop right in the middle!  Evidently, Loki – so named for his mischievous nature – could just as easily have been named “Houdini”.  He had managed to jump the gate, come into the living room to do his nasty business, and then jump back over the gate into the kitchen.  He was always smarter than he looked, our Loki.  He lived a good long life and did mellow out as he got older, although his nose was perpetually out of joint that we had brought home a little human to bump him out of the “baby” position.  Alfie, on the other hand, was a fantastic babysitter to little Darian, excitedly running out to find us if she heard even a peep out of the crib.

But the point of this digression is  that I’m pretty sure I have the wrong attitude when it comes to “correcting” my naughty pets.  I understand training is necessary, and that it’s even GOOD for a pet to be well-behaved (i.e., well-trained).  I actually know an effective trainer but I’m terrified to go to his (free!) group sessions [LB Dogs] on weekend mornings with my two crazy canine kids because I already know Gizmo has trouble being around other dogs (which is one of the reasons I want to get training, for him AND for me!).  He also evil-growls and tries to bite when you do something he doesn’t like – for instance, CORRECTING him about peeing on the rug.  I’m afraid my friend Marty is going to throw up his hands when he sees how incapable I am of being forceful enough to get any of my training to click with the boys.

I must admit, though, after the first few weeks, they have been remarkably well-behaved going up and down in the elevator at least three times a day (although, admittedly, nearly two months along in our tenure here, we have YET to run into another dog, which I consider a fortunate thing).  I’ve been picking up and carrying little Munchie, to avoid his being freaked out by bikes or carts or strollers or surfboards or anything else, really, since pretty much everything freaks him out.  But while we’re waiting and while we’re in the elevator, Gizmo usually assumes what I call the “butterbean” position, where he tucks his limbs up underneath him and lowers his head, resembling a furry white legume with a tail.   I suspect in Gizmo’s former life he was an apartment dog, because I certainly didn’t teach him to do that – he just did it naturally.  And on our walks and in the elevator, he lets people pet him, which is great; Munchie, on the other hand, wavers being between shy and a complete flirt.

Keeping them quiet is another issue entirely, although I’ve been maintaining the dog bark log I mentioned last week and have come to some conclusions.  What they bark at the most are the cats (which unfortunately I cannot tell my downstairs neighbor), but noises from outside are also a big factor.  The barks themselves are pretty evenly split between the pair of them (and less often both together) and range from 10 to 15 daily.  They’re generally short and sharp rather than sustained bouts.  But I’ve promised them multiple times that, once we’re back home, I’ll let them bark as much as they want!!

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