The art of obedience training

Obedience is defined as compliance with the wishes of another; an acknowledgement of authority.
What a grand idea. I would like to be the authority and would be most pleased to have “Gracie,” canine member of my family, to be compliant.
How would I achieve such status? Take one Miss Gracie, the growing floor-peeing Bernese wonder dog, to obedience classes, where she undoubtedly will learn compliance and acknowledge my authority as alpha dog.
I should wear a cape with a large “A” on the chest of my spandex suit, if I had one. A cape isn’t a cape without spandex accessories, unless you happen to be a wizard or Harry Potter-ish.
I signed Gracie up for obedience classes. I felt tremendous excitement and there was vigorous hand rubbing in anticipation. I was going to be in charge and Gracie would assume the role as my subordinate.
We missed the first class. The instructor/trainer forgot to tell me. Just a small oversight.
No problem. I was sure we quickly would excel to top dog position. How could we not?
Pockets full of treats. Check. Oldest puppy in the group. Check. Largest puppy in the group. Check. Keenest dog owner. Double check. Oh, how reality and what we think is going to happen differ.
So here are the facts:
Arrive 15 minutes early so as not to be late, to demonstrate keenness, to stand outside with other puppies and owners who are calm and already seem more than authoritative.
Feel confidence slip away as Gracie leaps around at the end of her leash like a lunatic. Watch other puppies sit quietly, looking to their owners for approval and permission.
Wonder how I managed to raise four daughters.
Justify Gracie’s lack of discipline by the fact she missed the first class. Breathe huge sigh of relief when chocolate Lab puppy arrives to aptly demonstrate he is the worst puppy ever.
If dogs could talk (and I wish they could), Gracie would have been shouting at the top of her lungs when we entered the community hall with nine other puppies. A yellow Lab named Chester. The aforementioned chocolate Lab also named Chester (note to self: avoid naming any future dog Chester). And seven other very well-behaved puppies, quietly sitting on a loose leash, looking adoringly up at their owners, while Gracie barked non-stop in their direction.
What she was really saying was: “You’ve got to be kidding me. Nine puppies. I want to play. I didn’t come here to look good. I want to play. Let me play, let me play.”
Yank, yank, yank. “Come on! Let me play!”
By the end of the evening, I was suffering from whiplash. Gracie threw herself onto the floor in defeat—to rest up for her next bout of pulling and wanting to play.
It must be how children feel on the first day of school. “Sit in this desk? All day? What happened to playing? I brought my ball and my best marbles and my army guys. You can’t be serious?”
The whole concept must seem like madness.
We’ve been to two obedience classes. Thanks to the chocolate Lab Chester, Gracie and I aren’t in the limelight. He is busy pooing and peeing on the floor and barking so not everyone has noticed that Gracie isn’t exactly obedient.
And on the way home last week after class, Gracie collapsed beside the truck and refused to move. She was NOT getting into the truck until she got to play. So I had to lift 45 pounds of dead weight from the ground up in to the truck.
In all my years of parenting, I only had two very short-lived temper tantrums, so hopefully my luck continues.
Now onto things like “come” and “stand” and “let me trim your toe-nails” and all things good. I’m sure she’ll be much better next week.
Now if I can get her to stop growing. Wish me luck.
wendistewart@live.ca

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