Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Training

Training a dog can be complicated.  Really complicated.  It's not only the sit, stay, come here, and other commands to keep one's dog safe and secure.  Training is much more than that.  Sometimes, I'm not too certain that we're getting to that magical place where the dog senses what I need him to do versus the Pavlovian "have treat, will behave" mentality. 

Teaching a dog means sharing the love.  Letting go of what I hoped this dog could do, but living in constant amazement as his personality emerges.  What makes Dickens Dickens?  Learning that I have to dig deep to be open to what this little working wonder can do.  By our trainer's assessment, this is one smart puppy, he can go further in his training.  The operative question being, can I?

Cairn terriers are a feisty bunch.  If they don't get what they want when they want it, they resort to teeth.  Feeling like I had hit upon a dog with behavior problems, I turned to friends, relatives, and others to determine where I had gone wrong.  Dickens' fang fetish felt like a defeat.  How had I failed myself and my dog?  Wasn't he supposed to walk out of the crate equiped with all the canine social graces people love?

The answers to my questions turned out to be moot.  This little bundle resorts to what he knows, just as I do.  That's why we (and I do mean "we") are in training.  We are learning from each other as well as the trainer.  We are setting boundaries, i.e., if you go to bite, I'm going to growl at you, give you a time out, or start wearing a bitter apple sprayed glove.  My boundaries are if you sit when asked, keep your fangs away from me, and  remember that I love you, we'll be fine.

On this beautiful early Fall morning, Dickens took his first walk around the block as part of his "loose leash training."  He did well.  Converselly, he decided to yank his blanket from his crate upending his water dish.  One task received praise, the other, well, guess the water dish taught him a lesson.

We are also learning to trust each other.  Dickens is a willing pup, but he doesn't understand that he needs rest as well as reward.  Late this morning he threw up and sent this PupMom into despair.  I'm learning his limits.  We think we can keep going ad infinitum, but he needs his rest as do I.  Perhaps in the learning, we'll learn to protect each other's health, sanity, and spirit.

We are both still puppies in this story.  Just puppies.

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