Inadvertent Dog Training


Once upon a time, before we knew better, we took Coltrane to some kind of “Introduction to Not Being an Asshole for Dogs” class. Our goal was for him to, you know, not be an asshole. Maybe he could learn stuff like sit and stay. We certainly didn’t have unreasonable expectations, especially for someone of vague border collie descent.

The problem with Coltrane is that other dogs (aside from Sadie, but we didn’t have her back then, ah the good old days) really stress him out. He wants to herd them, like a good border collie would, but he’s mostly lab and not really smart enough to understand exactly how to herd them, so he just chases everyone around and gets very loud and very frustrated with not being able to control the situation (let’s not discuss that one time he fell into the pool at a dog party like three times and had to be rescued because he couldn’t figure out how to get out of the pool even though it has stairs). Even more awesome, although he’s a Labrador retriever, he does not retrieve. What Coltrane does is combine the worst of labs and border collies — he chases down dogs who are trying to catch or retrieve objects and knocks them over. We should’ve named him Urlacher. He plays exceptional defense.

At class, Coltrane was so disruptive with his pulling and whining and grunting and panting and doing what Coltrane does the instructor built actual walls around us so he couldn’t see the other dogs. Coltrane still couldn’t pay attention to us with all the excitement around, so we didn’t get much out of class. It’s almost like he has ADHD, so I guess I relate.

Sadie, being a min pin, is relatively smart, as dogs go. We took her to an introductory behavior class for small dogs, and she did very well. It was even suggested that we get her involved in agility. We then took her to an upper-level class for all dogs, which, this being Denver, was an upper-level class for large and giant-sized dogs and then Sadie. There was a lot of stuff involving “down” in that class, and if you know anything about teeny tiny dogs, you know that they don’t like lying down as much as large dogs do. The big dogs tended to enjoy lazing around on the floor, while Sadie popped up and up and up and up like a manic little toaster. She also developed a huge crush on a German shepherd.

To tell you the truth, we’re not the best at following up with what we learned in class. Aside from “sit,” I don’t even remember the hand signals. However, we have (inadvertently!) implemented some of our own commands that the dogs actually obey 90% of the time.

When the dogs are in the house, instead of “come,” which neither dog will ever do, under any circumstances, we say “Shit!” This actually means, “Shit, I just dropped food on the floor!” but we eventually realized that eveIt's impossiblen if you didn’t just drop food on the floor, nine times out of ten if you say “Shit!” the dogs will think you did and will come investigate.

Coltrane will go in and out of the house any time any person goes in or out of the house. He’s usually so enthusiastic about going in and out of the house any time any person goes in or out of the house he’ll step all over your feet and slam his head or his butt into your leg. Sadie, on the other hand, is not so easy. The good news is that she’s so small it’s easy enough to grab her and put her outside — it’s getting her back in that’s the trick. Because she’s smart (and evil, as min pins are wont to be), she learned that if she stays outside instead of coming in as requested, she’ll get a treat (be bribed). In this situation, the usual treat (because min pins also are wont to get fat and look like long-legged footstools) is a baby carrot. This means that now, to get Sadie in the house, instead of saying “come,” we say “carrot.” All you have to do is open the back door and say, “Sadie! Carrot!” and she’ll run into the house. Most of the time. Unless you don’t actually have a carrot in your hand, in which case she knows you’re lying and she’ll wait until you’re serious.

My next goal is figuring out a way to get a good picture of these two dorks.