9.12.2006

In training

As I’ve shared before, Monk and I have a little problem we call The Foster Dog. It was hard enough to take her in so soon after our little trooper died, and after a month of fostering, we began to see that a three-female-dog household was not going to run smoothly. After a few growls and snaps (including one that landed the foster in the emergency vet clinic), we moved on to a daily routine of separation and rotation. The two permanent canine residents grew tense, more excitable as the months progressed. With the foster we tried love, we tried ignoring, we tried discipline, we tried exercise, we tried deference training (which is actually very effective for most dogs, just not if your pet makes a strong argument for being the spawn of Satan)… Nothing seemed to get through to her; it was a rare and brilliantly beautiful day whenever she displayed even a moment of something close to calm or quiet.

Seeing as how I’d bumbled through Boomba’s puppyhood and somehow ended up with a pretty friendly, responsive and loyal dog, and Blockhead was doing pretty well (although admittedly still had some freako kinks to work out), Monk and I gritted our teeth, continued to watch The Dog Whisperer every chance we had and hoped that someday, somehow, we’d have a breakthrough with the foster. Or (even better) someone wonderful would come along and adopt BabyGirl out of our house.

No one came along. BabyGirl seems to be gathering her paperwork to establish residency. We eventually came to the conclusion that we needed outside help in the form of a professional dog trainer. And that is how it came to pass that we spent most of the afternoon on Saturday learning what we’d been doing wrong with BabyGirl, as well as getting some bonus advice for Boomba and Blockhead. Although it may have been the most expensive afternoon in the history of Monk-and-Quinn, I do believe it was worth it. Imagine the sweet wave of relief when BabyGirl actually started to pay attention to us. Imagine the bliss of walking a dog down the street at a decent heel with only a training collar, instead of the usual harness-choke-chain-halti contraption Monk had rigged together in the past.

(But also imagine, if you will, the self-consciousness involved in having to growl loudly at your dog in public. The trainer believes in communicating with your dog as other dogs would. I’m not 100% sold on this, which is probably why my growl is kind of... beige, and Monk, having no inhibitions at all, ever, has a growl that makes me take a few steps back. I’m working on it, dammit. But I’m also sneaking in a few other, less conspicuous sounds that we’ll hopefully be able to transition to, and soon. Meanwhile, it’s nice for the neighbors to know exactly when we’re approaching, based on the symphony of growls, beeps and clicks that now accompanies us everywhere we go.)

A less-than-joyful moment in the afternoon came when the trainer accused me of being a “softie” with the dogs, which raised my hackles and spurred a fantasy of shouting in her face about the time I stopped a fight between Boomba and Blockhead by reaching out lightning-quick, firmly clamping their snarling snouts shut with my bare hands! and telling them I would. not. put. up. with that behavior, then I pulled the trainer’s hair and broke the coffee table over her head and now do you think I’M A SOFTIE? HUH? NOTHING SOFT ABOUT CRACKING YOUR SKULL AND STOMPING AROUND IN YOUR BRAIN LIKE I'M MAKING WINE NOW, IS THERE?!!

Whew. Anyway, it was a good Saturday that resulted in all three dogs chilling together that evening as Monk and I watched a movie, glanced around occasionally, and smiled giddily at each other and our happy family. The next day was more of the same and I have to say, just being able to end the separation-rotation business and have the foster/new resident dog actually listening to us after a year of chaos- That trainer earned the big fat check I wrote at the end of the session.

Of course, we’ll have to work daily at the doorbell, leash, aggression, submission and rage issues, but I think we’re going to be fine.

Okay, that last one is my issue. Hey, the trainer walked out with a hefty check and her skull in tact. I’d say we’re all making progress.

2 comment:

Blogger jaspercaesar said...

cohabitation with pets makes one more humane, i heard. : )

12:11 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

YEAY for you. We had a foster dog named Emma awhile back. We were only supposed to have her for two days. She stayed for TWO months. ANd pooped/peed on everything in the process. And Abbey was NOT a big fan of her...

But so happy to hear that all is working out for you all now.

11:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home