1. I AM YOUR DOG.
I'D LIKE TO TELL YOU SOME SECRETS. ARE YOU LISTENING?
I am a VGG (Very Good Girl). My She is Casey. She is my special person.
I am a VGG (Very Good Girl). My She is Casey. She is my special person.
You are a really great human except when you get angry or yell at me; then you magically transform into a scary monster dressed as my favorite person, which is totally weird and freaks me out. Nonetheless, I believe you are trainable. Sit. Stay. Learn.
I was telling my doggy pals about you just the other day. "She's SUCH a good human 99% of the time. She smells nice and gives me nice food and tosses a good stick, but I swear, that 1% of the time she is SO stubborn! I tell her I want to go for a walk with her and she just talks into the hand-held chat box, ignoring me! I mean, she KNOWS I want to go for a walk. So stubborn!" Your recall could use a little work. I mean, I bark when the UPS guy arrives within our zip code and YOU KEEP TALKING ON THE PHONE LIKE YOU DON'T EVEN HEAR ME! It's a good thing you're cute and I love you. Yeesh.
POP QUIZ! Which makes more sense? I like to sleep on the couch because... A). Floor =ouch, comfort = couch OR.... B) I think you are a dog. Despite the fact that you bring home the bacon (errrr....food, but I do enjoy an occasional tidbit of bacon), provide the home, the walks, the scratches, all of which sounds like a lot of work and none of which sounds that much fun, I AM TRYING TO TAKE OVER YOUR LIFE. That cute "shake" trick that you love to show your friends? Merely a ploy to distract you while I STEAL YOUR IDENTITY!!! MUAHAHAHAHA!!! Duh. The answer is B. The evil laugh is for anyone that believes I actually thought they were a dog and coincidentally did not sniff their crotch every time we greeted.
99% of the behaviors you don't like are just natural dog stuff. So maybe I try to go out the door before you. I really have to pee and can't seem to operate the doorknob. Plus, let's be honest, you walk kind of slowly, you know? I have places to go and pees to leave and squirrels to tree. If I pull toward them, it is because I think they are exciting and you haven't taught me a better way to earn access to them. I can learn new tricks, can you? Time for some human training...
Dogs are generally happy to do what you want, but first, you need to show us what that is! The more you teach me how to be a good dog by doing GDT ("Good Dog Things"), the easier it is for me to be a VGG. If I do something you don't like, please don't yell or get mad. I really am not trying to make you get angry/scary and I would do the right thing if I knew what it was and that it might earn me something fun or yummy! Hey, we could even go to a class together. Have new adventures, try new treats, learn new things together... Isn't that why you wanted me in the first place?
Dogs like awesome stuff. Depending on who you ask, we like squirrel chasing, hot dog tasting, steak snacking, belly rub gettin', pond jumping, stick fetching, toy chasin', squeaking toys like maniacs, groundhog-hole-sniffing, running and playing, tugging, walking, splashing, dashing, biking, and hiking, to name a few things. What do you like? Sit? Down? Come? Weirdo. Sounds boring to me, but I will do what it takes to earn my good times. If we can trade the things you want (sit/down/come) for the things I want (NOMS and squirrels), it really is a win-win.
I am a dog, after all. What? Haven't you ever said, "I'll be there in a minute?!" My favorite thing in the world is chasing deer. I figure about 20,000+ years of evolution have gone into my development as a Bambi-chasing warrior princess, so that number of steak/bacon/hot dog bits for coming when called might tip the odds in your favor. But nobody's perfect, so when in doubt, a long line will keep me safe if you aren't sure I am ready to handle distractions when they crop up. Don't worry, we will both have more fun if you know I am safe. While chasing deer is a blast, I learned the hard way that porcupines are SPICY MEATBALLS!!! My Saint Bernard bro Cuba won't chase the deer. He just wants to hang around and see if anyone needs a rescue and doesn't even care about deer, bears, wabbits, or spicy porcupines. B-O-R-I-N-G. He's so white bread.
Look, I know you're busy. At work all day, and when you come home, the machines with the lights and words and sounds suck the life right out of you. I mean, really, it is like someone superglued your bum to the couch. You know how people always speculate about the meaning of life? I can tell you one of the great missions in my life is to break your couch addiction. That way I rest my head on your knee, as if to say, "put down the iPad woman, let's go for a walk for the love of Dog," is exactly what it looks like. PUT. DOWN. THE. IPAD. WOMAN. WALK. NOW. FOR. THE LOVE. OF. DOG. SRSLY. Dogs hate iPads.
I am a socially selective girl, but sure do like play time with my best mates. Not that your stick throwing isn't SAFAH (Super Awesome For A Human), because really, you're top-notch, but it's just not the same, you know? Some dogs don't like other dogs at all, and I totally respect that too. I've met some real creeps in my day, like the guy that attacked us at the park or that humpy Boxer from camp last year. I get it. Some folks just have no manners at all. Pick my friends carefully, k?
Let your dog choose his own play mates, even if he "plays for the other team." (Snuggling the cat, Cuba? Really.) Always give your dog a vote regarding the activities you share. Learn about canine body language so you can tell if your dog is having fun or just tolerating the situation because you resource guard the car key. Lots of times I see people taking their dogs on adventures and the dog's face says, "This visit to the dog park is lame. Let's go hike in the woods instead." (Lots of dogs do not like doggy daycares or dog parks or busy, crowded spaces! #truestory #justsayin)
I am such a VGG that my She couldn't even locate a picture of me being naughty. Amazing, right? But look at this poor dog. I mean, only a unicorn would be shocked to see a boy dog lifting his leg - that's what boys do. Intact males need lots of supervision, to be taught WHERE to potty, and to be denied the opportunity to mark where they're not supposed to. Don't want a yellow building? There is a perfectly fine Pee Tree right down the street! That's almost as bad as the time mom's friend left a cherry pie RIGHT ON THE TABLE AT SAINT BERNARD NOSE HEIGHT. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Let's just say the pie didn't have a happy ending. Make it easy for dogs to be good and hard to be bad. If your dog always jumps on guests when they arrive and they always reinforce it with petting, why not give him some treats in his crate until they are settled in? Give him a bunch of hot dogs and he'll think it was his idea. I swear, boys are so EASY. Put that big, beautiful human brain of yours to work! Don't be like shocked unicorn - be proactive about preventing bad behaviors and setting your dog up for success!
Photo by Jim Sneddon
If I was sick, you would take me to the vet. If I am afraid, stressed, or you are having a hard time teaching me the skills I need so we can live happily and safely together, please find a good trainer to help us get on track. I PROMISE I am worth it. I heard AVSAB, the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior, has some great resources on finding a new trainer. When I am afraid, I need a hero, not to get pushed around by a "pack leader." I want to trust you to keep me safe. If you don't know how, find someone who can help us, please.
Learning should be fun for me and you. If it's not, can we please explore other options?
I know winter is long and you may not want to go for a walk in the pitch black with -20 degree wind chills. But you chose me. You chose to bring me into your life. I love you. I don't want to say goodbye to you every morning for eight or ten hours, or miss you when you go on vacation, either. But we're a team, right? I will try to be a good girl, but please remember I rely on you for everything, including a world bigger than our yard and house. While you must work to keep food stuffed in my Kong and bully sticks in my crate, I miss you when you are away and eagerly await our next adventure, always.
I will not be here forever. I trot across your heart, leaving footprints on your soul. If you are lucky, I will spend a decade, like water, dripping onto and soothing the bedrock of your soul; cutting streams and rivulets which will carry my memory long after I am gone. Put down your book. Log off the light machine. Let's go for a walk or have a snuggle. A day will come when you would give every piece of "merchandise" in your life for one more walk or snuggle with me. I am like a rainbow, I can't stay forever. Gather ye snuggles and adventures while we may, ok?
Let's suck the marrow from the bone of life together. I know you can help me be the best dog I can be, and I am here to make you the best human you can be, too. Friendships like this don't happen every day.
I love you so much, girl. Thank you for being such an amazing teacher. I can't wait for the lifetime of learning that lies ahead for us. You are all the good karma I have accrued in my life; cashed in and rolled up into one perfect cub. The eight years I have had the pleasure of walking the planet with you have been the best of my life. Here is to eight more, Little Miss Sunshine! Casey Lomonaco, KPA CTP Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training www.rewardingbehaviors.com
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