After weeks of cold, rainy days, it was impossible to sit at the computer once I realized what the big yellow ball in the sky was. Time to get outside, wander around the yard and take the big girl for a walk. Lola is just about the happiest dog in the world,
but she’s not crazy about rain and ends up moping around the house, asking me to let her out… then back in, then out again when she see’s Moe go out on the porch. Then Moe smacks Lola and she wants back in, then Moe wants in which means Lola wants out. I guess what I’m saying is I can’t sit down for 2 minutes without one or the other wanting in or out – no matter what, somebody’s always on the wrong side of the door.
The moping stopped when Lola saw me put on my sneakers and grab the leash and then there was a whole lot of exuberance in the house - chairs tipped over, desk got cleared, and a cat got smooshed. It may sound like I have an out of control dog who’s never been to a training class in her life but really Lola’s been to dog classes. It’s just that the curriculum doesn’t coincide with her outlook on life.
I mean get this tidbit of wisdom from a book someone (John) was kind enough to pick up: ”a proper heel is taught with your dog on your left side. Ideally, in the heel position your dog’s head is close to your left knee”. You know what I think a proper heel is? Being able to walk at a somewhat leisurely pace without getting pulled into a tree or poked in the butt to get a move on. Ideally, I would like to remain upright throughout the entire
trot walk. I do not care what side she is on, I’d just like her to pick ONE side and stick with it.
Lola’s training started early. Basic puppy training and socialization – 8 weeks of it. Although I went to every class, John was the handler since I was in a cast due to an unfortunate walk with Lola that ended with my ankle broken (hers were fine). It was a good class based on the click-treat system. If your dog does something right, you click this clicker then give her a treat. Halfway through the class, all the puppies were let off their leashes to “socialize”. Lola’s a friendly dog but she’s also a food whore and it didn’t take her long to realize that while all the puppies were running around playing with each other, the owners were just standing around with treats in their little side pouches… and it seems like everyone brought Lola’s favorite treats which meant that Lola’s playtime was sucking up to the other dog owners eating treats. Lola actually did a decent job with basic commands and it looked like she enjoyed the classes.
As Lola got bigger and we couldn’t seem to break her of trying to lift John up by his crotch, we decided a “real” training class was in order. Enter Louis the professional dog show handler who had very specific ideas about proper training. This class was in a huge roped off field with about a dozen other dogs, one being Daisy the perfect collie. Unfortunately an agility class was going on at the same time in a different area. Those dogs were running up ramps, jumping through hoops, going through tunnels! So while our class was marching around in boring circles doing heels, sits, downs, stays, I was leaving furrows in the field as Lola dragged me straight across to the other field in front of all the perfect heelers… did I mention Daisy? Any of you read Marley? Remember Marley’s training class? Pretty much the same thing.
Getting too sore for this on a weekly basis, I again traded off with John and although he’s stronger than I am, he didn’t have much better luck either. And Lola and I would have to hear about it all the way home…“did you see Daisy? She doesn’t drag her owner across the field… Daisy doesn’t roll over on her back when we do ‘downs’…” Like listening to your mother rave about your perfect cousin’s manners. I had a hunch that Daisy was a ringer and confirmed it one week after talking to her owner. Yup, this was Daisy’s second time around. Of course she was ahead of the class, she’d stayed back!
Now I don’t want to be petty about this, but there were 11 other dogs in this class and Louis would always demonstrate specific commands using someone’s dog. I didn’t think that much about this until John mentioned one night after class “have you noticed that Louis never uses Lola for demo purposes?” Ok, well maybe he’s just trying to use dogs who need his remedial techniques… John looked at me, then at Lola and said “ah, I don’t think that’s it”.
Lola never missed a class although I think Louis would get this horrified look when we continued to show up. Didn’t bother her a bit, she was as exuberant as ever… “SIT” … and she’d bounce off John’s chest all excited. “STAY”... and she’d come charging across the field knocking the pins out from other owners stupid enough to turn their backs on her.
Finally, the session was over and it was graduation day. Now who would think it was a good idea to tell everyone to bring food for a picnic for a doggie grad party? Really? Have you ever seen a Berner at a picnic? All I can say is the “diplomas” had to have been printed up well before the end of classes.
Lola was really, really excited about graduating though. Louis had set up a card table at one end of the field and each dog was supposed to demonstrate a command they had mastered. Did I mention that Daisy stayed at one end of the field until her owner called her? Huh, Lola and I had been practicing too, so I took over for the demo with the same command. ”Lola – Stay (please stay Lola)”. I walked across the field and Lola stayed (I think she was busy checking out the picnic table and hadn’t noticed that I left). I got all the way across the field, called Lola and didn’t she come charging right at me… and didn’t stop. After I picked myself up, we were supposed to heel over to the card table. Owner takes the diploma, dog gets a cookie from a great big jar full of cookies. I think I mentioned how excited Lola was about graduating. We got to the table and didn’t Lola smack the rickety card table with her big ol’ Berner paws, knocking the table over and spilling all the cookies, which didn’t last long after they hit the dirt. Good thing there was only one other dog after us.