Your left! Your left! Your left, right, left!
Your left! Your left! Your left, right, left!
OK, obedience class for [fairly] new rescue dog, Ellie Mae, was not quite the “bootcamp” experience I might make it out to be, but there were enough commands being issued and followed, to make one think that push-ups couldn’t be that far off, if compliance were not forthcoming.
Luckily-or otherwise-Ellie Mae was up to the task, as she was not only able to ignore the other eight dogs who were in the building, she went through her paces as though she had seen this movie before. I say “otherwise” because luck really had no part in the process.
I mentioned in the last piece that the first thing our instructor Nancy told us, is that our dogs take their cues from our behavior: If our voices are calm and reassuring, then those characteristics are conveyed to our pets. Additionally, if we “asked” our dogs to sit, while we absorbed Nancy’s words, we were able to further calm them by giving them a little scratchy/scratchy behind the ears.
Behind the ears, down her back, and a belly rub for good measure before heading back up to the ears. Anyone who has ever owned a dog, knows that the ears are the chariots-to-the-soul of any pooch who ever lived.
I know endorphins come into play, not only for the dog but for the person doing the ear-nuzzling. The soothing effect has a boomerang quality to it: By providing the dog pleasure, the giver accomplishes the same thing for himself. It’s a circular process.
Besides, tick patrol requires that I run my hands over Ellie Mae continuously, anyway, when we are in cruise mode. I have only plucked two off of her so far, and that is a good thing. With the mild weather we have been having, and with the explorative nature of Ellie Mae, she has been covering a lot of ground.
Fortunately, Ellie has [apparently] ceased her escape attempts, it having been three weeks now since she has vamoosed from Stalag 13 in this manner.
Like most good instructors, Nancy did not remain in any one place for too long, checking in with this terrier here, or that miniature over there, not to mention Ellie Mae several times. There were nothing but “thumbs up” all around.
For those of you still perched on the edges of your seats, wondering when I am going to unveil the mystery of how Nancy “trains” our dogs in just four easy-peasy, one-hour-long sessions, I have a first time offer for you.
There is this golden bridge for sale and I can let you have it cheap.
What Nancy did for us last Saturday morning, at her studio in Willits, was provide an appropriate setting, outline some key principles that apply to dog/designated human relationships, and review six specific commands. There are more and we will get to them, but for starters we worked with the following: sit, stand, stay, place, look and heel. Also mentioned were down, come, wait, off and leave it.
As with any school, all the instructor can do is point the pupils and-in this case-their handlers, in the right direction, but the rest is up to the participants. Our homework was to work with our respective pets, in everyday situations, on each of the commands we had covered on Saturday.
Providing a setting with other dogs was a component that I especially valued, simply because I want to be able to take Ellie Mae with us in public, and not have to worry about questionable behavior. I do not worry about her being aggressive; it’s more about her being too forward in her enthusiasm.
Nancy had suggested we get there early and that helped immensely. By the time Ellie found herself in the same arena with eight other dogs, she had had twenty minutes to get accustomed to the idea. Of course, she has had much interaction with both Margie and Emma, so that has been a positive too.
And as far as Ellie Mae and I are concerned, as syrupy as it reads, like Annabel Lee, Ellie Mae wants nothing more than to love and be loved-by me. So as Nancy was covering some basics, I was pawing Ellie Mae’s ears, no pun intended.
She was hyper as we came into the facility; she was nervous as the class began; she began to relax as we reviewed familiar commands (and earned dog treats); finally, she was so chill by the final stretch, that she actually stretched herself out on her designated mat, and crashed.
I was so proud I wanted to go racing out into the center of the ring, and point out that fact to everyone there, but I settled for a Kodak moment, instead.
What’s a Kodak moment? It’s an indication that I am still living in the 20th century…