Thursday, May 6, 2010

Things Forgotten

Ellen has a really endearing habit: when she wants to make friends with another dog, but her lead is too short for her to get to the other dog, she bounces up and down on her front legs and gives an excited little whine.  Just like a child, when somebody with a bucket of chips walks past.  Or was that just me?

Anyway, the habit is endearing UNLESS Ellen is supposed to be sitting quietly and listening, like the rest of her classmates.  Ellen seems to have forgotten about sitting quietly.  In fact, after tonight's class, I'm a bit worried about her memory.  Other things she seems to have forgotten are:
  1. Sit
  2. Stay
  3. Heel
  4. Her name
  5. Eye contact
  6. Not breaking through a barrier that has been erected to keep dogs out of a boggy area and emerging with a muddy belly and chin and a big grin seven minutes after I have started to yell at her
  7. Not jumping on people
  8. Walking on a loose lead
  9. Static right turns (to be honest, I'm a little hazy on them too)
  10. Drop
  12. Taking treats like a lady and not like she's auditioning for the upcoming live-action film of Hungry, Hungry Hippos that has a cast of dogs dressed as hippos owing to the relative expensiveness of hippos and the notorious difficulty of working with their agents.
Unfortunately all of these things will be put to the test come "Comp Day" in three weeks.

The frustrating thing is, of course, that she hasn't forgotten any of it.  She's like a driver who knows that when there's a reduced speed limit around roadworks, the lawful thing to do is to slow down.  But if there's no policeman there, and also there are some other motorists ahead, the best thing to do is to drive as fast as she can to catch up to them, and tailgate them so they feel pressured to break the law, even though they were driving along at a safe and legal speed.  But if there's a policeman there, and he's got a cheeseburger, she will drive slightly under the speed limit, and even turn on her day-running lights for extra safety.  And then the policeman will give her the cheeseburger and then she can speed off and sniff another motorist's bum.  

OK, so all analogies fall over at some point.  But the point is that it is impossible to get Ellen to do what she is asked to do unless you can offer something more alluring than a dog's bum.  The old "carrot and stick" treatment doesn't work - she literally eats both for breakfast.  Rewarding only works if she does the right thing (which she doesn't), and scolding her firmly is met by a lolling tongue out the side of a muddy mouth and big brown eyes darting between me and the pocket the treats are kept in.

Who would've thunk she is officially Obedient?

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