Mom and I took Cricket to a puppy class at the local pet store when Cricket was three or four months old. I wanted Cricket to stop biting me; that was my most pressing goal.
All of the books said that it would be easier to train her as a puppy, rather than later on, and that I would be a terrible person if I didn’t teach her to heel, come when called, and pee on command. But for me, the thing I wanted most was for her to be able to make friends with other dogs, and people. I wanted her to be a safe companion for her young human cousins, and to not be as isolated as my previous dog had been, with her antisocial behavior and anxiety disorder.
I also had dreams of getting Cricket to do tricks, like ride a skateboard, or surf, or dance with me.
I loved meeting all of the other puppies in the class. There was a baby bloodhound named Baxter, and a pair of miniature Pinschers, and miniature Poodles, and a black Lab or two, and an older Maltese. But Cricket was not as enamored of them as I was, and she didn’t think the treats were worth working for. She ignored the commands and smiled at me and sniffed the shelves at the store and peed in the corners, and then we went home and she chewed through an entire wicker garbage can.
What I remember most about the teacher was that nothing she said made sense to me. I felt like I was listening to a foreign language I’d never studied, or trying to make sense of NASA’s instruction book for how to launch a space shuttle. I can’t tell you even now if that was because she actually didn’t make sense or if it’s because obedience training kills my circuitry.
The teacher had a way of taking my nervous, meant-to-be-funny comments and using them as lessons for the class. Like, I asked her, after a particularly grueling lesson, when do we get the magic pill that makes training just kick in, and she said, in all seriousness and pointing me out to the class, that there is no magic pill and training takes a lot of hard work.
The teacher was impatient with all of us, but especially with Cricket. She told us to flip Cricket onto her back and hold her down, as an intervention. We were supposed to show Cricket that we were in charge and resistance wasn’t going to get her anywhere. But all that did was to make Cricket more frightened and more resistant to the training.
I should have listened more carefully when the teacher told us that her mother used to hit her to keep her in line, and, instead of saying that her mother did the wrong thing, she said, mothers hit us because they love us.
I finally gave up on the class after the fourth week. The teacher had done her “intervention” one time too many and Cricket had learned to hide behind my legs whenever the teacher came by.
It all felt like a way to crush her spirit and mine. I resented the idea that Cricket was supposed to be a pod puppy, with no unique or rebellious characteristics left. And I was exhausted. So we left, and replaced training class with episodes of Dancing with the Stars. Cricket is great at the Tango.
The best way to train dogs is using positive re-enforcement. Food rewards and praise is the answer 🙂
Unfortunately, Cricket believes in physical punishment, of me. She has been trying to train me for years and when her cuddles and kisses don’t get her what she wants, she turns to biting and scratching and yelling. If only she could read some of the dog blogs and learn some kinder techniques.
Good for you for leaving that class.
I just didn’t have the energy to go back again. And Cricket seemed to like watching Dancing with the Stars so much better anyway!
Good for you for heeding your intuition! I saw a man walking his doberman, jump on him and flatten him to the ground because the dog wasn’t heeling. I thought it was odd and cruel. I think he probably was a student of that same wacko teacher!
There are some strange people out there, and somehow they don’t know how strange they are. I think it might be my job to let them know.
Very early in our relationship I learned that training for Honey (our dog) was a matter of careful planning, cunning subterfuge and insincere negotiation. She spurns treats if she has the least suspicion they might be an ‘incentive’, has a special laconic look that she reserves for the unjust command, and simply ignores anything she considers to be below her intellectual level. That being said, she is, broadly, a very obedient and trustworthy dog. But I think she only does it because she likes us.
I would have so enjoyed taking her to your training class. Honey’s Machiavellian tactics would probably have reduced the woman to a nervous breakdown. Good move, taking Cricket away from there. Very good move.
I think Cricket should become a people trainer. She is masterful at offering positive reinforcement (smiles, snuggles, lack of biting) and making it very clear what is required of the well behaved human. Though she does resort to violence when her humans are being especially stupid. Even the best teachers can lose their self control sometimes.
We can be so obtuse sometimes, can’t we? After all, it is elementary pet science that a dog must be supplied with a constant source of food – and more food – and more…
Thank you so much!