Dog Tales

Has your pet  got you trained?

In the more than 20 years that I’ve been training dogs and people, I’ve never once met a dog that was stupid. No, not possible. Dogs are simple creatures, determining minute by minute what is in their own best interest. Most dogs, and cats for that matter, have their humans trained extraordinarily well, even when they, the humans, don’t recognize they’ve been trained.

How many of you have a cat that purrs in your face at 3 a.m.? And what do you do? It’s OK, tell us you get up, open a can of cat food, feed the cat and go back to bed. You only did this because you wanted the cat to shut up. Congratulations, your cat did stop purring, but you reinforced their purring-in-your-face at 3 a.m. behavior, by feeding them!

I met a woman who had a rather cute daschund, named Lilly. She insisted that the dog didn’t know anything because she had never taken her to obedience classes and she hadn’t consciously trained her. My observations were quite different. If Lilly scratched on the side of the bed, Martha would pick her up and put her on the bed. When Lilly jumped on Martha’s legs, she would feed her and when she scratched at the slider door, she opened the curtain, yet, Martha insisted that Lilly didn’t know anything. Lilly knew quite a few important behaviors.

In all fairness, I am also well-trained by my cute-as-a-button Boston Terrier, Vesta. I love sleeping with her, every night she jumps on the bed, wagging her cute little butt, carrying today’s favorite toy. When I’m ready to turn off the light, I lift the covers so she can walk under and curl up next to me. The problem is, she’s not ready. Only when she scratches at the covers will she go under them and, yes, I am trained to lift them up for her.

Again, in fairness, I’ll share some more dirty secrets from my life as a dog trainer. My partner Amy’s dog Jubilee is a very accomplished and well-trained dog, having won titles and blue ribbons. She is also a therapy dog at the county jail, comforts children while they read, has more tricks than I can remember, but she also has us well-trained. Jubilee counter surfs. She discovered how yummy the bacon grease is in the frying pan; she has also learned that other delicious food is cooled on top of the stove: chicken breasts, cupcakes and muffins. How are we trained? After losing our dinner (the chicken breasts) and breakfast (muffins) and dessert (the cupcakes), we now have the cleanest stovetop in Cheshire County. Food is stored in the microwave or in the farthest corner of the counter. Thanks, Jubilee!

Before you tell me or your friends how stupid your dog is, think again and look around to see how well trained you are!

Certified Professional Dog Trainer Denise Mazzola is the owner of Denise Mazzola’s Everything Dog. She has been training dogs and people for over 20 years. She offers private lessons, group classes in Rindge and Swanzey, board and train as well as day training services. She lives in Keene with her partner, Amy Willey. They share their home with five dogs and three daughters. For more information, see www.everythingdognh.com.

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