This is me (in case u hadn't guessed!)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Basic Training

As I may or may not have already mentioned, I am a purebred German Shepherd with an impressive pedigree. My parents and their parents and those before them were well trained, well bred and just plain, well wonderful! So when my parents bought me from my breeder Cheryl they were pretty sure they were getting an awesome dog. And they did!! (not bragging here, it's just a fact).

Of course I had the "raw ingredients" but we dogs don't come trained ya know! We do require a little "basic training" even if we do have an impeccable pedigree under our belts. And apparently, so I've been told (over and over and over again!) when I was first brought home at the tender age of 8 weeks, I was, shall we saw, very ill mannered. My parents did what training they could at home (housebreaking, basic manners, etc) until I was almost a year old. Then they signed me up for a basic dog obedience class at the local high school.

They were excited and so was I. Finally I was going to get to go to school and learn "obedience"! I had no idea what that was, but they made it sound like it would be a blast so I was game! One night they loaded me into the car and off we drove to the high school for our first class. As soon as we entered the building however my excitement started to wain. I was greeted by about 20 other dogs, all older than me and they were all barking. Loudly. Meanly. They did not look like they were interested in having fun, rather they looked like they wanted to eat a young German Shepherd!

I tried hiding behind dad's legs but he pulled me forward on my leash and made me sit while the instructor started the class. First thing she did was hold up a funny looking collar she said was a "choke chain". In her class, she said, every dog had to have a choke chain, or if not a choke chain then a prong collar. She held up another collar, this one looked positively barbaric, with metal prongs all along the inside. She insisted neither collar would hurt a dog, that those of us with thick coats would hardly even feel ourselves being choked or poked. Ha ha. Now THAT is amusing! Here's the deal folks: if you don't believe that being choked or stabbed in the throat doesn't hurt then how about we put one of these lovely collars around YOUR neck and see how you like it??? Because it sure DOES hurt! As do shock collars and other devices that people use to "train" their dogs. Here's a basic rule of thumb to follow when it comes to your pets: Don't do anything to your pet that you wouldn't do to your child. Or better yet, don't do anything to your pet that you wouldn't do to yourself, because I've seen a lot of parents who don't seem to treat their children any better than they do their pets.

So our first class began with me having a choke chain put around my neck and having dad drag me to our place in a circle with the other dogs and their owners. I am not ashamed to admit I was scared out of my doggy mind! I didn't know what was happening really aside from the fact that I was going to be "choked" by my loving dad and possibly attacked by one of these older, positively cranky dogs!

The first thing we were supposed to learn was how to walk or "heel", which I though was pretty stupid. I mean gee whiz, I'd been walking since I was a tiny pup, it's not that difficult really! But "heeling" is somewhat different than just "walking". Heeling, in this class at least, involved walking right beside my dad, but not too close and not too far away, not too fast, not too slow. I was not allowed to jump up or stop until he stopped. Then I was supposed to sit nicely and look up at him for my next command. Yeah right!!! Like THAT was going to happen! So I did what came naturally to me, which was trotting beside dad and jumping up occassionally and crying and nipping and howling and pulling on my leash and trying to sniff the butt of the dog in front of me. But whenever I did any of these wonderful doggy things I got choked!! That's right folks, my adoring daddy would give me a sharp yank and I'd go aaaccckkkk!!! and just about toss my kibble everywhere. All around me the other dogs were being choked and a few scary looking ones were wearing the prong collars and they were being pronged and stabbed and everyone was barking and howling and crying and plain miserable. Oh yeah, Basic Dog Obedience was brilliant!

And all the while that crazy instructor was stalking around shouting "That's it! Show your dog whose boss! Give them a correction! Don't let them take control!" The woman was insane I tell you! Poor mom stood on the sidelines with her hand over her mouth looking just sick. Each time we passed her in our rotation I'd jump, trying to get to her. But each time dad yanked me back. Then the instructor upped the ante. She started tossing raw hotdogs on the floor in front of us. Cool I thought, a snack! I figured this was her way of making up for trying to choke us to death but oh no! This was just one more little trick in her devious plot of doggy domination! Now we were told that we had to continue to heel and our owners were to make sure we did NOT touch the hotdogs. Not touch a hotdog???? Is that even possible????? According to her it was.

On my first pass I gobbled up the first hotdog that came my way and dad chuckled. The instructor did not like that. "Your dog just ate anti freeze!" she barked. "You've got to control your dog!! Give a correction!" Dad halfheartedly gave me a little choke which I gleefully ignored while I grabbed my second hot dog. The rest of the lesson went much the same way. My folks were not pleased. They said I didn't get it, that I was too young. Mom said she hated that choke chain and I agreed!

During the week we practiced at home and mom and dad said I was making progress. But we practiced without the choke chain and with lots of treats. The instructor had said we didn't need treats for our training. So lets get this straight: basic dog obedience involved the use of torture devices, no treats, taunting with hot dogs and doggy domination. Yeah, that makes me want to be very obedient doesn't it you???

I figured we were done with that crazy dog obedience stuff but unfortunately mom and dad decided to give it one more try. Dad dragged me into class the very next week and the torture continued. I was having none of it I decided. I refused to heel no matter how much I was choked or prodded. I threw myself a great big doggy tantrum, jumping up on dad and crying, pulling on my leash to get to mom. Then I laid down on the floor and refused to move. The instructor kept shouting for dad to use a correction and get control but I could tell mom and dad were done. And so was I. We left the class early. Clearly dog "obedience" was not for us!

Back at home mom decided to train me herself using techniques she'd read about in books borrowed from the library. These books advocated, of all things, POSITIVE training, with lots of praise and best of all lots of treats! And lo and behold, once I knew good things would come my way I started to learn! Within weeks I was heeling and sitting and staying and coming when called. And we did it all with a normal collar and just me and my loving mom and dad. Now I'm not going to lie and say I am a perfectly trained, always obedient dog. I am sometimes naughty and sometimes I don't always come when called and I still like to jump up on people and give them kisses. And I bet sometimes mom and dad wish I was as perfectly trained as some of my ancestors. But anything else just wouldn't be me and I just know my folks wouldn't have it any other way!

And now I'm gonna go get me a hot dog!

Wags & kisses,


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