Once upon a time – A pup for a Girl

“In dreams begin responsibilities.”
W.B. Yeats, Responsibilities

Once upon a time there was an adventurous girl and her bouncy, jouncy puppy. It was a lovely day in spring and the birds were singing, the frogs were singing and most of the insects hadn’t even come out yet – yeah!

It had rained hard over night and the ditches were running with water, the grass was bent over with drips and the daffodils were tipped down as if they needed to look closer at the night-crawlers (who had come out to avoid drowning underground).

Summer was 11 years old and it was Saturday morning and almost the end of the school year. Her  golden fuzzy retriever puppy was 10 weeks old, she had named him Max, and it was her job to feed him and walk him and do some training – she couldn’t wait to begin having adventures with him. He had on his new collar (which made him sit down and scratch his neck every few steps), but otherwise he was ready to go places until he felt the pull of the leash. He leaped backwards and started flopping back and forth trying to escape the strangling trap.

Summer rushed back to Max trying to explain, “Ganonkdo, cvahhilke, djnot uoo Max!” Max looked at her and panted, “Ha,haha, ha.” She motioned with her hand and he hopped up and jumped at it and bit it. “Ow, no!” and she swatted him on the nose. He decided to go have fun somewhere else, but as he tried to leave the strangling began again. This time Summer walked forward dragging Max a few feet. He reared up like a bronco, then fell over. “How am I going to walk you Max?”

Just then her mom yelled down the hallway, “You better get that pup walked, you know that was part of your responsibility. And remember to feed him.”

The joy drained out of the day, the sky turning more gray, the birds hushing, the frogs became silent, the insects started to hum … the bouncy, jouncy, adventuresome, furry pup had become a resistive, biting, responsibility. The ground sucked at her feet making every step a trudge and the puppy dragged behind her or charged ahead of her with rasping breath. And then he pooped and she was supposed to clean it up, the smell, the embarrassment of picking up dog poop. Plus the puppy tried to grab the plastic baggy and put his feet in the poop and got some on her new jeans. Ew, disgusting dog. Why did she ever want him anyway?

Zip, zip, rewind. Luckily that day was a do-over kind of day and in the do-over her mom was a good witch, instead of a bad witch and knew something about pups and teaching kids  how to have fun with them, yippie!

The sun was shining and Summer came sleepily out of her bedroom and then got all excited because she remembered she would get to do things with her new puppy today. The kitchen smelled like pancakes and her puppy was playing in an exercise pen on the tile floor. Her mom had already taken the pup out for an early morning potty break since she knew her daughter’s sleep needs. Summer asked if the pup needed to go out right away and her mom said no because he had been already, but lets get ready to take him on a little hiking adventure. Summer was so happy.

Her mom suggested she might want to feed him a little breakfast and showed her how to hand feed the pup for doing sit and down. Summer was delighted with how smart her pup was. After a couple minutes her mom said, you can give him the rest of his food in his dish and after you wash you hands I’ve got the griddle hot and I’ll show you how to make your own pancake.

The sun was still shining in on the breakfast table as Summer finished up her own, that she made herself, pancake topped with peanut butter, strawberries and maple syrup. Her mom smiled and said, “Food tastes better if you make it yourself doesn’t it?” Summer smiled and agreed heartily.

After clearing off her plate and helping straighten up. They started getting ready to go on a hike, filled the treat bag, a couple of toys, some water and put the pup’s crate in their car. “Where are we going Mom?”

“I thought we’d go to Roth’s place, they gave us an open invitation, there’s a nice trail, his dog is good with pups, plus it’s vaccinated. We don’t want to take our pup anyplace where stray dogs might be, even though he has his first shots he’s not as immune as he will be later, so only meeting with vaccinated, pleasant dogs for him. Plus he won’t have to wear a leash all the time, which is a lot easier right now. And they want us to stay for lunch, so our pup will get to meet a bunch of people – remember we’re trying to get in 50 men, 5 women and…”

“50 kids! Yup, I know mom. This will be fun!”PuppyclassMay2011 020

And it was.


dogbasicclassAug272013 030

**clumping or lumping is the unsuccessful addition of steps in a process – you’ve lumped too many things together and the training failed, everybody’s frustrated. You may need to take a break, then go back to the last time you were successful and start a step or two before that.

A huge part of good training is getting the fundamentals solid so the trainee believes they will be successful, ie. persistence in the face of adversity.

*fast tracking is when you’ve skipped steps in the training, but it works anyway. This is usually because the set up was good and prior training was good.

*FYI puppy kindergarten classes are the strongest predictor of a positive relationship with the pup…dog.


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