Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Walking Miss Dorothy

Last night I had a trainer come to help me with Dorothy—although it soon became clear that the trainer was really there to help Dorothy with me.  It turns out that I am the one who needs the training.  Woof.

Since bringing Dorothy from Maine to Philadelphia, she hasn’t been much of a walker.  At first it seemed clear that it was all the sounds and chaos of a city—trucks hurtling by, taxis doing their kamikaze zigzag, dog after dog after dog, and crowds of people (although 98 of 100 are ardent and vocal Dorothy admirers).  After a few days, she began to walk on occasion, or at the very least she would happily walk HOME from the park, little head held high, ears bobbing.

But then she regressed and wouldn’t walk.  And then she improved and would!  But then she wouldn’t.  And then she really wouldn’t.  And then:  no way.

Of course, I got lots of advice from helpful passers-by.  Many people told me their dog did the same thing until one day poof!  Said dog got up and walked.  Some people lectured me for having the wrong collar on Dorothy:  I needed a harness, I needed a martingale collar, I needed a prong collar, I should never get a prong collar no matter what, I needed this, I needed that, had I ever heard of a macramé collar spun by silkworms in Tibet and available on such and such a website.  Etc.

People told me to gently tug her, but when I did that she generally ended in a belly-up pose in the middle of the sidewalk.  Some said to go in the direction she wanted, but the minute I did that, the direction she wanted changed.

So I often ended up lugging the growing beastie in my arms to the park, upon which I would put her down, and she’d find a nice stick in the grass and lie down in the sun to chew it.  I was reminded of Ferdinand the bull, sitting and smelling the flowers.

And actually, her penchant for chewing a stick in a sunbeam I totally get.  Her not wanting to walk on the other hand stymies me.  Don’t most dogs love to go outside unless it is raining?  Not Dorothy (yet!).  I’ll come home from work and she’ll be in her crate sitting up all happy to see me, and then I get the leash and she lies back down.  I open the crate, hook her leash to her collar, and she is still in a tiny circlet of bulldogge, all warm and cuddly but not really inclined to budge an inch.

Here she is in the a.m. too, first thing.

I’ve gotten up, gotten dressed, and come back with the leash and put it on Dorothy, who is not too keen to get up, despite however many times I singsong “Rise and shine!”

Therefore, I decided to call a trainer to help me out before any temporary non-walking habits became more permanent, and before wee Dorothy became hefty Dorothy.  It was either that or invest in a red flyer wagon.  And did I really want to be That Person, pulling her healthy dog on wheels?  No, I did not.

So the trainer, Perry, came yesterday at 5:30, and it was fascinating to watch Perry work with Dorothy, who by all accounts is some kind of a genius (I’m sure the trainer tells that to all the dogge owners…).  Perry was using a clicker, and within 5 minutes, Dorothy was doing many commands (some I wasn’t aware that she knew!) at the sound of the click (and of course with many a treat stuffed into her mouth).  After ten minutes, Dorothy was practically doing a little tap dance with hat and cane.

(Perry said Dorothy is an “over achiever”; when she was working on her “place” command (upon which Dorothy is supposed to go to her bed), Dorothy not only would go to the bed, but then would do a natty little down-stay as the cherry on the sundae.  Brown-noser!)

We then went outside and tried to duplicate Dorothy’s walking problems, which of course were non-existent in front of the trainer.  So I practiced walking with Dorothy’s leash wrapped around my left wrist, the clicker in my left hand, and my right hand continually reaching into my right pocket for treats and dropping them down Dorothy’s gullet, which was opening baby-bird style around knee-height as Dorothy pranced along all A+-student-y.

“Not only does she walk, but she does a perfect heel!” exclaimed Perry.  Grrrr, I thought.

But all in all it was a very good session.  I now know what I need to work on while Dorothy is reclining with a choice stick in the park.  Perhaps she can call her bestie, Trainer Perry, on her mobile, while I’m chanting to myself, leash on left wrist, clicker in left hand, treats in right hand, step, hop, kick, pivot.

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