I have been reading. Books with names like YOU’RE GETTING A PUPPY? THERE GOES YOUR LIFE. And: YOU’RE BRINGING A PUPPY HOME? MWA HAHAHAHAHA YOU POOR FOOL YOU’RE TOAST. This is not entirely reassuring.
I possess forty years of dog training manuals—no, I have unloaded most of them, but I have tended to keep each generation’s most useful and/or most user friendly text. And while the forty-year-old one is badly out of date in terms of more recent research into and understanding of dog character and dog behaviour* I’ve kept it because I remember the way it blew me out of the water at the time, having trained my poor Alsatian by the choke-collar and the meanest s.o.b. in the valley method, because that’s what they taught you in dog school in those days, and while [wince, wince] I went along with it because these were grown-ups and experts and of course knew best I didn’t like it much.** And here was a dog book saying, hey! It’s okay to love your dog in a ridiculous and soppy fashion! You can still teach it manners! And training your dog is not an adversarial situation!
There’s a lot of great stuff in (some of) the new(ish) generation(s) of dog books, and I’m grateful that Southdowner and Olivia got me in a head lock*** and told me I had to read x and y or I couldn’t have Pavlova.† But . . . there are two glaring errors of practical application in most of the straight how-tos†† from my point of view:
- They’re all frelling based on frelling food rewards. If your dog isn’t interested in food, you are frelling STUFFED. So to speak.
- They assume YOU HAVE ONLY ONE DOG and that ONE is the puppy you are being advised on how to train.††† This is particularly infuriating from a DOG TRAINING WRITER WHO FREQUENTLY REFERS TO HIS/HER SEVERAL DOGS.
I started out thinking that perhaps these are several generations of dogs the writer has owned, but nooooooo. Tucked somewhere in a throwaway line there will be reference to when Megalopolis first met Poltroon there was some ambivalence, but they’re best friends now. Define ambivalence.‡ And then tell me what you did about it. And don’t tell me it’s all based on desiccated liver, that universal, unilateral dog manna. My hellhounds couldn’t care less about desiccated liver. I will probably try to insinuate a little raw liver into the introduction to Pavlova‡‡ . . . and hope that this doesn’t merely put them off raw liver, which is the nearest thing they have to a food grail, and I’d be sorry to lose it. I’ve wondered if where I went wrong with the desiccated liver is that I mistook it for the universal, unilateral dog manna, and offered it as such, rather than appreciating that all food is scary and dangerous and can only be negotiated with cautiously and under exactingly and inflexibly regulated conditions.
I’m hoping that Pavlova will prove to be made of robuster stuff, which is to say that SHE EATS. And while I’m home all the time—and there are two other dogs in the family—so the learning to keep herself amused calmly when she’s left alone is not a big issue, I am going to try the Kongs‡‡‡-stuffed-with-food trick . . . again.§
The beginning of the year, I threw out a bunch of dog toys, including several Kongs, because I had no earthly use for them.§§ And, you dog training manual writer bozos, there are a lot of people with more than one dog. And a lot of dogs that are not good eaters.
Please address this. Before I bring my next sighthound home.
* * *
* And, just by the way, call me a cynic, but I predict that the teenager who is buying today’s top dog-training picks is going to be looking back in thirty five or forty years and thinking, I can’t believe I believed that. How did poor Spot/Sid/Ash/Mongo/Mayhem grow up to be such a nice dog in spite of my training style?
** And she was still a surprisingly nice dog, although she had some issues.
*** Which they would never do to a dog.
† To which I replied, I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.^
Then I bought the books because I’m a doobie really. Also, Pavlova is MINE.
^ There isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t recognise this, is there? If there is, allow me to shield your shame by suggesting that you google ‘I fart in your general direction’ or ‘your mother was a hamster’. It will come up immediately. With video clips.
†† There’s more in the dog-behaviour books, but they tend to leave you to figure out productive strategies yourself.
††† Mostly I don’t mind the assumption that I’ve never had a dog before in my life and (apparently) have barely ever met one and that everything my puppy does is going to be strange and bizarre to me.^ Um. Remind me why I’m buying this incongruous alien being? Peer pressure? Given the further assumption of most dog-training manuals that your neighbours all have canine barbarians who uproot trees, eat small children and the mailperson, and bark like the last trump, why you are clutching this book at all becomes even more mysterious.
^ Including things like eating, sleeping, peeing and defecating+. Gosh. Us modern humans are really out of touch with our bodies, aren’t we?
+ I’m not sure if this was a typo and/or Word auto-corrected in the wrong direction, but what this word originally appeared as is defecting. Snork.
‡ Was there blood loss? How much? Did it involve a trip to the vet’s/doctor’s? In or out of office hours? How many stitches? Is there a permanent limp?
‡‡ Which will probably mean the kitchen ends up looking like Hannibal Lector came to tea.
§ And in vivid memory of Hannah’s first dog, many generations ago^, whom Hannah was advised to placate with food-stuffed Kongs, which she, Lucrezia, demolished enthusiastically and then went on to dismember hundreds of dollars’ worth of guaranteed dog-proof crates. The dog behaviourist stopped returning Hannah’s phone calls.
^ I’m a little surprised that after Lucrezia Borgia she didn’t decide to keep an alligator in the bath, or something easy-going and low maintenance.
§§ And the total FAILURE they represented every time they rolled out from under the tallboy covered in dust was depressing.
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