(The Merry-Go-Round is Beginning to Taunt Me[1])

 

1. Author As [not circus] Dog Trainer (Cris)

You can’t lie to a dog. Or you can’t lie badly. While training dogs, you need to be “telling” them, with both body-language and voice, that they are the center of the universe to you, and that what they do for you—and what you’re doing together—makes you happier, and means more to you, than anything else in the world. They can tell if you’re lying. If you’re unconsciously communicating to them that you’re disappointed or upset because you’re thinking about something else, something offstage—whether your life’s true dilemma or your most current disappointment—they take it on as stress. To dogs, it’s all about them. So the trainer has to be able to convince the dog of that, whether it’s true in the trainer’s larger life or not. Problem is, the dog can usually tell. A good trainer doesn’t have “a larger life.” It’s never “just a dog” and therefore easy to lie to.

Contrary to popular belief, the most dominant dog in any given pack is rarely the first one you notice.

Like any dictator, an alpha dog may be either benevolent or tyrannical, but unlike many human dictators, alpha dogs are never emotionally fragile, touchy, needy, or exceptionally demonstrative.  They just don’t generally stick out unless something has gone seriously awry.

When asked to describe the epitome of man’s best friend I imagine few people would include phrases like “moderate to severe separation anxiety” or “urinates in the house.”  Fewer still might imagine a dog who clearly lost the ability to survive in nature earlier in their evolution than, perhaps, a Chinese Crested

or a Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas, after all, are tenacious, aggressive, and while they may shake through it, one might at least lose a finger in a standoff.

Nonetheless, my boyfriend and I have been hard pressed to find these so-called faults with our dog important.  I believe in his own words my better half admitted that, while he knew it was wrong, he would willingly clean up lakes of pee rather than imagine a day without our dog.  I feel much the same way.  This may go a long way to explaining why we have as yet been unable to solve this annoying and unsanitary problem.

Taxi—that’s the dog—is a mixed breed pound puppy who I rescued from the New York City municipal shelter.  I imagine the aforementioned problems may have prompted his placement there, as it certainly couldn’t have been his looks.

I mean honestly, have you ever seen a better looking dog in all your life?  If your answer is yes, you can keep it to yourself.  But the inability or lack of desire, shall we say, to potty train is, more often than not, counted as a serious problem.  Lucky for him, I had no idea this lay ahead and within 2.5 seconds after we met, it no longer mattered.

Since his homecoming, Taxi has been through a battery of training, including the unparalleled, behavior-influenced methods of Cesar Milan.  We were devoted Cesar fans, watched his show, The Dog Whisperer, on television and read both books.  Cesar’s Way appealed to me as the daughter of a scientist and an avid amateur animal behaviorist.  His approach seemed most focused on communicating with your animal in a way he/she would best understand.   That they are not people and should not be treated such is a theme both in the books and television series, as well as the recurring mantras of ample exercise and inner strength by the “pack leader.”  That’d be me.

Somehow, I don’t think the dog views me as his pack leader.  I’m reminded of this every time I try to take him for a walk.  Instead of leaping around, anxious for his leash, he walks to his bed, lies down and lifts his leg for a belly rub.  Come on man, are you a dog or not?  Not, I think is his answer.

“I tell my clients to take their dogs for a good long walk, run, or even a Rollerblade session first thing in the morning…Really tire her out.  Then it’s feeding time.  By the time you leave the house, your dog will be tired and full, and in a naturally resting state.” – Cesar Milan, Cesar’s Way

Uh huh.  What if the dog won’t go, Cesar?  I know he has to pee.  I’m sure of it.  After I sleep all night, I do and I want to do it in my toilet not on the floor under my Dad’s desk.  But every morning I carry my dog out the door and down the stairs before he’s ready to actually walk a bit.  Then, as soon as he’s done his business, around he turns and back we come.  And God forbid if it’s raining or otherwise inclement.  That’s a non-starter, that is.

“By humanizing dogs, we damage them psychologically.” – Cesar Milan, Cesar’s Way

Oh my God, the guilt.  Although not Catholic or Jewish, I am no less immune.  But anthropomorphizing the dog seems virtually impossible to avoid.  He’s got lips like a man and features that are all too human.  His apparent understanding of the world around him muddies the waters and, as I mentioned previously, the boyfriend and I are suckers.  I’m sure talking to the dog the way we do is not allowed.

“Who is a very big dog?  Is he big and handsome?  He is very special and his Mommy loves him, yes she does!”

This is said in a horrible, baby voice and he loves it.  Worse, we can’t stop ourselves.  It’s wrong!

Yesterday I came home to what I thought was a successful day.  Only gone a few hours and the boyfriend home the whole time, I didn’t expect there to be a problem.  Taxi seemed happy and relaxed, in no hurry to go outside and very pleased with himself.  I gave him a bone and sat down at my computer do to a little work before fixing dinner.  Unfortunately, because of my latest cold I was completely unaware of what lay behind me.  A few moments later my boyfriend came in and pointed it out.  There it was, a big pile of poop on our throw rug and the dog happily chewing his bone on the couch right above it.  Sigh.

So after years of obedience work, behavioral work, and advice from dog trainers, we are no farther along than we were when we started.  I’m sure this is my fault.  It’s always the mother’s fault and besides, that’s what all the books say.  In the end, I guess we’ve just decided to manage.  I keep a stock of Nature’s Miracle and a bucket and mop on hand at all times.  We continue our work to achieve potty training but we’re obviously poorly suited to it.  I only hope this dog might be able to teach an old girl some new tricks and one day help me figure out how to get him to pee outside.  Otherwise who knows; I might start peeing under the desk too.