(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.

My wife Dawn and I took our dog Ginny to classes. We took her to playgroups. We gave her love and affection and discipline and water, plenty of water, because a dog was supposed to have fresh water at all times. And for all our efforts, our German shepherd was behaving worse every day, her latest victim the UPS guy, who now dropped off his packages at the foot of the driveway after the last encounter, which had involved teeth, pants, and unwanted ripping of fabric. Let’s just say it was a good thing he was wearing brown.