2 minute philosophy

I keep meeting folks who have never heard of the idea of training with mealtime food. Last evening I had an enjoyable conversation with Vicki Wolff, a yorkie-teacup-agility-obsessed friend of ours.

Vicki and her husband, Don, are picking up a new adolescent yorkie in a couple of weeks and I suggested she start doing 2-minute training for it’s new name and attention.

I always change the name of a new dog when I bring it home. In the best of situations, the old name is white noise and has none of the power of the new name I want to give. In the worst of situations, the old name has negative connotations which I don’t want to be constantly revisiting with my new dog.

So “Player” became Dash in about 3 days. And “Haley” became Red in about 15 minutes. And “Spook” became Blue in one meal. Bud’s fond of saying “you can teach a food-motivated dog anything.”

Today the shelter is scrambling to prepare for tomorrow’s adoptathon and Easter Picture fund-raiser at a local Tractor Supply store.

I worked several hours at the shelter today, training a couple of nice mixes. All the dogs I’d worked with before had been adopted out, and I’ve established a 40-pound weight limit for the dogs I train. So I was very limited as to which dogs I could train.

I had an opportunity to do some public relations with a woman, her daughter, and her 3 grandchildren. They were looking for a nice family pet and were drawn to a 70-pound, intact male boxer mix. I hooked a leash on him and he dragged Mom around for 15 minutes.

I pointed out a sweet, 25-pound pitbull female with nipples hanging 1-2-inches from her belly. “I just don’t trust pitbulls” grandma said. I pointed out to her that I, too, have mistrusted pitbulls in the past but have decided to believe the recent PR regarding the bad rap they’ve gotten.

Everything I read and see now about pitbulls is that they have to be taught to fight, that most of them are just incredibly biddable, people-oriented potential pets.

This little female had no fighting scars, was extremely easy-going with the grandchildren, wasn’t easily startled by noise or intrusive touches (we looked at her teeth, picked up her feet, touched and tugged her tail).

If I can’t educate the shelter staff I can still help potential adopters. The amount of misinformation out in the world, whether about dogs or dog training, is monumental.

We put the pit bitch back in her kennel and the family left saying they’d return the next day after discussing the dogs with Dad. Five minutes later this sweet dog is wandering out of her kennel. I’d neglected to put the snap back on the latch and she’d very quickly stood up and opened the latch with her nose.

I bent over and whistled and she walked towards me, allowing me to put the leash back on her and lead her back to her kennel run. This time I carefully put the snap in the hole. As I walked away she was standing on her back legs again, attempting (unsuccessfully this time) to raise the latch with her nose. Clever little girl. <g>

After these adopters left I snagged a community-service-teen and we washed dogs. First was a terrific purebred cattledog — red, male, neutered. Who on earth would have surrendered this dog? There must be some issues not immediately apparent, I thought.

Well, he accepted a collar and leash, walked fairly nicely out for a pee break, and accepted his bath with good humor. It was probably his first-ever bath and he had to be asking himself, “what the heck is with this joint?”

Next was another purebred dog, a jack russell terrier — black and white, male, intact. He also accepted the leash, walked fairly nicely to the potty yard to pee (is there anything in dog training easier than getting an intact male dog to pee?) and — after a tiny little panic — accepted his bath sweetly.

The shelter has agreed that it might be better to take 5-6 dogs instead of 17-18 when we do adoptathons. So there would be three more dogs bathed this afternoon. I turned my community-service-teen over to staff and headed home.

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