Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Best Lessons I Ever Learned Were From the Dog Trainer

Doggie Boot Camp.
We had to do it.
For our teenage rescue dog Neela.

I must admit, putting a high-energy pup into the mix of moving with 3 willful cats and a 16-yr-old deaf cocker spaniel isn't my idea of fun.
So during our recent vacation, we sent Neela to resident dog training, otherwise known as "Listen Up Cause Things Are Going to Change".

Our trainer, Gina Hayes, is in fact, something of a miracle worker. What we left was a high-energy, lovable but willful teen pup. What we got back... Well! Can you say Wonder Dog?
That got me thinking.

Could the trainer's techniques be used on human nature? Cause I gotta couple of humans around here...

Let's see if it works:

1. Easy Eyes
You know that look animals get, human-like? Wide-eyed and all bushy tailed? And you think, awww Well, nuh-uh. Nothing doing mister. That doe-eyed look means one thing - the equivilant of 3 cups of sugar in a youngster. High-per-act-ive. Orange alert. Defcon 6. I have my eye on you, and I don't trust you one bit.

The trainer says when a dog gets that look, it means they are on high alert, can't relax and it's one short step to uh-oh-ville. Like when kids start to wrestle fun-like, but in the twitch of an eye, someone has hit too hard and a fight breaks out.

The idea is to have the dog so relaxed that their eyes appear soft, almost almond-shaped. Then you know they trust and like you, and they aren't on alert all the time.

Can this translate to humans? I think - yes.
You've all seen this happen at a social gathering. Maybe it's even happened to you. You walk in, you don't know anyone all that well, and you think, "I can handle this" and you straighten your spine and plunge right in. But I'll bet dollars to donuts, you have that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. And you send a straightforward message: I am wary.

So look for the easy eyes when you want to use the "Honey Do" jar on the weekend.

2. Common sense is a beautiful thing.
There is entire world of training between just bribing and punishing. Don't be fooled into thinking there is nothing else. Maternal training and common sense fall into this nether region. Human example? You want to the new dress? Give the training subject a "cookie."
This is a true story my mother, of all people, overheard, right here on the island. Apparently the woman in question, an attractive blond, had taken her husband's beautifully restored yacht out for an afternoon spin with the girls. And she had mistakenly "bumped" into another moored boat, leaving an obvious gash in the side.

How was she going to explain it to her husband - who had admonished her many times before about being careful with the merchandise - asked her lunch partner? She replied, "I don't know how I'm going to explain it, but I do know I'm going to be naked."

3. Even toned voice - eliminate the frustrated tone, the yelling, the screaming.
Oh would that I could. :)
Ok we all know you get more flies with honey. But keeping an even tone to your voice no matter what, actually works with humans! Who knew?

4. Short and sweet verbal commands
Well we all know this works well with husbands lol. The more you talk, the less they do. See Sidebar comic. 

5. When all else fails, there's the GEM method - gentle electronic training method.
IE the vibration collar. Not an electric collar per se, but use of the vibration portion allows the trainer to communicate with the animal to tell it what to do.
OK, well I guess this one won't work.
Obviously, this is not a choice.
But imagine ... the possibilities lol.

Have a good one. :)


  1. Your dog sounds like my year-old Lab -- Precious dog but constantly in trouble, just like a willful child! I may have to put him in obedience school before I lose my sanity and all the cushions on my outdoor furniture (which he loves to eat)! Thanks for reading my blog and for your kind comment. You're right -- I've always had a fondness for the Cape Cod region and hope to visit as soon as possible.

  2. I am certain our rescue dog has some lab in there somewhere... Never met a lab that didn't like to chew on SOMETHING lol, and our Neela surely does! Thanks for your visit and comment as well. I'm what they call a wash-ashore around these parts. But I promise you I will tell it like it is around here, whether the Yanks like it or not lol.