Sit Down

I clutched the nylon leash forcefully as Tilly pulled. She fiercely wished to play with her friends. One of them, a three month old butterscotch Labrador, lets out an irritable bark. It echoed off the buildings brick walls, a scout hall, which was adored with green pennant flags.

Tilly in the backyard at home

A signal to jump on me and be pully again. Naughty!

The five other dogs were being naughty too. They squirmed like a child struggling to finish their homework, eager to escape constraints of obedience. Held back from new experiences like sniffing each other’s butts and play fighting. All masses of unbridled energy.

I knew Tilly couldn’t escape from me, but I was still very watchful of her. It was a volatile environment where control was key. You could feel the hysteria.

Learning

A pack leader stood in the middle of the basketball court sized space. Her name was Ines and she brought order. A commander of sorts helping us owners. We were spaced out in a circle, arms width apart, focussing on her peculiar accent. South African maybe. She was teaching us how to do the “sit” command.

I was getting hippy vibes from her. She had a withered face, not drug addled but just very well lived in and wise. She wore baggy khaki pants, with a dog whistle and chew toy attached to her belt.

Whilst it was difficult to judge from her over sized clothes, she was a very athletic lady. A body akin to that of a hiker’s, like someone who was planning to climb Mount Everest.

More importantly, she was a diligent teacher, one who provided lots of specific reinforcement in practical scenarios. We were paying her good money so we expected results.

The owners were all sporting bum bags with treats inside, which was basically being used as bait. Ines reminded us that “you need the dogs full attention” before handing out rewards.

Tilly is a Border Collie, and was able to sense the incoming food. They are just astoundingly clever. She sat even before I lift my hand to chest height, with a slither of moist pork sausage at the tips of my fingers. Her eyes were transfixed on the juicy piece of meat. Salivating and in total focus.

We were told to repeat this technique fifty times before “not always using the treats” basically tricking the dog into sitting.

This was then followed by a walking lesson. We walked the circumference of the room, only centimetres away from the wall. My mum actually split her jacket open by grazing against a rough surface.

I held Tilly’s leash in my left hand and we walked in baby steps. Every time she tried to sneak past and pull, like most dogs do when walking to the park, I would kick my leg out. It was a glancing blow on the wall. This basically forces her to fall behind me or risk being pushed back my my foot.

Sometimes she would be sneaky and try to manoeuvre her body to the other side, or my non leash hand. The key is to ensure that your dog is as close to the barrier (wall, fence ect) as possible.

Graduation

It was our final dog training. Tilly would probably never see puppy friends ever again. I wished we could have weekly play dates. There was sense of finality to it all, not a happy end of exam feeling but a more somber affair.

The owners had to perform all they had learnt it front of Ines, who was giving out on the spot correction. Her advice was acted on. Tilly breezed through the trail.

Question time. We asked Ines what we should do about the constant biting of our shoes and socks when she wanted attention. The solution was simply to “provide a punishment that fits the crime” and in this case to step on her toes when she was getting wild.

She is literally crazy with her biting, thanks to working heredity, she thinks that humans are like sheep and need rounding up. Sometimes we can slide her along our polished floorboards when she gets a firm bite into our clothes. It’s also why we have to walk her twice everyday.

I then thought to myself how bizarre the location of the dog school is. It’s literally across the road from where I had my kinder education, which is the equivalent of which Tilly has just completed. Dog kinder. Its amazing how quickly they learn and grow comparably to human babies.

The stepping on Tilly’s toes was working perfectly. She learnt her lesson at home and adapted her behaviour. These simple tips make our life so much easier with a young pet.

It begs the question: maybe all dog owners should be forced to do dog kinder, like how its compulsory for humans to put their kids into primary school.

I put this question to my friends and they seemed to agree. But I guess it would take huge amounts of funding from the upper echelons of government. And they have bigger priorities.

Being Cute

When I take Tilly for a walk in the park she is so obedient. I love that she is already so loyal towards me, and stays right by my side. Even when she gets side tracked my other dogs, the instant I call her from the other side of the muddy footy oval she will come charging back towards me. Already an olympic sprinter at four months old.

The cutest thing she does is fetch. With the ball held aloft in my hand, she sits “down” on her belly, with her eyes focussed on the fluorescent green sphere. She was not taught this. Its all instinct.

A well behaved dog is one that you’ll bond with. It makes my heart melt when I come home from a long shift at the bottle shop drive through, and see her fluffy face. Sitting down sleepily on her mat in the family room.

I think that compulsory ‘dog kinder’ may lead to better health outcomes for the community. It’s logical that a dog that has good mannerisms, is one that will be walked more. And a dog that is walked more is a family that is healthier and fitter.

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