Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I will not be IGNORED, Koa!

I have the most wonderful dog in the world.

Koa is a purebred German Shepherd Dog that we adopted almost a year ago from the local animal shelter. Since the day we brought him home, he's been looking at us with those wise, sad eyes and patiently teaching us how to be good dog owners.

"Guys," he'll seem to say, as he takes his new ball outside and gently drops it on the grass. "Toys do not belong in the house."

If we feed him before we eat, he'll patrol the house, shooting us his patented you-should-know-better looks. "I do not eat before you. We eat at the same time. Remember?"

When we come home to a kitchen full of trash, he stares apologetically from his crate. "Listen, don't leave chicken bones in the trash can. I can't help myself, and I'd rather this not happen again."

Unfortunately, because we have the best dog in the world, we've also lost perspective when it comes to training him. So recently (after he's herded some neighborhood dogs a little too enthusiastically at the dog park and peed on a woman's foot), I've been stepping up my efforts to assert dominance over him.

As recommended by the training and behavior books I've been reading, this morning started with a long walk. Typically Matt and I are too lazy to actually walk our dog. We load him in the car and drive to the unofficial dog park up the street, where he can romp and play fetch until he flops over with exhaustion.

Today, though, I firmly held him on a short leash, and yanked (futilely; after all, he's 100 pounds of pure muscle) every time he reached over to sniff a new plant or curb. "Heel," I'd caution every 20 seconds or so. Then I spotted a house for sale, and wanted to check out the selling price. We trotted over, and I asked Koa to sit.

He looked away.

"Sit," I repeated (because maybe he didn't hear me).

He looked in the other direction. Then I realized what he was doing: Ignoring me! It's a dog thing: Apparently, if you're the alpha dog, you don't have to pay attention to all the other dogs if you don't want to. All you have to do if you want them to get up off of your grill is look away--physically ignoring them.

Oh, hells no.

I squared my shoulders, planted my feet and leaned over him ever-so-slightly. "SIT," I boomed.

This did not impress him, but he did flick an ear my way.


He sat.

I lavished him with attention.

But when we got to the dog park and I asked him to sit so I could take his leash off, the damn dog did it again! I felt my inner Glenn Close unleash.

"I will not be IGNORED, Koa!"

After a few minutes, he sat.

Good thing, too. I've got a pot of boiling water just big enough for his fuzzy, squeaky toy lamb. It's not a rabbit, sure; but I think he'd get the point.
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  1. You crack me up Steph! -Carissa

  2. Oh, we are so experiencing the same things! We had to buckle and hire a trainer for Oscar (and us). We're learning slowly... :) Good luck to you!

  3. Well, it's good that you're demonstrating firmness in making your dog do what you want him to do. Based on what I read from http://www.trainpetdog.com/German-Shepherd/about-german-shepherd.html, a very firm yet loving attitude is necessary when training a German Shepherd from the time it is a puppy and all throughout its life. So, you really need to be firm but still show him love. It's going to be tough but you can do it.