From Rescue Dog to Guide Dog - Part 4

Buddy Flunks Doggy Day Care

You would think that a dog who was picked up off the streets would have a certain swag and street smarts - you know; a confident air that says I’ve seen it all and I’m top dog around here! But that’s not Buddy. We were told by Brian from “Way of the Dog” that we needed to take Buddy to the Dog Parks about 60 times and help him get socialized.

Buddy is a BIG 90 pound fearsome looking dog who, when people see him coming down the sidewalk, grab little fluffy and run. Buddy looks like that enormous bald guy in the prison yard bench pressing 1000 pound weights with a swastika tattooed on his forehead,. NOBODY messes with that guy! So naturally what I expect when Buddy steps foot into the Dog Park is the sea of K9s parting like he was a four footed Moses.

Wrong! A group of runt dogs greeted Buddy at the gate and Buddy turned tail and ran. It was embarrassing. So we took Buddy to the doggy day care center where they have a meticulous way of socializing dogs by introducing them into the pack. Buddy just about leaped out of his skin when those fifty sets of noses poked and prodded him of like he was a kielbasa at an encased meat convention. The sweet young manager of the facility politely turned to us and said; “I guess Buddy doesn’t like the environment”. In other words get your insecure piece of dog fur out of here. My dog flunked Doggy Day Care!

Me:        Buddy flunked Doggy Day Care

Brian:    So take him to the Dog Parks

Me:        You don’t understand, he’s like the nerd that all the bullies pick on and steal his lunch money

Brian:    Then you need to protect him

Me:        Ugh?

Brian:    Yeah, you need to be the pack leader that comes to his rescue so that he feels safe enough to interact with the other dogs

Me:        Me a pack leader? How do I do that?

Brian:    If you see another dog getting aggressive step in a give them a whack with the leash in your hand.

Me:        Won’t the owners mind?

Brian:    If they’re not paying attention to their dogs then they're idiots … so whack their dog. (Brian doesn’t mess around when it comes to dog training)

Brian explained that Dogs get aggressive when they are insecure so if we wanted to keep Buddy from getting into some bad habits (like ripping the throat out of the neighbor’s dog) then we need to make sure he knows he’s got back up. Kind of like Starsky and Hutch. (Note here – this is a reference to very old TV buddy cop drama) One of them won't go blasting into the drug dealers den unless he knows he's got the other one watching his back.

So once again, to help Buddy become the Guide Dog he was meant to be, we need to step up and learn something new; like how to become his bodyguard. Funny – I thought it was going to be the other way around. But somehow I think if we can pull this off he may just be that dog I want at my side when I encounter a scary person in a dark alley. Because we’ve got each other’s backs.

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From Rescue Dog to Guide Dog: Part 3

Learning the Language of Buddy

The first thing we noticed about Brian at “Way of the Dog” was that he was strangely unconcerned about training Buddy. We had brought to him a 90 pound, out of control, dog so that he could learn obedience (or at least not destroy our home) and Brian tells us obedience training is highly over rated. So I gave him a skeptical look and said;

Me: “At least I would like him to come when I call”.

Brian: “He doesn’t come?”

Me: “He runs the other way”

Brian: “That’s because he’s smart, and frankly there’s nothing good that is going to happen when you call him”

Me: (this time I gave him by cynical look) Ugh?

While we were talking, Buddy is engaged in playing with a Black Lab in the yard and has absolutely no interest in this adult conversation. Brian (still sitting) turns to Buddy, gives him a whistle and a shout and Buddy runs obediently to Brian. He gives Buddy a good ruff petting and then pushes him away. Buddy goes back to playing with the other dog and I sit there wondering what just happened.

Brian explains that Buddy doesn’t want to come because whenever I call him it’s because I want him to do something he doesn’t want to do – so naturally he’s going to run the other way. It would be like if the dentist called me up and asked me to visit him at his office … I’m not going because I know it’s going to hurt! (Sorry for all you painless dentists out there) I need to create a new expectation with Buddy that when I call it means PARTY TIME! And even if I occasionally call him because … let’s say a Mack Truck is about to flatten him in the street, he won’t associate those few unpleasant times because ordinarily when I call him it means ...

Break out your dancing shoes 'cause we’re going to have fun, fun, fun!

I guess this is what Brian means by calling his training, “Way of the Dog”. We need to think like a dog so that we’re communicating with him in his language rather than making him try to understand our language. After all we’re the intelligent ones … right?

So in Brian’s training there is a hierarchy of needs that must be met in order for us to get the “perfect” dog.

  1. Basic needs
  2. Socialization with other dogs
  3. Relationship with owners
  4. Communication: Speaking the language of the dog
  5. Training: Having the dog do what you ask him to do

During Buddy’s Adventure we’re going to walk through these steps. Did I say walk? No, we’re going to stumble through these steps because I am finding that dog language is more difficult than people language - and I totally bombed French class. (The teacher said I spoke French like Jacques Clouseau of Pink Panther fame. Here’s a classic example; and no, our dog does not bite!

Next week: Buddy is taught to socialize

or

Buddy learns to post on Doggie Face Book