Rescue dog Albie begins obedience training classes. But who's learning more, dog or Dad?
Courtesy of Peter Zheutlin
Last Tuesday night was the first night of doggie training school for Albie and, well, for us, too. It felt like the first day of kindergarten, especially when we met the first of Albie’s classmates, a pug named Larry. Seriously.
There are four dogs in the class, all beyond the puppy stage (there’s a separate class for them), and Albie was by far the largest at about 75 pounds. Larry and the other two probably weigh 25 pounds – total. So, Albie looked like the overgrown kid, the goofy one trying hard to fit in and who’s always told to play catcher in pick-up baseball games on the sandlot.
We’d been there about two minutes waiting for class to start when Albie decided to urinate on the floor, something he never does at home.
At first I thought he was nervous, but Michelle, our teacher and the proprietor of Turn Around Training, explained that it happens often. By day, the space is a doggie day care, and for some dogs the scents and the urge to mark territory are overpowering.
Still, I felt like the father of the problem kid.
Once class started, Albie focused on Michelle like a laser as she explained how to teach a dog to obey various commands, a technique that relies heavily on food rewards. But there’s a subtle difference between using treats as rewards versus bribes: The former recognizes requested behavior; the latter induces behavior the dog should do on command but refuses to do until you dangle a food bribe. And we learned not to constantly repeat commands such as “sit” or “lie down” in rapid fire succession: you want the dog to have time to work out what you expect of them.