How Not To Train Your Puppy

Dear Husband,

Picture this: a young(ish) man is sitting on a lounge chair in his home, trying to eat his dinner after a long, cold and tiring day. In the mean time, his erstwhile Great Dane pup, who is not a young pup under 12 months but still a pup nonetheless, is doing his best to thwart this activity and beg food for himself. As the aforementioned pup is not a young pup, he is certainly not a small one either. Strong enough to push around a grown adult and tall enough to walk up to any bench or table and rest his head on its top whilst maintaining four paws on the floor, he is a bit of a force to be reckoned with when he wants something. And the man’s dinner is what he wants.

Never a canine to let a “sit” command or an “on your mat” to get in the way of possible illicit treats however, the hound embodies both noun and verb as he continues to sniff around the meal and vocalise his disapproval of the fact that he is not being given any. He makes quite an argument as he comes back with a vocal rebuttal every time his master commands him to “sit”. Oddly enough however, it would appear that he thinks if the man in engaging with him rather than ignoring him (as his master is occasionally wont to do), he is far more likely to be rewarded should he give the man a little space.

This is apparent as he backs up, ever so slowly, till his back legs eventually hit a 3 seater couch adjacent to where the man is sitting. At which point there is the tentative lifting of first the right hind leg as the Dane debates whether he can in fact move further backwards…onto the couch. After a few seconds of indecision when the leg is raised then lowered then raised again he apparently settles on the idea that in fact, yes, backwards is the way to go. He then places his right hind leg on the couch followed by his left hind leg and stands tall so that his rump is now close to a metre and a half off the floor whilst his back is at a 135 degree angle downwards with the front paws still firmly grounded. When this still doesn’t produce any food or response other than a firm “sit” from his master, the pup decides that perhaps he will sit now and lowers his hind quarters till they are resting comfortably on the couch (and the front paws are still on the floor).

Understandably, this whole process is somewhat hilarious to watch and it is very difficult for the master (and his wife) not to piss themselves laughing as the Dane sits there looking somewhat confused. At this point however, there is no “NO!” from the master to indicate that there are firm boundaries that have been crossed (like sitting on the couch), no alternate commands for an action or activity that would be far more appropriate (than sitting on the couch) and there was in fact reinforcement that if you do the wrong thing (such as sitting on the couch) you can still get what you want as the master then dutifully provided food off his own dinner plate for his pet.

What is wrong with this picture?

Remember all that advice we received regarding training a puppy? You know, those fundamental basics like:

  • Always be clear what the rules are and where the boundaries have been set
  • Make sure you do not let your dog become the “pack leader”
  • Reward your puppy for good behaviour
  • Don’t feed your puppy from your own plate

Those things? Because last night they appeared to go totally out of the window and I’m afraid that you might have started off behaviour that is going to take us twice as long to stop.

I swear, if the puppy gets anywhere near our bed, he’s getting your side.

Lovingly yours,

You Loving Wife

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