Wyn Drabble: Dog whispering works a treat

By Wyn Drabble -
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Wyn Drabble
Wyn Drabble

Thank you to those who have made suggestions to help my achieving the luxury of a morning lie-in (my column a fortnight ago).

I felt, however, that Madam Dog would be better placed to answer the most common ones so I put them to her.

Me: Some people suggested shutting the bedroom door. What do you say to that?

Madam Dog: Scratch, scratch, scraaatch.

Me: Others suggested putting you outside.

Madam Dog: Bark bark bark bark bark BARK.

Anyway, I assured her, I would no more expect her to sleep outside than to write Othello 2 (although I should point out that she's already finished the cover design and numbered the pages).

We are taking Madam Dog to weekly doggy training classes which are run by A Man Who Knows About Dogs.

He is very good indeed and appears to own a number of dogs that do whatever he tells them.

And they keep doing it until released from the command.

Okay, except perhaps if they see a cat. Then they can get a bit naughty. No one is perfect.

Anyway the dog classes are fun and give owners the satisfaction of knowing that they are not alone in the matter of owning a canine handful.

Ours now gets excited because she recognises the route. She knows that, before the real work begins, she will get a chance to play with Rosie.

Perhaps I should not have used the word "play".

That word conjures up images of two little girls playing doll house tea party or two little boys playing high-stakes poker: innocent, calm stuff.

When these two dogs come together, it becomes a frantic high-speed blur of black and tan that, at times, becomes airborne. A frenzied, spinning ball of fur.

You'd be hard-pressed to witness two creatures having more fun.

But then it's down to the serious business: sit; reward; come; reward; heel; reward; come back here this instant; reward; stay; reward.

It doesn't always go well. Sit. Sit. Sit. SIT. I said SIT. Oh, never mind.

If only you could have all these commands on a remote control. I can't figure out how you would make it work but surely there are scientists who could.

Of course, for the method we are being taught to use, you need to have on hand a good supply of treats.

Dried liver is popular but almost anything will do.

Sauteed shrimps with sliced green vegetables and teriyaki sauce would do the trick. Quail and raisin ravioli. Or socks.

You use these to reinforce positive behaviours as soon as they occur (dogs forget quickly, so the reward will be meaningless if delivered, say, three nanoseconds after the command was obeyed).

The rules suggested by The Dog Man are all logical enough.

Well, all except one. Fussing over the dog with endearments is supposed to be a reward for having obeyed a command such as "Release that woman's skirt from your teeth right now!"

I know we're not the only ones who find that rule difficult.

Surely, if you weren't meant to rub your nose against a dog's ears, the ears would be raspy and unpleasant. But they are soft and luxuriously silky.

Anyway, soon the lesson will be over, so you can follow the final five steps.

1: Get dragged to the car by your dog.

2: Say: "In the car."

3: Say: "In the car," but more firmly.

4: "Get in the car! NOW!"

5: Remembering to bend your knees and keep your back straight, pick up the dog and put it into the car.

As you drive home, reward yourself with a nourishing dried-liver treat.

* Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.

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