Praising the dog

25 01 2012

Chutney, thinking about crimes

Way back in being-a-parent-to-three young kids land, I went to a lot of parenting classes. We won’t say what it was about those three young kids that led me to parenting classes, but let it suffice that there were at least two occasions where I put them out of the car on the side of the road and threatened to drive off without them.

Eventually I got around to teaching parenting classes, having concluded that walking through the fires of hell gave me the street cred to do so. My son helped by acting up before every class so that I’d have a fresh story to lead off the session with, god love him. It was fun. I got lots of support.

But the overall message that came through, strong and clear, was that you NEVER said “Good boy” to your son if he did something good – you were to praise the action and not the person, blame the action as if it came from somewhere else. Not, “that was bad, setting fire to your sister’s hamster”, but “Setting fire to a hamster is bad.” The argument was that a person was neither good nor bad, but their actions could be.

I’m not sure about that.

In any case, this is the only explanation for my response to my dog this morning when I told him to sit and wait while I took off his leash and he actually did.

I told him, “Chutney, that was GOOD LISTENING!”

I often find myself offering this sort of comment to the dog, who of course hears “blah blah blah GOOD blah blah blah blah”. And he’s a poodle, with a fairly large vocabulary, including car, beach, bow-wow (his camp), bath, dinner, bedtime and treat. He doesn’t care about the words around good or bad. He just wants to know if I’m cross or happy and if there is going to be a tasty treat involved.

Probably like my kids, when I come right down to it.

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Who’s the smart one, eh?

28 02 2011

I have several books about dog parenting and management, and a small white defenseless toy poodle who I am sure reads them all when I am out, in order to prep himself for my attempts at discipline.

The annoying thing is he, catlike, CAN do what I ask.  He merely chooses to ignore me. He has recently learned how to jump silently from floor to chair to table to investigate any leftovers from meals. He knows I don’t like it – I let him know that.  But he still does it. In fact, the other day I was discussing with a friend how he was not allowed on the table and the dog immediately jumped onto the coffee table, as if to say – harumph. Like she can stop me!

I’m packing for a move, so there are various things left out here and there.  I have to be quick to hide away anything I don’t want thoroughly investigated and tasted.  Curiosity may have killed the cat, but I suspect it will be the death of me, as I fly from box to bag to dog to box again.

And then there’s the barking. He knows not to bark. He is usually quiet.  But when he decides he needs to impart information, like – hey – there’s a cat! – he just won’t let it go. Ever.

He reminds me of my youngest son, who had me cased from birth.  I was just too tired to fight everything out with him. This pup knows I will eventually give up; he can wear me down.

But I AM the holder of the treats, and this gives me an advantage. Sometimes. Except he knows exactly where I keep them, and I give him three more weeks before he figures out how to  open that drawer.

Sometimes I feel so inadequate…..





Brrr….or where is that global warming we keep hearing about?

7 12 2010

I just took the fearless doggums out for a walk in the cold and the blowing snow and the ice and the wind chill. Him: 6 lbs of roughly furry dog, barely 3 inches above ground level, wearing a smallish coat that covers some of his body. Me: Boots, winter coat over heavy sweater, tuque, hood, thermogloves. I was cold.  He was overcome with the joy of being outside and able to catch up on all the news sprayed on every pole and dug into every hole, delighted with the highlighting of squirrels (black) against the white, chasing leaves left behind in fall’s bluster. I couldn’t help but admire the guy.  Right now he’s licking the ice off of his tummy fur, happy as any dog can be.

It always baffles me how we Canadians universally complain about temperatures of -5 C with wind chills of -11 C at this time of the year, yet wear shorts and t-shirts when these same temperatures appear in the spring. Maybe there is something to that “blood thickening” thing. Maybe the months of poutine eaten to forestall the cold add an extra layer that warms us. Maybe we are just so damn desperate to get outside by spring we love anything that smacks of fresh air. But every year, it’s the same.

Other winter things that happen every year:

– people forget how to drive in the snow.  Crashes abound. Everyone forgets how to clear snow off their cars.  Crashes abound.

– some group of idiots take their snowmobiles out onto the ice before it is thick enough, crash through and drown.  This is repeated in the spring.

– Everyone gets on their “winter faces” – eyes squinched shut, teeth gritted under sealed-tight lips, face tilted down and shoulders shrugging away the wind. No one smiles. It’s like we’ve all been totally botoxed. Mind you, in the Prairies, if you smile, your teeth crack.  But that’s when it is -40.

– Everyone in Ottawa starts watching the canal reports for opening day, crossing fingers it will be mystically soon while the weather stays balmy – impossible, but we can dream, eh?

– Snow reports become the most important part of the news. The Weather channel ratings climb.

– People start talking about “a dry cold”….when we lived in the Prairies, it was so cold that your breath would crystallize as it left your mouth, falling like diamonds onto the ground below. When it’s -40, the air can’t hold water.  It is always a dry cold then. Snow evaporates. Here in Ontario, we should be so lucky.  We get the damp cold.  The Maritimes get the wringing wet cold. It’s all ever so slightly different on the body.

But slowly, slowly, we start to adapt. So that when spring comes and we’re back to “only -5!”, we fling open our windows and revel in what we now reject.








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