As I mentioned a while ago, I recently adopted a new dog. We are still working out the kinks in our relationship, but so far things seem to be coming along nicely… as long as it’s just the two of us. The problem is that while training the dog is not that hard, that training has to take place within the context of the real world, and that real world is not always as accommodating as I’d like it to be. I mean, I love my dog, but let’s face it: the world does not revolve around him, and that in turn means that I can’t rearrange everyone’s life around his training. If I have someone over, I have to be able to interact with that someone. I can’t exactly afford to spend most of my time instructing my guests on how to act around the dog -that’s not what they are here for- but at the same time I am all too aware that one well intended guest that doesn’t understand that feeding the dog at the table is most definitely not allowed can do away with weeks, if not months, of training. In fact that was pretty much what happened with my first dog (though to be fair I’m not sure if that one was the guests’ fault). She was a former stray, and as such she was used to begging. It was a skill she had relied on for her life, so breaking her out of that particular habit wasn’t easy. Eventually I managed to do it… or so I thought until I had some people over and I realized that what she had learned was that while I wasn’t going to give her anything, everyone else was fair game (what can I say, she wasn’t dumb).
Anyway, back to my current situation. When it comes to my new dog my main headache has been the whole door etiquette thing. I mean, if someone knocks on the door I can’t exactly leave them standing there for five minutes while I try to ensure that the little rascal doesn’t get a chance to dash out the door, and don’t even get me started on what happens when I come back carrying some packages. That situation is compounded by the fact that the dog is still a little shaky when it comes to recognizing his new name (especially when he gets excited), that he is still in the process of getting settled, and that he still doesn’t quite recognize my house like ‘his home’. Yes, I know, he will get the hang of all of those things eventually, but eventually isn’t now, and the bottom line is that for the time being I can’t even open the door without breaking into a cold sweat.
Trying to address this issue I did what most of us do these days: I turned to the web for help. Unfortunately that research wasn’t particularly successful. The problem is that while there are plenty of articles on how to keep a dog from dashing out the door, finding one that deals with the specific challenges posed by a rescue dog in a realistic way has turned out to be all but impossible (in fact you can probably scratch that ‘all but’ from that statement because I’m still looking). Simply put, the situation most of those articles seem to describe is not the one I am dealing with, nowhere near it. They seem to treat door etiquette as something that should be addressed after basic obedience is in place, they assume that the dog has already mastered other basic commands, that he knows his name, and so on. This is often not the case with a rescue dog, where door etiquette is one of the first things that must be tackled for the dog’s own safety, and where the dog in question is used to being able to roam the streets on his own.
That in itself is a pretty major problem, but in addition to that there is also the fact that most of the articles I have come across seem to have beer written by dog trainers. That is understandable given the subject matter, but unfortunately it also means that, while they are great for training, they don’t seem to take into account such trifles as real life. Oh, it would be great if I could simply park my dog in an isolated pocket out of the time/space continuum until the whole training thing is conveniently out of the way and he can be let out safely, but that’s not the way the world works. Regardless of my dog’s training status I still have to be able to interact with other people, open the door, go to the grocery store and so on… unfortunately according to most of the articles I have come across whenever I do that I am undermining my own efforts because ensuring that the dog behaves as he should is not my only (in fact it’s not even my primary) concern.
Yeah, right, welcome to the real world.
As I said above, I know this is just a minor bump in the road. I know we will overcome this, that my dog will get the hang of it eventually, and I will be able to go back to opening the door without giving it a second thought, but for the time being things are a little complicated, and I’d love to be able to find some help that is actually helpful. Unfortunately most of the information I have been able to find so far seems to be built around one very basic premise: training the dog is easy… all you have to do is get rid of the rest of the world.