25 October 2007


Last spring, before I started walking Buster, my mom would constantly complain about his behavior. He would jump up on her from behind without warning, nearly knocking her over. So far as I can tell, my dad hadn't tried to train him at all. So I decided to train him. When I realized that Dad could no longer see well enough to take Buster on walks, I started doing that, too.

I'd never trained a dog before, but I'd seen it done quite a bit on Barking Mad, a show on Animal Planet about dealing with "problem pets." You need a clicker and some small dog treats. When the dog does something right, you click and give a treat. Finding treats that I was willing to handle was a bit dicey; 99% of them are made with wheat flour. I found some that were mostly meat, and broke them into smaller pieces to use as rewards.

Starting is the hard part. You basically wait until the dog is doing something that you would like to train in. So when I'd see Buster start to sit down, I'd say "Sit!" as I clicked, and give him a treat. When he'd lie down, I'd say "Lay down!", click, give a treat. I've also gotten him to stand up, so long as there's a vertical surface he can put his paws on; otherwise he tends to jump. He knows what "stay" is, but really, really doesn't like to do it. I've changed my approach a bit to try and get him more enthused. I was working on "roll over" for a while, and I've started trying to get him to "shake."

At any rate, he's become much easier to walk, and my mom no longer dreads going over to see my dad when Buster is inside. Every so often she'll say something like, "He's so much better than he used to be." He sort of knew the word "down" before I started, but would grumble about it. I think getting treats for "lay down" and "sit" broke him of the grumbling. Which reminds me, my dad says that Buster sounds a lot like Chewbacca when he really starts complaining about things. I've never heard this, but Buster is the first dog I've encountered whose bark could be closely described by "Bow-wow-wow-wow-wow". It's deep, and there are some 'r's in there, too, but it's still fairly close.

There's one small problem that I've been noticing. Buster is my dad's dog, but when I'm there, Buster wants to play with me, not Dad. This could be simply because I'm not there all the time, but I'm not entirely sure. With a "normal" person, I wouldn't worry about this. With Dad...I'm waiting for some half-paranoid, delusional rationalization, and really really hoping none comes. There's a saying in my family: "Don't ask Dad questions; he might try to answer them."

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