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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Come When Called

   For our first homework assignment, Toby and I were given one of simplest yet most crucial commands. A good recall makes it much more fun to go places with a dog because they sometimes can be safely released from the leash to explore.  

   These first days, I said, "Toby, come!" and then, in an excited way with ascending pitch, "come, come, come!!" Eventually, according to Mr. Dean, we would drop the second part. When Toby came running we had him sit in front of us for a treat. 

   Being half yellow lab, Toby is a VERY food-motivated dog. So it didn't take more than a few hours for him to get the idea that good things come to those who, well - come - when called. Several times a day, when he was poking around the yard or on a mission of destruction in the house, Toby would hear me or Ted calling. Whatever he was doing was instantly forgotten in the race to get a tiny treat. As he grew, though, and had interesting opportunities to chase rabbits or seagulls, would Toby still have the same willingness to drop what he was doing? 

   In our second class we had to demonstrate our recall. For this class we lined up in a walkway next to the vet clinic. A grassy berm about 2 feet wide lined the each edge of the sidewalk. Mr. Dean wore an old faded polo shirt and jeans and paced up and down the sidewalk as we stood as quietly as possible, trying to pay attention to him and keep our dogs from interacting - not an easy feat! As he recapitulated the instruction that we were supposed to have been carrying out in practice all week, he would occasionally reach out for a leash to demonstrate with someone's dog. (By the way, this usually showed that the dog had no trouble with the task once they were with someone who knew how to tell them what that was!)

   Then, one by one, we each had to step onto the sidewalk and show our stuff. If we owners were making any mistake, however minor, we would instantly be corrected and have to try again. I got more and more anxious as I watched the other folks take their turns. Lily's owner needed to be more enthusiastic to coax the shy collie onto the sidewalk. Jax took off like a greyhound and his tail hovered over the sidewalk as he squirmily waited for his reward. Fluffy Bonnie marched up to her owner and tried to take fingers along with the treat. And then it was our turn. 

   Okay.Think. Treat in hand. Leash to Mr. Dean. Walk to the other end of the sidewalk. Turn around. Now - try to sound happy and excited and like this is the most fun we will ever have and oh my goodness I hope he doesn't get distracted by the other dogs or run the other way or look up at Mr. Dean like "what did she say?"...

   I needn't have worried. Toby was about to show me that he would never let me down in class. I called him and he ran straight as an arrow to me, plunked his butt on the cement, and his eyes sparkled. He took his treat and looked at me, hoping for another. And when we got back to our spot in the grass, he got it. 

   And this was only the beginning of class. We still had to be taught the next week's assignment, and try it to make sure we'd practice it correctly. By the time Mr. Dean dismissed us he was soaked from an hour of solid physical and mental exertion. I was wrung out mentally and stressed out about just how easy it was to goof up the simplest things. I don't know how Toby felt. He took a puppy nap as soon as we got in the car.  



1 comment :

Kevin said...

Toby probably felt something like "oh man, this is the least hard I've ever had to work to get a treat" haha

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