Colby Trains a Dog

From The Kids Neighborhood Watch

Colby was enjoying helping Sarah Ann walk her dog pack, even though the two dogs he was holding, Bruno, the coonhound and Celeste, the collie, kept trying to drag him ahead. He wished they would walk calmly so he could talk to Sarah Ann. At least they didn’t try to jump up on him every time he tried getting close to Sarah Ann, like little white dog, Achilles. He was small, but he could jump pretty high, and his little claws scratched Colby’s legs on the way down. And he barked a lot, which made talking impossible.

Colby was getting frustrated. It was hard to show Sarah Ann what a cool guy he was when he was being towed along, and his shoulders ached. Things were even worse when they stopped. Then the large dogs started licking everywhere they could reach, until his hands and arms were covered in doggie drool. He turned to Sarah Ann. “Could you come over after you take the dogs home?”

She smiled, and Colby relaxed. He didn’t think he would ever get tired of seeing her smile. “I would like that, but I have softball practice later. But if you have a little while now, I would appreciate your help in my training session. These babies haven’t been taught much in the way of manners. You’ve probably noticed. So I’m spending a little time teaching them a few things to make them easier to deal with. Today, we could start with teaching Achilles not to jump.

Colby said, “But I don’t know anything about dog training!”

“You don’t have to. I’ve been taking Angus to a trainer for a while, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ll show you what to do.”

Sarah Ann tied all the dogs but Achilles to a small tree a short distance away. Then she tied Achilles to another tree close to her. When she pulled a squeaky toy out of her bag, Colby said, “Now we’re going to play with him?”

“Sure. Everyone learns better when it seems like play.” Then she walked over to Achilles and showed him the toy as she made it squeak. When Achilles started jumping at the toy and barking, Sarah Ann backed away and stood very still keeping the toy out of sight. She told Colby, “My trainer says that dogs who jump up have what she calls impulse control. When they get excited, they jump and bark.”

Colby was confused. “It looks like you’re teasing him. How does that help?”

By that time, Achilles was quiet, standing looking at Sarah Ann intently. She stepped toward him again, wiggling and squeaking the toy. Achilles responded by jumping and barking. Sarah Ann quickly stepped back again hiding the toy. She looked at Colby, “The trick is to do this until he won’t jump or bark no matter how much I try to get him excited with the toy.”

“That could take forever!”

“No, maybe five or ten minutes. You’ll see.”

Sure enough, the fourth time Sarah Ann waved the toy at Achilles, he kept all four feet on the ground, and instead of barking, he just whined a little. The tenth time, he just stood calmly, not making a sound. Sarah Ann gave him the toy. “See,” she said. “He figured it out.” She handed the toy to Colby. “You try.”

Colby took the toy and stepped close to Achilles. Sarah Ann told him, “Squeak it. Try to get him excited.”

Colby waved the toy right in Achilles’ face. Achilles pranced back and forth, but he didn’t jump. Colby handed him the toy and smiled. “Wow, that was amazing. So he’s cured?”

“No. It will take a few more sessions, but he’s well on the say, and we only spent ten minutes.”

Sarah Ann patted Achilles, who did not jump. Then she untied all the dogs, and handed Colby the leashes for Bruno and Celeste. “So,” he said. “Do you know anything that will stop Bruno and Celeste from pulling?”

“Sure,” she said. “We could work on that tomorrow, if you can help.”

Colby was still smiling. If dog training was the way to spend time with Sarah Ann, he would be happy to train dogs. He thought she was really fun to be with even when they were doing something besides throwing a baseball. Plus he liked how she treated the dogs, and she hadn't made snarky comments about why he was even worried about a stupid cat.