Way way back in the day, when the boy adopted Tyson and we realized that he needed some training (little did we know then... our ignorance was almost cute in retrospect) we took him to doggy training classes at a great facility near our apartment. (K-9 First Friends, if you're interested. I can't recommend them enough. They did what they could.) It was my first experience "owning" a dog (even though he wasn't mine) and I was super interested in the whole "calm, assertive" leader thing. I quickly ascertained that owning dogs isn't much different than child rearing. Some parents are lawmakers, and some parents are just walked all over. Same goes for dog owners. After wrangling with the 80lb Tyson, and actually getting him to heel, I was immensely amused at the couple who couldn't get their 15lb cocker spaniel to walk. "He just doesn't want to" was their explanation when the trainer asked what was wrong.
The trainer gave them a look like they were insane, took the leash, and dragged the unwilling dog onto the track where everyone else was walking peacefully. Within 15 seconds, the dog realized that he could walk or be dragged, and hell, walking wasn't that bad... so he was walking along with the others. It was at this point that I realized that you can love your dog, but you can't LOVE your dog. Your dog should be part of your life, but he/she should never run it. I thought I completely understood.
Which is why I was slightly offended when the trainer said that men generally make better pack leaders and dog trainers than women. To be fair, I usually take umbrage with any "men are better than women at this because..." statement, but in this case, I thought it was particularly unfair. I could be just as hard nosed as any male dog owner. My dogs would most definitely learn to obey. If I wanted them to walk, they would walk.
Then the trainer explained, "Women talk too much. They use too many words, so the dog eventually tunes them out. A woman will use 10 words to say 'sit' and a man will just say 'sit.'" I considered this briefly, then thought about how I didn't ever (EVER) talk to Tyson unless it was to correct him. I certainly didn't find myself ever talking to him to tell him about my day or anything... (that was reserved for Laney) so I dismissed this as a stereotype founded in the trainer's own personal bias. Obviously I would be a great dog owner some day.
Now, while that statement may not be true all the time, I'm going to have to admit that apparently, that does apply to me. I'm faced with this reality after my walk with Casey and Blue this morning. This morning I did not wear my iPod. Usually I wear my iPod, so I can't hear myself say these things. I'm now worried that people who randomly pass me on my walks think I'm insane.
Upon finding goose droppings:
"Drop it! Blu-ue! If you don't drop that right now, I will abandon you right on this sidewalk. Then where will you be? You don't even have a tag with my phone number so you're not really adopted yet. We do NOT eat goose poop!"
Upon being scared of an upcoming trash can:
"Heel. Heel Casey! Would I lead you into danger? Seriously? You're supposed to stay right by me. Ignore the huge blue thing. If mom's not scared, you can't be scared either. Look at Blue! He's just fine."
Upon chasing the umpteenth bird on the walk:
"Ow! Blue! That hurt! You heel right now! You're never going to catch the birds! They FLY you dork!"
Upon ignoring the hyperactive lab going apeshit while walking with it's owner on the opposite side of the road:
"Good Dogs! Good heel. You guys are so awesome. I love when you guys prove that "pit bull" and "good dog" are not mutually exclusive."
Upon tripping over Casey:
"Damnit Case! Go! Not heeling is a gift. If you're going to lead, lead. Don't stop in the middle of the sidewalk."
Upon being bitten by another dog:
"No Blue. Do not bite back. Oh, poor baby. You're okay. C'mon buddy. It's not the dog's fault. It's the stupid owners who built a fence with two inch gaps between fenceposts. I'll take care of you when we get home, and then we'll laugh when they get sued by the parents of the neighborhood child who lost a couple of fingers..."
Along those lines, the last time we went to doggie day care (before the weather turned warmer) I forgot Casey's leash. When we were leaving there were two men in the waiting room, one with a hyperactive lab mix that was being dropped off for boarding, and the other awaiting their dog for pickup. Since I didn't have a leash, I was trying to get out of the waiting room as soon as possible. Casey followed me to the door, miraculously sat upon the first "sit" and then waited patiently while I opened the door and then gave her permission to exit. It was fabulous. There are now two people in Indianapolis who believe my dog is the most well trained dog EVER. So maybe I'm okay at being a dog owner.
Well, when when my dogs choose to listen, right?