Every dog should have a man that he can call his own. Hold it there. To avoid any accusations of sexism in this age of political correctness, instead of man, I think it would be prudent to use the term person. That sorted; let us get back to the story. I mean what can be better than having a well behaved person about the house to tidy up his dog’s bed, shampoo him when he has rolled on a dead frog, and have his meals ready for him when he comes home tired after a hard day chasing seagulls on the beach.
My dog is a Jack Russell terrier, age uncertain but the vet thinks he is about 12 months and I am prepared to bow to his superior knowledge. He adopted me (the dog that is not the vet) when I paid a visit to the local rescue centre. Since then he has been training me and he has been quite successful. He has taught me to shake his paw, fetch his toy and throw a Frisbee. I have learned not to tug on his lead when we go for a walk. I am also completely house trained, opening and closing doors at his request and serving his meals on time.
The problem any dog faces is picking the right person. For example an energetic and caring disposition is much more important than a lengthy pedigree. As it happens I am not registered, but my Jack Russell terrier is as fond of me as though my lineage comes down from William the Conqueror. An important thing for a dog to remember is that he is judged by the person he leads, so it is circumspect before coming to a decision to walk the person up and down a few times. It is better to find any impediments in their gait at this stage rather than later.
The next question is whether the dog and its person should share the house together. For reasons best known only to them, some dogs prefer a kennel, but my Jack Russell decided from the first day that he would move in with me. I am allowed to sit in any of the chairs in the house except the big padded one in the conservatory which is his.
Next comes training and it can take some time. Some persons are slow to learn but a dog should put himself in that persons place and remember that he is dealing with someone whose eyesight, sense of smell, hearing and reaction speed are no match for his. By making allowances he will be rewarded with a loyal friend. Some persons can be of a nervous disposition, others averse to criticism. Should this ever be the case, the dog should be patient. There have been cases where a person’s spirit has been all but broken if the dog loses its temper. Reprimands should only be handed out as a last resort. Much more can be achieved by a disapproving look than by flying off the handle. My Jack Russell has never once raised a paw to me, but he has completely cured me of any bad habits.
The first and most important lesson a dog has to teach his person is walking to heel. It is not easy because there is a natural resistance to being restrained. To counter this, the dog should hook one end of the lead to the ring on his collar and loop the other end around the person’s wrist. This will ensure that they cannot run away. Next, start walking down the street/road/avenue/crescent slowly pausing at each lamppost/telegraph pole/pillar box/tree until your person is left in no doubt that he/she is under control. He/she may try to hurry you along but this can be easily discouraged by slipping quickly between his/her legs and winding the lead around their ankles. Another problem a dog faces is their persons trying to run away. Again this can be easily cured. All the dog has to do is to come to sudden halt, thus jerking its person onto his/her bottom. After falling onto their rump a few times, the person will become totally docile. At this stage I must add that it is important that such attempts to discipline one’s person must be treated as a game, and after ones person has found him/herself prostrate on the ground, the dog should jump all over its person while at the same time licking his/her face just to show it was all fun.
Every dog’s companion should learn how to retrieve a ball. The way my dog taught me this trick was quite simple. Choosing a spot exactly in the centre of the room, he would lie down. I would then carry the ball to the farthest point of the room and roll it slowly towards him, uttering at the same time “Fetch”. His eyes would follow the ball as it ran past him and under the settee. After retrieving the ball from under said piece of furniture, I would roll it past him, again repeating the command, “Fetch!” This lesson would be repeated until my dog falls asleep. After I became so proficient that I would retrieve the ball every time I said “Fetch”, my dog would vary the game by substituting other articles for me to pick up, such as bones and old slippers.
The next step in the training must be fitness. Persons who lack stamina to go for long walks, play games, or slouch are a reflection on the dogs who own them. The best ways to keep owners at the peak of physical fitness are daily workouts and never giving them the opportunity to relax. Racing them along the beach or round the garden as they hold your lead is highly recommended. If they attempt to sit down, the dog must immediately jump in the chair. Oh, and be sure that they make as many nocturnal walks as possible, especially if it is raining or better still snowing. This is known as hardening them off.
Of course not every dog who tries to train its owner is as successful as my Jack Russell. It is all a matter of understanding. The dog must at all times remain calm and not work himself into a lather if his owner is slow to learn how to wriggle under fences, negotiate stiles or chase rabbits as well as he does. After all, my terrier says it can take time to teach an old man new tricks.