Category Archives: Dog training

New baby

I took three dogs out for a test-drive today at the local animal shelter. The first was a beautiful German shepherd who acted a complete fool on the leash, despite the shelter volunteer putting a pinch collar on him to get him to pay attention. Nope.

The second was a smaller, female German shepherd-Lab mix who behaved better on the leash and was definitely in the running for a bit.

Three litters of puppies were roaming around — some sleek Doberman mixes, some pretty little Australian shepherd mixes that I’d been eyeing on the shelter’s website, and some pit bull mixes that could have passed for coonhounds if the insurance adjuster asked. (Don’t think I didn’t think about it. Y’all know how I feel about pibbles.)

One of the Aussie mutts knocked the rest of the pack out of the way to get to me, so I looped the leash through its own handle to create a makeshift training collar and took her for a walk, followed by one of her littermates and an overenthusiastic Dobie.

If I didn’t know for fact that her mother is a purebred Australian shepherd, I’d swear I was looking at a Belgian Malinois pup. Just look at that red coat and black muzzle!

Despite the distractions created by the other pups, she paid attention to my voice, responded quickly to leash corrections, and seemed content to follow me along without needing much direction. When I found out she was about 12 weeks old, that pretty much sealed the deal; years ago, Scout’s trainer told us years that 12 weeks is the ideal age to start obedience training. Bonus that she reminds me of that trainer’s late Belgian Malinois, who was an awesome dog.

Lillian really wishes these damn kids would get off her lawn.

Riggy seems to like the new kid just fine. Lillian is less impressed, but the only thing that has ever impressed Lillian is bacon. Either you are feeding her a piece of bacon, or you are a peasant worthy of the utmost contempt. There are no other roles in life. (Rather Elizabethan worldview, as I think about it.)

My oldest friend saw this picture on Instagram and told me Lillian says a lot of bad words with her eyes. This is an accurate assessment, I think.

We haven’t named the new pup yet, but I’m leaning toward Ramona (after the beloved Beverly Cleary character, of course), because she is a lovable pest.




Bye, Felisha

I deleted my Facebook account this morning.

I’ve considered it for years. I even went so far as to deactivate it once, but I relented later.

This week, several circumstances aligned, and I decided it was time to delete, not deactivate.

Circumstance 1: I’m thinking about running again. I think about running every time the seasons change. But this time around, in considering the practicalities, I realized that in the time I spend on social media, I could be running anywhere from a 10K to a half-marathon DAILY, if not for the security issues associated with running alone after dark. Which leads me to …

Circumstance 2: I’m seriously considering adopting a large dog to be my new training partner. (I’m thinking Aussie shepherd pup, but this guy looks awfully promising, and this mutt reminds me of someone I used to know.) Introducing a new dog is a time-consuming proposition, and I can’t see wasting hours talking to humans on Facebook when I could be sitting on the living-room floor, supervising a play session between Riggy and his new sibling or teaching a pup to do Stupid Pet Tricks. (I’ve decided summoning a Patronus is way funnier than calling a dog, and “Allons-y!” is a better command than “Walkies!”)

Circumstance 3: Murphy Brown is back on the air for the first time in 20 years, and the new season of Doctor Who starts Oct. 7. PRIORITIES.

Circumstance 4: Every couple of years or so, somebody will forget what I do for a living and post things on Facebook that have the potential to create disruptions or controversies at school (e.g., inappropriate language, anecdotes embellished for comedic effect, jokes about youthful indiscretions that never actually occurred, pictures of scantily clad women who supposedly look like me, etc.) I had to delete one of those this week, which reminded me of the risks inherent in Teaching While Facebooking.

Circumstance 5: I’m sick of Mark Zuckerberg’s crap. He can’t be bothered to keep Russian propagandists from using his service to disseminate divisive memes, crack down on bots that spam legitimate users with friend requests from fake accounts, or protect the massive quantity of personal information users were stupid enough to entrust to him. Bye, Felisha.

Hopefully ditching Facebook will free up more time for blogging, which I’ve missed lately.


Major achievement

I am SO proud of Songdog tonight. We took Song and Riggy for a walk this afternoon when I got home from school. Song had been a handful at the start of his walk yesterday, so I nipped the problem in the bud today by putting his pinch collar on him. It intimidated him just enough to keep him in check without a lot of leash corrections.

In fact, he behaved so well that I took a calculated risk and dropped his leash while he was in a sit-stay. He stayed put while I walked all the way around him. I picked up the leash again, walked about half a block with him at heel, and then dropped the leash and asked him to heel, sit, and then stay. He was a perfect gentleman. We walked several blocks like that, with Song keeping a close eye on my movements and sitting every time I stopped, the way I’ve trained him to do on-leash. He even sat and stayed without flinching when a truck passed within three or four feet of us on the road.

Song was hit by a car shortly before he came to us. Because of that experience, he has always been scared of cars, trucks, bicycles, and anything else with wheels (even fast-moving rollerbladers unnerve him sometimes), but we’ve been working to overcome that fear, and his obedience without leash control this evening really illustrated how far he’s come.

It was maybe the most glorious dog-training moment I’ve had since Scout learned to breakdance.

In other pet news, the chicks have had an exciting night. First I gave them a nightcrawler we bought at a bait shop in Okemah this evening, and then I installed a hamster-type water bottle on the side of their cage. Their reactions to both were absolutely priceless. I’ll try to get video of them playing “Who’s Got the Worm?” next time we give them a nightcrawler, because it’s absolutely hilarious.

Hope your evening was full of laughter and accomplishments, too.



For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
— Isaiah 55:8

This evening, we took the dogs for a walk. The original plan was for Ron to walk Song and Jason while I gave Riggy an obedience lesson, but Songdog apparently forgot that he knew how to heel, because he kept jumping around and pulling at the lead. Three blocks from the house, he got so insufferable that Ron and I traded dogs.

To get Song’s attention, I insisted that he heel, then added demands and distractions meant to throw him off his game: Walk through this puddle. Walk through this pile of snow. Stop on a dime. Change directions. Sit on wet pavement. Walk at heel while I splash through this puddle.

It sounds mean, but you don’t do it as punishment. You do it to build trust and respect. You know that it isn’t going to hurt the dog to get wet, but he isn’t so sure. He has to trust you enough to believe that you aren’t going to lead him into danger, and he has to respect you enough to be willing to do what you ask, even if he isn’t wild about your requests.

Fifteen minutes with She Who Must Be Obeyed settled Song right down, so Ron and I traded back, and I gave Riggy a similar lesson on the way back home. He did very well. A few hours after we got home, I realized that while I was giving Song and Riggy a lesson in obedience, they were giving me a lesson in metaphysics.

How many times in the past year and a half has the Father tugged my leash in a direction I didn’t want to go? How many times has he asked me to walk through snow, sit on wet pavement, or go with him into an intimidating situation? How many times have I balked, whined, snapped at the leash, or growled in protest before finally giving in? And how much trouble could I have saved myself if I’d learned to obey as quickly as my dogs do?