Friday, October 16, 2009


I am at home. I am in my office. I am seated at my desk.

And there is an 85 lb. dog sleeping at my feet.

No, my Soph didn’t gain 80 lbs. We’re dog-sitting a German Shepherd mix for one of The Husband’s coworkers.

She’s a well-behaved and pretty animal. Any dog owner oughta be proud of her manners and sleek coat. But as lovely as she is, her presence has done me the favor of helping me appreciate my own pet.

My non-shedding, non-vocal, light-footed, compact Yorkie.

And this Yorkie of mine has thoroughly enjoyed having company in the house for she’s taken it upon her self to use this time to hone her skills of peskiness and taunting.

A favorite game is one in which the teeny dog bates the big dog with jumping and wagging, getting the big dog to chase her, and then dashes under the master bed where the big dog has no chance of squeezing. The teeny dog will dash back and forth beneath the bed, encouraging the big dog to follow her movements, encouraging with the trickery of a hint that she just might come out that side and be available for chase. Then she’ll emerge from under the bed, dance a circle around the big dog, get her revved up, and run back beneath the bed, wagging her bitty docked tail all the while.

That dog is my child. My dogter.

A darn good percentage of you readers have kids. Human ones. I have a canine one. A horse of a different color, to be sure, but a horse that too requires feeding, attention, play, love, and discipline, though on a lesser degree than your horse does. Nevertheless, much as your children do you, this dogter of mine gives me the opportunity to observe, understand, and sometimes regret conditioning.

The Yorkie breed is well-known for yappyness. My dog, although she’s a Yorkie, is not a yapper. Perpetual barking isn’t allowed in our house and she knows it. Is that because my dog hasn’t wanted to bark? ‘Course not. It’s cause we’ve trained her that, for our home, barking and growling are unacceptable. She’s a quiet pet and only yells at the really scary thing--like the UPS man.

On a more annoying front, my Soph has been conditioned to understand that if she drops her stuffed toys at our feet enough times, we will either kick ‘em or toss ‘em for her to chase. She also understands that even when we say, No. It’s not playtime, we will eventually give in and kick her stupid toy again. She knows this because it’s her conditioning. And when I’m so completely perturbed that she won’t just beat it and leave me be, I have to deal with the reality that this is my fault. My past indulgences mean that she knows persistence prevails.

I lament, If only I hadn’t made a habit of giving in after saying, No.

I get better over time, actually ceasing the play when I’ve said it’s not time for play. Sometimes she wanders off, getting the picture that I’m not in on the game. But other times, because of her habits, she drops the toy and hops back a few feet over and over until her little movements in my periphery annoy me to the point of kicking the toy so that she’ll just scram for a second. She wins. I lose.

Of course, it’s the same with your young kids. If your kid is a whiner, there’s a darn good chance that you’ve taught them that whining gets them things they want. Or if your child waits patiently at the roadside for an adult’s hand to hold, you very likely conditioned your kid to believe that adults mitigate danger. And on with learned other behaviors, good and not so good.

The question: Do you believe that we can recondition once we’ve trained? And if so, who and what about them would you like to recondition?


L said...

The military does it so why not civilians. I can think of a variety of people whom I would like to recondition, unfortunately I know that change only happens when the desire comes from within. I like my pets as is, it's people I can't stand.

rabidrunner said...

Yes. HOWEVER, canines are more easily and quickly conditioned that humans. It took me 5 good years to get Yahoo #1 to quit whining. Working on Yahoo #2. Yahoo #3 (aka the Pound Hound) never whines. If he does, he gets the squirt bottle.

I just put 2 and 2 together. Should I start using the squirt bottle on Yahoo #2? Will the cops come get me if I do?

tom lindsey said...

A few years ago I read a book which has very interesting ties the type of question you ask. If you get a chance pick up a copy or I can leave a copy with RR's spouse and you can have it.

Jessica said...

I think reconditioning is possible. In people and dogs.

I would like to recondition my husband to not share my pillow and my side of the bed with me at night.

Between him and the dog I can hardly move.

But, based on Rabid's comment, maybe I should try to recondition the dog first and then the husband?

Or try a squirt bottle?

Except, then someone would call Adult Protective Services on me...

rabidrunner said...

Tom - please leave the book with Spouse o' Rabid! I would appreciate the reading. Could also forward on to Megan. If'n she's obliged.

rabidrunner said...

I don't believe obliged was the right word. Maybe interested is better. I need a nap.

Megan said...

I've always wanted to be in a skewed but sophisticated book club.

Bring it on.

tom lindsey said...

I will deliver it on Tuesday.

This brings up something that I have considered but not yet acted on. You see, I have this thing for buying books and then putting them on a shelf, rarely to be visited again. I have tested this by boxing them all up and storing them in the basement and ~1 year later have only needed to retrieve 20 or so.

The next step of the plan was to take one a week to the post office and mail the book to a randomly selected entry. My wife described the whole enterprise as "creepy" so I have dithered. I think am going to augment the original idea by having business cards printed with some text asking them to read the book and send it in the same fashion or share with a friend.

Just now it occurs to me that I should create a website where readers can make comments, suggestions, and follow the book's progress.

My wife suggests that I clean the garage instead.

Sparks said...

Tom, this is me volunteering (volunteering means for free) my design services for this project. I love it. You want a hand getting this very noble and cool project off the ground, I am happy to help.

With the book thing, that is.

Not your garage.

Natalie said...

I have two canine kids, no humans (weep for my sadness). If our canine kids are a reflection of our parenting then, shoot, sucks for me.

I think retraining is possible, but it's like getting braces, or rebreaking a nose in order to reset the joint: PAINFUL. And only sometimes necessary. I like to think my flaws make me cute, thanks.

tom lindsey said...

How sweet. And naive. My wife has been asking me to clean the garage since spring :-0

My wife [ an elementary school librarian ] brought this book home and has been laughing out loud. The basic idea is that girls rule and boys and dogs can be trained in the same way: reward with food, use short sentences, etc.

rabidrunner said...

Book Exchange? That is so very Genius. (With a capital 'n everything.)