Forget Zumba, spinning or running, if you want a good workout, take a mad adolescent puppy to a dog training class and spend an hour wrestling with his lead in front of a room full of people, just like I did last night. I feel at least half a stone lighter this morning and my shoulders ache as if I have been weight training!
Our dog Chester is an 8 month old golden Labrador puppy. He is a rescue and we are his third home. He is good-natured and patient with the kids but has that whole Marley and Me delinquent naughty behaviour down to a fine art. Most Labs expect the world and its wife to be their best friend so whenever we’re out walking him and he sees another person or dog he tends to go into a bit of a jumping, slobbering, over-excitable mental state. I have dealt with this by only walking him in the ‘off the beaten track’ farmers fields to ensure I will not come across another living person. However, this does not solve the problem, in fact makes it worse as now Chester is so starved of meeting other dogs and people that when he does, he turns into rabid dog mode, foaming at the mouth as he tries to choke himself, pinning the complete stranger against a wall.
Recently, the gas man came to read our meter, I had Chester in a tight grip holding his collar and situating him in a sitting position as I opened the door. Once he saw ‘new person’ he went into mental mode which resulted in me wrestling with his collar looking like I was on a bucking bronco ride, as the gas man eyed him warily and reconsidered his choice of career. I forced Chester back into the living room so I could let the reluctant gas man in to look under the stairs, whilst Chester was taking run ups at the living room door, forcing the whole door frame to shudder. I explained my favourite excuse, “well he’s a rescue so we have a lot of work to do with his behaviour.” He read the meter quicker then he had ever read it before and was out of the house before I could say goodbye. Hubby was pleased with my retelling of the story later that day, as he explained, if the gas meter man had been bogus at least we looked like we had the scariest guard dog in the world, even if we know he was only after a crutch sniff and not interested in attacking him!
But this lack of control I have has forced me to investigate the option of dog training. I figure that it will be easy to train Chester as after all, Labrador’s are guide dogs for the blind, bomb dogs for the police and even search and rescue dogs. If they can be working dogs, surely a bit of simple controlled behaviour will be a breeze to teach Chester. Or so I thought.
Last night me and hubby turned up the dog training school having agreed that I would take the lead as I had the least control with him. We entered the room to find at least 7 other dog owners with their array of breeds, including an overweight Rottweiler and a terrified looking Chihuahua. Chester, on cue, went into lunatic mode as soon as he saw his nirvana, a room full of dogs and people. I wrestled with him while trying to introduce ourselves to a not very impressed instructor who had an ex-army ‘no dog gets the better of me’ look about him. I rolled out my usual mantra, “well he’s a rescue so we have a lot of work to do with his behaviour”. I was instructed to take my place at the back of the room, a foot apart from the nervous Chihuahua who didn’t seem too pleased as Chester tried his best to drag me closer.
Another, female, instructor led us through some “simple warm up exercises” which inolved walking to the centre of the room leading your dog round in a circle then back to the wall. Chester dragged me to the centre of the room then to the other side of the room to try to meet a Collie, then I dragged him back while he spent most of the exercise just on his hind legs. Ex-army instructor came to my rescue and was none too pleased as Chester repeatedly jumped up at him. He was incensed that Chester was allowed to do this, informing me to ‘never let your dog jump up, you must not let him do this’. I agreed explaining that ‘we never ever let him jump up’ as if it was a new thing he was doing, trying to ignore the flashback of Chester and hubby dancing that morning paw to hand as he jumped up for more!
The next exercise involved female instructor handing out carpet tiles to teach your dog how ‘to go to bed’. Chester, who is not known for his barking ability, in fact in the 2 months we’ve had him, he has only barked 4 times in total at next door’s dog, which have been high-pitched playful barks. Last night, when the female instructor literally threw the carpet tile at me to avoid Chester’s manic greeting style, Chester starting barking. And not the high-pitched barking I was used to, but a loud throaty bark complete with a lunging forward movement. Ex-army instructor headed my way again, both us with the look of ‘it’s going to be a long hour’. Meanwhile, hubby sat as a spectator giggling with another husband who was watching his wife wrestle with the collie from across the room. The female instructor used her golden Labrador (typical) to effortlessly show us the ‘bed’ exercise without the use of a lead. I tried the ‘bed’ technique which the female instructor suggested I did facing the wall to avoid other dogs. I shouted ‘bed’ and then mainly ‘leave’ as Chester attacked the carpet tile. Ex-army man took the lead in a ‘I’ll show you how it’s done’ way and with the promise of a treat managed to get him into a ‘down’ position and ‘bed’ with very little effort.
With each passing failed exercise, Chester was getting more excited which in turn was affecting his bowels and he was emitting the most toxic wind ever created by a dog. So as ex-army man pretty much headed my way at each exercise, he mainly spoke on out breaths to avoid the stench, hopefully thinking it was Chester and not me!
Finally, it was time for the last exercise of the night as I was starting to feel like I wanted to cry as the sweat dripped down my nose, I never sweat! This exercise was ‘fetch’ where we threw a dog toy for the dog to fetch on a long lead and bring back without being distracted. As I wrestled once more with Chester, I threw his ball and shouted ‘fetch’ as he lunged for the Chihuahua, perhaps showing the only time he nearly completed an exercise even if it was fetching a dog rather than a ball!
At the end of the class I filled out the forms to say I would be returning next week as a glutton for punishment. Ex-army man walked Chester up and down the room with ease shouting ‘heel’ with Chester obeying his every command. I narrowed my eyes at my dog and plastered a begrudgingly grateful smile on my face for ex-army man’s efforts. The next class had started to arrive, who were all show dogs, a Doberman and his owner stood next to us and both of them eyed us smugly. The Doberman stood in a professional stance, actually looking at Chester with a sympathetic stare as he tried to lunge at him. We left with our tails between our legs having bought Chester a new ‘choke’ collar and been given a lot of homework to practise, before we return next week for another helping of embarrassment served with a side order of aching shoulders.