As she cuddled in my arms, I felt her little body tremble. From the depths of her throat, I heard the unmistakable ‘grrrr’ ever so softly,barely audible. Someone was coming…
Sheba joined our family when we rescued her from a shelter. She was a miniature apricot poodle with dark roots about her head and ears. She soon laid herself across one of my husband’s forearms, a ball of fur, albeit somewhat matted. She stole our hearts.
Over the years she’s become our constant companion, especially attaching herself to my husband. Wherever he goes within her domain she is close by. When he mows the lawn, she walks back and forth with him. When he rides the mower, she’s on his lap.
However, she has developed one irritating habit; she’s a barker!
Anyone entering her yard or her house is greeted with shrill yapping for a much longer timeframe then seems necessary. Soon after the people settle, she is happily involving them in a friendly game of ‘fetch/catch’ with her favorite ball.
Last summer we decided to bring in a dog trainer-similar in approach to a television personality who is well known. His price was a little shocking but this was Sheba and it would be worth it to get rid of her one little character defect.
The training session began with us. Seems our problem was we had not assumed our position as pack leader. We needed to gain control by teaching her to come, sit and stay on command. It didn’t matter that she often did this out of sheer love…she must obey.
The instructor gave us 2 tools; a little cloth bag containing a piece of chain that made a noise when tossed in front of her, and a sound we were to bark at her when she did not obey. It was kind of a loud ‘ehhh’.
As we took turns giving commands, I was a little nervous. After all, if we were being ‘trained’ then we were the ones who could flunk. My first blunder was, in my excitement, I through the little chain bag and grazed Sheba’s head. And try as I may, that sound he wanted us to use to correct her seemed very undignified. Why couldn’t ‘no’ be used…at least it would make sense to anyone in hearing distance. Having raised 3 boys, I was well practiced at speaking the word quietly through clutched teeth or bellowing the word out as needed. Soon our session was over and we were admonished to practice until our next visit.
And we tried. Several times a day we put Sheba through her paces. Soon
she was compliant on and off the lead. We did get rid of the chain bags. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Of course I was also known to catch the birdie or the tennis ball and throw the racket.
Then it was time for the trainer and we still had one little problem…Sheba still barked!
He took the better part of our time together explaining key concepts of pack life: A dog should not be allowed to enter any room or walk down stairs ahead of you. You are the leader of the pack; No matter how cute she acts, she’s manipulating you. Reposition her; don’t give her attention when she requests it. You determine when to initiate contact.
“All we want is for her to stop barking once she’s made us aware of an intruder,” we tried to reason with him.
Our session ended with the usual, “Keep practicing.”
We never had a third session by our choosing, though we practiced. Sheba will come, sit and stay when we’re working with her. We’ve had a degree of success. But often, when she’s under command to stay, her little body starts to tremble. Under her breath, she quietly raises her protest. And I recall the story of a young child told to sit down. He responds, “I’m sitting on the outside, but I’m standing on my inside.”
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