About a month ago, I adopted a little senior dog, Wally, who may possess the sweetest temperament known to the canine kingdom.
Wally is naturally obedient, never has accidents in the house, never chews what he shouldn’t, doesn’t yap or snap, doesn’t shed, is ridiculously charming, is patient with humans of all sizes, likes to cuddle and even seems to have taken a shine to Netflix. (He seems especially concerned about the behavior of the juvenile dog-linquents on “Canine Intervention.”)
And yet, within a month, I’ve managed to spoil him so extravagantly that I am now at his bark and call. It appears I am actually a world-class dog detrainer.
It really started when he hurt his back and I had to take him to the emergency vet. The doc informed me he likely has disc problems, which are common in aging, long-backed dogs who like to jump.
At this point, I began a rigorous dog-spoiling routine that only the most dedicated and experienced canine detrainer could master. Here is my protocol, in four painful steps:
- Become dog’s human rickshaw and stairlift: This includes lifting dog up and down on couch whenever he wants to watch Netflix. This will save his spine from wear-and-tear, even if it does strain yours. Part of your detraining sessions should be dedicated to carrying him up and down long flights of stairs in the middle of the night so he can go outside. (Never mind your torn meniscus; your canine friend has needs!)
- Switch food to expensive gourmet variety and serve on silver trays, if available: If your adoptee was underweight when surrendered, it is best to feel bad about this for the rest of his life. Start buying him premium dog food and liver pate to make up for it. Serve it to him in attractive or amusing ways, such as placing it on Limoges china or hiding each bite in a different compartment of the $35 dog puzzle you just bought him. Of course, after you do this, most smart dogs will still ignore their food and stare at you until you are conditioned to give them half your sandwich. Warning: This may make him chunky, which will make it harder to be his Human Acorn at 2 a.m. To offset this, consider giving him no fewer than seven walks a day.
- Purchase a dog ramp for him: Be sure to buy two so he has access to both the sectional and the bed. Chances are good that he will ignore them and want you to lift him up and down anyway, but stubbing your toe on the ramp in the middle of the night is a good way to make you more alert when you carry him down the stairs for his next 2 a.m. potty break.
- Learn how to walk on a leash: At some point, your dog — that clever boy — may decide that it’s a lot more fun to take bathroom breaks while taking you on a walk than by simply wandering around the yard by himself. Although he will still want you to hobble down the stairs with him, he will simply run in a circle and come back to the door after you let him outside. If you let him back in, he will give you the Ultimate Mind-Control Death Glare until you cave, reaching for the leash and doggie bags.
Forget the old saw that you can’t teach an old owner new tricks.
Most of us, even the slow ones, have guilty consciences and tender hearts.
This makes us uncommonly easy to be trained, and you won’t even need a clicker.
Tammy Swift is a business writer and columnist. Contact her at [email protected].