Posted by: lifeonislandtime | October 1, 2012

Reflections on the dog

I decided that the dog needed work today.

I’m not sure why, but it seemed to me that he seemed a bit down.  Since we’ve returned from our trip, he has been especially clingy to me.  I figured it would be like this, but also that in no time at all, he would be back to his typical neuroses.  It hasn’t happened.  I have a strange feeling that I may have scarred his poor psyche beyond repair, and only by coming home when we did prevented a full-blown regression.  At any rate, I’ve been busy with work (both schools) and he’s been a bit neglected.  Don’t get me wrong, he still gets tons of attention, gets to go outside on demand, gets lots of good dog food, but I’ve been feeling that he needs more reassurance.  My solution to this has been to work with him.

We began by running through his usual repertoire of tricks:  sit, down, shake, high-5, dead.  We then moved onto his new fancy-schmancy trick:  “cover”.  He unashamedly covers his face on command.  Very charming.  It would be, except Travis got a hold of it, and cues him to “cover” for everything, and now the dog can be seen covering his face willy-nilly every time the treats come out.  He flung one paw up so hard he tipped himself over.

Getting him to pay attention to a new trick with all of this “covering” was difficult, but amusing.  I asked him to “step up” onto an object.  Before we left on the trip, this was a non-existent trick.  Elvis absolutely refused to step up onto any object.  I had to begin teaching the skill using a piece of paper, otherwise the completely craven animal I share my house with would not step near it.  We moved up to a phone book (I felt vindicated I have found a use for the dratted thing) and were having limited success.  Today, I decided to make the jump, and have him step up to his overturned stainless steel  bowl.  Prior to today, he had run in terror when his feet encountered the metal bowl.

Trusty clicker in hand and stinky-salmon treats in the other, I asked him to “step-up!” onto his bowl.  He laid his ears flat and barked.  I asked again.  He batted the bowl with a foot, and shied at the metal sound, but stayed in the room.  Encouraged, I asked him again.  He tentatively put one paw up on the bowl, but no weight.  I clicked, treated, and cheered.  I asked again.  Again, one foot.  Click, treat, cheer.  Asked again.  This time, I got one foot with weight.  Click,  treat, treat, cheer.  I then gave him a break, and asked him…(you shouldn’t have to guess this one; he does it on his own) “cover.”  He covered, then stepped up! On his own!

So, long and short of the evening, I got the dog to finally step up onto his food bowl with both front feet, and stay there for a full second!  I’m not sure I would have gotten this behavior prior to our trip, as he was relatively confident in his place in the household.  Now, after leaving him for a month, I think he seeks to please more, so that we won’t leave him again.  As nice as this is, I do feel badly that through my enjoyment of another continent, I have damaged my dog, perhaps irreparably.

I keep thinking that in time, this will wear off, but it’s been almost two months, and he is still my constant shadow.  At least tonight, I feel like we’ve bonded instead of him being paranoid.  It’s not massive, but it’s a step in the right direction.



  1. I need to get a dog if for no other reason than to finallly find a use for all the extra phone books! xo j


  2. Joann, it’s nice to find a use for them, but I’ve only used-up one. I still have about 7 in there! He’s now over-exuberant and jumping onto the bowl. I may have taken it a step too far! :S

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