i knew that puppies needed to be taught to pee outside, and i knew they needed to be taught to obey commands, but i didn't realize they needed to be taught everything.
i'd never had a dog before toby was foisted upon me, and i guess i had just assumed that dogs were born naturally knowing how to wear a collar and walk on a leash. i quickly found out this was not true.
the collar was a bit of a trauma for toby--when i first put it on him, he pulled away nervously, clearly uncomfortable with this thing strapped around his neck. but first time i snapped a leash onto the collar ring, he went absolutely nuts.
as far as he was concerned, the leash was a scary noisy thing that chased him all around the kitchen. he did his best to get away from it. he shrieked. he ran. it followed. he darted under the kitchen table and battered himself repeatedly against the wall. i got down on all fours and crawled under the table after him, but he squirted past me in a panic and fled to the other end of the room.
i managed to corner him over by the door and unhook the leash, but it took him a while to calm down.
so i called the vet. "my puppy's afraid of his leash!" i was nearly in tears.
to their credit, the folks at the Duluth Veterinary Clinic didn't snicker. a very nice vet got on the line. he told me that i needed to do physical therapy with toby. "hold him in strange positions," the vet said. "hold him steady and talk to him. don't hurt him. he'll be scared at first, but when he realizes he's not in pain he'll calm down. do this every day, a couple times a day. he has to learn to trust you. he has to learn that you're going to do things to him that he's not used to, but that you will never, ever hurt him."
and so began my days of PT with toby. i was quite nervous about it at first; what, exactly, were strange positions for a dog?
i sat down on the kitchen floor and picked him up and held him in a standing position on my lap. he squirmed. i whispered to him. he thrashed. i held him firmly and spoke to him. eventually, he relaxed. i wasn't sure if i'd broken his spirit, or if he'd learned to trust me, but either way it had seemed to work. i set him down and petted him and gave him a biscuit.
a few hours later, we did it again. again he thrashed and whimpered; again he eventually relaxed.
we went through this exercise for the better part of a week, until we got to the point where when i picked him up and tried to contort his little boneless puppy body into strange positions toby just yawned and looked at me like, when am i getting my biscuit?
after that it was time to move to on the leash. i held him on my lap, let him sniff the leash, snapped it onto his collar, and spoke to him. he was wary, but he trusted me. success!
of course, this didn't mean that toby knew how to walk nicely on the leash. it didn't even mean that he knew there was a connection between a leash-walk and doing his business. all that would come later, with more practice (and more biscuits).
and poor toby. he had no idea that by accepting the leash, he was accepting that permanent prisoner-hood status that dogs have in our society. just one more thing for him to learn.
5 hours ago