October 01, 2022
Yesterday I was able to take Zena to the trainer for a lesson. We call him the “treat man” because she gets copious amounts of treats as rewards for doing what she is supposed to do. She had not been to train in several weeks due to a variety of issues and I was hoping she would do alright. I walk her in the mornings and although I know she has done fine by my standards, these were below the expectations of the trainer. We showed up right on time and he was waiting in the drive of his house. He told me to follow him, and we took off for the park. Today’s lesson was going to be walking outdoors and encountering other people and dogs. This is an area Zena and I have struggled with, and I was anxious to see what the treat man would do different than me.
When we arrived at the park we went to a fenced playground. This was not gated but it was closed on three sides with a wide opening at the walkway entrance. The treat man had brought his long leash and allowed Zena to run free will with the leash attached and dragging behind her. That way we could catch her if she took off, but she would still feel like she was on her own. Zena snuffled around until she got comfortable with her surroundings before he started the training. She would run around the yard and then look back to check if he was still there. That is when he would tell her to “come”, and when she did, she received a treat. After working on this command for ten minutes Next Zena worked on paying attention to him as several dogs and people walked by on the other side of the gate. Again, she did well but there were not too many people or dogs to distract her is this section of the park. He decided to up the test and we moved to the other side of the park that had a walking trail around a small lake. He assured me this would be more of a test.
The lake we went to had one of the community fishing lake signs posted by Game and Fish. These small lakes are in urban settings and stocked with catfish four times a year. Several also have trout stocked during the winter. Every one of these signs is the same, listing the fish and creel limits for the lake. Although they all list bass on the sign, I have never caught (or seen) a largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) at any of the lakes. I laughed and told the trainer, but he contradicted me. Last year he had caught a 6 inch (15 cm) crappie (Pomoxis annularis) and when he was reeling it in, it was engulfed by a five pound (2.3 km) bass. The hook caught in the bass’ mouth, and he was able to reel them both in. I do not know if this was just a fish tale, but they stock bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and not crappie in these community lakes. Sour grapes, maybe the treat man was just a better fisher person than me.
THOUGHTS: We finished Zena’s first three sessions with the treat man last spring and then took the summer off because it was so hot. He was apprehensive about the restart not knowing if we had kept up the drills. We had and Zena took up where she left off this month. She still picks up the commands quickly and remembers them (when she wants to). Even the treat man has commented on how smart she is. Intelligent dogs are a lot like people. They know what you want them to do, it is just a matter of whether they decide to do what you want. The trick is to make doing the right thing in their best interest. Treating others with justice is the right thing for them, but also is for you. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.