My family got a puppy going on two months ago. She’s a red merle Australian Shepherd, four months old by Christmas, with pretty curls at the tips of her ears and amber eyes. We named her Ginger (for Rogers, not the one on Gilligan’s Island).
Training her has been an experience to say the least. House training aside, we must teach her not to jump on things, not to scratch at things, not to bite things, not to eat things like eyeglasses, not to attack our two cats, not to chew at our pant-legs, not to bark constantly, to give, to sit, to stay, to lay down, to get off, to come, and not to beg or get up on People Furniture.
It’s exhausting, and probably the only reason we persevere is because Ginger is so stinkin’ cute. I mean, just look at her:
|Photo Credit: My Mom. Picture Book Collection Credit: Myself|
I’ve been foregoing a lot of reading of actual novels that I want to read, and researching Australian Shepherds and dog training instead. Most of the books talk about psychological things like positive reinforcement (giving treats when the dog is good versus negative reinforcement of yelling at them when they are bad), and saying “Good sit!” or “Good stay!” whenever the puppy happens to accidentally do those things.
The books remind humans that dogs are not born speaking human. We are literally teaching this baby dog a new language, one that she won’t be able to speak even when she does understand it. This made me think of that picture book, I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words by Michael Frith (illustrated by P.D. Eastman).
Like the story’s narrator, the boy who’ll teach his dog all sorts of things like “Jump the fishbowl, bring the bone,” we’ve started training Ginger with such lofty goals. We don’t want her to beg for food or jump up on the couch. But she is SUCH a handful. And since 2017 is scampering toward us as fast as a little teething Aussie ready for her dinner, I’m beginning to think we should copy the narrator of this book and say,
“I think I’ll start next year.”