I tried to do everything right when it came to training my dog. I read articles about it. I watched YouTube videos. When the opportunity arose, I enrolled the two of us into a six-week class and, when that ended, my dog and I diligently rehearsed all of the commands we’d learned. I practiced. My dog practiced. I even tried to teach the commands to those who interacted with him regularly (henceforth known as the “dogsitters” — but also known as my family).
Our training efforts didn’t turn Obi into the perfect dog nor I into the perfect alpha, but it overall seemed to go well. Obi aced some commands (sit, come), made a valiant effort with others (stay, leave it), and was consistently learning how to listen, which was important to me.
Sure, sometimes when I should have been telling Obi to “leave it,” I opted for “no” because it felt so easily accessible. And sometimes Obi thought that “sit” should count if he was sitting on the thing he’d been lunging at. But we were a team, and things were progressing. Before long, Obi also learned to give paw, stand up, and spin around. If there was a circle of dog moms that I could brag to about Obi’s knowledge, you better believe I totally would have.
Then we moved. Obi and I, along with Obi’s dad, Bill, packed up our belongings and we temporarily began living with Obi’s dogsitters. While the move was unrelated to Obi’s training (we don’t let our dog dictate that much of our lives, thankfully), we did see it as an opportunity to solidify some of Obi’s training. Everyone Obi regularly interacted with would be living under the same roof; we thought we’d all be able to instate the same rules and do the same commands. It sounded perfect.
Alas, it was not. Our move actually changed quite a bit about Obi’s routine. Now, nothing made sense to our dog. Why were the food bowls different? Why was he getting so many treats? Why were there five humans all telling him different things? And where was he supposed to do his business now that there were two stories, a yard, and what felt like a million different rooms?
He was confused. When Bill and I were gone for the day at work, Obi was getting directions from three additional people, on top of the revolving door of family members who stopped by the house. Everyone loved Obi so much that they had developed their own set of rules with him (dictated 100 percent by Obi’s cuteness, naturally); that was all well and good, but it meant that Obi lacked any sense of stability.
Bill and I were perplexed, too. When it was just the two of us, it was easy to determine how we were going to train, discipline, and care for our dog; it was much harder to convey and enforce those views on family members who were easily swayed by his cuteness. (To be fair, aren’t we all swayed by our dog’s cuteness?)
While Obi might have previously known barking at the door was unacceptable, he could no longer suppress his urge -– not when the humans would squat down and pet him if he was loud enough. He started to believe the meaning of “leave it” was “definitely lunge for the piece of food that was just dropped on the ground.” And when his new humans didn’t close the front door quick enough, Obi thought “stay” meant “dart now and create a fun game of chase for everyone.”
No one ever wanted to tell Obi “no” — and I couldn’t blame them. Bill and I had lived with Obi a full year longer than they had. We’d built up defenses against his cuteness; meanwhile, everyone else was crippled by a desire to get Obi to like them!
Unsurprisingly, Obi became king of the house. He demanded treats (after he learned he’d get one for giving someone his paw), claimed space on the couch (after he learned others would scoot over to make room for him), and made people carry him when he was supposed to be going for a walk (after he learned he could pretend to be “tired”).
Even when Bill and I would try to keep up with some of his training, King Obi seemed to have decided that “order” and “rules” were two words that no longer deserved to be part of his doggie vocabulary.
It’s not Obi’s fault, nor is it his dogsitters’ fault; really, it’s mine. I should have had a much stronger plan in place for the move. Perhaps I should have spent more time demonstrating the proper way to do commands. Perhaps I should have better explained which behaviors were “right” and “wrong.” Or maybe I should have given Obi an awful haircut, which would have made his adorable face easier to resist.
Unfortunately, that window of opportunity has passed — Obi is king, and we are his loyal subjects.
For now, we’ll let Obi be king. But when we move, I’m enrolling us in a strict training regime. No kings allowed.
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