Gracie the bullheaded Bull Terrier
Training a terrier can be a little like filling a big bucket with a teaspoon of water at a time. It can be done but it is rather time consuming and often a little frustrating; particularly if one is tripping over a dog on the way to the bucket. Basically, if you want to fill a bucket, use a huge bowl; if you want to be a serious dog trainer, get a Retriever, Shepherd, Poodle, or Boarder Collie. In fact, I recently watched a TV news story about a Boarder Collie who has a bigger vocabulary than some of my former freshmen English students. If you want to be a happy dog trainer, avoid terriers.
I’m a perverse person. I like a well trained dog AND I like terriers. This is an oxymoron, like being a gourmet food lover who is addicted to Big Macs. Basically its just wrong. My two loves do not go together. Thanks to Gracie the English Bull Terrier though, I’ve had a breakthrough. I realize I’ve been going about training all the wrong way. My perspective has been wrong and I now see the light. Allow me a little space to explain.
To not make too fine a point of it, Bull Terriers are stubborn, opinionated, tough, funny, ignorant little entertainers who only want to learn what is useful to them. Useful knowledge to a Bull Terrier is 1) where can they get food, 2) where is a comfortable place to sleep, 3) if you can’t eat it can you play with it until you destroy it – then eat it?
I’m a person. In my opinion dog’s who are well socialized should learn things like 1) don’t eat anything that isn’t food; better yet, that isn’t food I gave you to eat, 2) attempt to learn the basic commands like “get off,” the command you hear when you try to sleep on top of me, 3) not everything is edible so “drop it” don’t swallow it! Rubber, by the way, is not supposed to be one of the basic food groups.
I think Gracie would argue in fact, that I can be a real nudge, just fussing and complaining. In fact, she caused me to have a real insight this past week. Gracie, I realized, knows allot of things. The commands I have been giving her are the problem. I realized this one evening when we were headed inside from the yard. In the past I’ve tried to convince Gracie to sit and wait at the door; Gracie prefers to push the door open with her solid wedge head. Neither Jenny or Lil will push the door open so when we’re all outside, it can get a little crowded waiting around the door to get in. As I was trying to wade through the dogs to get to the door, I was suddenly struck by the obvious – Gracie had been right all along! Instead of having her wait, I said, “Gracie, open the door.” Gracie went ahead and pushed the door open and everyone could go in.
In a flash I realized that I had been going about communicating with Gracie all wrong. I need to label what she does do and give her treats for it! I don’t mean the natural things that a dog will do. For example, the way Gracie learned to “sit” on command was for me to get a treat, and hold it at the location that would naturally lead to a sit. That’s basic training and not at all what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about being a little more imaginative. For example, what would be a quick, pithy phrase to accompany her new habit – thank you Lil for teaching your elder – of standing like a gopher near the kitchen counter and eyeing up what is up there, and grabbing off anything that is paper and shredible. “Get it” is too generic. I also need shorter commands to apply for “jump over the gate, race upstairs and eat cat food” and “jump in the window and bark at the neighbor for closing a car door.”
Lil, the growing bad influence
If I adopt a different point of view I can now see that leaving cat food out too long only means it will likely go stale and the cats won’t eat stale cat food anyway. And the neighbors, while they might be perfectly nice people, should never be allowed to forget that I do have a very alert watch dog. She might be bribeable with dog biscuits, but she will still bark a warning before she stops to eat.
Honestly, when she was a puppy there was absolutely no warning that she was going to grow up to be a person trainer. She seemed reasonably happy to go with the flow. She had no immediate complaints.
Then she realized this was her forever home. And she realized that if she was going to be living here forever some things would have to change.
I could list all the things Gracie would have liked to have changed but really they can be summarized by one general rule; Gracie wants to rule the world.
Giving the nieghbors much needed supervision
Gracie would like you to know that you should not be worried about her plans to eventually dominate the world. She promises to be a benevolent tyrant. She also would like you to know that any objections you might have at this point to being ruled by her will eventually evaporate. You just have to reach the point where you do what I did; change your point of view. Accept that Gracie is right. Learn to love what Gracie does.
Gracie supervising this blog
Perhaps, just perhaps, you live with a few canines who would like to start their own awesome oligarchy. Gracie is willing to negotiate with them. She’s all for the maintaining of strong territories and is willing to consider a series of small fiefdoms. Please respond here and Gracie assures you, she will consider all applications equally for potential potentates in other districts.
Gracie lays on computer and couch at same time = terrier multi-tasking