Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Don't Take Candy From Strangers Who Are On Top of Your Roof

Lesson Number 7: Everyone Deserves To Be Fussed Over Now and Then, or...How To Raise a Princess Dog, part FOUR

When we moved to Naperville, a neighbor recommended Petsmart, a pet supply store. She told me that they allowed—-nay, they welcomed-—pets on leashes while their owners shopped. This was quite exciting to me, and shortly after I spoke to my neighbor, I put Bijoux in the car for our first field trip.

Bijoux became immediately confused when, after the ten-minute drive, I not only stopped the car, but also talked to her as if she were leaving the car with me. I think she, probably due to her intense sense of smell and her recognition that other animals had been there before us, thought that we were at a veterinarian’s office instead of a Walt Disney World for dogs. When walked around to her side of the car, I attached the leash to her collar and said, “Come on!” She didn’t move a muscle; she merely sat there staring at me, as if to say, “Are you kidding?” It took some coaxing, but I finally got her out of the car. I let her sniff around for a few minutes in the parking lot, and then we headed towards the entrance.

Freaked out momentarily by the “whoosh” and the rapid movement of the double electric sliding doors as we stepped onto the entrance pad, Bijoux needed more coaxing in order to enter the store. Once we did, however, she suddenly became excited and tugged on her leash, dragging me behind her on her first exploration in many years of a retail store since Leewards in Norfolk, Virginia.

Bijoux sniffed excitedly while we explored the aisles and aisles of dog supplies, from food to toys to beds to rawhide bones. Every now and then I had to pull on her leash a bit, to keep her from helping herself to the many treats that were “conveniently” placed at doggie level.

While we were there, I decided to take her in to the grooming department to get her nails clipped. The friendly woman who took care of us spoke to Bijoux for the duration of our visit, and when she finished with the business of nail trimming, she asked me if she could give Bijoux a treat. I said yes, and was lucky enough to witness the first occurrence of one of the funniest habits Bijoux had: her refusal to take treats from strangers. The woman held a Milk Bone between her thumb and forefinger and offered it to Bijoux, and Bijoux sniffed once and then turned her head away. She kept talking to Bijoux, asking her if she wanted it, and Bijoux walked away from her. Finally, I took the treat from the woman, thanked her, and walked Bijoux out to the main part of the store.

When we reached the end of the aisle, I called Bijoux to come closer, kneeled down, and offered her the Milk Bone. She promptly took it from my hand and held it between her teeth. As we walked around the store she didn’t chew it; she calmly held it in her mouth, occasionally dropping it and picking it back up, until we reached the car. I opened the passenger door and she hopped up into her seat and then ate the bone.

From then on, her routine from taking treats in public, from strangers, or at the vet, was the same. She refused any and all treats unless one of her family members gave them to her.

When it came to treats (in either variety: doggie snacks or people snacks), Bijoux was a happy camper when anything came her way. A pet peeve of mine grew over time as she became “grabby”, yanking the treat from the hand of the person who fed her, so to speak. It was time for more training. I wanted to teach her the command “Nice”, as in “Be Nice”. Each time I had a treat for her, I commanded her first to sit or lay down. My next command was “Niiiiiiiice”, and as I held the treat slightly above her mouth, she eventually learned to delicately take it from me, just barely grasping it between her teeth. She waited until I completely released it to her before she chomped down and enjoyed it. Going further, I sometimes put her treat between my teeth and got down on her level. I said, “Niiiiiice” as well as I could, and she learned to take it gently from me in this way as well.

One very enjoyable routine I had with Bijoux was discovered after I taught her the command “Speak”. The basic “Speak” command entailed my giving the order and her barking once. After a while we spiced it up: after she barked, I asked, “What?” She wagged her tail and barked again. “What’d you say?” I asked, watching her grow both excited and impatient, barking so that I would relinquish whatever treat I had in my hand.

Talking to Bijoux was one of my favorite things about spending time with her. (BLOGNOTE: I realize that there might be some non-dog people out there who are curious about my stories anyway and, in reading this, are now completely convinced that I am a freak. I'm not...and offer no apologies. LOL)

Sometimes in play, she “talked” to me while I tried to “steal” her rawhide bone. First she barked in her normal way. As I brought my face closer to hers and the theft was inevitable, she tried to “talk me out of it” by whining. As I whined back it antagonized her even more, and she got louder and louder until I clamped down on her bone and she either growled at me (To tell me to go somewhere else and get my own bone; she wasn’t really in the mood) or released the bone and licked my face.

Julie had some great “conversations” with Bijoux as well. Not being satisfied with that old joke about asking your dog what’s on top of the house (Roof), Julie took it one step further. She reached back into her memory banks and pulled out the lyrics to the Bloodhound Gang hit “The Roof Is On Fire”. As she stood in front of Bijoux, Julie said “The” and waited for Bijoux to add the “Roof!” Sometimes it took a little longer than others, but when Bijoux “roofed”, Julie would say “Is on Fire!” Repeating this the three times that’s required when singing the original song, Julie always stopped before going on with the rest of the song, which didn’t require Bijoux’s talents and was also quite vulgar.