Monday, October 25, 2004

Chapter 5 – Control

With Riggs continuing to get bigger and stronger, we soon realized we needed to gain control over this happy beast.

So we asked around, and asked our vet. Everyone suggested Obedience School.

At first we scoffed. C’mon how hard can it be to teach a dog some basic commands?
But Riggs was willful. And so we succumbed. We enrolled in school, $125.00

We were told to have a long lead and a chain slip collar…another $25.00.
Off to school we went.

My very patient, animal loving wife took the classes with Riggs. I went to the first couple classes to observe. Which was probably not a good idea because every time she noticed me she wanted to come visit. With Riggs over 70 pounds now (remember…this is ALL muscle) when she wanted to go – you followed.

It became readily apparent that we had no ‘control’. The stern Obedience Instructor suggested we may want to invest in a ‘prong’ collar – since Riggs did not seem to respond what-so-ever to the simple chain choke collar. Conveniently she sold them there…for only $20.00. So after about two classes of Riggs pulling my 120 pound wife around the room like a doll. We coughed up for the prong collar

The collar worked… a little. She still pulled – this dog’s threshold of pain is remarkable (remember that point, as it will affect decisions down the road).
But we could make it through a class, so we had hope. We did have to replace her lead (was it once or twice …I can’t remember) cuz she bit through it.
But by this point we were basically just hoping for a passing grade. The Stern Obedience Instructor nicknamed Riggs ‘Mr. Muscle’ (mistaking her for a male).

Riggs readily learned commands. But she had an attention issue. So many dogs, so little time to play. And she couldn’t seem to understand why none of the dogs wanted to play with her. If we weren’t so tired and frustrated I suppose it may have been sad or endearing.

The prong collar was helping to keep her from running like a maniac all over the room… but there was going to be no lying down, or sitting and staying when there was another dog right next to her to play with. It got so bad that other owners tried to position themselves away from us in the circle.
Suffice it to say we were not at the top of the class.

At the last class…the one where you find out if you pass (at this point we really just wanted it to be over). I needed to take over for my ailing wife.
I …we… were doing miserably. So bad in fact that once when Riggs jumped up on me, the ‘stern Obedience Instructor’ made me hold Riggs up by the front paws to teach her a lesson. I was to stand there holding her up, as the class continued on, until she told me to stop.
So here I am holding up the 75-pound unwilling beast. Who is gnawing politely at my fingers to get me to let go… until the apparently insane instructor felt like telling us to stop. After a short time my arms started to shake. I began to wonder just who was getting the lesson here. I was finally allowed to release her and we were both relieved. Although neither one of us was more obedient from it.

On the very verge of failing I remembered I had a pocket full of dog biscuits.
So I slipped her one.
She sat immediately and obediently at my side.
A short time later she poked me with her nose.
I slipped her another one. She sat like an angel.

We were then told to walk around the room in a circle. This was a common class exercise that on the last three attempts we managed to turn the entire room in to chaos.
But now… now we had a plan. I showed her the biscuit…palmed it and began walking. She followed my fist like a pro.
I stopped …she sat. I slipped her the biscuit. Perfect.

She must have had 30 of ‘em that night.

When it came time for the Stern Obedience instructor to walk around the room and give each of us a Pass/Fail. Riggs was sitting sweetly by my side. Poking my hip every so often for another biscuit. The instructor came up to us… looked at Riggs approvingly. She told me we passed, and isn’t it amazing how that technique of hers worked on such a wilfull and strong animal.


Ok. So – ‘bought $200 bucks, and 8 classes later… we still have no control.

Time for another plan.

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