Now that I have a dog, I figure I ought to start training him. I decided this when we first introduced him to our yard, and, without hesitation, he proceeded to trample my wife’s begonias. With him around, it seems her garden is about as risky a place to plant flowers as the trading pit of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Things like this make you wonder how in the world dogs and people ever got off to such a chummy relationship. Left to their own devices, dogs will go off doing only the things that they want to do, which are the direct opposite of what people want them to do. You want the dog to fetch your slippers. The dog wants to turn your slippers into mulch.
Fortunately, dogs can be trained to resist their banal instincts and behave in a manner more in tune with their owners’ desires. If it weren’t for this, dogs might be considered on the same level as other members of the animal kingdom that we classify as vermin, right there with Congressional lobbyists.
Having no idea how to teach a dog to respect things like begonias and slippers, I turned to that great treasury of collective human knowledge—the Internet—the same place where I learned how the Virgin Mary’s image routinely appears on grilled cheese sandwiches.
My search landed me on YouTube, where I found a goldmine of dog training videos. There’s an impressively large collection from a young New Orleans trainer named Zak George. His videos show you how to teach a dog anything imaginable, up to and including math. I envisioned how cool it would be to take Buster into a restaurant and have him calculate the tip.
But that would be getting ahead of things. First, he needed to learn some respect for begonias, and fast. If I fail to teach him, the next thing my wife plants in her flowerbed would be a tombstone with my name on it.
Fortunately, Zak had me covered, with a video where he teaches a dog to “leave it.” In the video, he throws a piece of meat in front of the dog and then says to him, “Leave it!” Amazingly, the dog just sits there with the meat under his nose, regarding it as he might the op-ed page of the New York Times. (That is, if he hadn’t yet been through Zak’s playlist on “Teach Your Dog Political Science.”)
I was anxious to apply Zak’s revolutionary training concepts out on Buster, but, alas, he’d seen to it that there were no more begonias to teach him to “leave.” I thought about teaching him “leave it” using some plastic flowers, but figured that would work no better than rehabbing a cocaine addict by putting a box of baking powder in front of him and saying, “don’t snort!”
Still, Zak’s channel covers lots of other concepts that Buster can learn, such as “Sit”, “Stay”, “Play Dead”, and “Play Three-Dimensional Chess.” With all these videos, I could end up with the smartest dog in the neighborhood. That’s if I could only get him to sit still long enough to watch them.