Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dissing Your Dog

When I adopted Laney at nine weeks old (and I was 21), I read every type of puppy training material I could get my hands on, and I was mostly successful in my attempts. However, there was still a disconnect with Laney when it came to correcting bad behavior, because she never seemed to recognize that she had done something wrong, even as I'm pointing it out to her. Finally, out of sheer frustration, whenever she did something wrong, I would give her a dirty look, make a snide remark, and then ignore her for an hour. So, when she would trot over to me, wagging her tail, wanting attention, moments after ripping the berber carpet up in my apartment, I pretended she was invisible, and it broke her little puppy heart.

I know. I'm shaping up to be the villain of this blog post. But come on, it's not like I slapped her. Ok, I'm not helping my case here. I got the idea from Dr. Phil (I know, I know). He says that when disciplining your child, you have to "define their currency" and use that currency to reward and punish. Basically, if your kid loves his XBox, and he's misbehaving, you don't beat his ass. You take away his XBox. He learns that you hold the keys to the things he holds dear, and that he must obey you to gain access to those things. I thought I'd apply this principle to my four-month-old puppy. Laney's currency is human interaction--preferably with me. Once I withheld my attention, and only acknowledged her when she was being good, she figured out how to be good all the time, so that I would always pay attention to her. I think my unconventional form of dog discipline could be categorized as "shunning". Shunning is something I learned about from Dwight Schrute.
So I guess from time to time I did slap Laney. With silence.

Turns out I'm not the only person to think of this. Will Ferrell filmed a fake commercial on Saturday Night Live for a puppy training video called Dissing Your Dog: How to Train Your Puppy with Mockery and Verbal Humiliation. He explains, "A well-placed sarcastic comment or cutting remark can work wonders where rolled up newspaper fails."

It's true: "There's one thing stronger than a dog's sense of smell: his sense of irony.

I never used Will Ferrell's exact verbiage when mocking and ridiculing my puppy, but I used some colorful language of my own, always in a calm, measured tone of voice:
  1. While driving past the Chinese restaurant on College Street, I informed her that today's special is Sweet and Sour Laney, and that I'd be dropping her off at their back door (this really seemed to get her attention. Sometimes I still tell her the specials. Kung Pao Laney. Moo Shu Laney. Laney Fried Rice.)
  2. I threatened to break up with her in the most dramatic rose ceremony ever.
  3. My brother would tell her, "Your mother is a whore, and your father holds the money. And, oh yeah--you're adopted."
That poor puppy. No wonder she turned out to be so weird. But that's neither here nor there. Laney was acting like a real jerk today, so for the first time in a long time, I had to Diss My Dog. Worked like charm...
[I'm typing on the computer. Laney is sitting in the floor beside me and startles me with an abrupt, aggressive bark]

Me: Whoa! [jumping in my seat] You scared me!

[I smile at Laney, and she avoids eye contact. That means she's ashamed of something. Puzzled, I look down and see Robinson crawling in front of her]

Me: Wait...was that directed at my child? Really? If you don't want to be around him, then you can leave the room!

[Laney lowers her ears and looks up at me with sad eyes, but I'm unmoved because this is the second time it's happened]

Me: Guess what, Laney, you were a baby once. And just so you know, when you were a baby, nobody liked you! Yeah, imagine that. My roommates despised you, my entire family wanted me to take you to the pound, and our other dogs wanted nothing to do with you. I was the only person who was on your side. And now look at you.
The outcome: Laney has spent the afternoon casually lingering in my line of sight, giving me contrite looks, and tip-toeing around the house (yes, she can tip-toe. If you don't believe me, just ask Steve). While we're on the subject, if you're wondering if my dramatic re-telling of events are ever exaggerated, I want to assure you that I am fully capable of flamboyant storytelling without sacrificing accuracy. That is all.

1 comment:

  1. The second I read your title of this post, I immediately thought back to my best of SNL, Will Ferrell. May have to go home and watch that now :)