Puppy Class

by Anne Bennett on February 1, 2011

This is what happens when Champ says, "Sit!"

Cesar Millan, AKA The Dog Whisperer, says that he rehabilitates dogs and he trains people. Having spent the last eight weeks in puppy class with my six-month old standard poodle, Julia, I’ve learned that Cesar was on to something.

Case in point: my husband Champ accompanied Julia and me to class one week. As we waited for class to begin, Champ ordered Julia to sit.

“Sit!” Champ said. Julia stared at him. “Sit! Sit!” More staring. “Sit, Julia, Come now, sit!” He whispered to me, “This dog doesn’t even know how to sit!”

Tim the trainer came over and calmly said to Champ. “Dogs don’t understand English. All Julia hears is your voice sounding like a stuttering Porky Pig: ‘Sss, Sss, Sssit.”

“Give the  command only once,” Tim added, “and then use your hand to guide her.” Tim looked down at Julia, gently said, “Sit,” and made a backward motion with his hand. Kerplunk!  Julia’s butt hit the floor.

Whoa, I thought. I’d better bring Champ to more classes. He needs lots of training.

Cesar suggests that the only way to have a healthy relationship with our dogs is to assume the role of a calm, assertive leader. When the dog sees that we are calm and in charge, he willingly yields to the commands of the human pack leader.

One of my Weight Watcher members recently wrote me a note in which she stated that Cesar’s training techniques can be useful in helping to manage out-of-control junk food eating. She suggested that highly palatable, processed foods can easily take control of us, especially when our emotional defenses are down. What we need to do in those circumstances, she said, is to follow Cesar’s advise and assume the role of calm, assertive leader.

That makes sense to me. However, I am not a good role model for this type of behavior. When I come unglued my modus operandi is to stop breathing deeply, which deprives my brain of sufficient oxygen to remain calm, at which point my voice takes on a loud, shrew-like quality that is not pleasant.

It’s no wonder that my poodles bark hysterically and act like raving, jumping maniacs when someone comes to the door. They’ve learned how to behave from me. And the reason Julia can’t sit still when I’m taking her picture? Again, she takes her cues from her pack leader. Let’s see. Who would that be?

I’m not sure that I like what I’ve learned from this exercise.  Am I…untrainable?

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Linda February 2, 2011 at 5:07 am

When I was teaching full-time, I took the Fred Jones Tools for Teaching seminar, and one of the most important concepts was “Calm is power.” It definitely worked in the classroom….now, why can’t I apply it to my eating behaviors? Need to work on that!

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