Training Mr. Milton

August 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

Meet Milton (a.k.a. Mr. Milton, Milt, “The Ton”). He is our four year old Chowbrador. He weighs just under 85 pounds, loves chewing and licking rawhide bones, and hates when people talk outside our house. Milton has been, Robert and I say with all the love in our hearts, driving us crazy all day today.

My mom gave him a bag of gigantic rawhide bones a few weeks ago–a whole bag, all to himself! Before Robert and I were married, Robert had two roommates, one of whom had a fifty-pound mutt. Milton had to share. But now, now Milton gets to eat his rawhide bones in peace, without the threat of some other dog coming up and taking it away from him. But I won’t hesitate to.

This afternoon, before Robert and I left to go to my sister’s duplex for her birthday dinner, I walked up to Milton as he chewed on his last rawhide bone of the bag. As I came nearer to him, I noticed he hunkered down over the bone, pinned his ears back, and gave a soft growl. I don’t abide growling of any sort, and particularly in cases when he’s showing aggression over food or toys. One day, Robert and I will have children, and those children will want to play with the doggy while he’s eating or while he’s playing with his toys. They will tug on his ears, pull his toys away from him, and tease him. He will have to deal with it, and I will absolutely not tolerate any aggression toward any human family member. Every time Milton growls, these are the very thoughts that flood my mind. So this afternoon, when Milton growled at me over his rawhide bone, I decided that he had to be disciplined. I stood closer to him and told him to “drop it.” He hunkered down even lower, pressing his jaw against the rawhide bone, pinned his ears until they disappeared beside his head, and growled much louder. I told him “No!” and smacked him on the rump. He growled again, not moving away from the bone. I grabbed him by the collar and told him to get up; he wriggled out of his collar and went to hunker down again, which is when I snatched the bone away from him.

Of course, I pause here to say that, with Milton specifically, I have been able to reach under him and snatch away toys or bowls of food when he becomes possessive over them. I know that doing that is not recommended generally because dogs have been known to bite their owners in those situations. I trust Milton, and I trust that he understands our relationship to one another. Sometimes he just forgets.

So I snatched the bone away from him, and I made him lay down until he calmed down. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend disciplining him because we needed to get to dinner, so Robert put Milton’s rawhide bone on the countertop, and we told him that he lost his toy privileges. When we got home, I thought maybe Milton had earned it again. I made him go through some exercises before I handed it over, but once I did, he ran with it and growled aggressively at one of the cats (who obviously have absolutely no interest in the damn bone). I took it away from him again and this time made him go through a much more rigorous set of exercises, including making him lay all the way down (with his nose on the floor) while I stood several feet back with the bone in my hand. Only after he got to a point where he stopped staring at the bone and relaxed his body did I return the bone to him.

I’m a cat person primarily. I love both dogs and cats, of course, but I’ve only ever owned cats. Disciplining cats is a lot easier than dogs–get a little water pistol and spritz them while making a scary sound (like a high-pitched squeak), and they’ll stop doing what they’re doing. Cats tend to keep to themselves in general and don’t cause too much trouble. Disciplining cats is typically less physical and more mental. Dogs, however, seem to require a touch of some kind and physical demands (laying down, staying, etc.), which is a foreign concept to me.

I’m learning how to train Milton…and maybe in the process, I’m being trained too.

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