Sun, 21 May 2000

Potty-training a pooch a puzzling predicament

By E. Effendi

JAKARTA (JP): There are many people who consider their pet to be a member of their family. And I have to admit that I am one of them.

I always agree with people who say that dogs are man's best friend. In fact, sometimes I think a dog is the best friend that a man can have, even better than other regular friends, such as their coworkers.

Take this example. If one morning when you wanted to go to the office, you found out that your car would not start and there was no way that you could get a taxi at that hour, would your coworker pick you up and drive you to your office? Would he take the risk that he might be late to the office, too? Of course he would not. And neither would your dog. But at least it would loyally lick your face while you called your boss to tell him why you could not make it to your office ("Because my car broke down ... SLURP!! ... No, my car does not lick me...SLURP!!")

Or would your best friends listen to your explanation about how you rearrange your office files? No. But your dog would listen to it for the whole day while at the same time give you the look that said, "Oh, right! I should have done the same with my flea files!"

Yes, dogs are cute, loving and compassionate. They would accompany you every time you feel lonely, they wait for you at your door whenever you leave and they hump your leg whenever you bring your date home.

You can only have that kind of excitement if you have trained your dogs extensively while they are still puppies. Unfortunately, not every dog has the same intelligence as Lassie, who obviously is the smartest animal in his small town. In fact, if you watch the show regularly, you can see that Lassie is the smartest creature in that whole town, much smarter than all the town residents who always get trapped inside abandoned mines or pinned under a tractor every week. Most dogs in real life, however, do not have enough intelligence to run from the living room to the front porch without bumping into anything.

Without proper obedience training, your dogs might ignore your words and do these things: a) bark at any moving objects they see b) bark at any sound that they hear c) bark at nothing at all.

I have trained my dog for several months. And now, all I have to do is just simply shout, "Come here doggie, here!" and within seconds my dog will continue to lay down and gaze at me in confusion.

I tried all the technique that I heard about, to which my dog watched with his alert look without having any idea why. Somehow he never followed my instructions, especially when you want to teach them the most important and basic dog's obedience lesson, which is where to deposit their massive daily output.

If there were Nobel Prizes for dogs, the first of them would be given to the dog that never pees on the living room floor. I am pessimistic that there would be any dog that could receive that award because they can never resist the temptation of peeing inside the house, and you do not give an award to anything that drinks from the toilet.

Although some of you may disagree, I have to say that dogs have the intelligence of a biscuit when choosing their natural bathroom. That was my conclusion after I failed to housetrain my dog a thousand times.

"Pee here!" I would shout sternly to the dog while pointing at our backyard. It was the training technique used for many years to prove that dogs could not understand any English. My dog would then put his hangdog look on. Somehow his raisin-size brain was able to figure out that it was the perfect time for the dog's famous guilty expression, the one that made me believe that he finally understood me. He actually did, in a way, because now he always runs and hides out in the backyard after leaving his calling card on my carpet.

Later I found out that the most common technique in that area was to take him out every morning. This is the ritual for every dog owner in the world so that their dogs could pee in their neighbor's yard instead of theirs. But then they have to wake up early every morning, put on their running shoes, run with their dogs, and watch them sniff every object in their path to find the trace of other dog's pee. Boring, isn't it?

Look at it on the bright side; at least if some space aliens decided to rule our planet, they would first aim their laser at the dogs and we would be safe. Because after they investigated our community, they would conclude that dogs were the ruling race in this world, while men and women were only the servants who were dragged all over the park and sometimes cleaned up the mess when the dogs did their busy daily activities, such as pooping and sniffing other ruling races' behinds.

Now I have stopped taking my dog out every morning to give my sleep a little slack. So, if you have any suggestion on how to teach my dog, please call me. And when you do that, please talk a little louder, because I cannot hear you with all the barking in the background.