Parenting skills, puppy-style

When I had my dog training premises in Nicholson St I used to run group puppy classes. I had put together a puppy “adventure playground” consisting of a play tunnel, and a climbing frame with various ramps and planks for the puppies to walk along. I encouraged the whole family to attend, so there were several couples, including one couple with a daughter of about five.

Of course the puppy adventure playground was very tempting for the small kids. I had already stopped a littlie from going through the tunnel, because the last thing I wanted was for a kid to go through the tunnel from one direction and meet a puppy coming from the other direction and have a panic in the middle. So when the five year old girl started climbing on the puppy equipment I said to her “I don’t want you to climb on that. It’s for puppies, it’s not strong enough for kids, and I don’t want you to have an accident and hurt yourself.” The little girl did what dogs do when they are having a good time in the park and the owner calls them. She exhibited selective deafness. She ignored me totally and went on playing. Her parents said nothing. Everyone in the class was silent and nobody moved. I thought “my credibility is on the line here. What am I going to do?”

Clearly I had given her what dog trainers might call a “command” or “request”, I had been reasonable and she was old enough to understand me. It is bad training practice to call your dog more than once. I teach my clients to give their dog one instruction, then follow through. So I calmly, without saying a word, and without any anger, walked over to the play equipment, picked the girl up in my arms, carried her over to the chairs and placed her gently on a seat next to her parents. No-one said a word. The girl looked dumbfounded. I doubt if anyone had done anything like that to her before. Then I got on with the class. There was not a peep out of the girl for the rest of the evening, It would have been a nice irony of the next thing we dealt with is calling your puppy – once only.

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