Life experience · Ms. Jordan Underfoot

On Training Jordan, Part 1

It’s funny, or at least it can be made mildly amusing for the sake of a blog post: Jordan the tiny face-biter, Lectering her way around our apartment complex. The reality gets to be a little…stressful. She seems very very intent at getting very very close to anything that moves, and then hanging on with her very very tiny teeth.

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Which is funny, in the abstract. But when we have to walk the other way because the young Indian family the next block over are walking their toddler our way, the thought that Jordan might actually be dangerous is not a comfortable one.

So that’s why, when a friend of mine recommended a dog training place nearby, we head over to take a look.

Once there, we quickly decide to commit. The first step is an orientation, so we sign up for that. Orientation consists of my wife and I, along with five or six other people, sitting in a semi-circle on stools that a primary school class would consider a little on the short side while a dog trainer tells us what’s what.

She takes us through the complicated route that dogs can take through their program: puppies can take these classes, experienced dogs go straight into those classes, psycho dogs have the option of individual training sessions, away from the temptation and blood-letting of a group. I squeeze my wife’s hand significantly at this news. She doesn’t notice as she has been handed a clicker – a little plastic do-dad that’s just a button set in a brightly colored oval. Press the button and it makes a loud, sharp CLICK sound. And it’s killing her to not click it.

And so she clicks it.

And everything goes quiet.

And then I am holding the clicker, as the responsibility is too much for her.

I’m no better, of course. I click it maybe three or four times before the orientation is done. No one else with a clicker seems to be having the problems we’re having with basic self-control. We’re clearly not ideal role models for over-excited dogs.

After our pep talk, we get homework: introduce the clicker into Jordan’s life. When she hears the noise, she gets a treat. Then, when she does something we ask her to do, we click the clicker so she hears the noise, and then she gets a treat. It’s basically how my youngest was toilet trained. I think I can handle this.

We walk out of orientation, past the rows of for-sale items, and I can’t stop looking at the rows and rows of animal parts. Turkey feet, cow trachea, kneecaps, sheep lungs, hooves. A reasonably skilled Dr Frankenstein could construct a whole animal from these parts. I’m tempted to give it a go myself.

We explain to the nice young lady at the front desk about our Jordan Problem and she quickly arranges for us to have an assessment with one of their trainers. The trainer will give the yea or nay on whether Jordan can be in a class with other dogs or must face her issues alone. It’s going to be a tense few days as she builds up to her review.

I spend the week telling people the obvious: Jordan is a killer and there’s no way she’s getting in a class with other dogs. And walking her around the apartment complex, dragging her away from temptation, and picking her up when she gets to be unmanageable, I know I’m right.

It takes five minutes with the trainer to show me I’m wrong.

At the assessment, the first test is what she does when faced with an unconvincing stuffed Alsatian toy. I let her off the lead as the trainer jerks the toy around in a way that does not remind anyone of how any actual dog moves.

Jordan bolts toward the fake dog and, in true Jordan fashion, she takes a nip in the general direction of the fake dog’s nose. And then, nothing. She wanders around, sniffs, walks back to us.

Yeah, but what about a real dog? The trainer has that one covered, too. She brings her puppy in. This puppy is the kind of big stupid dog that any right-thinking person adores: he’s all ears, and paws, and yaps, and excited vertical jumps. He loves Jordan, from across the room. He continues to love Jordan as he watches her race toward him. When she slides into him and makes a play for his nose, he adores her.

They play.

“She’s not vicious,” the trainer tells us. “If she was really going to bite him, she’d have done it by now.”

Yes, that does seem to be the case.

She’s just “playful”…she needs to calm down when she’s around other dogs, but she’s not evil. You know what doesn’t help a dog calm down? Being dragged away from the thing it’s trying to get to. You know what’s worse? Picking the dog up.

Jordan’s fine; it’s her parents that need the training.

And we’ll get it. We put our money down for 8 lessons. Jordan will be much better trained after that. And so will we.

On the way out, I bought two kneecaps for Jordan and John Henry. Because everyone should have the chance to chew on a cow’s kneecap at least once in their life.

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