Who's Training Whom?
Ursa Minor, Hellhound of Love,
Hippopittimus With a Thousand Adjectives, Little Bear Brody, Esquire
My younger dog, Bear hates it when I play the guitar. He is certain that the time I might spend making repetitive sounds the thing could be better used playing with him. He learned when he was just a puppy that if he brings a rubber ball to me and presses it to the strings, he can prevent me from getting the good sounds out of the guitar and will eventually give up and put it away until he is asleep.
Recently, I picked up my instrument and began putzing around with a blues-in-G thing that I’ve been putzing around with for years. Bear stretched down off the couch, retrieved a rubber toy and used it to prevent the strings from singing.
I set aside the guitar. I engaged in some of his favorite games including, Slow Pursuit Around the Coffee Table and Awkward Ball Tug. Then, just to remind him that I am alpha, I used the sharp “drop” command to get him to release the ball and then threw it up the stairs for him to retrieve it. We tugged some more. We did some Keep Away in which he joyously prevented me from getting the ball back. Again, I asserted authority with a sharp, “Sit!” “Drop!” He complied. I picked up the ball had him back up a few steps and sit back down. I tossed it to him to catch before resuming the games that centered on him having the ball and me wanting it.
I congratulated myself on the work I had done with Bear, teaching him these commands, figuring out how he learns and how he plays. I congratulated myself on my ability to command and control my dog even in the midst of energetic play. I felt powerful and masculine having this kind of dominance over my dog, who had told me I was not allowed to play guitar.