Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Confession time: My pug isn't well trained and needs obedience class

sullen pouting pug

If you look at photos of Liam on this blog, he often looks like a clever, well-trained boy that sits nicely on command. He might seem like a gentle, mellow guy that just wants to please his person. Or he might seem comatose (as he does here). In short, he probably seems like a balanced and well-trained pug.

All lies.

You see, Liam tends to demonstrate the defiant part of the pug personality when we're out in public. At home, he tends to be gentle and sweet, and he's typically sleeping about 2 feet from my feet at any given moment (that's what he's doing right now, as a matter of fact). But when we leave the compound and there's another person present, all hell breaks loose.

Liam pulls on the leash, barks for attention, pees when he gets that attention and is (in general) a very hard dog to handle. He can sometimes come to his senses if I have a treat in my hand. But as soon as that treat has moved from my hand to his stomach, he's back to the badness again.

In the past, I've worked with him on this behavior. I took him all over the place: To Saturday market, to the Lucy Lab Brewpub, to pug meetups, to family gatherings and on vacations and trips. He was difficult, but we worked on it.

And then I got another dog that was just a little easier to handle in public. This little dog.

Sinead small the Boston terrier

Sinead naturally behaves in public. She's concerned about the other dogs around her, so she sticks closely to me. And she doesn't have much interest in other people, either, so I don't have to worry about crowd control. If I have her on the leash, she's paying attention to me.

And since I got Sinead, I've been taking the easy way out. I'll admit it.

I've been taking her places, and I've been leaving poor Liam at home. And his behavior has (not surprisingly) deteriorated.

This weekend, I took him to the Salem Willamutt Strut to benefit the Willamette Humane Society, and he was his predictably jolly and manic little self. He was terribly hard to control, and he was a little frustrating to train.

He, of course, had a wonderful time and celebrated with a little toy time when we got home from the whole thing. Where does he get the energy?

pug and dog toy

I talked with a trainer at the event, and I'm going to enroll Liam in a new class at Willamette Humane Society called "Check in and Chill Out." The idea is that he'll learn how to be in a room with other dogs and with people while paying attention to me, the human with the leash. It's a short class, but it should teach us both a lot. It starts in the fall.

And in the interim, Liam will be heading out on many more public adventures with me, the harried trainer. We'll work on paying attention and focus, and I'll whip out the clicker and try teaching him some new tricks we can throw out when he'd feeling anxious.

We can get through it, the pug and I. Of that, I'm sure.

But if you see us out and about in Oregon, do me a favor, okay? Toss me a word of encouragement? I think I might need it!

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