I have three rescue dogs. They are all trained as service dogs under the international Public Access and AKC Canine Good Citizen training programs. Training them involves doing the same thing with them day after day so they get the picture of what’s required. So I’ve come up with two awards programs: Dog at Large and Dog of the Day. My tongue is firmly in my cheek as I relate my experience with these programs. Don’t try this at home.
Dog at Large is the dog allowed to be off leash while the other two are held on leads during our dawn walk. The Dog at Large has to prove that if we get a ticket, he’s trained to sit, stay, and go down, doesn’t bark at the officer, and is clearly being obedience trained during his sojourn ten feet from me. The City of Phoenix has given Dog at Large tickets to all the dogs at one time or another, a pastime they must find as amusing as I find the times I spend at Municipal Court defending them as service dogs in training, because they keep repeating their behavior.
One of my dogs is an 11-year-old golden retriever, one’s a sort of American Eskimo dog (spitz) mix, and one’s a shitzu-poodle mix. All different sizes, shapes, and personalities.
Buppy, the golden, is a zen dog. He vanishes for minutes at a time, sneaks into the lake to have a swim, and appears to be sleep walking. Don’t be deceived. He never fails to present for a walk or a feeding. Never. He hears food from a half acre away. But on a walk, he presents like an old man who can barely keep up with us. He’s been ticketed for lying down in the park.
Sammy, the spitz, is a whack job. Even at 7, he has so much energy and anxiety that he chases his tail half the day. The other half he chases me, so full of separation anxiety that he even sleeps on the other pillow on my bed, eyes open, in case I sneak out on him during the night. Sammy has been ticketed for Dog at Large, although he never leaves my side.
And Bruce, the little white dog, is 12 pounds of 2-year-old puppy. Piercing small white dog bark, and the knowledge that he can do anything a big dog can do (he plays regularly with my roommate’s German shepherdess). Bruce has been ticketed for Dog at Large when he was sitting at my feet.
Dog of the Day is a different story. I instituted Dog of the Day so I could get more steps toward my 10,000 steps in the morning. After we all come home from the group walk in the park, I take one lucky dog with me around the neighborhood. I rotate them in a specific order that seems quite apparent to me. First Buppy, then Sammy, then Bruce. You can call it according to age, or you can call it according to size. But it’s a rotation.
However, the dogs don’t know that. After the first few days, when I started to leave the house again, each one flung himself against the door yelling “I just know I’m Dog of the Day.” Buppy jogged to the door like the puppy he used to be, Sammy hurled himself, and Bruce snuck around the outside like a point guard. I had to institute a policy in which all of them can run out of the house together, and I choose the DOD outside, conveying the other two back in on their leashes.
Dog of the Day appears to be the award with the most fierce competition, although the DOD always walks on a leash because he’s perambulating in the neighborhood. It’s the DAL that gets to sniff around in the park and pee wherever he wants. This has taught me that it’s not freedom that makes DOD so special, it’s spending quality time in training with mom.