We don’t really have important jobs to do like sniffing at suitcases or trouser legs for hidden drugs. We’re never attached to leads or harnesses attached to arms wearing a uniform. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t all need a BIT of training. Everyone who knows us knows that we are extremely well-behaved girls when out and about or in and around. Mum is a firm believer in being the leader of the pack, but not in a horrible, ‘I’ll wallop you if you don’t do as you are told’ way, which is how she believes little Lucie was trained, or not trained really because Lucie is just plain terrified, of all sorts of things, even of feet if you sit down and cross your legs (= swinging foot = potential boot in the head), popping crisp packets when dad fancies a few salt-and-vinegars. This is not a good way for any animal, or human, to be. Feeling scared, not feeling safe and secure, confident and content, is bad. End of … just bad.
Mum is, we know, the leader of the pack. And dad? Well, we’re out on that one, although he does have his own special, very special, style of dog training. Fortunately, we know not to take it too seriously and always look to our mum for guidance. Basically, all she wants is for us to be safe, hence we know when to stop, stay and sit or lie down. We would never steal any food (Ella, are you fibbing?) and, although we love to rush outside barking, we wouldn’t hurt anyone and not one of us has ever bitten anyone. (Ella, what about that man in the black hoodie and black beanie who came round that day to give us a quote for something and walked straight through the gate past all the woofer signs? He kicked you. Did you bite him? Moi?)
‘The Hand’ is our mum’s most important training ‘tool’. She holds it up and we know to stop whatever we are doing, she drops it flat and we know to get down, sit down or lie down. Sometimes she snaps her fingers, sometimes she just adds ‘Stay’, or ‘Down’ if we are at the other end of a field or a room. She also believes in short, sharp attention-grabbing noises to attract our attention. We think she may have learnt this particularly useful training tool in the classroom in the olden days. And, finally, she believes that young, silly, unruly and very naughty puppies learn good manners and equally good behaviour from sensible older dogs. This is true.
Unfortunately, although Marnie-Sarnie-Mars-Bar, six months of age, would be calm, quiet and well-behaved (and know where to do her besoins) if we were still 5, the arrival of another 2 bairns has tout chamboulé a bit, just a bit. You can look at Marnie and know she is thinking, deliberating and cogitating, “Am I 6 months old and dead sensible like the original Fab 5 or am I 6 months old going on 3 months old like the existing Terrible 2 of the now 7 of us?” Mum’s not one for jumping in there, anywhere, without due consideration, without thinking things through, but even she is beginning to appreciate that we have inherited two of the naughtiest puppies in the history of puppies.
Feeding times – twice a day: absolute hell. She had, she thought, worked out a great little feeding routine. Feed puppies, then open door to dining room, scatter a few biscuits, they charge in to hoover up the goodies, close door, we get fed, all is calm and quiet ….
… then she thought, hang on, this is not leader-of-the-pack feeding, this is hoots-mon-these-puppies-are-the-hungriest-puppies-in-France-they-need-to-learn-some-manners feeding.
They leap up to the work surface, they jump, they fall over each other, they levitate up to the work surface, they try to grab the bag of biscuits, they try to grab the tin of meat, (brand name, all of it, Happy Dog, how appropriate is that?), they grab mum’s ankles, they whine, they twine, they wee in anticipation of Happy Dog, or Appie Dug, as their former French daddy called it, they, leaping and levitating, manage to spill one feeding dish, then two, so that everything ends up on the floor anyway. So this evening, after another day of incessant rain in our micro-climate village in SW France, jumping out of their little furry skins – faire nos besoins dehors? Tu plaisantes? – enough was enough and ‘The Hand’ appeared.
“If it takes an hour to feed you two beasties, so be it …. sit you will, wait you will, leap and levitate you will no longer.”
How quickly can an extremely hungry and extremely naughty puppy learn to look at ‘The Hand’, think about it for a wee while and then decide that ‘The Hand’ has to be obeyed?Seven of us in the utility room/ dog bedroom at around 4.30 this afternoon, five of us sitting (Kira struggling, but still a very good dog), and two of us still levitating and leaping. 10 minutes or so, maybe, perhaps, then …
‘The Hand’ had it because it has to be like that. Sorry bairns, but there are some rules, not many, just a few.
“We’re amazed,” we said,” will it work with our little wild cat in our nana’s bedroom? If you show her ‘The Hand’?”
“Are you mad? Maybe tucked into a heavy-duty welding glove.”