The house training was not amusing, but we did it with a big giant crate, wireless electric fence, lots of patience and unhappy tone of voice when he went on the floor. He learned
pretty fast. Which would have been awesome if it had not been in the dead of winter during one of the most gigantic ice storms I can remember in the South. One of us (generally me) would get bundled up, slide around on the ice in the back yard trying to get Sawyer to do his business only to have him do it right when we got back inside. Eventually he caught on. We also did a family puppy training class, which was mostly for the children.
The most important thing I think our family is doing to have a well-behaved dog is his exercise. Cesar Millan stresses the importance of exercise in his books and on his show, the Dog Whisperer which is a real trip. Note to mothers: I have seen this show only a few times at my parents' house and am not confident about the overall morality content.
But I like that Mr. Millan says if you had to choose between food or exercise for your dog that day, choose exercise. I take Sawyer on my two-mile morning runs with me, and he's a pretty happy dog the rest of the day. If I don't go running, one of the children takes him on a shorter walk. We hardly even notice we have a dog around here, he is so sweet and good after all that exercise.
Our only long-term problem area to overcome with our dog has been his misguided belief that visitors to our home find it charming to have a 100 pound golden retriever greet them enthusiastically. I love Sawyer, and not even I want him freaking out all over me. His annoyingly excited greetings to visitors were really causing me stress. I did not want to cave and put him away in a bedroom every single time we had guests. I wanted him to learn to co-exist with people and not have a total spaz attack.
"What I need is a tazer gun," I thought. "When Sawyer starts freaking out over visitors, I'll blast him."
After many months of enduring this stressful problem and daydreaming about tazer guns, it finally hit me one day. I hadn't prayed about it. So I asked God please to give me wisdom and tell me what to do, to get Sawyer to chillax when people came to visit.
The very next day I got an idea. Now that is not coincidence; you and I know that plain as day. God is frustratingly quiet but that’s just like Him, to stick an idea in my head that I know would not have been there if I hadn’t prayed. No booming loud voice from the clouds or angelic choirs bestowing grand song. Just an idea in my head that wasn’t there before I prayed. This is how our Heavenly Father operates.
Here’s the Lord’s idea. Twist Sawyer’s collar. Really give it a good twisty-yank to be uncomfortable. That was just like my tazer idea, only humane. It worked great. It's similar to the way mother dogs discipline their dog children in the wild. I had to do the collar twist possibly twice when people came over. One member of the family would go to the front door to greet the visitors politely, while I gracefully and smilingly body slammed this dog in the background.
Now, when the doorbell rings, all I have to do is give Sawyer the evil eye and point in his face with my finger for a second. He gets the message. I'll twist his collar if he even thinks about falling all over himself at a guest. He is fully aware of this.
Last Halloween, we had some trick or treaters come in and out of our yard while our family sat on the front porch with Sawyer. He was such a good boy and just lay there patiently while people came and went. I intermittently gave him the death glare, and that kept him in line. A man we’d never met before walked his children to our porch to get some candy. The man said, “Is your dog really old or just very well trained?
If he only knew.