Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "He Ran into a Taxi!" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

He Ran into a Taxi!

by Charlotte Peltz

When I first heard that comment it reminded me of the Spanish language way of avoiding responsibility -- "The keys lost themselves." "The cup broke itself."

Dogs do not run into taxis. Taxis run into dogs. And, the only dogs that taxis can run into are dogs that are off leash and out of control. One area of control that is a lifesaver is to teach a dog to NEVER go out of a door without permission, and to not go out of a door before its owner. That means any door. Doors to the patio, doors to the street, car doors. While it is not difficult to teach such manners, it clearly does require some time and effort on the part of the dog owner, and it is amazing how few dog owners care enough about their dogs to teach the lesson.

To begin with, the dog must be leash trained and understand how to pay some attention to the person on the other end of the leash. Presuming we have that prerequisite, let's go! Head for the door with the dog on a snug leash -- not charging out in front of you. When you get to the door, begin to open it and if the dog starts to charge through it, close it quickly. At first, say nothing. When you begin to see some hesitation on the part of the dog say, "Wait!" (Say it softly, please. Your dog does not have a hearing problem.) Repeat the door opening and closing exercise. If the dog shows some form of restraint say, "Good, wait!" in a happy voice and give a treat.

Continue to repeat the exercise until the dog can sit quietly while you open the door all the way. Give a treat, lots of praise, close the door, remove the leash and release the dog. No, you are not going for a walk. This is the "Door Exercise."

Repeat this exercise several times a day, and begin to include this training with all the doors. At first you will probably need to have a leash on the dog, but after a short time your dog will begin to have some manners. Or, it could be a long time if your dog isn't very bright or believes he is in charge of the household!

When you have respect and attention with the "front door," it is time to actually exit it. The dog now sits quietly while the door opens and closes. You tell your dog, "Wait!" while you take a step forward. If the dog moves, you close the door and repeat lesson number one. IF the dog does not move, step back, praise and treat. Then take two or three steps returning to praise your patiently (or impatiently!) awaiting dog. Even if you are able to make it all the way through the door, you must return to the dog, praise and treat several times before actually giving the dog permission to exit.

Turn right around and practice returning quietly through the same door! Yup. You aren't going anywhere yet. This is still "Door Exercise." Quit after two or three successes.

Now that the dog is quietly attentive about exiting the door it is time to add some distractions. You can begin with having some friend standing outside the doorway talking happy talk to the dog, encouraging it to charge out. It would be unfair at this point to have the friend actually using the dog's name and telling it to come, but anything just short of that is fine. When the dog remains quiet with that distraction, close the door and end the exercise with lots of praise and treats.

Depending on your dog's weak points, begin to increase the difficulty factor. It may be that someone is bouncing a ball right outside the doorway. Maybe it is another dog. Or, it could be a bicycle that goes back and forth.

Whatever your dog is inclined to find irresistible is what you need for proofing your dog so that when the door opens, no matter what is out there, s/he awaits permission before exiting.

It is very important to practice this exercise with car doors so that you never have to worry about a dog leaping out of the car door into the path of an oncoming car. Remember to praise all successes and give lots of treats. After all -- no one wants to work without compensation!

Joy's note: The streets of San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico, where Charlotte lives, are home to many dogs. Charlotte's advice to me was to buy a hefty, hardwood shovel handle, and carry it when walking my two dachshunds. Street dogs respect no broomstick!

We were unable to do that, because, when we arrived in San Miguel, we had not figured out the locks on our rental house and the unthinkable happened: Edgar escaped within the first ten minutes of our arrival! After Brian miraculously found him charging out of a sewer two miles away, and then miraculously found a vet who spoke a bit of English and would see our boy at 4:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve, Edgar spent the next seven weeks recuperating, while Lizzie looked on. Brian thinks the well-fed butcher shop dog (a block & a half from our place) saw Edgar, and thought, "Little Americano wienie -- yum!" Edgar was happy to be running after having spent five days riding behind the seat inside our truck. That dog took a 3" x 5" piece of skin from Edgar's inner thigh while he was trying to castrate him! Whew! He's lucky to be alive!!! And we are lucky to have found him and -- Dr. Hector Garcia Valenzuela.

Had I known about "Door Exercise," and trained Edgar on it, none of this would have happened! By the way, Edgar healed perfectly and the vet and penicillin bills were only totaled $60US dollars.

In U.S. suburban areas, we are fortunate to have leash laws, but if you travel with your dogs to Mexico, or any other country where dogs are often looked upon as a disposable commodities, the information in this article could come in handy. It is basic good sense.

Charlotte's note: "The reality, of course, is that dogs get killed all over the U.S. because they bolt from doors. A big difference here is that the street is most often just two feet from the door instead of a large lawn area away."

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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