Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Education of Greyhound Phoebe, Chapter the First

in which Phoebe meets her teacher and learns to take food from people.

Phoebe started school today. She is the biggest dog in a class of very small dogs so if she sees farther than the other dogs, it is because she is surrounded by dwarfs. The other dogs are cute, nonagressive, and mostly well-behaved so it seems like a group that a shy dog like Phoebe will be able to handle.

The teacher spent most of the class just talking about her own dogs and her background as a trainer while the students got to know one another. Phoebe was a bit standoffish at first, but she warmed up to a toy poodle and the teacher’s pet – I mean that literally – a boxer. As the teacher spoke, she walked around the circle of dogs, handing treats to them until, by the time she was finished, she had their undivided attention.

In that time, she got a yipping dog to stop yipping, and a bouncy dog to sit. She also managed to get Phoebe to take the treats from her hand. I’ve been working on that since October and only last week did she do it and then only once. I had been concerned about this, but by the time we left, she was more than willing to take treats from my hand.

The first lesson was ‘watch-me.’ The object is to get the dog to look into your eyes without looking away for a minute and a half. I could get Phoebe to give me this undivided attention for about twenty seconds. She did it twice and then lost interest, but by then class was over. So that’s our homework: watch me.

Overall a good class. I got to preach the gospel of greyhounds to a group of curious people who’d never seen one before, and who were all quite taken with Phoebe’s appearance and calm, but friendly demeanor. Most importantly, we made a breakthrough in that she’ll take food from my hand now. Hopefully she’ll continue to shine.

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  1. I have honestly never understood the attraction of dog racing. Many tracks have been built around the upper midwest, and all have failed. I guess I am not the only one who wonders at the attraction

  2. i always wanted a dog growing up, but my parents never let me because they said it was too much work. so i got a cat instead. i love my cat, but i can’t help wishing i had a dog. i don’t know much about greyhounds, but what i do know is that they seem like great dogs – kind, affectionate, noble. what’s phoebe like?

  3. Training classes are amazing. It boggles my mind how much of an animal’s behavior is learned (if inadvertantly) from its owner. Just yesterday I heard someone claiming they could recognize even the “accents” of a dog’s park and give a rough estimate of where in the U.K. the dog lived.

  4. Watch me is a lot more fun if you hold a treat up next to your temple, and every time Phobe starts to look away just wiggle it a little. Well, a lot more fun for Phoebe that is, but that’s the point, right?

  5. Mallory, It’s a hideous business. For humorous commentary about track closings and the evils – and i do mean evils – of racing greys, check out Ironicus’ blog every Friday.

    Joey, You’re right. Greys are fantastic, and many people who love cats say that in many ways greys are more like cats than dogs. Our cat is more like a dog than either of our greys. We got Phoebe about the time I started blogging so she’s been the subject of many posts. She’s great, and you can read about her exploits here.

    Jessica, I think dogs especially are learners. They learn most dog behavior from each other.

    Ironicus, I agree that training should be fun mostly for her. In fact, that’s a big reason why I’m doing this. I think she needs mental stimulation.

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