Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Newspaper Training

Meet Herman.  He is the newest member of our family.  Or at least he was until he went off to work with my dear husband to be part of an office-wide practical joke. 

But let me tell you the whole story....

One day last week, my husband came home from work and said, "I have an art project for you."  Curious, I asked more about it.  Apparently, it is a tradition in his company that if anyone goes on vacation for more than a week, it is the responsibility of those left behind to "decorate" their office!  It is a long-standing tradition.  And some really wild things have been done in the past.   Herman was going to be part of one of these jokes and I was happy to help.

But I never knew making a newspaper man was so hard.  I didn't just want to stuff the clothes (that we picked up a the local thrift store) with newspaper.  That always looks too unnatural.  So I started out to "sculpt" a real human form.  I had lots of packing tape and lots of newspaper.  I laid it all out on the living room floor and worked for several hours on it.

Incidentally, Fritz was running around the house happily the whole time I worked with the newspaper on the floor.  He paid me no heed.  And he thought nothing of the newspaper as I wadded it up and taped it into shape over and over again.

When I was finally finished with my great sculpture--and had dressed Herman in his clothes (which actually felt kinda creepy of me,) I carefully lifted him up into the chair to examine my great "artwork."

I didn't even have time to stand back and look, before Fritz went completely insane.  He started barking ferociously at Herman.  The hackles on his back stood straight on end--something I had never seen before, and it was pretty impressive--seeing as he has such long white fur.

To Fritz's dismay, everyone in the room started laughing hilariously at him.  Here he was trying to save us all from the evil entity that had appeared out of nowhere, and his whole family was giggling uncontrollably. 

I decided to do an experiment.  I laid Herman back down on the living room floor.  Fritz calmed down immediately.  Then I stood him up again on the chair.  Instantly Fritz went crazy again. 

That's when I turned to the dark side of pet ownership.  I couldn't help it.  I knew it was wrong.  But it was just so funny!  I made Herman move.  I stood him up and wiggled his arm. 

Poor Fritz just about had a heart attack.  He ran from the room with his tail between his legs.  Then barking incessantly, he came back for more. 

All this time, my son and his wife and Rachael were laughing so hard they were starting to cry and fall off the couch.

I thought maybe if Herman threw Fritz his ball, he would see him as a friend.  So I picked up his ball and put it in Herman's hand and threw it for Fritz. 

Sadly, this only confused the poor dog further.  The evil newspaper ghost had touched HIS ball.  His basic instincts were in complete competition.  Should I run after my ball?  Or should I stand guard against the evil one? 

Feeling guilty for laughing so heartily at his distress, I decided to put him in his room to help him calm down.  I closed him behind his gate, but he could still SEE Herman's feet through it.  And he still knew he was there.  And so he still stood guard, barking and barking.

That's when I saw the rolled up newspaper that we recently have used to try to train Fritz to be a better dog.  The loud sound a rolled up newspaper makes when whacked on the floor beside a dog is supposed to capture their attention and make them listen to you.  I thought about how unsuccessful those attempts had been in training Fritz to stop barking, or to stop jumping up, or to stop stealing food from the garbage can, or to stop doing ANYTHING.  I looked at that rolled up newspaper.  Then I looked at Herman.

And suddenly, the title of a whole new dog training manual came to mind.


The rolled up newspaper had been pretty ineffective.  But HERMAN could capture Fritz's attention VERY well.  

Lucky for Fritz, Herman went off to work with my husband the very next day.  And I never got to try my new training methods.  ; )

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