Today I learned that my silly “talking to my dog” training method really worked and paid off.
When I moved into this neighborhood a decade ago with Murphy and Sophie, I was concerned that they didn’t know where they were and if, God forbid, they ever got out somehow, they wouldn’t know their way home. I have a 2nd story condo in a lot of buildings that look very much alike. I know dogs use scent cues too, but if their scent skills were infallible we wouldn’t have so many lost dogs. I didn’t want them to have to think too hard about where to go, so we ended every walk with, “Let’s go HOME!” and then after a week or so, I’d say “Let’s go HOME!” and let them lead. It actually took a bit, especially in the dark, and there was sniffing involved, but eventually they’d lead the way with confidence.
When I adopted Gidget I used the same technique, “Let’s go to Gidget’s House!” “Let’s go home, Gidget!” to get her used to her new neighborhood.
Today, she demonstrated she’d mastered the lessons.
We were outside on her mid-morning poopwalk. (She’s lucky her mom works from home and can deal with a little dog’s colon that activates around 10 a.m.) So we were out taking care of her business, when I heard yelling from around the corner. One of my neighbors has an adorable and energetic Corgi pup, I think he’s around 6 months old now? Maybe a bit older, but under a year for sure. Pup came running around the corner dragging his leash, being chased by his retiree daddy, a man who is, shall we say, neither young nor built for speed.
I saw the pup and called him by name, and he happily charged over to me. I picked up his leash, and then he saw Gidget and was like, “WHEEE! A NEW FRIEND!” and charged at her. Gidget liked him when he was a teeny baby puppy smaller than she is, but he’s now more than twice her size and has no respect for personal space. He charged her, and her bones became liquid and she slid right out of her harness and took off. I have no idea how old she really is, but she can move like a young dog. I also think maybe she really is double-jointed.
So I’m holding a leash with an empty harness on the end, and a Corgi going, “But I want to be FRIENDS!!” at her retreating back when Corgi Dad came puffing up, thanked me, and took his leash, as Gidget ran like hell.
And I watched as she turned up the correct driveway to our courtyard seconds later. I told the Corgi Dad she’s fine, she took herself home. When I got there she was on the front balcony, totally happy and un-stressed, and feeling she deserved a treat. She was quite proud of herself, and I was proud of her. Even when she was scared out of her harness and her wits, she knew how to find Gidget’s House.