Let's be honest here: the problem is you. Not your dog. You. Your dog is a damn dog, maybe even a bitch. You? You've got great intentions, but around your dog, you're like a 58-year-old ex-alcoholic who suddenly finds himself drunk again and holding the keys to the world's most-powerful military.
You treat your dog like a person, y'idiot, and the result is a dog that acts the way dogs would act on The O.C. if The O.C. featured real dogs and not just Julie Cooper.
(Stories abound, by the way—and I'm not saying they're true, only that they ought to be—that Trinity Broadcasting Network's Jan Crouch used to hand-feed her magenta-dyed poodle at a famous South Coast Metro eatery. And we wonder why husband Paul is gay?!)
The problem with your barking, gagging, shedding, biting, leg-humping, pissing, runaway, slobbering, randomly defecating dog, we say, is you. And so we turn to Kathy Morris, a co-owner of Jump Start Dog Sports. When Morris begins talking about the bond between humans and dogs, you get this image of a new species, canis erectus, standing upright in a circle around a kind of glowing orb like the sun or some utopia too bright to see clearly, paw in doughy-fisted paw with their human "partners," as Morris calls dog owners, the whole group of them singing like the Whos' "Welcome Christmas" in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
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It's what the hip-hop nation calls "positivity": Jump Start Dog Sports' 18 instructors teach 85 classes per week at a sprawling, campus-like training center in Yorba Linda, and not one of those classes involves kicking, yelling or choke chains. Dog owners—from as far as Oceanside and LA—come (as the center's motto has it) to build a bridge of trust between themselves and their dogs.
The engineering of that bridge has to do with re-education.
"Dogs don't come with rule books," Morris says. "They mostly want to please their owners."
She pauses over the word "please," and then points out that dogs don't come with values or human motives, either, but "live very much in the moment, repeating those things that got them attention."
She says, by way of example, that dogs who repeatedly jump on their masters may get pushed away. In human terms, the dog has just been told to go away; but in the dog world—where all dogs and a few humans we've dated live—"he's getting attention," Morris observes, "because you're touching him." So the jumping continues. The key, she says, is to "redirect natural behaviors into something we both like. Left alone in the back yard, that's not going to happen."
Jump Start Dog Sports classes begin for puppies just 10 weeks old (that's when they've had their shots), but it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks: Morris has hosted 11-year-olds.
"The difficulty there," she says, "is undoing what they already know at that age." Just like humans.
Jump Start Dog Sports, 4691 Valley View, Yorba Linda, (714) 985-1555.
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