December 4, 2007

How to housetrain a dog

Photo by Gordon M. Grant for the New York Times.

Whatta ya think I'm gonna share my secrets? Fuhgeddaboudit! I'm packing my bags and moving to Manhattan --- gonna housetrain the dogs of hedge fund managers. Gonna make a mint.
Mr. Strict’s recommendation for solving Steffi’s housebreaking problem was much more onerous — on us. He said we had to make Steffi sleep in her crate at night with the door closed instead of on the bed. (“Dogs don’t like to soil where they sleep,” he noted.) He also wrote out a detailed schedule that called for us to feed Steffi twice a day and take her out for walks three times a day at exactly the same times.

“Hiring a dog trainer won’t solve your problems,” Mr. Strict said. “This process is 70 percent owner and 30 percent dog. You have to make a commitment to doing the exercises for at least a month to see lasting results.”
Ms. Gentle’s housebreaking prescription was conscientiously canine friendly. While she also insisted that we consign Steffi to sleep in her crate at night, she encouraged us to make the crate “den-like” by stuffing it with favorite toys and by partly covering it with a sheet before we turned out the lights. But she was even tougher on us than Mr. Strict. In addition to taking Steffi out for extra walks, we were supposed to keep a log of her eating, drinking, defecating and urinating.

“Adults learn much faster than puppies,” Ms. Gentle insisted. “So you can almost always teach an old dog new tricks if you commit yourself to taking the time.”

To my chagrin, the family voted to shelve the housebreaking issue. Harrison claimed he did not prefer Ms. Gentle over Mr. Strict or vice versa. Alison claimed that her work schedule and Harrison’s school schedule weren’t compatible with the recommended walking and feeding schedules for Steffi.
And boy, does Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, executive vice president and science administrator of the A.S.P.C.A., let these folks off the hook. Dr. Z knows as well as I do that the problem isn't "the relentless scheduling demands modern life puts on all concerned." The problem is that some people are unwilling to spend even a minimal amount of time training their dogs. Money on trainers, though --- they'll spend that.

Big Apple, here I come.

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