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Lyra – Pet or Competition dog?

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Yesterday I spent the day in San Diego teaching.  Lyra was left in the care of my husband for twenty-four hours. I wasn’t worried; he’s really taken to Lyra, and goes out of his way to take her places and to spend time with her.

That did not take away from my shock when I came home last night.  My husband took a piece of cheese out of the refrigerator, called Lyra with a cheerful “come come come” command and then used the cheese to help her into a rock back sit (sit, sit, sit), roughly in “front” position.  He then gave her the cookie, handed out copious praise, and let me know that she had already learned to offer that sit in front instead of jumping on him.

This was a moment I had not yet considered.  No one in my house has ever shown any interest in “training” my dogs.  They use commands to get them to do things (come, go, stay, etc.) to make it easier to live with them, but this was Training.

In exactly five seconds, I needed to formulate a response.

My family has never shown any real interest in the dogs.  They like them most of the time, but let’s face it; sometimes it’s hard to live in a house with dogs that slavishly worship one person.  If I stand up, they stand up.  If I walk through the house, they walk through with me.  It is not peaceful when the dogs think we are going to do something interesting.  It is….lively.  For the most part, my family just tries to stay out of the way.

My husband has taken to Lyra.  He really likes her, like he hasn’t liked any of my dogs since our first Belgian fifteen years ago.   I think he wants a doggy buddy, and Lyra fits the bill.  She’s calm, good natured, and isn’t always biting.  She listens when you tell her to stop doing things.  She’s loving and affectionate.

So I guess it’s natural that he wants to teach his pet dog a few things, and he’s watched me train enough dogs over the years that he has a rudimentary grasp on the basics.

So, as I watched him train Lrya….I said nothing.  My heart beat a little faster, but her quality of life will be infinity richer if she is loved by more people than just me. Someday I’ll teach a new command to mean “sit here in front and be dead straight with your toes two inches from mine”.  And it will be ok.  In exchange, she can be a family pet.

Admitedly I hoped he’d lose interest quickly in training, but this morning as I lay in bed, I heard “sit, sit!” coming from the kitchen.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

25 responses »

  1. I have resigned myself that other people will also be training and UNTRAINING my dog.

    I have a name that I use for her that has not been poisoned.

    I have cue words for things that have not been shared with the wife or the kid.

    I work on new things outside of their prying eyes and then present them with the finished behavior and a cue for pet use.

    I don’t really want to share but is does add to the dog’s quality of life, I think…I HOPE.

  2. Ha! Good thing dogs can learn different rules for different people. Leave “sit,” “come,” “stay,” and other common cues to the husband, and use secret ones for your own higher-criteria behaviors. It’s sweet that he likes her so much. 🙂

  3. ROFLMAO! I know you are more than brilliant enough to manage training in these muddy waters but it’s SO FUNNY to me to think of the look on your face in those nanoseconds after his proud demonstration. Does he read your blog?

  4. HAHAHA! Oh, do I know that feeling. There was a time when my thoroughly fluent Utility dog took to cocking his head at me when I gave him a sit signal. I mean, reeeallly cocked, like his head was on sideways. Clearly a puzzled dog, complete with worried eyebrows.
    Later that same day I overhead my husband asking my dog if he wanted some pizza crust and I turned to see spouse doing what looked alot like having a seizure but was actually his version of a sit signal, getting the sit, and praising wildly while handing over copious amounts of pizza crust. Puzzle solved.

  5. I always find this really hard. I want my 4 kids and husband to be able to love, enjoy, and successfully interact with the dog, but I have those bite-my-tongue moments as I see them doing things I feel will “ruin” my dog. Our most recent pup, who is 10 months old now, was supposed to be a new mid-range, bombproof family dog for the kids. He’s turned out to be a driven, mouthy, work-crazy, monster, and the kids have a major love-hate relationship with him. I’ve finally come to understand why my older kids always say that it’s me that “ruins” all the dogs. Because the dogs (I choose…sigh) are super work oriented, and fixate on me because I work with them, and I communicate pretty clearly most of the time. I also feed them, let them out, and take them running. I tried very hard to be hands-off with this dog, but he’s just so darned promising…

  6. Barb VanEseltine

    Excellent! I think this is totally delightful and will integrate Lyra into the household most beautifully. Most of my dogs have had little interest in husband/kids for the same reasons you cite but I think that the ones which did enjoy the rest of the family had more rounded lives. Not necessarily happier but, maybe “fuller” is the word.

  7. I think it’s great, he will want a puppy from her someday.

  8. I love this one! I can totally relate.

  9. Fantastic post! I loved your response, and everyone will be happier for it. 🙂

  10. Suzi Ironmonger

    Interesting! Bundi (the ACD you saw on Sat.) is my husband’s pet dog…..and right now my performance dog as he is the only dog. I actaully think he does a great job of knowing the difference. But who really knows? Good thing I am not looking for high scores with this dog, and my goal is just to title him in multi-venues. I guess as breeder, I have proven him to REALLY be a versatile dog….family pet, farmer’s dog, breed champion, and titled in agility, rally, obedience, weight pulling…. and working on herding & tracking.

  11. My grandmother doted on my kids (her only local great-grand-children) and my dogs. She told me that when they visited, we were in her house and followed her rules – candy/cookies/ice cream (or dog treats, if appropriate). They got spoiled rotten in some ways, and had to follow stricter rules of behavior in other ways. It was fine. There was one set of ‘cues’ with Nani, and another set of ‘cues’ with me, and everyone seemed to figure it out pretty easily. It made my grandmother incredibly happy, and it kept our visits cheerful and positive. (well, except for the time one of the kids got car-sick post-visit….!)

    A family member who is engaged and enthusiastic about your animal is a blessing, and if it means you have to teach a few extra cues, it’s a small price to pay 🙂 Maybe I should have my husband choose our next dog, if it means he’ll be more involved.

  12. Denise, I can picture it so clearly! I know you didn’t think so at the time, but how adorable of Millo 🙂 He really loves Lyra!

  13. This is another situation I’ll be facing with our new puppy in February so it’s nice to get a sneak peek from what you are sharing. The dogs all end up being “my” dog and joining the parade of following me from room to room.

    I really, really don’t want that with our next dog. This next dog is supposed to be a “family dog.” Our current dog is turning 15 (hopefully!) in a few months and our other dog is inherited at 13 from my father-in-law so my kids have yet to experience a dog that really wants to do things with them.

    I’m prepping myself for life with a dog that’s really “bad” but in a good, part of the family kind of way. My sons are 7 and 10 so we are looking at a dog to be a good fit with them through the teenage years. We chose a Flat Coated Retriever after a LOT of discussion and consideration. I’m hoping we end up with a dog that’s smart and interested in what I want to do, but equally happy and wiling to go along with someone doing it “wrong.”

    • As a proud Flat Coat mom, I can assure you that you’ve made an excellent choice. Although he is “my” dog in every sense, my boys have never been so in love with an animal as they are with our FCR. Enjoy!

  14. Don’t worry about. Lyra will develop separate relationships with all the members of the family. In my household I do most of the training and my wife does most of the feeding. She is very popular, but I still have some respect (because the really good stuff comes from me. It does work out, and it’s fascinating to watch.

  15. I do the training in our house, too. My husband loves the dogs but doesn’t really train. However, it’s interesting because our Border Collies like him more than they like me. One of the BCs is his hiking companion and his dog, I don’t work that BC at all. The other, though, Chase, I have trained in agility, obedience and flyball. But Chase still likes my husband better.

    I don’t mind at all. I’m actually glad that Chase likes my husband. I have the other dogs that tend to prefer me over him. So it’s a nice balance. 😉

  16. Reblogged this on Denise Fenzi and commented:

    She did learn to sit straight, and my husband continues to adore Lyra. My choice was a good one.

  17. All I can say is “Yay for you!” I think it is great that you are allowing him to have his thing with Lyra. It is very easy for me to connect with a dog, I could easily take home at least 1/2 of the dogs in my group classes every session and could easily keep 1/2 of the rescues that I foster, but for some people connecting with a dog is difficult. I think it could be easy for your husband to resent the dogs (and maybe you) if he wasn’t allowed to do things with them, even if it is not so great training. I do not train my dogs for the level of competition that you do, but my husband does things I wouldn’t do either (like feed my ACD from his fork from the table!!), but whatever, it makes him happy, it makes him tolerant about my dogs and it makes my dogs love him. Your choice was so excellent:)

  18. Hilarious!! Thanks for reposting!!

  19. Maybe he found his SAR dog!?!

  20. Thats so cute! I know The feeling of being the only one being shadowed by the dogs! My hubby was only half interested in training until he was forced to train the siberian because she had an intense fear and dislike of him. He gave up his precious Sat bike rides for 6 months one summer just so he could bond with her. And whats funny is that tho i know she still prefers me and still shadows me, on those days we are together with the dogs, if we both recall her, she will go to him!!! Its bittersweet. And i would never change it.

  21. This made me feel better – My kids and husband LOVE to “help” train our 10 month lab puppy. I cant count the times Ive walked into a room to “Sit sit sit” – or this morning, it was “speak speak speak” /sigh – but I havent wanted to discourage the rest of the family from bonding with him. He already is very much “my” dog. As a fairly new dog trainer, I have been trying to do “everything” right – reading copious books and having fun with Vader as we learn agility together. This re-blog made me laugh and gave me a sense of relief! Great story!

  22. One of my most titled Aussies shut down on me…would refuse to make eye contact with me in the ring… the second we entered, he’d find an interesting spot on the floor. I learned to look up at the judge and just say “Were done for today, may we be excused?” I handed him off to my daughter with a quick read of the AKC BN rules and he had the nerve to almost qualify with her! No lagging, no floor gazing… So we started obedience classes and I wanted to work one of our younger dogs so she asked to take the titled one…I cringed since she won’t remember a signal I tell her… her sit is my down signal, her down is our puppy down signal (before we shape to our adult down signal). But she’s not shown interest in anything before…so I bit my tongue. After 2 classes, he’s heeling RIGHT in position without letting his eyes stray from hers…recall, perfect – long sits and downs; no problem. My instructor, who has seen me compete with him for 2 years commented this week. “He’s not your dog anymore, you might as well face it… I expect to see her trial him at our next APDT trial and at CDSP this winter.” Sigh – he now is my husband’s constant companion and my daughter’s trial dog. At least he’s finally become the family pet I had hoped he would!


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