28: Screening Skills

28: Screening Skills

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

Screening Skills

Labradors [are] lousy watchdogs. They usually bark when there is a stranger about, but it is an expression of unmitigated joy at the chance to meet somebody new, not a warning.

~Norman Strung

After considerable family begging and discussion regarding the “D” word, we all came to the conclusion that our family could responsibly care for a canine. My husband and I chose a breed that would most closely suit our family’s personality and decided that we’d start our search at the first of several animal shelters in the area.

At the third shelter, we successfully discovered a medium-sized male Chocolate Black Lab mix named “Duke.” This regally named dog was approximately two years old and seemed to have the sweetest disposition. He looked at us through intelligent eyes and already knew how to fetch; he happily retrieved the tennis ball that our seven-year-old son tossed for him and delivered the drool-soaked ball to my son, dropping it at his feet, while my husband and I completed the adoption paperwork.

Just seeing how the two of them got along made me smile and I knew we had made the right choice. Duke seemed to think so too as he tagged along everywhere with our son and quickly fit into our family’s busy lifestyle. He took his spot in the passenger seat next to my son on our Jeep/camping trips, and almost instantly became a member of the family. He worked his way quickly into our hearts with his intelligence and antics.

Immediately, as with most things outdoors related, the task of doggie obedience training fell upon my husband’s shoulders. Duke took to it, well, like a Labrador to water. He quickly learned the more traditional training and tricks like “sit,”

“stay,” and “come,” as well as dog-related manners, and my husband had him housebroken within days.

But there was one skill that Duke could not seem to grasp — that of watchdog. My husband was trying to teach him to alert us when someone came into the yard. He did not want Duke barking at just anyone that walked by our house, but he figured he could teach Duke to “watch” for someone coming onto the property.

His goal was to teach Duke to notify us of company or intruders by giving a single warning bark. Duke would listen attentively to my husband’s commands, but would cock his head to one side in confusion and frustration as if to tell his master that he just didn’t understand what my husband was asking of him.

My husband would give his “watch” command, and Duke would stand up, muscles rippling in readiness, but would not have a clue as to what he was in readiness for.

One morning we heard the garbage truck stop at the house and the garbage collectors come up the gravel driveway to get our trash. My husband went to the open bedroom window and pulled the curtains back so Duke could hear and see the men through the screen as they took care of their business.

“Watch!” my husband commanded.

Duke rose up in readiness, looked at my husband as sudden doggie comprehension dawned, gave a quick tail wag, and promptly leapt through the window screen, prancing happily out to greet the garbage men, his tail wagging his whole body.

My hysterical gales of laughter did nothing for my husband’s mood as he retrieved our Retriever and was then tasked with bedroom window screen repair. He ultimately had to put up with his wife’s giggles each and every time I thought about how Duke learned that day to leap through windows in a single bound.

~Victoria Radford

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