Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dancing With a Dog

     Ivy learned a cute thing this week called "back," which can be either flashy or useful.  The flashy version means I take a step forward and she moves with me, then I take a step back and she backs up in tandem.  I always wanted to dance with a dog!  The useful part kicks in when she follows me into the laundry room and spies a sweaty sock encrusted with ballpark dirt and I say "back" and she gracefully backs out of the narrow door to seek disgusting prizes elsewhere.  There are plenty to be found around this place, I'm sorry to say.
     When my boys are not busy asking me what animal I'd like to be (mother bear all the way), they sometimes ask if I'd like to be a kid again, or be a certain age again.  They often say, "What would you be doing right now if you could do anything you wanted?"  I usually say, "I'd be right here with you," which is the truth; there's no going back to the time before I knew these boys, dogs, husband, the time when I could have done exotic, far-away things with my heart intact.
     "Back" is a piece of cake to teach, although I never would have figured it out myself (Thank you, Ginny Stover!).  For me (right-handed and right side of my body very dominant), I put Ivy on my left with something blocking her movements to her left.  Picture a grocery store aisle, or a bank of cabinets, with the dog between you and that.  If the dog sits, move forward a little so she'll stand, encourage her without too much verbiage, then make a slight but clear pivot toward her with your right hip and right leg.  Let your left leg remain still.  Be quiet!  This motion—and cramping of the dog's personal space— should cause the dog to back up a step or two, in which case you deliver a well-timed click or "Yes!"
     When she has backed up reliably several times, you can start to add the verbal cue.  Ivy learned "back" in record speed, for reasons mysterious to me.  We do it every day, and we both get a kick out of it, and occasionally it's exactly what the situation calls for.
     Yesterday we hit a hundred degrees here.  Again.  October, come to me!  September has not been pleasing to the Dog Queen, her Jester, or the Mother Bear.  We very much want to go forward, not back.

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