I went outside to get the dog this afternoon, and found an empty backyard. Just as you can tell when there’s nobody in a room because of that deeper level of silence and stillness, you know when the dog isn’t around. I looked for form’s sake but I already knew that he wasn’t under the agapanthas, or in the garden chewing up the flowers, or hiding behind the gate. He’d squeezed out the gap between gatepost and wall, and left.
Cue much panic and running around by me and Petra. We ran round the house shouting his name, wandered aimlessly up and down the street wondering which direction he might have gone in, and then went around the house some more.
Luckily for our peace of mind, he’d only gone next door. We don’t have a fence in that part of the section, just a few straggly shrubs on the boundary, so there’s nothing to mark for Pip that he’s left our yard. He heard me calling and came pounding round the corner and threw himself at me. I’m not sure who was more relieved to be reunited – me or the dog.
I’m just hoping that he magically grows up to be one of those well-regulated dogs who knows where his yard begins and ends and stays within the boundaries without having to be monitored or penned in all the time. Does that come with age? Or is there some tricky training secret to it?
We’re making it all up as we go along and are pretty clueless about how one ends up with a well-trained dog, and what we can expect from our puppy in terms of behaviour. He can come and sit and stay and heel. He’ll wait for food until we tell him to take it and shake hands and roll over. He knows to stay on his mat when he’s inside and is well and happily crate trained. He’s pretty good with other dogs and is improving at walking on the leash. But he’s mighty unreliable when he’s distracted by all the lovely smells and sights and sounds in the world. Letting him off the leash is an exercise in faith and prayer, rather than discipline.
Perhaps we need a training course or two to reassure us. And there just happens to be one on offer just down the hill with the enticing title “Focus and Discipline.” We could all use some of that!