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The Newcomer

A shaggy dog story

Since I was in danger of having one arm stretched to a length longer than the other, I have taken my dog to leadership classes at Manning's in Yakima.

It's true, my little, mixed breed street hound thought she was the leader when we went for walks. Tugging on the leash, she would try to drag me along at a faster pace than my feet wanted to go. So-it was off to class every Friday for five weeks.

I can't say Ginger heels as she should, but she is doing better. The trick to total adherence to sticking close to me and walking at my pace, I am sure, is daily practice. I admit to being remiss in that quarter. Putting in only four, eight-hour work days should leave time for dog-training, but somehow it doesn't pan out that way because I like to read, nap and recline in my off hours.

The easiest command to learn for Ginger and the other nine dogs in our class was "Curb", a term unique to Jan Manning's training style. When you hear a dog owner use it, you know he or she has been through a Manning class or has had some exposure to one. When a dog hears it, it means "Stop".

A curb signal can prevent a dog from stepping through a doorway you don't want it to go through, which means you can serve tea to guests in your dining room while the dogs in your home look on from the living room...but look is all they'll do, if their training took hold.

Ginger learned "curb" quickly, and now she'll stop without the command before we cross a street to her favorite dumping grounds. She has even taken to mimicking me as I look left and right before crossing. If she looks in only one direction, I ask her if she's checked the other direction, and then she glances that way too. Of course, I don't think she has any idea what we're looking for.

Before we ever went to class, Ginger learned not to enter my bedroom, which I consider my personal, private space. (Hey, I have to have one area free of dog hair!)

She did step into my bedroom when she first moved in with me, but was quick to retreat when I invited her out. After that first attempt, she stands at the threshhold to announce her presence, but never enters. She also doesn't leave her bed on the couch in the mornings until I let her know I am up for the day.

Ginger is one smart dog, which is probably why she still will sit only when she wants to and not on command. But we're working on that.

One good thing about Manning's is that once your dog goes through a class, it can return for refresher training free for the rest of its life.

When I told that to a friend, she said, "If you have a dog that needs training the rest of its life, you've got a dog you're gonna want to kill!"

She might have a point there, but I thought it sounded just a tad harsh.

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