Archive for April, 2013


Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

There’s a new critter at our house nowadays. His name is Jasper Coltrane. He is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a standard Poodle. This makes him a “Goldendoodle,” a word I have almost learned to say without smirk or embarrassment (although almost always preceded by the story of its origin.)

It appears that he will be smarter than me, which will make for an interesting relationship, since I am bigger and stronger, at least for now. On the other hand, I have yet to see him work a New York Times crossword, even a Monday, but that may simply be due to lack of interest. Or opposable thumbs.

Jasper’s opinion of my writing.

In a recent transient burst of philosophical thinking, I concluded that house training a dog shares certain characteristics with the Scientific Method, and with international relations.

For Jasper to be house trained, he must learn many things. For example, “What is a house?” What is “outside?” He needs to understand what urination and defecation are. How it feels when you need to “go.” And the fact that one can learn to “hold it.”

He must graduate from, “I get treats when I pee outside” to “I’m not supposed to pee inside,” which is a subtle but important difference.

I start by taking him outside every time I think he might need to go, for the slightest reason. But if I continue to do that without change, he will never learn to realize the need for himself.

So I must make a hypothesis. “Today, I think he is old enough, experienced enough, and smart enough to hold it for two hours.” Then I wait, and watch.

If my hypothesis is right, I should be able to detect when he really needs to go – whining, sniffing, sitting by the door, ringing the bell. Eventually, he will become completely trustworthy when left indoors for long periods of time.

But if I am premature in my assessment, Jasper will make mistakes, and I’ll have to clean up after him. I really want to signal my displeasure, to “teach” him. But that only works if he understands about houses, and outside, and feelings of fullness.

And so the training dance goes – trust him, and watch him. Measure the hypothesis with a test of faith. Perhaps change some experimental variables. And always keep the cleaning supplies and the organic spray close at hand.

At this point, my readers, who are also smarter than me, have figured out the characteristics shared by house-training a dog, the Scientific Method, and international wrelations, so I shall not belabor the point. I’ll simply encourage you to go forth and use this information wisely.

Good dog! Get yourself a tasty treat!