Our puppy recently graduated from Level 1 training at PetSmart in Millburn.
Mortar-board hat and all, Charlie Bubbles (yes, he was named by committee) was flanked by my children who hugged him close and smiled like proud parents for his graduation photo (see attached).
As a result of the excellent work of Bill the Trainer, Charlie Bubbles will now sit, lay down and stay on command (well, mostly). He's pretty good at not jumping up on people and at coming when called.
In some ways, he's miles ahead of my kids.
Charlie Bubbles — or "CB" for short — has a few things to work on still. He continues to pull on his leash when he sees something he wants to get to in a hurry — usually another dog, a passel of kids, or a squirrel. He also likes to chase bubbles in puddles (he is aptly named!) and is mad to go after leaves that blow down the street.
CB's worst habit is hunting down every stray sock in the house and devouring the heals and toes. He pulls them from shoes, laundry baskets, and drawers left agape. And, amazingly, some socks are actually just sitting there in the middle of the floor, discarded by my children who scatter their socks through the house just as Hansel and Gretel scattered crumbs through the forest.
We have become a house of sockless people. Thank goodness it's sandal and flipflop season.
Which brings me to my point.
Why can't I get the kids to better obey simple commands like the dog?
One explanation may be that my children have more complicated interests than Charlie Bubbles, who lives only for affection and food. I also don't carry around the human-interest equivalent of a pocket full of bacon-flavored treats to reward the kids every time they obey a command.
Another reason may be that the dog can't figure out how to use an iPad, iPhone or Wii. Without electronic devices to interest him, I'm the hottest show in town.
Mind you, my kids are not terribly unruly. They are even downright sweet and proactively good at times: While my 8-year-old daughter can trash her room like a rockstar, she then also likes to play "clean up" and sometimes does laundry for fun. My 10-year-old son likes to cook and also maintains a shockingly large swath of uncluttered floor space in his bedroom.
But why do their ears not perk up when I call their names? Why do they not come trotting to me as if by gravitational pull (albeit the gravitational pull is the bacon-like smell emanating from my pocket)?
Not enough positive reinforcement?
Not enough tough love?
Not enough follow through?
The jury is out. But, for now, I'm glad they're not eating any socks ... or chewing on the furniture. Dang, is that a hole in my couch cushion?....