Huff and Dog Commands


I brought Huff home on a Friday night. I was not really prepared. I had only gone to see this dog who “might be perfect for you.” And he was.

He was living in a crate in a garage. An ATV smelling of  gasoline was parked next to his crate. He was kept in the garage all day. All night. No heat. No cooling. He was taken out twice a day by his owner to relieve himself.

Friends of mine had convinced the owner to let them take the dog along on their nightly walk. They had been doing this for over a year. That daily walk probably saved him. It gave him exercise and fresh air. It gave his brain stimulation.

So this particular Friday night, I joined them on their walk. They had been talking to the owner. He was willing to give up the dog.

We walked the dog, returning to my friend’s house.

  • What do you think?
  • He’s coming home with me tonight.
  • We were going to bathe him tomorrow.
  • I can’t put him back in that crate.

So he went home with me. They piled treats and food in my car. They gave me the water bowl and the leash they had bought for him.

Huff comes home

He was cooperative, even eager, to follow my commands since the very beginning. When we first arrived at my house, without really thinking about it, I told him to “stay in the car.”I gave him the standard "stay" hand signal.  He stayed. He didn’t try to leap out of the car when I opened the door, so I was happy.

I left him in the car, taking inside all the paraphernalia that goes with a new dog you weren’t planning to bring home that day. (No, it wasn’t hot, and I didn’t take more than ten minutes.) When I came back to the car, he was sitting in the exact spot where I left him.

I never had a dog do that.

My previous dogs always took advantage of my exit to take over the driver’s seat. I suspect they wanted to learn to operate this machine so they could take themselves to the park. But I digress.

Huff stayed patiently in the seat where I left him. And waited for me to invite him out of the car by saying, “Okay. Let’s go.”

I know, I’m not good at the command thing.  I tend to speak to my dogs in full sentences. I use hand gestures, too. Somehow, they usually figure out what the crazy person jabbering and waving her hands about, actually wants.

But I won't do that

The only command he refused to respond to was “Come.” Not even for his most favorite treat. He looked the other way as if to say “Nope, no idea what you want.”

He deferred to me in everything else. He would lie down while I ate eat my dinner and even though his dish was full, he waited until I finished mine before touching his.  When I entered the living room, he would get up from the comfy padded blanket and move over to the hardwood floor, so I could have the comfy spot.

I never had a dog do that.

Huff knew many commands. But say “come” and he feigned ignorance. I didn’t believe him. It was highly unlikely he learn to sit and shake and stay and lie down, but not come. Nope, not buying it.

But, you work with what you’ve got so we tried something different. I substituted the command “look.” The idea was to focus his attention on me. Teaching this was tough as he was always watching me anyway. If I left the room, he desperately searched for me.  He learned though. Now he will look at me on command and I can use the handle signal for come and he complies. We don’t need to use that word he (wink-wink) doesn’t know.

But one day, like undercover spy who accidentally falls back into old habits, he slipped up.

I had swept the floor, leaving behind several piles that I intended to come back and scoop up all at once. There was a particularly large pile of sand and fur (wonder where that came from?)  in the living room. Like all good dogs when their owners sweep the floor, he helped. He walked through the pile, then assumed a guard position in the middle of the scattered debris.  I chuckled and said to him, “What are you doing? Come here.” And he took a step forward.

Huff immediately froze. It was clear he realized his mistake. But he wasn’t sure what to do next.

I did not repeat the dreaded command, but I gave him the hand signal instead. When he got to me, I praised and petted him and gave him a treat.

Vindication!

I knew he knew it! But I also respect his choice not to respond to a command that earlier in his life had obviously been a source of pain. I still use “look.” And he still does.

He also still helps with the sweeping.

And in case you are wondering, I put two comfy blankets on the living room, so we can both have one.