Ask Not What Pettigrew Can Do For You, But What You Can Do For Pettigrew

dog gazing at trainer 1
Hmm, closely cropped photo. I bet there is a treat that’s inspiring that adoring look.

Ask not what Pettigrew can do for you, but what you can do for Pettigrew. I imagine this question is in Pettigrew’s mind whenever we ask/command/have an expectation of him.

Needless-to-say, this is not what I expected when he joined our home. My father trained the dog with whom I grew up. She obeyed us all. What my dad taught, she heeded, no matter with whom she was interacting.

Not so Pettigrew. He approaches each of us as a tabula rasa.

For me he knows to not crowd the bowl or he won’t get fed. That all game playing before heading out on a walk ends once I’ve hung the leash over the back door knob. And, to pause at the gate before we enter the yard so I can unhook his leash. For reasons that mystify me, he follows this pattern only with the back gate. If we come from the front of the house, he surges through the gate and I have to call him back in order to unhook the leash. Oh, and he comes when I call, especially if he suspects I’ll give him a treat.

For my husband he blithely ignores all protests that whatever food is being prepared is not for him. He has been handsomely rewarded for his persistence. (See How I Know George Lucas Had a Dog)

Last week I joined our younger son and Pettigrew for a walk. Apparently Pettigrew follows a different series of rules for him: sitting to get the leash fastened, keeping slack in the leash while walking, sitting to get the leash unhooked at the back gate, (hmmm, maybe I benefit from my son’s training at the back gate and that’s why Pettigrew sees the front gate differently!), not scratching the back door to be let in, and finally sitting to get a treat when they return for the walk. BUT, my son is wholly unable to dislodge Pettigrew from the couch. That is my job.

With our older son, I think the relationship is more one of mutual loving and cuddling. Expectations that they both meet unequivocally.

The other day while my younger son and I were waiting for his eye examine, the waiting room TV was showing the latest episodes of Lucky Dog: master dog trainer Brandon McMillan rehabilitating unwanted shelter dogs. As we calculated how many of his so-called seven essential commands Pettigrew had mastered (between the two of us we thought he had five down pat), I was most struck when the trainer explained, “as much as I train the dog, I also have to train you.”

Certainly seems to play out that way in our home!

For other posts on training see Dog Dictionary: A concise dictionary of canine-to-English and English-to-canine language and The Command I Never Tried to Teach Is the One Pettigrew Knows the Best

One thought on “Ask Not What Pettigrew Can Do For You, But What You Can Do For Pettigrew

  1. As we well know, Pettigrew is really smart. This is just another example. BTW, behaviors rewarded by intermittent reinforcement are the hardest to change.


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