When you love what you do for a living, it’s easy to get caught up in it and take it a little too far. But sometimes, being lazy and taking shortcuts can pay off, too.
The topic for this month’s newsletter came straight out of my own life. A couple months ago, my husband needed open-heart surgery. Open-heart surgery is fairly extensive, to say the least. Lots of healing needs to happen and there is a fair amount of pain at the incision site, in the muscles, and where all the wires and tubes were placed for the surgery. He spent a week in the hospital, and then came home to spend another five weeks of recovery in our recliner (lying flat was out of the question – too painful). This month’s newsletter is all about lazy dog training.
We share our home with four large to very-large dogs (together they weigh about 375 pounds).
Our dogs aren’t perfect, but have fairly good house manners. They don’t jump, they are gentle, and they are reliable in their routines. What we were going to need from them, however, was something they’d never been asked to do before: leave my husband alone completely. They occasionally solicit affection by poking their nose under one’s arm, resting their head on a lap (or chest if the person is in the recliner) – and Nemo normally lives in my husband’s lap in the evenings. Although our dogs had fairly dependable “leave its,” I didn’t want my husband (who was prescribed fairly heavy narcotics to help alleviate the pain) to be responsible for instructing the dogs to “leave it” all day long. (It’s hard enough to be proactive all day long anyway, without the added fog of being on narcotics and six other medications.) Plus: what if my husband was sleeping? He certainly wouldn’t be able to tell the dogs to “leave it,” then.
It wasn’t a situation for which I could train ahead. There wasn’t any way I could have convinced my husband to not allow Nemo in his lap. And prior to surgery my husband was very active – still running and exercising like normal, working on the house, mowing the lawn, and going to work every day. I couldn’t have gotten my husband to sit still long enough to practice. We also didn’t really know what to expect after surgery. Therefore, no training was put into place prior to surgery.
So here’s how a lazy dog trainer addressed the issue of keeping my husband safe from the dogs who missed him so much while he was hospitalized:
I put my husband and his recliner inside an x-pen. An x-pen is shorthand for exercise pen – think of it as a playpen for dogs. That’s right: I crated my husband. Before you react, think about how well this worked…
The x-pen kept the dogs from poking their noses in his space, from jumping into his lap, and from accidentally bumping him in the chest with a paw or tail. It encircled the recliner all the way around, yet still allowed him to fully recline the chair when he needed to sleep. He could still pet the dogs through the x-pen, giving the dogs (and him) the physical contact they both needed.
Benefits of lazy dog training
We weren’t worried about letting our guard down and missing the signal that a dog was incoming and was going to thump my husband on the chest with a happy and excited tail thwack. We didn’t worry that a dog (Nemo) was going to jump into his lap. We didn’t have to say “leave it” every 20 seconds, we didn’t have to redirect the dogs to another activity. We didn’t have to buy more toys to keep our dogs distracted from my husband. In short, we managed the situation in such a way that the dogs weren’t able to get themselves in trouble and hurt my husband. They were happy, and we were happy.
Was it lazy? I dunno, I think it was fairly clever. It sure did relieve a lot of stress in an otherwise fairly stressful situation. It wasn’t something we could’ve proactively trained before surgery.
With the holidays coming, I think lazy dog training might be an viable option for dog-loving families out there.
If the dog (or cat!) thinks the Christmas tree is a little too captivating, put a gate up so the dog can’t get into the room with the tree. Or use an x-pen to fence the tree off from your dog’s wagging and destructive tail. Another option is to hang the breakable and heirloom ornaments up higher than the tail or the mouth can reach. If you’re having a holiday party at your house, use lazy training to help guests get into your house without worrying about a door-dashing or jumping dog. Simply gate the dog off from the foyer or put the dog in a closed bedroom door (with music or tv on) with a delicious stuffed Kong.