I always refer to that time between the end of fall foliage and the first snowfall as Gray Stick season. It was on a particular Saturday morning during Gray Stick that I found myself just killing time at the Norwich Bookstore. Sure, I could have been home, knocking off a few from the honey do list. But then, what would I do in February when re-staining dog-chewed woodwork is actually a welcomed prescription for cabin fever.
As I slowly shuffled through the store, I came to heal in the Dog Training section. There were more than a dozen books, all with well- behaved dogs on the cover and smiling pet owners next to them (although, all the humans were very attractive, so they could have been models. Come to think of it, so were the dogs. Is there such thing as a dog model?). Thumbing through several of the books, I found that, although the names of the dogs were different and the profound impact on “Masters” life varied slightly from book to book, the message was essentially the same. All you needed to get man’s best friend to sit, stay and speak is patience and some yum-yum treats.
As a father, I contemplated the simplicity of basic Behavior Modification and realized, if you can train a dog, you should be able to train your adolescent daughter using the same principles…patience and yum-yums. After all kids are smarter than dogs (or at the very least should be, with the amount of property taxes I pay that go to the school district). Kids have more complex communication skills than the family dog. Dog speak is a bark, a ruff-ruff or, maybe a howl. Whereas, with your kid you’ll get a plethora of communications such as: “Ewwww”,” Huh”, ”Word” (which is new slang for yes) and the non-spoken “What planet are you from?” gaze.
Yum – Yums are the problem. An industrial size box of dog treats is less than ten bucks. I have friends who pay their kid $25 for every A on their report card, plus an additional $50 if they make honor roll. With three marking periods per year, you do the math. Yes, Katie does well in school, but do you think she could put a dish in the dishwasher instead of the sink? The problem is that we live in a high-tech society. Kids are motivated by IPods, IPads and Smartphones …a trip to Dairy-Twirl just don’t cut it anymore.
So with patience well in hand, and a gift card for Abercrombie & Fitch, I decided to train my kid. According to the dog book, it is best to start small, with the basics, and work your way up. Pick something that is achievable and will please both master and dog/kid. Easy. My daughter wears her hair long and ties it back with florescent colored hair bands. The only problem is that there are more hair bands lying around the house than in her hair. Hair bands on the bathroom sink. Hair bands on the kitchen counter. We even have dozens of hair bands wrapped around the stick shift in the car. It’s time to train the kid to take care of her hair bands.
And so … it begins. I patiently explain the issue of the hair bands all over the house and car, to which she replies…”Huh?” I then patiently ask if she would like an Abercrombie gift card for picking up her hair bands? Word! At this point, I’m feeling pretty good with thoughts that I might just be the next Dr. Phil.
Unfortunately, that was the high point of my “Great Experiment.” As days turned into weeks, hair bands seemed to multiply everywhere. With positive reinforcement thrown out the window and my patience worn thin, it was time to chuck the book and go to plan B.
As I gathered my composure, I casually mentioned to her one evening that she really needs to take care of her hair bands, because the dog was eating them. As she flashed me that quizzical glance of, “how do you know?” I responded that I have been finding them in the yard when I clean up after the dog. And when she asked what I did with them after, my simple and patience response was, “I rinse them off and put them back in your drawer”.
Needless to say, the hair bands were never an issue again and I re-gifted the gift card. Teenager Trained.