In order to get my dogs to do anything I want them to, I have to ask three times. Three seems to be the magic number, unless, of course, they are doing something they really love such as digging up the yard, eating birdseed, or rifling through my guests’ coat pockets for tasty treats. Then I can beg, wheedle, whine, and Prancercise about to no avail. The dogs will look at me like they are teenagers who have been asked to turn off their game devices—they recognize my face and are aware that I’m there and have said something, but they don’t seem to be able to translate what I’ve asked of them into a language they understand.
If I’m holding a cookie, I can get their attention faster, but as they are wiener dogs who would get miniature walrus fat if I gave them a cookie every time, I can’t rely on treats to do my dirty work. And believe me, they figured out the old bait-and-switch years ago. Dumb, they are not.
I’ve heard dog trainers and animal behaviorists say that dachshunds are obstinate and oppositional, and that among all the types of animals, they’re right up there with spiders in terms of how difficult it is to get them to do anything they’d rather not. I can’t debate these opinions, having never tried to train, say weasels or tarantulas, but I can easily think of a group of animals much more difficult to train—humans.
Case in point: I am one of those people who asks everyone who enters my house to remove his or her shoes. I really don’t want anyone traipsing dirt, oil, leaves, gum, tar balls, leftover tacos, sequins, ice cream, corners of old love letters, dead dung beetles or whatever else they’ve got on the soles of their shoes into my house. It’s not that I’m a clean freak—all you’d have to do is look at the dishes piled in my kitchen sink to see there is no truth in that assumption. I’m just more comfortable with the dirt my family makes than the dirt others bring in with them. Ick!
Plus, it’s easier for strangers not to step on my three small dogs or at least to cause no damage if they’re in their stocking feet. So I have legitimate reasons for my request.
Yes, I have also attempted to set up a paw-washing station at my front door for my dogs, but they usually dash inside immediately after an outing, rushing to the kitchen to sit beneath the dog cookie jar waiting for their treat for being good dogs and going outside in the Oregon rain.
In the beginning, as I attempted to train humans to remove their shoes, I was naïve enough to believe that leaving several of mine at the front door would cause guests to ask, “Would you like me to remove mine?” A few (mostly women) did, but the vast majority just barged in, stomping around in their filthy boots, disgusting sneakers, or dangerous stilettos. So I tried the old real estate trick of putting a basket of paper booties by the front door. No one seemed to notice it—perhaps they thought I had gotten a side job as a thoracic surgeon to pay for dog treats?
I truly hated asking each guest to strip down to stocking feet, so I would just grin and bear it when they didn’t bare their feet voluntarily. Finally, though, I could no stuff my emotions, so I found a lovely sign online that simply reads, “Please remove your shoes.” It’s to the point and mounted right next to my front door by the handle everyone must use to get inside. Apparently, however there are further instructions on that sign, invisible to my eye that say: “Please remove your shoes unless you’re a contractor, repairman, insurance agent, or ex-husband, or if you arrive with two or more people or are carrying a purse, casserole, or 27 years of emotional baggage.” Many folks coming through my door still seem not to be aware of my desires, foot-wise.
I should also mention that from the same website, I purchased another sign that reads: “No solicitors: Religious or otherwise” which I posted right outside the gate that leads to my front yard. I politely pointed it out to the Jehovah’s Witnesses at my front door last week.
I guess I’ll have to fall back on dachshund-training techniques. I’m going to attach a Ziploc bag of people cookies to the remove-your-shoes sign and see if that doesn’t result in the behavior change I require. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just hire a TSA agent to give everyone a complete pat down and refuse to let anyone enter without partially disrobing.