New meaning to ‘sausage dog’

My partner, The German, has a one-eyed cockapoodle who we have been determinedly teaching not to bark when he wants us to throw the ball for him.

By Richard Ord
Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 5:00 pm

It’s annoying. He barks and barks, drawing the unwanted attention of a disapproving public, until you pick up the ball and throw it for him. It had to stop.

Using a combination of rewards, praise and discipline we would bring him into line.

And, after months of training, he has finally got us to throw the ball for him whenever he barks. If you want to reduce the amount of barking you are exposed to, get the ball quicker and throw it further.

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I’m not sure where we went wrong during the training, but at some point he ended up training us to do his bidding. I sensed the re-education of Jasper wasn’t going well when I heard The German shouting at the dog: “Jasper give me the ball. Jasper! Let go. What’s wrong with you, you stupid dog?” As The Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson once illustrated, to the dog, this sounds like “Jasper! blah, blah. Jasper! Blah, blah …”

But putting human traits onto dogs and treating them like slightly dim four-legged humans is irresistible. By chance, I tuned into Crufts at the weekend and noticed this humanisation being played out on TV. Presenter Clare Balding couldn’t help but ask the owners if their dogs were excited to be in the world famous canine competition. One owner said her dog always “ups her game” when in front of a big crowd. Another commentator even said one of the dogs was laughing. Really? Maybe it’s true. Maybe they are more human and intelligent than we care to think.

The competition was won by Maisie, a wire-haired dachshund that was, so we were told, “full of character”. On her lap of honour, in front of a cheering crowd of dog lovers, she stopped, drank in the applause and … emptied her bowels in the centre of the auditorium. I could see then why they are nicknamed sausage dogs. The commentators, not surprisingly, failed to attribute the action to any human trait. But I swear I saw that dog smirking.

Never underestimate their intelligence. Maisie doesn’t say much but, boy, what a critic.