The Phoenix And The Turkey

I was grateful to Phoenix because she returned the turkey. Of course, this event wasn’t quite as embarrassing as the time she stole a barbequed chicken from the top of the barbeque of a huge family picnic in Codornices Park on her Fourth of July birthday. But this story is about turkey.

Many years ago I had prepared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a bunch of friends. I cooked and set the table and it looked just so wonderful. A quick step into the kitchen to get the carving knife and fork and when I returned to the dining room, the turkey was GONE! My grandmother’s beautiful antique meat platter was still in the center of the table. But empty! So, the dinner party began searching for the missing turkey. After several minutes, there was a shout from the bottom of the garden. The turkey had been found!

Phoenix was lying on the grass with her head inside the back-end of the bird, ravaging the stuffing like she was trying to empty a stuffed Kong! Mildly embarrassed (it’s hard owning a dog when you’re a dog trainer), I rather meekly said, “Phoenix, thank you.” She promptly picked up the turkey, happily trotted towards me, sat, and dropped the turkey in my outstretched hands.

“Off!” “Take it” and “Thank you” are three very useful commands to teach your dog. They are easy and fun to teach.

To teach “Off!’
hand-feed your dog’s daily ration of kibble. Take one piece, hold it in your hand, very quietly say “Off!” and present your closed fist to your dog’s nose. Let your dog, lick, mouth and paw your hands. Ignore everything that your dog does and wait for your dog to cease contact for a fraction of a second, then quickly say, “Take it” and open your fist so your dog may take the kibble from the palm of your hand. Repeat the process, but this time wait until your dog ceases contact for one whole second before offering the food. With each repetition, gradually increase the period of non-contact. After about 6-8 repetitions, you will find that as soon as you say “Off!” your dog will sit-stay to wait for the food. Magic!

“Off!” may be used to inform your dog not to touch all sorts of inappropriate items, such as garbage, cat poop, smaller dogs, people, and turkeys. And by teaching “Off!” your dog automatically learns “Take it”, which is very useful for instructing your dog to take appropriate objects, such as stuffed chew-toys, fetch-toys and tug-toys, or to search for and bring back lost items, such as your car keys or television remote control. Once your dog knows “Take it,” you can easily teach “Thank you.” For example, when playing tug-o’-war, periodically say, “Thank you” and waggle a piece of freeze-dried liver in front of your dog’s nose. When your dog relinquishes the toy, praise and offer the liver, then present the toy again, say “Off” and after several seconds non-contact, say, “Take it” and resume playing once more. “Thank you” is essential for relieving your dog of inappropriate items, such as soiled diapers, used Kleenex, or turkeys.

By the way, after a quick clean-up, the turkey was scrumptious. We were all exceedingly grateful. No one fancied the remains of the stuffing though.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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