It’s funny how life as a bachelor changes when you meet the girl of your dreams.
Somehow a thing like drinking juice straight from the container begins to appear uncouth.
It used to be a staple of my breakfast routine.
Things like your laundry sorting system get scaled down. The three-pile system of clean, unclean, and could be clean if I air them out turns into a two-pile system.
It’s no longer acceptable to eat potato chips and pizza every night for dinner and it’s probably not a good idea to leave Monday night’s dishes until Friday afternoon.
I’ve lived and travelled all over the world and never really considered any of those things until I met the love of my life in Whitehorse.
When I saw Lisa from across a crowded bakery a year and a half ago, my whole day changed.
After spending over a year with her and her golden retriever, Nugget, my whole world has changed.
And, now that we’ve moved in together, the rubber’s really hit the road.
There’s a need for narrowly focused boy habits to morph into the broader views of a man in relationship — concern for the wellbeing of partner needs to become equal to the concern for self.
That kind of thinking and behaviour takes time, successes and mistakes to learn from, and a certain degree of patience and forgiveness from both parties.
So, looking to hedge my bets I sought out a professional, Stanley Coren, a dog psychologist, to give me a little bit of insurance.
I needed some advice on how to get one of the things Lisa loves most in the world on my team, to help smooth over those not so graceful moments of a man in transition.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that Nugget doesn’t love me. She and I have a great relationship.
We cuddle, go skiing together, play stick, hide n’ seek and tug-o-war like no others.
It’s not even like she doesn’t listen to me.
It’s just that she doesn’t listen to me all that often — generally six commands out of every 10.
I guess I looked to Coren because I’m just a little tired of relying on Milk Bones and stuffed koalas to boost my odds.
And I did my homework, brother.
It was only after reviewing his resume and seeing his speaking engagement at the Beringia Centre Sunday night that I determined Coren was my man.
He’s a psychology PhD who works out of the University of British Columbia and has extensive knowledge of the human as well as the canine noodle.
He’s also a renowned dog trainer, has written countless books on dog behaviour, has helped police departments with their own canine programs and even has his own TV show on the Life Network called Good Dog.
Yup, if he couldn’t give me the tricks nobody could.
So on Monday, after he finished rolling around with Nugget on the carpet of his Riverview hotel room, I spilled my guts to the good doctor.
I told him that I loved Lisa and her fuzzy dog and would do anything for them.
I also told him that I’ve been handing Nugget treats like popcorn, carrots and fruit bars, letting her sleep under the covers next to me when Lisa is out of town, and letting her drink out of the same tea cup as me for over a year now.
Admittedly, these are things Lisa has openly discouraged.
I also told him that Nugget was my accomplice in an incident involving the disappearance of three dozen of Lisa’s dehydrated, organic, all natural, fruit and vegetable cookies she made for her yoga students a few weeks ago.
I really liked the cookies, and Nugget loved ’em.
But after listening to what Coren had to say in response to my tale, I got to thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
“If a dog can’t see it, hear it or smell it we can’t teach that idea,” Coren began, looking over to make sure my nodding head actually signaled understanding instead of bewilderment.
“Dogs use sensory impacts to solve problems that occurs even when they don’t immediately show it.”
In short, you’ve gotta understand how a dog views the world before it’ll listen to you.
And viewing doesn’t necessarily involve sight because a dog’s vision is one of its weakest senses.
They’ve got great night vision and can detect movement really well, but they find it hard to focus on details and have poor depth perception so they may not see things coming at ’em.
They’re also partially colour blind. They see the world in blues, yellow, greens and browns.
I should avoid really bright orange and red toys because dogs don’t see them.
I need to use big arm movements in conjunction with my voice commands because it would increase Nugget’s understanding of my expectations of her, as flailing my arms around widely is easier for her to see.
And, combining actions with voice commands help because, God forbid, if Nugget ever lost one of her senses she’d still be able to take commands.
And commands, along with consistent routine are important because “dogs like to be able to predict their world,” said Coren.
Hmmm, so if I want this dog to listen and love me more I should set up my own training regimen complete with rewards?
That’s what lets the dog see my place in the pack and view me as a guy that can provide her with treats and security.
And that, he said, is part of forming a bond with dogs.
Because, having the mental capacity of a two- to two-and-half year old human, a dog’s needs are predictable.
They include love, food, security, and consistent human behaviour, and training was a way to provide that.
That was news me. I figured a dog is a dog.
I also figured if a dog was trained it was trained.
But, it seems, it’s beneficial for a new boyfriend to teach an old dog some tricks.
At least I’m lucky.
It seems “my” new dog is a “super dog,” one of the top seven intelligent breeds.
In order those breeds are: border collies, poodles, German sheperds, golden retrievers, Doberman pinschers, Shetland sheepdogs and Labrador retrievers.
Hounds and terriers are on the other end of the intelligence scale.
But, even with that intelligence, I also need to remember that just as in my relationship with people, the way I speak to a dog counts.
A low pitch is threatening and a high pitch is not.
If a dog uses or hears sounds repeated quickly it signals excitement.
A slow drawn out sound is generally calm and/or well though out.
And, if I consistently allow my dog to stick her head out the window or ride in the back of the truck the last three rules will no longer apply because I will have contributed to canine ear damage.
Things to think about in my quest to woo Ms. Nugget, I thought to myself as the dog whisperer continued.
The other thing I need to remember is that dog snot is a necessary evil and that I should just get over it.
You see, a dog’s sense of smell is the sense it most relies on, said Coren.
It’s a sense that helps the dog make sense of the world and requires a lot of mucous and saliva to function properly.
And, because a dog’s sense of smell is 1,000 times more acute than a human beings I should give up on trying to understand it and just accept it.
As for cuddling — petting is good, hugging is out.
Dogs don’t like hugging; they like to be able to move, said Coren.
OK, fair enough.
I’ll save my hugs for Lisa, drive with the windows up, be a little more discriminate with my treats and change my clothes as soon as I get home from work.
I’ll also endeavour to make sure my dirty clothes hit the hamper instead of the floor, use the vacuum as more than a paperweight, learn that the world has more to offer than just Kraft Dinner cuisine and that listening is an active verb.
For the sake of the love of the women in my life, the ones with both two and four legs, I’m willing to make some adjustments.
It’s funny, as a bachelor you think you have it made until one day your life changes and you see what you’ve been missing.