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Can a Dog Train Its Owner?


Funny-looking dog teaches owners how to love him--looks and all!

Barney came to live with my ten-year-old nephew and his family as a "replacement doggie." That means he was brought in as a replacement for a beloved family pet that had passed away. I've enjoyed getting to know Barney, even though I'm only his "aunt." I live near Houston, and Barney lives near Dallas with my nephew, my sister, and her husband. They are a very happy family, and they love dogs. That is, my sister and my nephew love dogs unconditionally, but I think her husband simply tolerates them.

To me, as a family, they seem to work as a team. The husband, being the good-spirited and loving guy that he is, I think tolerates dogs because my sister and their son love dogs. That means the family will probably always have a dog, and so, as the dad of the family "team," he simply wants to be a good team player. So, he puts up with Barney.

Barney came to the family in an interesting way, but before I get too far into talking about him, I first need to tell you about his predecessor. Before Barney came to be, our whole family had recently suffered the loss of my sister’s first beloved family pet, Rupert. Rupert was like a canine nephew to me, and he was an important and beloved member of our family. He was my sister’s dog that her husband had given to her as a gift about nine or ten years ago as a gift in b.b. (before Barney).


A Dog Trainer's Dream ...

For nine years, Rupert was the best dog in the world, bar none. He was so cute, his face literally looked like that of a golden-brown teddy bear. He was a mixed breed, a Chow/Lhasa Apso mix, and in terms of looks, he was most definitely one-of-a-kind. Anywhere he went with his family, he got oh’s and ah’s, and questions about what kind of dog he was. He seemed to revel in the comments, as if it felt good to know he was unique—beautiful and different. I think his tail wagged a little more and a little higher than usual whenever someone offered his owners a compliment about him. And he was a smart, smart dog. It seemed that no matter what you said to him, he understood fully what you were talking about.

Whenever I talked to Rupert about my troubles, it felt very nearly as though I was talking to a person; a person who listened and empathized, always sending out sympathetic sparkles with his eyes to show concern for your plight. And he always listened in silence. Like a loyal and trusted but silent friend, he never ventured any type of comment on what I said to him, probably fearing he might say the wrong thing. But it was understood between the two of us that his eyes were conveying all he wished he could say.

Anytime you needed him to be there for you, Rupert's care and concern for you and whatever you were going through was always given lovingly and freely. Rupert made you feel like he had your back. As you talked to him, he’d lay his big head on your knee if you were sitting down, or on your feet if you were standing. In other words, he possessed a really good understanding of what it meant to be "a man’s best friend."

Rupert was a loyal, trusting, and well-trained beauty. And he took pride in his looks. Whenever he came home from the groomer, he'd prance when my sister would sing to him his special song, "Pretty Doggie" (to the tune of "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison). And even though his relationship with my brother-in-law was often a rocky one, that man was able to get that dog to do anything he asked.

Rupert adored and desired to please the man, whom I'm sure he looked up to as "Master of the House," and my brother-in-law exploited that "respect" to great effect. He taught Rupert to do all the standard doggie tricks with great pride, including fetch, roll over, paw/handshake, speak (in either indoor or outdoor voice), sit, beg, don’t beg, the whole repertoire. Rupert also learned and respected the areas of their home that he was allowed into. If he was told to confine himself to a runner-type rug and not venture beyond it, like a little soldier, he’d walk up and down and around it as much as he wanted, but by gosh, he’d stay put. Solidly house-trained, he would probably rather have his bladder burst than go in the house if someone got delayed in taking him out.


A Dog Trainer's Nightmare ...

And with that, I’m going to segue madly into Barney’s tale. Seguing madly is the only way to tell you about Barney, a little dog that is very nearly the opposite of Rupert.

After Rupert developed diabetes and passed away, my sister almost decided not to get another pet. The loss of a near-perfect pet is always hard, and I think deep down inside, our whole family felt that since there was no possible way Rupert could ever be replaced, what would be the point of getting another dog? But my nephew, Darrion, an only child, around seven years old at the time, was lonely without his friend Rupert. The family decided together that they would wait a while before even thinking about getting another pet. But my sister, inspired by her love for her one and only child, decided one day to become involved in a program that allowed people to spend time with dogs. The program was sort of like a "foster-care" arrangement for unwanted animals.

That’s how Barney came to their house to visit. Barney is a little black-haired mix breed. He is a Brussels Griffon mixed with other stuff, like Rat Terriers, I think, and maybe even rats. When he first came to visit, it was sort of on a temporary basis. But, of course, my little nephew fell in love with the "jumping doggie." You see, Barney, when he gets excited, he jumps. I’m not talking about a cute little hoppity-hop like what a lot of dogs do when they’re happy or excited. Not at all. I’m talking about a "What-are-you-trying-to-compete-in-the-Olympics?" type of jump. He jumps so high and so fast that it looks like he’s bouncing on an invisible trampoline. And that’s not all.


A Could Ya, Would Ya Poll

Barney, Barney ... Boo, Boo, Boo, Boo, Boo!

Barney, it turns out, is just about un-trainable. He’s not dumb, he’s just stubborn and independent. He only does what he wants to do, and usually what that is is the exact opposite of what you want him to do. If he goes near and seems to be getting ready to jump up on the sofa, and you say, "Stay off the sofa, Barney!" Barney suddenly thinks there is no better place to be than on that sofa. Belt out a command like, "Sit, Barney!" and it will seem that even if he felt like sitting before, now that you want him to do it, he’s going to stand up and run around. And as for grooming? The dog has been banned from the groomers! He is so unruly and bouncy that the last time he went to be groomed, once it was over, the groomer said they were sorry, but in the interest of keeping him from getting hurt, they would not be able to groom him again.

A scraggly-looking little thing, he has a countenance that only his true family could love. And now that he’s been with my sister and her family for going on three years now, I guess we all know he has found his true family. On special occasions, he wears cute little outfits for my sister (he seems to accept that he’s a second child stand in, and even though he looks ridiculous in the outfits, he loves my sister more than life itself, so he puts up with it—for her). His jumping is not nearly as high as it once was, but he still jumps.

Barney and his antics have grown on all of us. He’s a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the family now, and has become a much loved and very adored pet. And he is always up to something. Reluctantly, he obeys the "Master of the House," but he doesn’t do it willingly. And although he knows he’s not allowed to show affection toward my brother-in-law (meaning he can’t lick his face! ), every now and then when his adoration of the Master reaches a fever pitch, Barney will do a "fly by licking!" He’ll take off running as fast as he can, then jump real high while giving my brother-in-law a big wet lick on his face! It’s the funniest show of "tough love" you could ever imagine.

Barney has made it quite clear to everyone concerned that he most assuredly did not come to town to try to replace Rupert. In fact, it seems to be his mission in life to make sure that he does just the opposite of what Rupert did, whether it’s something good or something bad. Mostly bad. Even though Barney is house-trained, on a recent visit to my home, he showed me that whenever I forget and call him "Rupert," he is indeed not Rupert, nor is he a Rupert replacement. Remember what I told you about Rupert and his bladder? Well, check out the video below. This little "Barney boo boo" happened on one of his most "memorable" visits to my home.

Barney's Boo Boo

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A Funny Story About How Dogs in the Same Family Don't Always Get Along

© 2012 Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD


Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on April 30, 2012:

Thanks a bunch. I was taking video of Barney playing with my nephew. I had no idea I would catch such a "real" moment. So of course, I had to share it!!

Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on April 30, 2012:

Thank you so much! I really do appreciate the support, and I hope our lovable little "goat devil" wins! He taught us all how to love until it hurts!

Mrs. Middle-frank on April 30, 2012:

Wow! The video complements the story of this feisty fella quite well. It was a nice touch to juxtapose his rebel-like existence with that of angelic Rupert's. Seeing him in action (via video) made him all the more intriguing. And judging by his special "blessing" of your house (lol!), the title seems fitting. ;-)

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on April 30, 2012:

Unruly and cute! What a great combination for Barney to get a nomination! Perfect! Head this way everyone to read and vote for the Hubnuggets. Congratulations on your nomination!

Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on April 28, 2012:

Thanks Pamela99. Yes, "unruly" describes him perfectly!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 28, 2012:

While he is unruly, he is a cute dog. Training a dog can be very time consuming, especially for some breeds. Congrats on your Hubnubbet nomination.

Maria Cecilia from Philippines on April 19, 2012:

I can't understand but they seemed to know our weakness on them

Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on April 19, 2012:

And they're loving every minute of it! The name of the game for them is attention, attention, attention--just like little children! : )

Maria Cecilia from Philippines on April 19, 2012:

dogs are making us crazy really.....

Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on April 19, 2012:

We think so too! He is loving, and is very much loved. Thanks so much for that compliment. He doesn't get that many, so I'll pass it along to him! : )

Tess45 from South Carolina on April 19, 2012:

He's adorable in an unruly mess of a way. I love him.

Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on April 19, 2012:


Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on April 19, 2012:

It's almost like his feet are attached to basketballs! It's so funny!

Cosmic Bus from Maryland on April 19, 2012:

Cute! Voted up.

brackenb on April 19, 2012:

Sounds like a great character. The bouncing thing is very terrier-like. I have one and he bounces for the Olympics too! Enjoyable article, voted up.

Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on April 19, 2012:

That is a very smart move on the part of your two year-old. Let the doggie do the legwork!! They say that's the biggest trade secret of millionaires and billionaires--find a way to get others to do the work for you! Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed it. : )

Maria Cecilia from Philippines on April 18, 2012:

He's a funny pet and independent minded one...he has his own cleverness that makes him very endearing.... My 12 yrs old dog Peso's favorite game is where is the toy? and he will get it and show you, my two year old can't learn the trick, but you know what she learned to do, whenever I said where's the toy? she will wait for Peso's movement then he will follow him them grabbed the toy from him then she will show it me....clever LOL

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