Olde Towne School For Dogs

We arrived in Old Town more or less on time, and I parallel parked the VW. I’d already learned not to let Goliath out on my side of the car, so I got out and walked around to the sidewalk side to get him. As always, I held tightly to Goliath’s collar while I attached his leash. The moment he heard the “click” of the clasp on his collar, he pushed past me. He was ready to go. And so naturally, he went.

As usual, he dragged me along. He’d stop suddenly whenever anything smelled particularly good (Dog pee! That smells great!) Then pull me to the other side of the sidewalk (Look, a French fry!) and back to the original side (Hey, a different dog’s pee – smells great too!)

After about 5 minutes, I managed to haul Goliath the way I wanted — to a storefront on the corner. We’d arrived for his first obedience training class at The Olde Towne School For Dogs.

A Truly Great Place (Google Image)

A Truly Great Place
(Google Image)

The Olde Towne School for Dogs was (and is) the best obedience school in the DC area. Several of the dogs I knew from Lincoln Park went there, as did Phoebe, my friend Jean’s Chow-chow. They offer private lesson with a trainer, and everybody I knew raved about the place.

I’d called earlier the previous week to see if they could help me with Goliath. Because after 4 months of trying to manage him, I finally admitted I needed help with my crazy dog. I had never trained a dog, and I was failing miserably at my attempts to get Goliath to obey me. To the extent any of our dogs growing up were trained, Dad did it. I played with them, taught them tricks, but really, I didn’t have a clue even where to start training. And I knew that I should have started training much earlier than I did with Goliath.

I simply couldn’t have a dog that dragged me around the way Goliath did.

Because, of course there was the other issue that I pretended wasn’t there. Sooner or later, somebody was gonna cut me open.

You see, in spite of my reluctance, Dr. C kept mentioning surgery for my colitis. It was progressing and not in a good way. I was getting sicker. My flare ups were getting more frequent and more severe. And while I was dead set against it, I had to face reality. There was a very real chance that sooner or later somebody would operate on me. And I was pretty sure that my recovery would not be enhanced by being jerked down the road by an over-eager crazy dog who didn’t know how to heel. Or listen. Or obey. In fact, I was pretty sure that being dragged down the street on my belly wouldn’t be part of any doctor’s post-surgical instructions.

And so I called Olde Towne School for Dogs and spoke with Carlos, the owner. I explained my situation, and he agreed to take Goliath on as a student. Equally important, he agreed to let me pay individually for each lesson. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the $200 their training classes cost back then, not all at once, anyway. Equally unfortunately, my crappy health didn’t let me not train my dog. Carlos was a lifesaver, even before we met.

Goliath and I arrived at the white storefront of Olde Towne School for Dogs that hot summer day, and I opened the door to the combination school and dog boutique. Goliath, delighted that he could go inside, dragged me inside full speed.

Google Image

Google Image

He yanked me to the left — (Look! Treat Bins!) To the right — (Look! Toys for Me!) To the big bags of rawhide and other chew toys — (Oh Yeaaahhhhh! Mommy this place is GREAT!). In his excitement, Goliath yanked me to just about every single display in the store. Then, blushing, I yanked him up to the counter and the cash register, where a tall, dark and handsome man frowned at us.

“This must be Goliath,” Carlos said.

“How did you guess?” I responded with a smile. Carlos didn’t smile back.

Carlos took Goliath’s leash, held him tightly, and led us to the back of the store and into a training room.

Sit,” he said. I sat. Goliath did too.

Carlos silently examined Goliath, scratched his ears, rolled him over, rubbed his belly. Got to know him a little bit.

The first thing this dog needs to learn is that you are not wrapped around his paw,” Carlos said.

I chuckled. “But I am.”

Carlos stared at me for several seconds before turning back to Goliath.

The first thing that you need to learn is that you are in charge.”

“OK.” I didn’t try to make any more jokes. Carlos didn’t seem to appreciate my sense of humor.

And never, ever again let me see this dog drag you into my store. Never.

“OK,” I said sheepishly.

Then we got to work.

Carlos pulled a choke chain collar and a six foot leather leash out of a wicker basket in the corner. He took off Goliath’s leather collar.

This won’t work,” he said, handing me Goliath’s old collar. “Fabric collars look great, but they don’t help in training or restraining a dog. And Goliath needs both.” Carlos kindly didn’t mention that Goliath needed both training and restraining desperately.

Carlos didn’t like my leash, either, a drug store special with 10 inches of cheap leather at the top and chain going down to the clasp. I knew then that it was going to be an expensive training course –10 minutes in and I already needed a new collar and a new leash — that’d cost me at least 25 bucks. And there was no way I’d get through all those dog toys and chew bones without getting my baby something.

Carlos demonstrated how to put on the choke chain in a “P” formation, so that when not being used to correct Goliath, gravity would let it fall into a loosened position. Putting the collar on backwards could be uncomfortable and even possibly dangerous for the dog.

Then Carlos stood to Goliath’s right, and our lesson really started.

While explaining to me that each command should be clear and one syllable, Carlos gently tugged Goliath up from where he was lying into a sit position, saying “Sit.”

“Goliath knows that one!” I said proudly.

Carlos just looked at me.

Up!” he said, getting Goliath to stand.

Goliath, however, didn’t realize that he was only supposed to stand up, and lunged for the door.

No!” said Carlos as he immediately corrected Goliath with the choke collar and leash. Carlos had been expecting it.

Goliath was shocked. (What do you mean I can’t do what I want!) Goliath sat attentively, looking up at Carlos with respect he’d never shown me.

That’s what you have to do every time he lunges like that. He may not do that.” Carlos said to me looking at me in the eye. He then showed me how to keep to Goliath’s right, how to hold the leash properly, in two hands with the right thumb through the loop, and how to position him right next to me, walking at my pace, not Goliath’s. I looked at Carlos with respect, too.

We went outside and started walking the streets of Old Town, Alexandria, Goliath falling into step with Carlos when Carlos held the leash, and less so with me, when I took my turns. That first lesson, we taught Goliath to stop and sit at street corners instead of charging ahead into the street — an important lesson for a city dog.

As Goliath began to learn, Carlos began to relax, although it was took several lessons before Carlos let me know it. Years later when I saw him, he remembered Goliath’s first venture into the store with a chuckle. “That dog was something else,” he said, “yes, I remember him dragging you into the store.”

Goliath mastered Heel in minutes when Carlos held the leash. Right from the start, Goliath idolized Carlos and did exactly what Carlos told him to do. Every time.

It took me much longer to get the hang of the commands. In fact, I’m not really sure I ever did. Especially the one that said I was in charge.

Goliath, the Goose

Goliath, the Goose

*     *     *

This is another chapter in the memoir I’m writing about my psychotic, alcoholic German Shepherd.  Other posts about Goliath can be found on FiftyFourAndAHalf :

For Medicinal Purposes Only

What’s in a Name?

Dogs and Other Nuts


Filed under Crohn's Disease, Dogs, Family, Goliath Stories, History, Humor, Pets

50 responses to “Olde Towne School For Dogs

  1. Pingback: Don’t Ever Let an Opportunity Pass | FiftyFourandAHalf

  2. Eva

    Look at Goliath! What a gorgeous boy! Oh, crap. Now I want a Shepherd–what I originally wanted but the alpha male talked me out of. Screw that. We’re getting a Shepherd. That was a great story, lady.


  3. Clinton

    We are writing our own book of dog stories. However this one will not be a comedy, I’m sad to say.


  4. I’m partial to German Shepherds so I’m digging Goliath.


  5. Is Carlos stillin business?
    And does he train children?


  6. Lily

    Great reminder that I *really* need to step it up with Bobby. ::sigh:: I have him incredibly spoilt because he was so messed up when we rescued him. He’s perfectly fine with *me* but spazzes around people he’s not familiar with as you described Goliath going into the store. Not everybody wants him to rub up against them. My brother calls it a ‘bear slap’ but he’s waving — he doesn’t touch you when he does it but he’s extremely ‘animated.’ And yes, lunges with me but only around outsiders. Which cannot be accepted.


    • It may indeed be time for Bobby. Goliath was really happier as he got better trained. I certainly was. I had felt that restricting his freedom was a bad thing to do to him. Instead it was a good thing for both of us. And he kept plenty of the scamp so I didn’t feel like I’d turned him into a Stepford Dog!


  7. I love well behaved dogs, but have never had the need for a trainer. Hubby & I did the training ourselves & were very lucky with our last love Bandit.


    • I’ve never successfully trained a dog. We’ve had two since Goliath. Charlie, a Bernese Mountain Dog was brilliant and learned immediately — but I needed the reinforcement, so I took him to training near where we lived in Connecticut. Cooper, our current dog, got trained while we were living in Switzerland. In French. It wasn’t pretty: https://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/10/25/merde-101/.

      I’m impressed with your ability to do it yourself.


  8. cooper

    Carlos rules. Good trainer. We went through the same thing with our bull terrier..use that voice!


    • Carlos was really the best. After our initial visit he loosened up quite a bit. But he was very firm with both Goliath and I. Especially since I didn’t really catch on as quickly as Goliath did!


  9. Great story about his strong will … but cheers to you for determining that he needed training. Of course I say that in light of being flanked by two neighbors … one to the left and one to the right …. that are clueless that they dogs bark way too much and seemingly do nothing about it. Well … one using the yelling technique.


    • He was dragging me down the street, chasing dogs and trying to kill them. He would run into traffic. He was a demon dog, which is especially odd for a guardian angel. He really needed training.

      But I know what you mean about folks letting their dogs bark. We have a neighbor who had a psychotic German Shepherd who barked incessantly — at us. The neighbors opened their door, let him out and we were his sport. He would stand at the edge of our property, behind an invisible fence and bark and bark and bark like we were breaking into his junkyard. If we opened the cabinets in our kitchen, inside our own house, he would bark at us aggressively. I hated that dog, but it wasn’t his fault. It was his owners fault. I tried complaining nicely numerous times. Each time, the neighbor turned into a bitch. Ultimately I threatened to sue her. Only then did they keep him inside.

      We had some complaints about Goliath barking when we had a small dog door (beagle size) that he unbeknownst to us could use. He’d go out and harass the neighbors. But we stopped him after they complained. Although it was really funny watching him get in and out of that dog door.


  10. cortney

    I’ll echo the others – I love your Goliath stories! Especially the guardian angel note. Sounds like he took as good of care of you as you did of him.

    I’m a long-distance fan of Olde Towne – a friend of mine from the DC area recently visited and brought Widget a toy she purchased there, and it’s the only one Widget hasn’t been able to gut and destroy right away 🙂


    • Thanks, Cortney. He really got me through some of the hardest times of my life. Mostly because something nutty always happened when he was around.

      And the OTSFD is a great store. We don’t live near there at all, or I would be a constant customer. And our Cooper is no longer interested in toys. I’m impressed that there is one that is Widget-proof!


  11. When we got our dog, Zoe, 7 years ago, we called Bark Busters. They come to your house, which is nice. What they tell you is “We don’t train your dog. We train you to train your dog.” It’s actually a good approach.


    • Yes, that is the correct approach, which is also used by Olde Towne. I think that there are some things that are difficult to accept — that your dog doesn’t want to obey you as much as they want to love you


  12. I went through an almost identical experience with my first Jack Russell Terrier. He was small but mighty – he would pull until he passed out. Now having four pups I know how important it is to them that I am in change. Their only job is to be dogs. I love this story, so well told, and I’m falling in love with Goliath.


    • Dogs really do want you to be in charge; it took me a long time to get that. And a Jack Russell can out stubborn a German Shepherd any day.

      I’m glad the love is coming through in these stories. Because if I didn’t love him, and if he didn’t love me, there would be no story!


      • It is coming through – I get visions of Marmaduke whenever you write about him.

        I have a pair of Jacks right now and there is no comparison for me pound for pound when you are talking stubbornness – but they are wonderful.


  13. Laura asked my question. Sounds like you met your match in Carlos. School for Dogs, I am thinking not!

    Goliath, really what were you thinking giving him that name? You simply reinforced his ego.

    As always you deliver a wonderful memory with delightful humor.


    • Thanks, Val.

      You’re right about the name. I regretted it almost immediately. But I named him after the Goliath in Davy and Goliath; that Goliath was a guardian angel, someone to keep Davy from doing stupid things. I needed that. And he delivered on it actually!


  14. I love your Goliath stories. Did Carlos ever find out about Goliath’s drinking problem?


    • Thanks, Laura.

      You know, I don’t think Carlos did know about Goliath’s drinking problem, but I am not sure. He may have started drinking a bit after he started school. Sort of like my human son, actually ….


  15. Hmm. . .sounds a lot like rearing children. (Too bad their isn’t a training school for parenthood.) Great story about Goliath. I think these stories are going to make a delightful book. Keep ’em coming.


    • Thanks, Eleanor. I’d kind of lost the thread and needed to hear that the stories are worth writing up.

      There are a lot of similarities between parenting dogs and children; they will both stretch your patience until the breaking point. They will both drive you nuts. Dogs rarely require therapy, though.


  16. I, too, love your Goliath stories. And one of my favorite shows is The Dog Whisperer.


  17. I love your stories about Goliath. Keep them coming!


    • Thanks, Michelle. I haven’t been able to write much about him lately; I posted this to jump start my writing again. Thanks for the encouragement!


  18. JellyBoBelly

    I feel your shoulder & knee pain. I get dragged down the street by a Cavalier Kind Charles spaniel (a toy breed). So glad to hear there is hope.


    • There really is hope. Goliath did learn to heel and to be reasonably obedient in a number of ways. Of course, he rarely obeyed me …

      Good luck with your spaniel; I currently have a springer spaniel. He doesn’t obey much better than Goliath did.


  19. Don’t be too hard on yourself, Elyse. I once had a 18 pound Lhasa named Chauncey that could pull me down the road when we went for a walk. That dog was solid muscle.

    What a handsome dog Goliath was!


    • What a great name, “Chauncey”

      It’s nice to hear that little dogs can be just as, um, difficult as the huge ones (Goliath was about 120 lbs.). I think it is all a matter of attitude. I want to get a small dog next time around but my husband is resistant. Maybe we need a Chauncey!


  20. Goliath sounds like he was one great pup.


  21. Luanne

    Your first mistake was the name Goliath. What we name our pets shapes who they are. Your second mistake was thinking it was a “School for Dogs.” “School for Elyse” is more like it. hahaha


    • You are absolutely right. That was a huge mistake — my post “Whar’s in a Name” talks a little bit about that stupid decision.

      And you’re right on the other issue; I needed training far more than Goliath did!


  22. Shepherds are strong-willed. They are handsome and ferocious, what I know of them from my cousin having two. He must’ve immediately understood something about the trainer for him to behave and understand so quickly. Maybe it’s because you were female?


    • No, I don’t think that was it. I was a pushover for him. He was strong willed and I didn’t assert myself the way you have to with a dog. Especially a dog like him.

      I did learn over time. Somewhat. He also mellowed! Until then, he ran my life!


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