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Why NOT to Teach Your Dog to Fetch the Paper

We taught our Labradoodle Gordon to fetch the paper; a trick we previously thought only existed in Disney movies. We deemed this accomplishment solid proof that we had The Smartest Dog in the World and that we, ourselves, might be gifted dog whisperers. We bragged. We waited until neighbors walked into their yard before letting Gordon out to fetch, just so we could see their amused and amazed reactions to the Genius Dog in their neighborhood. You would have thought we taught the dog how to speak Chinese.

I feel the urge now to point out he does know some Spanish.

Anyway, the paper fetching trick always ends with a treat, which is, of course, why Gordon does it. It isn’t because he’s addicted to Dear Abby or that he likes a nice Dave Barry column once in a while. Everything Gordon does, from the moment he wakes up until he stretches out across my entire side of the bed and goes to sleep, is in some way motivated by chicken by-products and pig taints smooshed into a bone shape and baked to perfection.

Our local paper arrives late in the afternoon, and Gordon jumps onto the window seat at about four, just waiting for his Angel in the Red Civic to arrive bearing her plastic bag-encased joy. Sometimes, he comes and barks at me, commanding me to let him out for the paper, before she throws the paper. That behavior had us thinking he was not only a genius, but clearly psychic. Somehow, we had lucked into a dog that was Stephen Hawking and Jean Dixon all rolled into the adorable body of a Muppet.

Then we realized Gordon has much better hearing than us, and can hear that Civic a mile away from the house. He’s memorized every ping and sputter of that particular engine. Plus, I think superior dog hearing mixed liberally with obsessive compulsive disorder makes for hearing 1000 times better than your average human’s.

So he isn’t psychic. Necessarily. It is still a cool trick.

It was about a month into the trick when the trouble began.

First, it started getting a little annoying having our Doodle turn into a curly drill sergeant every time the paper arrived. Maybe I didn’t feel like dropping everything just to open the door and let him out to get the paper. But his incessant huffing and foot stopping behind my office chair made it difficult to concentrate. I had to let him out, just so I could get back to my life.

Worse, letting him out isn’t as fast and easy as just opening the door. He loves to drag out the process. In the early days of the trick, he flew out to the paper and flew back. Now, he wrestles with it a bit, maybe stops and goes to the bathroom, maybe picks up the paper and looks up and down the street with it in his mouth for a while.  The first time we happened to have two papers at the same time, I had to sit there in the doorway for an hour while he tried shove them both in his mouth, always dropping the first before getting the second and then starting the process all over again.

To add insult to injury, he’s gotten pissy about handing over the goods. Gordon, the dog with the softest mouth in the world, now clamps down on that paper like vice grips until there is visual confirmation of the treat. There is no dropping the paper at our feet ,unless that treat is ready to be shoved in his mouth as fast as the paper leaves it. That implies a certain amount of mistrust. That hurts.

Next problem: we had to start making sure the paper lady was gone before we let him out. If we didn’t, as she came driving back after delivering her payload to the rest of the neighborhood, Gordon would run out and throw himself at her car like a crazed Beatles fan.  He LOVES the Bringer of the Paper that Begets Treats. Luckily, she keeps an eye out for him and slows down any time he makes a dash for her, but while I really appreciate her not rolling over my lovestruck baby, it has also taught him that when cars slow down it makes for a great time to run out and get autographs, or at least, steal a sloppy kiss through a rolled down window. After that, ANY car that slowed down became an object of interest.

Finally, if all that wasn’t bad enough, my husband decided he really wanted to get the USA Today delivered to the house. The USA Today, unlike our local paper, is a MORNING paper. A morning paper that shows up about 3 am. I haven’t slept past 5am since. Whether it is Twinkle Toes’ nails click-click-clicking back and forth in front of the bed as he paces away his deep disappointment in me (that I didn’t wake up with the first thud of the paper), or the feel of his wet nose pressed against mine as he breaths my oxygen before I can actually get any use out of it: I AM GETTING UP.

Husband’s morning paper; husband should have to get up and let Gordon out you say? Please, stop. I can’t write when I’m laughing this hard.

Now when people say,“Hey, did I see your dog get the paper? That’s so cute!!”  I’m not quite as enthusiastic as I used to be.

“Yeah,” I grumble. “Great, isn’t it?”


Amy Vansant

Voted Funniest Non-Mommy Blog by a Bunch of Moms I Got Really Drunk.Amy has been finding creative ways to make no money since high school.

17 Responses

  1. Wilbur

    Can’t believe you wrote the words, ‘pig taint’.


  2. a

    You mistrain your dog, and then you wonder why it misbehaves…..

    if your dog is acting like that as well it seems it isn’t getting enough exercise


    • Amy Vansant

      Oh believe me, he gets plenty of exercise. And I’m sure we didn’t do EVERYTHING right when it comes to training, but I can tell you if anyone was to come back as Gordon in their next life, they would be pretty darn happy about it!


  3. Hailey

    A little advice for next time (or with any other training you do): Never give a treat every time the dog does what you want him to do. This same principle can be applied to children or anyone else. My mom learned this lesson the hard way when training our dogs, who refused to come inside after playing in the yard unless they got a treat. Yeah, it was ridiculous. Anyways, give a treat the first couple times, but then don’t for a few times. After that, give a treat sporadically, don’t do it every other time or every third time. Switch it up so they don’t know whether to expect it or not.


  4. David

    Something else you may want to try…

    Whenever you give your dog a treat for anything, hold it in your cupped hand. From the dog’s perspective, all he can see if the bottom of your hand, not what is inside the cup.

    When Gordon drops the paper (dont give him the treat until he drops it) lower your hand down so that he can take the treat out of the palm of your hand.

    It may take a few times before he realizes a cupped hand means cookie, but once he does, it comes in handy on those occasions where you dont have a cookie. Just make sure you dont show the cupped hand without a cookie until he has learned to associate cupped hand with cookie.


  5. Catherine

    Funny story! I have two Labradoodles and they have the same thought process.


  6. Monica


    Thanks for the laughs! The part about your husband not getting the morning paper was too funny! My hubby gets up at 6 am every day with our dog to feed him and get the paper. So sorry to hear that your hubby doesn’t!


  7. Amy Vansant

    Ah, but my husband is really helpful keeping the house clean, and I’ve always got Gordon for the paper! (and I get up at 5am anyway. :) )


  8. Claudia

    This is such a funny post! My husband gets the paper…except all he does is throw it somewhere into the garage. Somehow it conveniently ends up behind the tire of my daughter’s car, so every time she goes somewhere she’ll run over it. I’ve seen it happen many times…I do have a dog though, maybe I should teach him to get it!
    Claudia recently posted..Disney Costumes


  9. loudlyshy

    …well now I’m embarrassed that I read this after I asked if you’d taught your dog to get the paper. I can’t stop laughing. I wish my dog was as hilarious as yours. I’ve trained her that things happen when /I/ damn well please and not when she does, through a series of ignoring her a lot, so now she doesn’t do anything cute like stare at me for an hour so I can take funny photos of her. Goddammit.

    Man, I am going to backread ALL of your posts. They’re hilarious. I will try not to keep commenting on 5 year old posts though.
    loudlyshy recently posted..I think my body double is going to murder me


  10. Nelson

    Haha, that is so funny, especially the part where Gordon wrestles with the newspaper. Probably he is sulking. I wish I have a dog. I guess it’ll be less lonely to have a dog. But after reading this, hmmm, maybe I won’t train it to fetch newspaper. Ha! A Siberian Husky would be nice. Oh, I got to this post from your twitter, just for the record. :)
    Nelson recently posted..My Story: A Lesson from Coin Stacking



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