I would not consider myself a dog expert. But I have had a few. And I've trained them to do the things dogs should be expected to do.
If they want to live in my house they've got to be civilized.
The very first dog I had as an adult was a handsome St. Bernard. A puppy. And full of himself. For his amusement -- but not mine -- he chewed all three cushions on a brand new TR Taylor sofa to shreds.
And he did it a few days before my wife was having a house full of friends over for a Tupperware party.
Long story short, I was fortunate to find some very generous people working at the former TR Taylor furniture store, located in York County, and they agreed to replace the cushions in one day. On one condition -- they wanted to see Bronson.
Naturally, they fell in love with him.
All was well that ended well, as I remember it.
But I realized I owed it to myself and Bronson to go through obedience training. So we did. As a team. Bronson did very well. I did OK, too. Well enough that I was able to obedience train the three dogs -- two Rottweilers and a boxer -- I've had since.
One Rottie was so civilized he wouldn't even poop in the yard, where I'd have to clean it up. Instead, he'd walk over to the edge of the yard and deposit his droppings in the bed of English Ivy, never to be seen again.
Or touched by my hand.
I trained the boxer to pee and poop on command. I'd say, "Ollie got poopers." And he'd poop. I'd say, "Ollie got peepers." And he'd pee.
It didn't happen in a week, but it didn't take as long as you might think. And it sure cut down on the standing around outside for 20 minutes in the middle of the winter, while he sniffed every blade of grass in the yard. It was the power of suggestion and positive reinforcement at work.
Out and back in three minutes. You get my drift, I'm sure.
Anyway, there are a certain number of behaviors that all dogs, if they're properly socialized and civilized, will aspire to because it makes life easier for their humans. There are exceptions, of course, because some dogs -- like some humans -- are just too stupid to get with the program.
Dogs, for instance, should learn to sit. And stay. And not take food from your hand without your approval. They should know it's unacceptable to jump up on you with their front paws. They should know the meaning of the word "no."
Same goes for our kids, by the way.
Dogs should learn to heel, so as not to yank on the leash when you're walking them.
They should respond to their name when called.
And when they're barking, they should learn to stop when you tell them to stop.
But here's the most important thing: Dogs -- all dogs -- should accept being housebroken.
This is sometimes easier said than done. There are a few dog breeds that are too stupid to learn much of anything. There are a few more dog breeds that are plenty smart enough, but are bull-headed, stubborn and/or resistant to being taught anything useful.
So they'll poop and pee on the floor whenever they feel like it.
In my house, that's uncivilized behavior.
I've never had a healthy dog poop or pee in my house. And I've always been able to potty train a dog in two weeks or less. I've been lucky. I've had smart dogs -- a St. Bernard, two Rottweilers and a boxer in the last 40 years.
It just takes a bit of persistence on the part of the owner to make this happen.
So I admit, when I read the story in The York Dispatch last Thursday, about Dargo, the York County Sheriff's Department's latest addition to its canine team, I was aghast the almost-2-year-old German shepherd is still not housebroken.
It apparently pees and poops indoors.
And this dog is not stupid. It's smart enough to learn all the tools of the trade in becoming a K-9 security and bomb-sniffing specialist. He's got no behavioral issues that I'm aware of. He's civilized in every respect, as far as I know.
But he pees and poops indoors.
At age 2. That's the equivalent of about 14 human years. So I'm going to ask what I think is an obvious question: How many of us would tolerate for one second a 14-year-old son or daughter -- healthy in all other respects -- peeing or pooping in the house? On the floor?
German shepherds only have a life span of about 10 or 12 years. So Dargo's already 20 percent of the way through his life, probably 30 percent of the way through his reasonable work life -- and he still doesn't hold his business until he can go outdoors.
How can this be?
This is an expensive dog -- $6,500. It was paid for by Think Loud Development and the band Live. I'm wondering if they got their money's worth, because you'd think the least you'd get with a dog that costs that much is one that does his business outdoors.
Yes, it's a blessing that York County has a bomb-sniffing dog. In this day and age, it's a good thing.
"He's a great dog," Lt. David Godfrey, Dargo's handler said. "Great demeanor and willing to learn."
I hope so. We'll see how Godfrey feels about Dargo after cleaning up dog poop and pee off his living room floor for a few weeks. Or, I dare say, how he'll feel after stepping in a pile of Dargo stuff in the middle of the night on his way to the bathroom.
C'mon, this dog is too old and too smart to be messing inside the house.
The first order of business, I'm thinking, is a crash course for Dargo on getting the gist of dropping trow in the great outdoors.
Learning to sniff for bombs can wait a few months.
You've got your priorities, and I've got mine.
How does one say, "Dargo, got poopers?" in German?
I don't know, but Godfrey had better learn.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.