Posts tagged ‘dog’

A Conversation With My Dog

Our toy poodle, Dobby, will be turning 2 next week. And let me tell you, she is one SMART little girl. Smart enough where she can even be sneaky. See, she has this “thing” about stuff she finds on the floor – if it’s on the floor (or hell, not even just on the floor – just within her reach!) it’s hers. Paper, pens, dryer sheets, socks (oh, does that dog LOVE socks!) plus whatever other tiny little stuff she finds that we didn’t even know was on the floor. Like the time someone dropped a Read more…

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What Were We THINKING???

Dear Dobby,

It has been a wonderful year and a half since your “Gotcha Day.” You started as a cute , 3-month-old little furball who had endless energy and who would incessantly whine in your crate at 6:30am because you were ready to start your day. As late risers, we longed for the days when you would finally sleep as late as we did. That took months. And months. And months.

You aced your Read more…

My Dog Is WAY Too Smart

They say that poodles are a smart breed. In fact, they say that German shepherds, golden retrievers and poodles are the top 3 smartest breeds of dogs. Now, I don’t know exactly who “they” are or how “they” figured out that those are the top 3 smartest breeds, but as long as MY dog’s breed is in there, I’m certainly not going to argue with “them”. Besides, Dobby has already proven that she’s smart. Very smart.

Too damned smart.

Some background information: When she turned about 9 months old, Dobby started becoming possessive of her “stuff”. Not all stuff, mind you, but if it was something she considered to be particularly cool, like a favored snack, pieces of paper, twisty ties, etc., she started showing some “possessive” behavior, like growling, baring her teeth and occasionally snapping at us if she thought we were getting too close to “her thing” (and yes, we WERE close…if it was paper or a twisty tie or anything else that she had stolen, we were indeed going to take it away from her!).

We talked to people and did some reading…some thought it was an “adolescent phase” (think of a 16-year-old who thinks (s)he knows everything and is smarter than his/her parents) and others said it was an issue that would not go away without intervention. We decided to go with the “adolescence” frame of mind and started doing things to reminder that we were, in fact, the bosses in the house and she was a distant #3.

And to some extent it worked. With training, she didn’t walk in or out of the house before we did. She sat and waited for us to say it was OK before she ate. She got better at the “drop it” command, at least for items she didn’t care much about. We enrolled her in Intermediate obedience classes so she would learn some new commands she would have to follow, again putting her into the “we will tell you what to do, not the other way around” frame of mind.

And in the midst of all of this, when she stole a sock from the laundry pile, or a bunch of self-stick stamps from the coffee table (yeah, that one was fun), they were hers and she’d still growl and show us her teeth.

Crap.

More reading. Apparently prevention is the best defense so we got very good at making sure the items she coveted were out of her reach. The laundry room door got closed and there were finally no dirty clothes on the floor.  The coffee table in the computer room finally got permanently cleared off for the first time in the 7 years we’ve had it. Scraps of paper than may have fallen to the floor unnoticed suddenly got picked up quickly, lest Dobby find them and claim them to be hers.

And it helped.

Most of the time.

Except for the stuff that got overlooked or things that she found that we didn’t even know freaking’ existed (Obviously a piece of a mailing label. Written in Italian?!?! I still don’t know where that one came from).

So yeah, she still got some stuff, so we learned how to redirect her from it. Not that it was easy. When she had that glove-sock-coaster-memory card-postcard from the OB-GYN, it was THE coolest thing in the world. It took a LOT of get her mind off it, especially when I got the impression that she could “read” when we were going to try to take something away from her. But we discovered that food was a HUGE motivator for her. And not just 1 little piece of kibble either…I had to give her part of her food in the bowl and run to grab “the cool thing” before she was done (and we’re talking Summer Olympic speed running…she eats FAST!). Or put some coveted Pup-Peroni into her Kong so she’d have to “work” to get it out (in another room, thank-you very much) while I took my pink flamingo sock back. If Joe was home, it’d be even easier because we could play tag team – one of us could redirect her with some Bil-Jack (another meaty dog product – “meat” is the name of the game) while the other person grabbed the used dryer sheet. And don’t ever, EVER bring groceries home and put the bags on the floor while you’re putting the stuff away because that raw chicken and chopped meat was HERS, dammit! That was a tough one, even with two of us there.

But meanwhile, prevention was just putting a band aid on the issue and wasn’t working on the problem itself…she was possessive and we needed to work on that.

Everything I read online and saw on TV (hello, Dog Whisperer and It’s Me Or The Dog) said that letting the dog sleep with you was not a good thing because it made the dog think they were equal to you. Well yeah, we let Dobby sleep with us, just as we had allowed her predecessor, Pippi to. It’s warm and cuddly and nice. But I was willing to change where Dobby slept for a while if it would help with the “I am possessive and I don’t want you to take back that sock that I stole from you. It’s mine and I’m willing to fight for it because we’re equals and I’m ballsy enough to even try to be the alpha dog” behaviors. Joe wasn’t quite as gung ho with that frame of mind but he also wasn’t as afraid of her trying to bite him as I was of her snapping at me. Then again, I was in the house more than he was so I could get her used to sleeping somewhere else like, say, her crate.

And it really worked. I cordoned off the chair and couch so she couldn’t jump up and sleep on those anymore, and put a nice, fluffy blanket in the crate. She was willing to sit in there and even fell asleep in her crate several times, all the course of just 3-4 days. What a good, smart puppy!

And then one day the smart puppy dragged her doggy mat from the front hallway into the computer room (not a far distance…maybe 5 feet) and fell asleep on that. No problem…I just took that mat away.

Two days later she dragged her other doggy mat all the way from the kitchen to the computer room – a distance of about 30 feet, through 2 rooms and 1 hallway.

Smart dog.

But I’m smarter.

You want to sleep on a mat, Dobby? Fine, but you’re going to do it on my terms. I took THAT mat and put it in her crate.

4 hours later I came home to this:

When the time comes that we’re ready to get a second dog, someone please remind me that I want him/her to be a stupid breed. Thanks.

Dobby the Devil Dog

I started begging asking for a dog when I was 3 years old and my control freak of a mother parents finally relented when I was 24. Pippi was a joy for the vast majority of her 18 years on earth; sure, she started to show her age when she was about 16 but it was really only her last 9 months or so, when she was riddled with arthritis, totally deaf, blind in one eye, visually impaired in the other and  senile to the point of barely functioning that

Pippi, age 15 or 16

we knew we would soon have to put her down. But she still ate and she still kissed us, which made us agreeing to do it that much harder. Pippi finally made the decision for us on a morning in December 2008, when she suddenly couldn’t stand up anymore – she kept falling to one side and it looked like she had a stroke. Our favorite vet in the world gently helped her go to sleep and that was that. It was very sad but not at all unexpected and probably the best thing that could have happened to her by that point.
There was never a question that Joe and I would be getting another dog but we wanted to wait a while to have our Master Bathroom done. We purposely had waited until Pippi was gone so the workers wouldn’t interfere with the life of an old, fragile dog who walked in near-continuous counterclockwise circles and got lost in corners, and the last thing we needed was the noise, dust, open doors and confusion rocking the world of a brand-new puppy. So we waited. Granted, I took the time to look for “puppy stuff” and to find a reputable breeder, but we still waited.

The bathroom was done on June 24th. We brought 3-month-old Dobby home on the 27th because after 6 months of being dogless, god forbid we want to wait even another second.

What a cutie she was!
Dobby on the day we got her. She looked kind of like a gorilla.
It had been a long, LONG time since I had a puppy. And I had specifically looked for a dog who was not the skittish little wallflower that Pippi had been. I wanted a brave dog. An active dog. One with personality.

I got exactly what I was looking for.

WHAT was I thinking?

I didn’t think two dogs could be such polar opposites. Pippi was afraid of her own shadow…Dobby is afraid of nothing and no one (except, as she’s gotten older, loud noises). Pippi turned her nose up at dog food for the first half of her life…Dobby literally LIVES for that 1/4 cup of Purina Pro Plan kibble twice a day. Pippi was obedient and responded to the word “No”…although she follows through with “Leave It”, “Drop It” and “Off” Dobby LOVES her papercommands 90% of the time, Dobby completely ignores “No” in every tone we’ve ever tried – but responds beautifully to redirection (usually food). Pippi didn’t take things that didn’t belong to her and would leave things alone if we told her to…Dobby is a master at stealing socks, paper, ball point pens, twisty ties and anything else on the floor (to the point where we’ve become much more aware of, and retrieving things that have fallen on the floor). Pippi was a voracious kisser and would even kiss us on command…Dobby only kisses us on her terms, usually when she’s sleepy (although I think the “kiss command” is starting to work on a more consistent basis). Pippi was the epitome of submissiveness…Dobby is the leader of the pack (not our pack – she’s learned her place – but she sure does like to beat up on other dogs, regardless of size). However although they came from two entirely different dog families and are so very different, I still see little “Pippi-isms” in Dobby’s personality…how they both stare at the doorknob when they think we’re going to open the door, their mutual love for the “warm spot”, how they “jump/hop” to “help” us pick them up when they’re in a sitting position, stuff like that. I’m sure it’s more “dog-isms” than anything – any small dog will do it (OK, large ones too but I can’t see trying out the “jump to help pick them up” with, let’s say, a Mastiff) but I prefer to think that the contents of the box of Pippi Ashes in the barrister bookcase in the living room are occasionally talking to Dobby from the Great Doggy Beyond.

It probably will gross some people out but Joe and I allow our dog to sleep with us. The one rule we have is that the bedroom is for “sleepy time” so, save for one particular brand of bone that she loves more than any other (and it’s the only time we let her chew that particular brand, to ensure it keeps her occupied), we don’t allow doggy play in that room – she can chew quietly or she can sleep, period. That’s it. Dobby’s still learning that rule though and doesn’t always care to follow it.  We have a baby gate in the bedroom doorway, which keeps her either in or out, depending on our needs (note that doesn’t always exactly jive with HER needs desires). So when she starts romping all over the bed, trying to chew on our hands, the blankets, the pillow, etc., in her doggy attempts to play in the bedroom, she gets locked out for a minute, to both calm her down and help her realize that sort of behavior isn’t allowed in there. Usually it works. Two nights ago it didn’t.

It was partially our own fault. We had been out for hours and were tired when we got home. So on top of being all worked up because she was worried and thought she would never see us again she finally woke up from a 5-hour nap we were finally home, we also didn’t take her out on her usual “long” walk to get rid of the last of her energy…we took her out, walked the length of 3 houses, she pooped and we went back home. So while Joe and I were really tired and ready to go to sleep, Dobby was all about playing. In the bedroom. Not a good thing.

True, she started off OK, chewing her “bedroom bone” like a good girl. She even gave us “goodnight kisses” like she usually does (unprompted, mind you…it’s the cutest thing!) and we figured she was going to settle down and go to sleep. But she had other ideas. Like chewing and pulling on the blankets. And playfully nipping at our hands when we went to pull the blankets away from her. So I did what one of us always do and picked her up and locked her out. She whined a little because she was separated from us (apparently a fate worse than death for a dog) and a minute later I opened the gate, picked her back up and brought her back in. I put her down on the bed and she immediately started pulling on the blankets again.

Shit.

Planning to lock her out again to teach her that “that” behavior means isolation from the rest of “her pack”, I went to pick her up and she suddenly Devil Dogbecame what our original Obedience Trainer calls Zoom Zoom Dog but what we in the Heg House fondly call “Apeshit Puppy.” Apeshit Puppy is when she gathers ALL of her energy and uses it to RUN. FAST. Usually just back and forth in a room, sometimes in large circles, but sometimes it’s just a haphazard running here, there and everywhere. Think of a running back’s path and that’s what Dobby would be doing, but with sharper angles and at something like 500mph.

The latter one was what she was doing now. Zig-zagging all over the bed. And when she is Apeshit Puppy, she is out of control. She’s in that 10% of the time where verbal commands don’t work and there is NO way to stop her unless you catch her…which I think could be compared to trying to catch a greased pig. Joe must have had some history of greased pig chasing though, because he somehow caught her in mid-zig.

And she was escorted out of the bedroom once again.

After a minute or two, I decided to change tactics and instead of just letting her back into the bedroom (obviously she wasn’t ready to go to sleep yet), I’d come out (because god knows *I* certainly wasn’t sleepy anymore by this time) and dig into my “bag of tricks” to help make her sleepy. We joke that our La-Z-Boy chair has magical sleeping powers for both man and beast so I brought her into the computer room and we laid on that for a good 10 minutes. I did some soothing massage, scratched her belly a while, used neutral warmth from my body, talked to her quietly and did whatever else I could think of to calm her down and make her sleepy. She did eventually calm down and even yawned a few times so I figured it would be a good time to bring her back into the bedroom.

And the second I set her down on the bed, she became Apeshit Puppy again.

Son. Of. A. BITCH!

I somehow managed to catch the little bastard her in “mid-zag” this time and once again she was isolated from the rest of the pack.

For an hour and a half.

And do you know why we knew it was an hour and a half? Because we had had enough and were not going to let her in and she spent the next 90 minutes keeping us awake, with whining and crying and pawing at the baby gate, trying to get back in. She may have gone on even longer than that but I finally fell asleep, exhausted, around 2:30am.

I woke up at 9am the next morning, with a quiet, well-behaved puppy between Joe and I. Joe said he finally let her back in at whatever time and she had worked herself up for so long that she was exhausted by that time and fell right to sleep.

It’s a damn good thing she’s cute.

Looking like Angel Puppy. It's all an act...