The Dog I've Always Wanted

Canine Behavior, Training and Photography

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October 16th, 2009 · · Back to the Blog, Journal, Musings, Photo Gallery

Life has a way of just eating up one’s time! I’ve always liked John Lennon’s often quoted remark, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” Exactly.

Dogs really are most interested in each other. They love to play and just hang out together. My three are having a great time in the backyard in September. Benny is the big blond; Arlo is the puppy and Cleo is the basenji. Observe all the “dog” being spoken in these shots!

A great deal of life certainly unfolds with amazing rapidity for a  mother of ten who also shares her life with three cats, three dogs and a long-suffering husband.  All this activity drastically cuts into the time available for creative pursuits such as playing Bach on the piano, photography,  not to mention writing. Still there is an urge to write and blogging seems to be a more approachable form than say writing a novel or even a dog training manual. The thought of a large scale writing project is intimidating enough to produce a massive case of writers’ block.

So I’m intending to set forth here something in the form of a  journal, a record of my life with dogs, mine and other peoples’. I’d like to talk  about dog walking as that is what I’m doing these days.  It an activity that affords many opportunities for observation of the environment. The weather is hard to ignore when you’re out in it all the time.  The sky, the trees and plant life in parks and gardens provides a constantly changing scene. There is definitely a meditative quality possible for a dog walker and a special link that occurs between human and dog on a good walk. The walk has replaced the hunt in the contemporary dog’s repertoire. It is a bonding time for the pack. I think that it is good if the dog is given some food upon returning home, to the den. You should feed this snack to the dog with your hand thereby reminding him that you are a good leader and provider. If he associates your scent with the things that are desirable and even necessary to him he will bond with you and accept your leadership.

I’m thinking about leadership and pack dynamics quite a bit right now. Having a growing puppy in the pack makes for lots of interaction and drawing of lines in the sand. It is the best policy to avoid interfering most of the time in dog to dog interactions.  Manners always need to be corrected either by you or another of the dogs. Pack members join forces to raise a pup. Among the most satisfying interactions I’ve had to date raising Arlo are those instances in which I’ve seen Benny using good judgement in disciplining the puppy   Arlo has been misbehaving, indulging in  what I refer to as “senseless” barking.  Benny will growl and show teeth and sometimes even lunge but not connect. Senseless barking ends immediately and puppy does a down. Benny will then make eye contact with me and I say, “Good work.” It only makes sense; Benny knows that barking like that is not allowed. Benny, who uses his barks sparingly and was taught to speak to request a door be opened, is not about to tolerate much in the way of “senseless” barking. In fact he enforces the rules as he has been taught them. That’s a real plus for me; if Arlo doesn’t know what I’m saying because I am less than perfectly fluent in ‘dog’ he never fails to get Benny’s meaning. Dog speak is nothing if not succinct. Pack leaders do not whine or plead or cajole. It’s crucial to remember that when dealing with your dog. A whining leader has zero credibility. Keep it short and to the point. Use your body at least as much as your voice. Dogs understand dog talk. They can learn words in any language as triggers for various behaviours or objects but when it comes to asserting leadership body language is the most effective.

As I see things now I need to make some strong leadership statements as Arlo grows up. He may challenge Benny and Cleo but not me. There are moments when it is tempting to give into his puppy cuteness and silliness and laugh at his naughtiness but that would be a big mistake. Of course he’s trying it all on.  I only have to imagine what he’s thinking. Maybe humans really do like to be jumped up upon. Maybe they really do want to chase me all over the house to recover their socks! Maybe they think my counter cruising is cute and that my tearing between their legs in the doorway is only puppy stuff. But no, his antics need to be interrupted firmly and consistently in a manner that gives puppy no reward for his undesirable behaviour. The “leave it”  command is invaluable and off is a big help too. I like to put him into a down when he gets silly. That doesn’t mean that I can’t play and be a little crazy with him but it happens outside, it happens when  I want it to, it doesn’t involve objects that aren’t toys, and I decide when it’s over.


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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 gpz // Jan 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Benny and Arlo seem to be getting along GREAT. Who’d have thought that Benny would one day grow up and be an example to someone else : )

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