|Photo by JSF539|
If you’re old enough to remember that theme song – let’s get together for lunch and commiserate. If you’re not, it’s from an old TV show called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” and you should seek it out on DVD. The point here isn’t nostalgia, though. It’s a cute theme, but it’s not good parenting – of children or dogs.
Dogs are pack animals and need leadership clearly defined. If you don’t take the lead, Muffy thinks she’s in charge. And Muffy has absolutely no clue how your household should be run. You can be absolutely certain that if Muffy rules the roost, everyone’s going to be miserable. You won’t be able to eat, sleep, or live in peace.
On the other hand, if you’re in charge, Brutus is going to be a happy camper. Teach him the rules and insist that he lives by them. It works.
The most difficult dog we’ve ever had is a Boston Terrier. She’s a sweet dog, but her wiring is tangled. A friend of mine who works in a social service agency likened her to a child with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. We have developed a strict schedule for her and we stick to it. Given the opportunity, she would play constantly, whine when we didn’t indulge her, and generally make life difficult.
She does get to play fetch – when we decide it’s time and for as long as we choose. We have a special timer for play sessions and when she sees us reach for it, she sits and cries for her special ball. We get the ball from her special shelf and throw that ball, without interruption, for as long as that timer is going, sometimes just five minutes, or as long as 15 minutes. When the timer beeps – that’s it. The ball goes back on the shelf. Playtime is over. It took a while for her to adjust, but now she hears the beep, drops the ball, goes to get a drink of water and then finds a place to lie down.
Our dog is an extreme example – but a valid illustration of the concept. When guests come over, she is allowed to greet them, but not jump on them, harass them, or drown them with licking (unless they invite it). After she’s given the opportunity to say hello, she is confined to a crate in the same room, with chew toys to occupy her, where she can see and hear everything.
We’re able to have a nice evening with our company and without worrying about the dog ruining the gathering.
It may be easier to “give in” to your dog’s whining, begging or bad behavior. It’s also a recipe for disaster – most dogs who are given up or abandoned lose their homes because of behavior problems. It’s never too late to train a dog – they can always learn new tricks – and the most valuable trick of all may be learning to sit quietly.
That’s a good place to start. Put on your dog’s leash and collar. Grab a handful of treats. Go sit down at the dining room table. Tell your dog to sit next to you sit on the leash. Read a magazine for five minutes. Have someone join you for a conversation. Drink a cup of tea.
When Zeus is good, say “good quiet” and pop a treat. Ignore him if he whines. Try it for five minutes today. Maybe six or seven tomorrow. Don’t push it too far – you want him to succeed. Reward like crazy when he’s good. It’s a first step in taking control of your dog and your life.