Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The mule

We knew the night we picked Dempsey up that we had a wonderful puppy. What we did not know is that someday, that wonderful little puppy would turn into a stubborn old mule.

Dempsey, you see, is entering canine adolescence. This means that he is becoming willful and rebellious. And that he is starting to get on our nerves.

He has a new habit now, when we ask him to "go to bed" or sit in his kennel, of sighing quite dramatically before sulking over. He refuses to go into hot cars. On walks, he will sometimes plop down and refuse to budge. Training is less fun that it used to be. We'll tell him to "sit," which we know he knows, but he won't. He'd rather run off and check out what's on the counters, or maybe try sitting on the sofa -- anything that he knows he is not allowed to do.

The other day at lunch, he finally got to me. I had really been looking forward to spending time with the boy, but that day I couldn't get him to behave, much less train. I tried calming him down with a humane restraint, but he kept trying to play bite me. I finally got fed up and locked him in the kennel. Since I had planned a canine lunch, I decided to run some canine errands, sans the canine.

My first stop was the dog park. I had never been to to the dog park, and I wanted to see some dogs.

Now, one of the things we really like about Helping Paws is that, though there are a lot of rules, there are invariably good, well thought-out reasons behind the rules. Helping Paws does not allow Dempsey to go to dog parks because of the risk of dog fights, unvaccinated dogs, and escape. All very good reasons, but they forgot to mention what I think is the most compelling reason of all: criminals. Here's the sign at the entrance to the dog park:

I checked for my wallet and looked around for axe murderers, and it seemed like the coast was clear. As I started to open the gate, it occurred to me that "the coast is clear" is exactly what a criminal would be thinking, too. I found it hard to "Enjoy the Park!"

My next stop was the pet store, where I planned to look for some new, indestructible toys for Dempsey. I was specifically looking for something made of steel or Kevlar, but I didn't find anything. I thought of how sweet little Angel goes to bed with a little teddy bear, so I looked through the stuffed toys. I turned over the packaging of a stuffed raccoon to see where it was made, and I found some advice for dog owners: "The best gift you can give your dog is your time."

Suddenly I was wracked with guilt. I thought of poor little Dempsey in his toy-less kennel, waiting with his sad little puppy dog eyes to see me.

I put the toy back on the shelf and drove home.


Dempsey was still in a feisty mood when I got back, but I was determined to enjoy spending time with him. As the motivational poster says, "The biting will continue until morale improves."


  1. I agree that canine adolescence is nearly unbearable, but they sure are worth it when you come out on the other side!! Stick with the little rascal.

  2. Glad the only thing that got you on your excursion was guilt.

  3. I was told once that if a dog knows, truly knows a command, the dog will do it. Maybe you need to reaffirm your basic obedience with this puppy, and, it still is a puppy with a puppy brain and tolerance. I see you are using a head collar. Be careful about pulling on it because you can easily damage the dog's neck with the slightest jerk in the wrong direction. Positive reinforcement is the best way to train. I've never trained one of my dogs that didn't learn easily by using a happy attitude and a gentle demeanor and I've trained a lot of German Shepherd Dogs and now have a Golden.

    Try not to make his kennel a place where he is punished or he will hate it forever. The kennel is the dog's den and home. It should be a welcoming place. Take the dog with you as often as possible for the best experience in public and it also tires out the pooch. A tired dog is a happy dog. Maybe a game of fetch or frisbee would help to get rid of the puppy energy.

    Whatever you do, don't be angry with the pup. Even if you think the dog doesn't know how you are feeling, believe me, it can. It can feel every emotion you have right down the leash into his collar. Dogs know what we are thinking and how we feel even though we don't say a word.

  4. Ahhh....welcome to the "Teenage" years!

    Just keep telling yourself "it's only a phase, this too shall pass....eventually!"

    Rosie & Loti