Thursday, January 21, 2010


There are many reasons why Bailey hates Dempsey: the way he gives her big, sloppy kisses right after she has given herself a bath; the way he wants to play, play, play, when all she wants to do is nap, nap, nap; the way he must follow her every time she ventures out from her private quarters (i.e. the powder room). To this list, Bailey would like to add one other item: the way we volunteer her to help train Dempsey.

It's hard to tell from the picture above, but we were working pretty hard to get Dempsey to relax in bed. We wanted him to just lie quietly by us and ignore the cat (and the socks on our feet, and the remote control, and whatever might be on the kitchen counter or under the sofa), but we had to constantly give him reinforcement. If we didn't reward him often enough, he'd wander off, and we'd have to give him another task (and more treats). He couldn't just relax.

Since we've been home, he's been constantly angling to get attention -- stealing the remote, trying to get Bailey to play, ringing the "bathroom bell" to ask to play outside. At first I thought Dempsey just missed all the attention he got from our families at Christmas. But having Sawyer here now for a few days, I'm amazed at the difference between the two dogs. Here's a video of Sawyer, checking out Bailey, and deciding - on his own - not to bother her:

Can you believe that? We really want Dempsey to learn to be a good member of the family like that, so that he can sit nicely with us by the fireplace. Instead, we seem to have a dog who is constantly extorting us for treats: Pay me, and the cat doesn't get hurt. Combined with the time in Wichita he tried to bust my kneecap with a stick, I'm starting to think we're raising a Mob dog.

I'm wracked with guilt as a puppy parent. Oh, what did we do wrong? Maybe we shouldn't have let him meet the garbage collector when he was little?

The dog exchange is such a great idea. In addition to the experience the dogs get, it really forces us as trainers to examine what we're doing. Dempsey has great service dog skills, and in public he still performs beautifully, but we have a lot to teach him about how to behave when he's not in uniform.

Bailey has requested that Dempsey take a lesson in cat etiquette from Sawyer. We've taken that under advisement and agree. Now, we just need Dempsey to comply.


  1. I feel you all...I live in a mixed household myself. Every time we add a new member, kat or dog, we need to retrain ourselves. Some of us act worse than others (Frankie) some better (me). It's an uphill climb, but once you get to the top, you make Momma so happy, it's worth it. Hear me Bailey? Hear me Dempsey?

  2. Lol! Sounds like Dempsy is a full blown teenager! i'm sure as you know he'll calm of these days. My golden went from laid back to tornado when she hit adolescence. But I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

  3. Here is another view...
    Cammie is my laid back, don't do anything wrong dog. Faith is more like Dempsy. Each dog has their own personality and energy level. That is the beauty of the dogs try different Helping Paws recipients, it allow for the matching of energy levels and personality traits. I'd say Dempsy will choose a person who is more active and attentive towards him than Sawyer will. Way too cool.
    As a volunteer that has trained more than one HP dog, I can say that each dog has taught me something new about dogs, positive reinforcement and myself. I think we get the dogs we need to help us grow and stretch our abilities.

  4. Thanks for the video of our boy, Sawyer. We miss him! I'm glad he knows enough to leave poor Bailey alone!

    We had a big party at our house last night and your boy, Dempsey, did great. He did try unsuccessfully to get a sandwich off the counter and showed some great interest in a margarita, but other than that he strutted around so that all our guests could admire him, pet him and take his picture. Then he laid down on the rug to take a nap. No treats required!