Friday, April 3, 2009

Bad Habits are What Puppy Behaviors Become

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Oliver and Tanner
Watch Alan Eat Patiently,
But They Don't Beg

Think back to when your dog was a tiny puppy--the day your brought him home. Everything, virtually every behavior he exhibited brought joy and laughter. Even when he peed on the floor the first time, you probably laughed, rather than scolding him.

We're only human, and most of us have a tough time disciplining a "newborn". Puppies are no different. We coddle them; we make excuses for them; we give them affection when they're naughty by saying, in that adorable grandmotherly voice, "You naughty puppy, you!" Meanwhile, we're shaking our finger at him and he's thinking it is playtime.

I'm as guilty as most dog owners who have given more affection than discipline. But I am learning. With each new dog comes a few new lessons that sink in, even if too late.

After two large dogs, I finally understand that I should have taught them not to jump up immediately when they were first brought home. Now that Tanner is 2 1/2, I cannot seem to break him of this bad habit. Sure, it was cute when he was 10 weeks old. But now, when he wants to give personal kisses to visitors, he has no problem putting his paws on their shoulders and looking them straight in the eye.

I've talked to lots of trainers. Each have their own methods. Some of their ideas have worked temporarily. The problem is that I cannot instruct a strange visitor to lift their knee or shake a can of pennies or turn their back and ignore him. I really need Cesar to visit and help me to work Tanner through this, but I know that this is not a significant enough issue to get him here. Bummer!

I suppose I will have to make a deal with a friend to be my helper for a couple of hours. I'll help her practice with her dog issues, and she can do the same for me. It may be my only solution.

Today my mother was telling me about her concerns with Jacque's playful biting. Her skin is thin, and his biting is still quite uncomfortable. That's when it hit me that we should have worked with him on this right from the start. Although it is never too late, it is going to be a longer road now that Jacque has learned to love the game of chewing on mom's hands. Perhaps she will be my helper, and then I can assist her with Jacque's hand chewing issues. It's a lightbulb moment.

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