Monday, May 2, 2011

Puppy Love

I’m starting to really fall in love with my puppy. When puppies are little and cute and full of enthusiasms they are easy to love.... but as they grow up and you grow into a relationship together the feelings deepen and no longer is it “puppy love,” but something more singular and striking.

I just had to work through a little blip in my consciousness about him---and about me as a trainer. Last Sunday it came to a head: M and I were walking the shelties and Maudie around dusk, when a lot of people will be out walking dogs if the weather is hospitable. I had Emma and Ike and they kept setting each other off and ratcheting each other up...barking and lunging and generally being obnoxious.

I was running a little low on patience and it made for a miserable time. In my frustration I reverted to the old ways....jerking and admonishing...scruff shaking and growling...and even after I handed Em over to M so I could concentrate on Ike...I got nowhere.

I HATED jerking on my puppy every few steps for a half mile to get his attention in order to have him walk beside me without pulling; by the time we got home I was  extremely agitated,  with the dogs and with myself; I felt absolutely ineffective and reactionary. 

I realized, later, that I needed to walk Ike alone...and TEACH him self-control and attention while keeping myself level and focused.  And so every day for the next week that is what we did.   The two of us went off with some cheese sticks and walked by several situations: recess at the elementary school and the house on the corner where the dogs ambush us from behind a tree
and shout insults through the fence. For example.

And we did great. Ike sat and looked at me when I asked and was brilliant in his ability to focus despite the distractions. 

And in these days we’ve grown tighter. He’s at the door when I go out, clearly expressing his desire to come along. One evening, about a half hour before our usual walk time, he dragged a leash off the rack and brought it to me. He shadows me around the house in that patient devoted way that the boys develop...

I see him more clearly now too: his sense of humor, his sense of drama, his sweetness, his inventive intelligence. He’s lanky and confident and willing...and he is going to be gorgeous...albeit...sigh...oversize. It’s OK though. He’s my puppy.

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