Tuesday, September 12, 2006

You've come a long way, puppy

Cleaning up our desk, I just found this note, which greeted me a little over a year ago when I got home:

"Hi Mama & Papa, When I came in today, there was a broken mirror & blood on the floor. I checked Barky & he seemed to be fine. . .I was also concerned because the TV was on & I think the door was unlocked. If you get a chance, let me know everything is OK or if you need any extra help with Barky. He was very good today and lay on the couch while I was cleaning up the mirror."
That was the report from our dog walker.

Why, pray tell, did we have a dog walker when we're both perfectly capable of walking Barky and in fact were walking him for two hours each day at the time? Because he went a little nuts for a little while, that's why.

But we're over that now, and back to living in a house ruled by the fuzzy red little dictator. Kind of like living with Castro, but without the fatigues and cigars. Again, however, it's our fault that our lives are being run by the mutt. Indeed, if our Barky husbandry skills are any guide, 3B should require therapy before he's seven months old.

We started with the best of intentions: we wanted Barky to be able to understand--and perhaps obey--a few commands. He pretty much has "sit" and "stay" down, which is about as far as some beagles can ever hope to get, but we also wanted to get some control at certain times of the day that can be rather hectic.

So we started telling him to go to his bed as soon as we arrived home, and giving him a treat for doing so. This prevents the endless milling underfoot and subsequent neck-breaking trips and falls, which aren't so funny when you want to, say, walk somewhere. It also prevented his dog-as-pogo-stick begging that would begin the moment we returned home from a walk.

We also gave him treats for getting in his crate at bedtime to keep him from becoming an insufferable whinger while we're trying to go to sleep. He was always keening at the foot of the bed, asking to be allowed to jump up with us because, you know, there's nothing that you'd rather have in your bed than a whinging pooch that steals the blankets, curls up with his fuzzy butt in your face, and kicks and scratches you while he dreams. Oh, and leaves pools of drool on your pillow.

And, to reinforce both getting in his bed and his crate, whenever he got near or in either one at any other time, we would tell him to stay and bring him a treat. It didn't take him long to figure this out.

Now he plays Pavlov, to our Pavlov's dog, hopping into his bed or crate whenever he is in the mood for a snack, which he will grab from our hands and trot across the room to munch on wherever he was previously reclined without so much as a "Thank you."

On the other hand, none of us wants to go back to the days of
  • two hours walks, to make him too tired to get into trouble
  • plus doggy walker
  • plus doggy daycare
  • plus the Pupzac (technically Clomicalm)
  • plus all the behavioral training whenever we were home, which wasn't often, given our work schedules and the two hour walks
All of those efforts did eventually pay off in a relatively stable dog who, in spite of some recent episodes, is much happier staying at home alone, so we'll keep this system of little bribes going in return for his, and our, happiness. He has come a long way from that day last year.

Oh, and about that note--somehow the bedroom door had closed when he was in the room. In his desperate efforts to dig his way out through the door, he shattered the full length mirror on the back of the door. As for the TV, we left it on as background noise for him, at the suggestion of his behaviorist. Yeah, behaviorist; that's another whole story. The front door wasn't unlocked either, we had just adjusted it so the locks worked more smoothly.

By the time we got home, the doggy walker had long since cleaned everything up, and all that was left was a garbage bag full of broken glass, and Barky asleep on the couch in front of a softly murmuring TV.

UPDATE: Fixed a typo, per Dear Wife's comment. Hey, pet owners are saying all the time how having a pet is just like having a child. Maybe they are right. Maybe instead of teaching 3B to read and write, we should be teaching him to sit and stay. Come to think of it, 3B already has those tricks down. It would make toilet training easier too--when he's old enough, 3B can even let himself in and out of the building, unlike Barky. Hell, he could even take Barky with him, while Mama and I lounge about, eating bon bons . . . now that I think more about this, perhaps that wasn't a typo, but a Freudian slip.


  1. I'm glad that Barky's behavior has since calmed down. It's hilarious that he goes to his crate just so you'll give him a treat. Dogs can be so smart! I hope that when I get my own someday that he's not a troublemaker - but if he is, I'll come to you guys for advice!

  2. Listen, if you're worried about being able to take care of 3B, I'm sure there are dozens of us who would be more than happy to receive the hand-off. Now, while he's still young and cute and cuddly. You might want to take advantage of all that goodwill while he's still a new model; by the time he's about 8 years old, most people will be looking for someone without so many dings and scratches.

    Looking forward to meeting the Bster!

  3. I'm really, just NOT a pet person. (Read into that what you will - I don't give a shit. :-)) And every time I read something like that I become even less of a pet person.

  4. Just to let you know you wrote that you wanted to teach 3B to sit and stay. Now that might be interesting, but might not get you very far.

  5. Anonymous5:21 PM

    Hail Cesar! Millan, that is.

    Barky is so very lucky to have two good Pack Leaders that were willing to help him along and not give up. One less dog in a shelter, thanks to responsible people like you. Thanks Mama and Papa!

  6. We have a beagle too. Crazy dogs, and freaking a helluva lot smarter than us humans.

  7. When Papa Hunt and I were dating, he stayed overnight at my parents' house. Our nutty Bichon Frise (French for "all fur no brains") decided to protect his territory by peeing on the guest room pillow. Chris bared his teeth, growled, and the dog was cool with the big alpha man after that.

    We currently have a cat who snores, and another cat who yowls at 3 a.m. if he thinks his water isn't fresh enough. Tell me again why we're pet people??

    PS: When 3B grows into a toddler, you will be teaching him to sit and stay!