Tag Archives: puppies

The “Only Dog” Syndrome

We all know that dogs are pack animals, like their wild cousins.  Canines were probably domesticated so easily because the human hunter-gatherer group dynamic was similar enough to a pack structure to feel comfortable to them.  In our modern world, when a family adopts Toby-dog, he adopts the family right back as his surrogate pack.

The single-family home is probably even closer to a wild wolf pack, in some ways, than the extended human clan of long ago.  There is a single mated pair that reproduces.  Most other members of the group are their offspring of various ages.  In some cases, an older, non-reproducing adult (grandma or grandpa) also lives there.  So, it’s pretty easy for Toby-dog to figure out relationships.

Allowing Toby to observe the family hierarchy and come to his own conclusions can create problems, though.  If Toby is adopted as a puppy, he will probably consider he is on equal footing with the other puppies — the kids. So, he can treat them in the same rough-and-tumble fashion as he did his littermates.  If he’s adopted as an adult dog, he may consider that his status is above the “cubs” and think he is entitled to discipline them when they don’t show him the proper respect.

These are probably NOT the same views held by the humans of the household.  A  dog in a household of humans must to be taught to obey all the two-leggers — even the kids.  Both adults and children can easily teach Toby that they are dominant — and without any confrontation or force!  Just show Toby that the HUMANS control the RESOURCES.  That means to get anything he wants/needs:  food, water, treats, toys, attention, petting, play, going outside, coming inside, getting in a lap/on the furniture… Toby has to follow a simple command (like SIT) before the human gives it to him!  There are other issues to be addressed, of course, but that’s the idea in a nutshell!

It’s especially important for the truly “only dog” who lives as a surrogate child in a household of one or two adults to learn this.  It’s too easy to give Toby the idea that he is the King of the Castle!  In canine society, the dominant dog doesn’t solicit attention — only the lower-ranking animals lick faces and beg to be noticed.  So, if “his” humans lavish him with “loving” — very natural to us — he gets the idea that he’s Mr. Big-and-Most-Important, because all the other “dogs” are fawning over him.  Oops!

I’m not saying we can’t kiss and cuddle our dogs!  I’m just suggesting that we need to balance it with making Toby “work” for our attention.  There’s nothing punitive about asking Toby to SIT (on the floor) before he gets up in your lap!  It’s good manners!  Just like we teach our human kids to say “Please” and “Thank you” we need to do the same with our dogs!

In one way, no matter how many humans are in the household, if Toby is the only dog it’s going to create other socialization issues.  Think of it this way, a baby is taken from his parents in one country and raised by foster parents in another.  When he meets someone from his “native land” as an adult, he will not understand their language or customs and may give offense without meaning to do so.  Humans, no matter what their age, don’t interact the same way as another dog would, so Toby needs to be taught how to speak “adult Doglish” by meeting with other dogs of all ages.

I’ve gone on long enough today, and will return to this topic tomorrow.  I just really want to stress how important getting your newly adopted dog out of your house and into some interactions with “his own kind” is!  It’s every bit as important as socializing him to lots of different humans.  And socialization needs to happen both inside and outside the home.

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Puppy Penchant

When it comes time to get a dog, almost everyone (I did myself) seems to want a puppy. After dealing with mine and coaching lots of people through the upheaval and training of theirs, I really wonder WHY!

Yes, they’re cute as the dickens. All puppies have that blunt-faced, waddling baby-ness that our DNA is programmed to find adorable and which pushes our “nuture” buttons. However, we humans are supposedly thinking creatures that should be able to project a reasonable forecst of what bringing a baby canine into our household will mean. Even without previous experience, common sense should allow us to calculate that our lives are going disrupted by that wiggling bundle of cuteness for about a year!

Now, a year really isn’t very long, and training a puppy really isn’t very hard — it just takes a lot of effort and energy. It leaves very little energy for other things that we’re used to being able to do. A puppy in the house doesn’t allow for crashing in front of a TV every night — right when most puppies get an insane burst of energy affectionately known as the puppy crazies! A puppy in the house doesn’t allow for much sleeping in, unless you want to get up to a puddle! A puppy in the house doesn’t allow us to continue those untidy habits of leaving our shoes and other favorite things strewn about in comfortable disarray!

In fact, having a puppy in the house means nearly 24-hour attention. It means arranging our schedules around the needs of the little fluff-balls. It means re-arranging the entire house to make sure the puppy stays safe. It means finding time in our busy lives to teach her manners and how to be well-behaved. It means getting up off our comfortable bottoms and making sure that live wire gets enough walks and play sessions to tire her out — or nobody will sleep!

Too many kennels in too many shelters are filled with too many dogs 6 months to 16 months of age. These are the growing puppies whose owners couldn’t find the time in their busy schedules to give them the attention they needed. Who assumed puppies were as easy to potty train as kittens. Who remembered the good manners of their old dog and forgot that it took a lot of work to teach her those manners.

Puppies are precious. Puppies pull at our heart-strings. Puppies might WANT to please us, but they can’t guess how to do that. Like children, they must be carefully taught — which takes TIME! Please don’t purchase a puppy from anyone but a breeder that asks you dozens of questions about where and how and when you’re going to care for the dog. Please consider adopting an adult dog that will still require attention, exercise and a little training, but won’t have the voracious needs of a baby dog. Please find a professional to help you if you find your puppy (or adult dog) in behavior that you are not able to control or train on your own. Your puppy deserves no less.

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