Habits

Sometimes, something that a puppy does is adorable, but when done as an adult dog, it’s not so cute. Something like that happened to me a couple of weeks ago. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon after a weekend of rain. Gael was full of energy, and started to tear around the yard, jumping in and out of the pachysandra, circling the yard, running up to and around me, and then streaking off again. It was fun to watch her. Then she disappeared behind the bushes and I thought I could hear water, as though she were running through a puddle. I called her and she scampered back into sight, covered in mud.

Gael had found a hole that had filled with rainwater and decided that paddling in this was an ideal way to cool off. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nice, clean water in a bowl, which Corgi puppies frequently find irresistible. It was a mud hole. Gael’s muzzle was covered, as were her front legs and her tummy. I had to laugh, but it took several damp paper towels and a lot of running around on damp grass to get her clean enough to allow into the house. I hope I can prevent future mud baths.

I can live with this kind of a carry over from puppy-hood, because it’s something that dogs do naturally to cool off. Sometimes, though, people encourage behavior that is cute in a puppy, but isn’t cute as an adult, but it’s too late. One of these is allowing a puppy on furniture, or on the bed. It’s so easy to give in to that adorable puppy and let them cuddle beside you on the couch, or curl up next to you in bed, but stop and think; will you be happy with this behavior when the dog is full grown?

Many people allow their dogs on the furniture, sometimes protecting the upholstery with a cover of some kind, and many people sleep with their dogs as well. That’s fine, as long as you understand that your tiny puppy will grow up to possibly crowd you off the couch, or only give you a small portion of the bed. It’s easier to never allow a habit than to try to break it. Our dogs have always been allowed on the furniture, but I have, over the years, used various materials to protect the furniture and to try to keep at least some of it hair-free for any guests.

When it’s very hot, I sometimes regret inviting Rhiannon to share our bed, especially since she rarely sleeps parallel to us, but thinks the best way to sleep is crosswise. I am just thankful she’s not a St. Bernard.

Feeding from the table is another easy-to-fall-into habit that may haunt you when your puppy is an adult. Dogs quickly learn where and when to expect food, so, if you don’t want to spend 12 or more years being stared at by mournful dog eyes, or being nudged by a furry muzzle as you eat, limit feeding to the dog bowl.

I have always found it easy to enforce the “no feeding from the table” rule until recently. When Rhiannon gets into a barking frenzy at the front window because she’s seen a cat or another dog, I call her away, make her lie down, then give her a small dog treat in the kitchen. One day, she began barking just as I had sat down with my lunch. Instead of getting up and following standard procedure, I called her over, made her lie down and then rewarded her with a tiny piece of bread. It just seemed easier than getting up again.

Now, I’ve done it enough times that Rhiannon has skipped the beginning step of barking. She just sits near my chair and waits patiently for something to drop. On the plus side, Gael is not part of this. She usually naps upstairs while I’m eating. Another plus is that this has totally eliminated any annoying barking while I’m eating. Rhiannon’s very quiet as she waits for a tidbit, and never whines or nudges me. Soulful looks from her pleading brown eyes don’t affect me at all because I’m careful not to look at her. On the minus side, I feel compelled to drop the occasional fragment of my sandwich or a crumb of potato chip throughout the meal. This seems to satisfy her but once again, I’m glad she’s not a St. Bernard.