Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Yuppie Puppies" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Yuppie Puppies

by Charlotte Peltz

Dogs provide many with a good reason to go home at the end of the day, but there are issues that need addressing when an owner is gone for eight to ten hours at a stretch. A big issue is that owners often feel guilty about that long absence (and well they should!!) but compound the problem by over-indulging Left Alone Lisa in a futile effort to make up for the alone time.

Lisa's loving owner loves the fact that Lisa shows her a big welcome by leaping up and placing great big paws on her shoulders as she wiggles and carries on. What Loving Owner doesn't realize is that Lisa may well be showing a form of dominance. Dominance is kind of a dirty word these days in positive training circles, but until I can come up with a better word I'll continue to use it -- sparingly.

Since Lisa is so sweet most of the time and she has been left for so long, she gets lots of special treatment. She gets a goodie while Loving Owner is preparing dinner. Lisa drags out all her toys and is immediately catered to with tosses and tugs. Later in the evening, Lisa is, of course, allowed to get cozy on the sofa and gets lots of pats and scratches. What L. O. doesn't realize is that Lisa sees all of this as a case of Lisa dictating the rules, and that begins to take on a hierarchy issue.

Social status is a big issue to canines and, if Lisa happens to be a social climber and is matched up with a wuss for an owner, she will definitely slide into the role of leader, bit by bit. Of course, this same Loving Owner will be shocked one day to see sweet Lisa's exposed canines as L.O. decides to take a nap on the sofa and asks Lisa to get off. Big surprise!! Lisa says -- "YOU lie on the floor. I am comfy right where I am." Yet -- it has been coming, step-by-step, as sure as day follows night.

Often the dog in such a scene is declared "aggressive" and in need of behavior modification and - very popular these days -- drug therapy to relieve the tensions and problems. Loving Owner may have had many dogs in her day and never had these problems. She is certain that the origin must be in Lisa, when what may well have happened is that L.O. had "easy" dogs in the past -- dogs that were not social climbers and just fell into line. Now she finds herself with problems previously not encountered and -- of course! -- It must be the dog!!

The answers to such issues are really quite simple but, sad to say, Lisa may not be lucky enough to get a second chance should she make the mistake of taking the next step in her social climbing program, and plant her teeth on L.O.'s arm as the latter reaches down to recover that stinky bone that was just dragged onto the carpet. To Lisa, L.O. would have asked for the bite. To L.O., Lisa would have gone mad and out of the blue attacked her. Yeah -- right. It doesn't happen that way, but L.O. isn't going to buy into the truth because it would mean she needed to take responsibility for what has happened. Not many people want to be responsible for their behaviors - it is much easier to blame someone or something.

So, the easy solution? Raise dogs in a way that is suitable to dogs. If you have to be away for long periods of time, be certain that your very social canine buddy has exercise, activity and breaks in the routine to maintain sanity. Keep homecomings simple and low key. Make certain that your dog has to work for most of the fun stuff in life; sit to have the leash attached, down/stay during YOUR dinner, play games when YOU initiate them not when the dog does, teach good manners and require them as a way of life and not just when Aunt Josie comes to visit, and be on the alert for indications that you have a social climber. If you do, seek help from someone who will teach you positive ways to deal with the issues, and not compound them with punitive and threatening forms of treatment, which may well increase the problems rather than solve them.

Does this mean that you cannot "spoil" your dog? Of course it does not. It simply means choose sensible ways to do so and your dog won't live to regret your system.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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