Saturday, February 11, 2006


Ah, puppies. Is anything cuter?

Everyone likes puppies, and in fact, if you ever come across anyone who sees a puppy, and doesn’t say “Awwww, how cute!” Report them to the nearest police station, as they’re obviously Satanists and/or communists.

The new puppy (Christened ‘Boscoe’ by Sunny, she didn’t want any more Star Wars names…although I’ve taken to calling him ‘Buddy’), is settling in nicely.

I’m sorry to say, however, that it looks like his original owners abused him… although the fact he was outside, alone, at night in 20 degree weather should have tipped me off about that.

I let him outside last night to do his puppy-poopie, and I tried to pick him up to bring him back in, and as I approached in the dark, he backed away. Thinking he just wanted to investigate the outside, I grabbed him…and the poor thing freaked the fuck out.

I started talking to him, and once he recognized my voice he calmed down.

Any sudden movements, and he jumps a few feet into the air.

The good news, however, is it hasn’t taken him long to get over it. He spent most of last night and today sleeping and getting used to the place, and now he’s started to actually act like a puppy. In fact, right now, he’s amusing himself by throwing a rope chew toy around in front of the TV. If he doesn’t see you coming, he’ll still jump and yelp a little…but if he knows it’s you, he’s glad as hell to see you.

To be honest, I’m bloody proud of him. He’s a very fast learner. He knows he can chew his chew toy, but not shoes or furniture (although he will have the occasional relapse), and it only took one or two ‘accidents’, before he learned that if he scratches at someone’s ankles and whines, they’ll take him outside.

Although this may be too much information, he’s 6 out of 8 for pooping outside.

To be completely honest, I know what’s happened. Boscoe is probably just one of a few thousand puppies that were given as Christmas presents.

It’s the old cliché. Little boy or girl wants puppy for Christmas, and their stupid parents go ahead and buy one, with no idea of what raising a puppy involves. Then they’re honestly surprised that a 2 month old puppy doesn’t actually know that it’s not supposed to use the living room rug as a bathroom, not to use the couch as a chew toy, and needs an awful lot of attention. Then they think the way to train a puppy is the beat the hell out of it every time it does something wrong.

Then, the novelty wears off. Little Timmy doesn’t want to clean up after him or walk him every day, Mum and Dad get sick of taking care of it…so the poor thing is kicked out to fend for itself.

It’s upsetting to think about, but if we hadn’t brought Boscoe in, he’d probably have been dead by Monday. It was 26 degrees the day we found him. It almost as cold, and it’s raining today.

I’m not trying to guilt trip anyone, and I’m certainly not suggesting you start giving money to animal charities, or go running off to the pound to adopt one…I’m asking for one thing:

THINK! Think long and hard before you ever CONSIDER getting a puppy.

Ok, here’s the deal:

If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, bear in mind the following things:

A puppy needs almost as much attention as a newborn baby. If you think you can get a  puppy, and you think  you’re not going to have to clean puppy-poop off the carpet or have one or two possessions chewed, quite frankly, you’re flat-out kidding yourself.

Especially for the first few weeks, you need someone home with them ALL THE TIME. After that, don’t plan on leaving him or her alone for more than an hour or so at a time. You wouldn’t leave a 4 year old at home alone all day, so don’t plan on doing the same with a puppy.

Puppies are cute, but here’s the thing… that puppy WILL grow into a full-size dog. Yeah, shocking, I know. They’re expensive to feed, need lots of exercise, not to mention things like shots, vet visits, etc.

Basically, puppies are expensive, and take up a lot of your time and energy. It’s not quite like having a new child, but it’s as close as you can get without actually giving birth.

If you want an ‘easy’ pet, get a cat. Training consists of sitting them in a litter box and scratching their paw in it, showing them where their food and water is, and leaving them to it. Cats are independent. Dogs aren’t.

The second thing you need to think about is training, or at the veryleast, house-training.

This requires three things. Patience, patience and more patience.

You see, a puppy will very quickly see himself as part of your family. They also need to know that they’re bottom of the ‘pecking order’. This may sound mean, but a dog NEEDS to know his place in his ‘pack’. A dog who KNOWS he’s at the bottom is far happier than a dog who thinks he MAY be near the top. A dog who is unsure of his place can get overly aggressive or fretful as they try to establish dominance.

The most important thing is you train a dog by rewarding success, not punishing failure. That way, the dog will WANT to do as you say and will want to please you. The other way around, the dog will simply fear you…which can again lead to aggression.

I’m not saying you don’t need to occasionally discipline a dog, but disciplining a dog is not beating them.

A dog who knows his place actually WANTS to please you. Disciplining consists of showing them, firmly but gently, that they’re not allowed to do whatever they’ve just done wrong. You see, dogs don’t speak English, and the biggest problem they have is not learning to obey you, but actually understanding what you want them to do.

For example, if a puppy turns onto his back, that’s ‘puppy language’ for “I know I’ve done wrong, or that you want me to do something…but I don’t know what it is!” They’re exposing their belly, making themselves vulnerable and, basically, submitting. It’s their way of saying that they know you’re the boss, they want to do as you say…but they just don’t understand what it is you want them to do yet.

Last, but by no means least, house training a puppy is simple, but patience is required. All you need to do is:

  1. Push their nose towards (not actually ‘in’) their ‘accident’. You do this so they know what they’re in trouble for. Smacking a dog because you find an accident they did a few hours earlier does nothing. They simply don’t know why they’re in trouble!

  2. Say ‘No’ or ‘Bad Dog’, in a loud firm voice (Do NOT shout, shouting just scares the crap out of them, and stops them learning anything).

  3. Shake them gently by the scruff of their neck. (Don’t pick them up off the floor). This is what ‘mamma-dogs’ do to their pups when they do something wrong.

  4. Pick them up, take them outside, and wait with them for about 10 minutes.

They soon get the message that inside-bad outside-good.

The other thing is as soon as they finish eating, take them outside, and wait until they do what they need to do. It may take 20 minutes, but this is where patience comes in. When they’re finished, treat them like they’ve just discovered a way to power your car with water.

Basically, they soon get the message that they get in trouble for crapping in the house, but get rewarded and made a fuss of for crapping outside.

Get the picture? You don’t need to bet holy hell out of them to get the message across. Any puppy would much rather be made a fuss of for doing something right, than having you mad at them, no matter how mildly.

Puppies are great. They’re fun to play with, and you will never find a more faithful friend anywhere. The flip side is that puppies and dogs are, quite simply, a hell of a lot of work.

Think hard before buying one.

1 comment:

MC Etcher said...

He sounds like a good lil pup! Hope you guys are happy together!