Sunday, May 16, 2010

Canine Follies

Well, we've had the new dog for about five days now.  We took in an adult apricot miniature poodle who was being terribly bullied by the other two dogs in his last home.  Prior to that he had been the sole pet of the mother of one of our friends who took the dog in when her mother passed away.  The dog's name is KC.

Having the dog has been...interesting, in a Chinese curse kind of way.  (As in the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times.")  On the positive side, the dog has definitely accepted me as the "alpha" of our "pack."  He, in fact, follows me everywhere (and I do mean everywhere!) and politely waits for me to go first up any stairs and through any door.  It's a little unnerving.  Most of the literature I have read on dog training indicates that you want to avoid inculcating "small dog syndrome" in your pet -- you never allow it to win any canine dominance games, never play tug-of-war unless you always win, never stare it in the eye unless you are prepared to wait until the dog looks away first, and so forth.  No problems.  It's like having a groupie, or some other mindless hero worshipper.  You would think it would be pleasant, but it's not.  In fact, if there's been any conflict at all, it's been between the dog and my wife, who seem to be battling it out for third place.  He accepts my daughter's "dominance" in my absence, but will growl at my wife, and try to pass her when we walk, and try to sit in her usual spot when she isn't in the room.  There is also much attempting to jump up on her, a canine behavior I do not tolerate.  I have so far been able to immediately put a stop to his shenanigans, and to his credit, he has immediately responded.  But believe it or not, I am finding the pressure of "pack leadership" to be quite daunting.

I was also very nervous about leaving the dog alone in the house when I had to be away, since I did not know what his behavior was going to be like.  Would he be one of those pups who gets destructive from the anxiety of being separated from his humans?  I was able to put that fear to rest when I had to do some grocery shopping; I came home to an intact house with no destruction, puddles or smears.  So far his worst habit has been scent-marking the carpet with his butt.  Unpleasant to look at, but harmless.

No, the biggest issue for me in this first week has been the adjustment to never, ever, ever being alone.  I have to kick him out of the bathroom.  I cannot walk to another room, however briefly, without him being at my heels.  I understand intellectually that this is a good thing, that this means that he recognizes his place in our family hierarchy and that I will thereby be saved from all kinds of canine unpleasantness.  But I am a pretty solitary guy!  I used to spend much of my day alone, and now I feel that I am "on" all the time.

In the next few days I have an appointment with a vet to get his shots up to date, after which the plan is to take him in for a much-needed grooming.  It will be interesting to see, and report to you, how my adjustment is coming along.

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