Have you heard the phrase that there are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners? I’ve heard it for years and would always nod my head with judgmental agreement. Certainly, I would never fall into that category.
Unfortunately, I learned this week that actually, I have become a bad dog owner. It makes me cringe to even type this! This was no fun to realize and even less fun learning about it from my husband, Joe.
Holmes, the Teenager
Holmes is now 8 months old and has become a teenager. He does what he wants and ignores commands he used to obey. A couple of weeks ago, his stubbornness was on full display.
It had rained all day as hard as it could. Around 6:30 PM, it was time to take Holmes out for a bathroom break. I didn’t feel like putting on my raincoat, boots and getting him leashed up, so I let him out in the front yard, thinking that he would take care of his business and then come back inside quickly, given the wretched weather.
Holmes went outside and immediately took off after some wild turkeys. They flew away, but he raced down the street. I started running after him in my dress-up clothes and beautiful leather loafers. I was soaked by the time I got to the end of our driveway.
Holmes single-mindedly ran down our neighborhood’s wooded footpath, which took him to the nearby golf course. I knew I shouldn’t be chasing a dog because they then think it’s a game, but I was terrified that he’d get lost. So I continued to chase. Eventually, he stopped to sniff a puddle on the course. I angrily picked him up and carried him home. I was mad at him, even though it was not his fault. It was my fault. I’m the one who let him out without a leash.
Holmes Gets Crazier
Unfortunately, Holmes’s reckless behavior worsened. This past Sunday morning, my husband and I took him for a very early walk on the golf course. It was in the mid-40s with leaves blowing everywhere and panicky squirrels storing acorns for winter. Holmes was off-leash and noticed some ducks in the nearby water. I wasn’t worried about him getting in the water because he hadn’t previously shown interest in water when it’s been so cold out.
However, I was wrong. He began running after a graceful blue heron and then leapt into the river to try and catch the ducks. They flew away and he quickly hopped out, ran away from me and then considered crawling into a sewer pipe. I eventually got him, but his behavior was scary and could have been life-threatening.
Holmes was now that teenager in the neighborhood that drives a rumbling orange hot-rod car and burns rubber as he squeals down the street. He’s the boy that would smoke cigarettes and give beer to the middle-schoolers. He might be cute, but he was trouble. And I was the loving parent who was blind to my precious one’s shortcomings.
Not Keeping Up My End of the Bargain
Joe has little tolerance for a badly behaved dog. We have dogs because I love them. Holmes is 90% mine and we both agree that the responsibility of training rests with me. But I haven’t been doing it. I just haven’t wanted another thing to add to my “To Do” list. It’s like somebody who plans on going to the gym and never makes it there. They want to go, they feel good when they do go and yet, they don’t make it to the gym. That was me and dog training. I just wasn’t doing it and I had no good excuse other than not making it a priority (and possibly laziness).
Joe was patient, but over time, he started to wonder when Holmes’s behavior might start improving. Because I was shirking my duty, Holmes was not getting better, he was getting worse. It’s one thing to be training a dog and have it misbehave. It’s another thing to not be training him at all. Days, weeks and months have passed and all of a sudden, I have a naughty dog. This was causing some uncharacteristic tension in our home that I didn’t like.
Looking for Help Online
I Googled: “When couples disagree about pets” and found a very helpful article that described the issues we were having. It suggested that we come up with a compromise and write it down. In our case, not much of a compromise was needed. I just needed to start training Holmes.
I got out a piece of paper and wrote down that I would train Holmes five times/day for 15 minutes and work with a trainer. In exchange, Joe would cut me some slack on Holmes’s behavior. My reward would be a well-behaved dog and a happy husband. Both Joe and I thought this was a great approach.
Training Has Begun
Holmes and I have now trained 6 days in a row. We are working with a dog trainer. It’s actually a blast. I like seeing my dog look at me intently as he tries to figure out what I want. He now wants to snuggle more with me in the evening. He even seems friendlier and more relaxed. This dog training thing really works. (No duh!) Holmes now goes on walks wearing a prong collar and is a perfect gentleman. We have a long way to go, but I’m glad we’ve gotten started.
Our next lesson with the trainer will focus on using an electronic collar. Eventually, we will be able to go on the golf course without Holmes risking his life or causing marital discord.
It was embarrassing to realize that I had not been training Holmes and therefore creating a monster. But it feels great to be addressing the problem. And while Holmes’s bad behavior was downright scary, it has led us to a home with happier owners and our dog getting what he needs.