Benevolent Dictators

(Tales of the animals part 4) I have been away from the furry creatures for approximately five days with many days to go so of course they are top of mind…

Experts say that if you want to have a well-behaved dog you have to make sure they know who is charge. They are pack animals and need to understand who the leader is. There are a lot of different opinions on how you go about teaching your dog who is the pack leader, but pretty much all of the experts agree that if you want a good relationship with your dog this must be done, and the answer must be that the pack leader is the person, not the dog. My albeit limited experience is that this works with some dogs and not so much with others. I had a Jack Russel Terrier for a little over twelve years and would suggest that the best we could do there was a non-proliferation agreement but that basically we humans were living with a psychotic terrorist for over a decade. Thank god he wasn’t bigger.

The two dogs now know who is the pack leader and they do a good job of pretending to respect the chain of command. Maybe it’s because they are smart or maybe it’s because we are bad trainers or maybe it’s a combination (likely) but the rules are not independently respected, there is always a need for vigilance and reminders and even then they rarely seem genuinely sorry (the donut incident may be the exception).

The big dog has hip dysplasia and arthritic knees, she defies the common wisdom that mixed breeds are healthier because she is a this-and-that dog with as many problems as parts of her genetic make-up. Her bad hips and knees prevent her from climbing into the van when we go somewhere in the car. She puts her forepaws up and then we gently lift the back half for her. Interestingly she doesn’t have any trouble leaping four feet in the air to get on our bed as soon as we leave the house, the bed that she knows she is not allowed in because she stands whimpering and whining at the edge when we are in it and she wants us to get up and pay attention to her. As the pack leaders my husband and I could do a much better job of being mad at her when she is caught in the bed, but she is a dog that smiles and it is very hard to be mad at a dog who is smiling at you.

The eskie pretends she forgets the rules. As soon as we get mad at her she rolls on to her back and starts moving her forepaws in the air mimicking petting something, this too is adorable and so desperately in need of love and petting that we can’t stay mad, we have to get down on the floor and rub her tummy. We would be terrible people if we didn’t.

I suppose I could add here that there are cats in the house as well, but we know that no one makes rules for the cats never mind enforcing rules. When they go on the kitchen counter we take them off, say “bad cat” and then sanitize after them. They do not pretend to be remorseful or repentant, they seem annoyed and so we adjusted and no longer leave them alone in the room with exposed food or wine, both of which will be violated if we are not diligent. The dogs act sorry which makes me feel like I am in charge and I appreciate that, it feels good to believe the house is mine and I have some authority. It feels good to believe that I am kind and generous and forgiving, not that I am being manipulated by all these furry creature that I adore. I appreciate that they give me that because we all know who is really in charge.

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