The Dog Bellower

Molly & Tinky, my beautiful fur babies.
Ah, my fur babies.  They are a constant source of love, joy, loyalty, silly, and...


Well, not constant headaches, but sometimes, just sometimes, my beautiful babies push their mama just a little too far.   And when those times come around, I try to recall the teachings of a very wise and patient man.  That man's name is Cesar Milan, but you probably know him as The Dog Whisperer.

People who haven't watched Cesar's show or read his books sometimes snicker when you mention the name Dog Whisperer.  Often, they think that he will be yet another person trying to make dogs into furry little people.  Quite the opposite is true.  Cesar maintains that dogs are dogs and must be treated as such.  He emphasizes the importance of being a "pack leader" and using "calm assertive energy" to maintain respect and subsequent control over your pack. This of course is a very, very nutshell description of "Cesar's Way" and so I encourage you to visit his website to learn more about him.

Our wild girl digging a hole.
I started watching The Dog Whisperer while on Christmas vacation in Regina a few years ago.  I took careful mental notes and when I got home I started to work with Molly.  She did well, but we got a little off-track after the move.  As Cesar says, consistency is key.  However, Molly is a good girl over all and it didn't take long for her to remember her training.  

Early on in her puppy-hood, we discovered that my husband is definitely the recognized "pack leader" in our house. Molly would instantly do whatever he told her to, without him having to repeat himself.  I did not have the same luck. He told me that I had to be more assertive in my voice.  (My husband was quite pleased when Cesar backed up many of the dog training practices he'd been telling me to use.)  Well, that presented a problem.  Apparently, I do not have an assertive voice.  My quest to discover my "calm assertive" voice was a source of amusement to all who heard me.  If Cesar Milan is a "whisperer" I am apparently a "bellower." "MOLLY, NO!"  I would command, in a tone that, apparently, was not unlike Darth Vader.  Over time, she and I have pretty much "worked it out" and she listens to my commands as issued in my normal soprano tone.  

Tinky expressing his views to management.
Well, that worked pretty well, until a few months ago when we brought home Tinky Wink. Poor Tinky, whether from years of being spoiled by his previous owner or months of being distraught in a kennel, was not what Cesar would consider a "balanced dog."  He had food aggression, he was a flight risk, he had supreme "little dog syndrome," and, oh my land, could he bark!  

Small dog with lots to say!
He barked when he was hungry.  He barked when he needed to go out.  He barked at birds and leaves and the poor kid that delivered our fliers. He barked when he wanted to be picked up.  He barked some more when he wanted to be put down. Sometimes, as I stared down at him insistently yapping, I felt like I was being admonished by a very angry stuffed animal.

Molly would look at me as if to say, "Do something, Mom.  Use your assertive voice!"
Is he still there?  Molly tells us how she really feels.

I worked at it.  I'm sure I gave our neighbors a good laugh as I dashed out the the door in my pajamas to chase my little escape artiste up the street, all the while intoning "TINKY, NO!!!!"  The force, evidently, was not with me, no matter how much like James Earl Jones I might sound.
I Never Do Anything Bad!!!

It got better. In time, I was able to move his food bowl without risk of dismemberment.  His mad dashes for freedom ceased.  And although he still uses his voice to make his wishes known to management, we go hours and sometimes days with nary a peep.  Although not today; right now he is barking and I haven't a clue why.  He's been fed, played, cuddled, picked up, put down.  I honestly think that sometimes, he just likes the sound of his own voice. And just when I am about to lose my patience, he lies down beside me and snuggles in.  This is how noisy little lap dogs earn their keep, you know.  All their wackiness is forgotten the moment that little head rests on your knee and they sigh themselves to sleep.

Spring has brought new challenges.  Some of you may remember my "Wide Open Windows" post from a few months ago, where I expressed my concern about how Tinky would do once the windows were open.  Well, it's been interesting. Remember how I said he calms down and snuggles in?  Back in the winter, once he was snuggled in he'd be there for hours.  Now, all it takes is for a dog three yards over to issue a single bark, and Tinky is off to discover what's going on.  But it's getting better.  One thing I have learned from watching The Dog Whisperer is that our dogs often take their cues from us.  By using a calm voice I can often calm him down before he gets to upset, especially if he starts to growl before commencing with barking.  I discovered this with Molly early on and it's working quite well with Tink. 

I've had a lot of "A-ha!" moments watching The Dog Whisperer.  Just a few weeks ago I was watching an episode about shelter dogs, and so much about Tinky suddenly made sense.  He was so unbalanced that we were sure he must have been mistreated by his previous owners, but we now know that even a few weeks in a shelter is enough to undo a lot of good training in a dog.  

We are so glad that we chose rescues for both of our dogs, and we strongly encourage others to do so.  Yes, there's a significant investment of time, energy, and patience involved, but when you see your new baby responding positively to your attentions, the rewards are priceless.  Take advantage of resources like The Dog Whisperer as well as local trainers.  Get online and read about others who have rescued pets. Do I still get headaches somedays?  You betcha, but I wouldn't trade my pups for anything. If you aren't ready to commit to a dog full-time (and good for you for recognizing that) many shelters are looking for volunteers to do everything from cleaning kennels to fund-raising.  Many have fostering programs or need caring individuals to simply take the shelter dogs for a walk.  So, if you need a "dog fix" call your local shelter and get involved.

And to those of you out there who have taken the step to give a rescue dog their "forever family," Molly and Tinky thank you from the bottom of their dear, doggy little hearts!
Molly & Tinky Say "Thanks!"

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." - Unknown


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