The truth about love & affection
So I’m listening to Celine Dion’s Falling Into You album (old school!) right now. I put it on while I was showering and doing my make up, hair, etc. Sam and I are about ready to go out on a date to Carrabas. I know, fancy right? Ha. While I was doing my mascara I couldn’t help but notice that baby Trooper, the Australian Shepherd puppy that I am raising for my parents, was sleeping quietly at my feet. Oxford was in the doorway watching me and the other two dogs were downstairs, likely chewing on their bones or lounging in their doggie beds. But here’s baby Trooper, just 18 weeks old, on his best behavior. In fact, he is always on his best behavior. Well, except for when he poops in the house but that’s just bound to happen at his age! After all, he is IS a puppy! And puppies will be puppies, and humans will make mistakes when it comes to house training. Even I’m not perfect.
That’s where I got to thinking about the biggest mistake that puppy owners make and how without really realizing it until this evening I have managed to train the perfect puppy thus far. Mid mascara I paused to bend down and give Trooper a pet on the head and a scratch along his collar line (which he LOVES!), and it hit me:
Puppy owners love too much.
Simply put, puppy owners spend more time loving, playing, kissing, baby talking, touching and giving affection to their new best friends then enforcing manners, doing training and teaching puppy etiquette. As I reached down to pet Trooper it occurred to me that I can count the number of times I’ve been affectionate with him on one hand. That’s right, ONE hand! Obviously the number of times I’ve touched him or scratched him as praise isn’t included in this number. I’m talking flat out affection just “because.” Low and behold, I have a 18 week old puppy who is equally as well mannered as my 7, 5.5 and 2yr old dogs. The only difference is he acts silly, is still learning he’s not allowed to chew shoes and slowly but surely is getting better at holding his pee pee until he’s given access to go outside.
As a professional trainer, expectations for him and for any dog in my house for that matter, are high. Very high. So as I leaned down to give him a pet just “because,” it was as if I was looking into his eyes for the first time since he’s lived with us (just a little over a month). They are soft, light brown with almost a hint of grey. He is extreemly affectionate, attentive and hard working. This past month, he has worked very hard to finally earn his pet just “because.” Come to think of it, I’ve hardly talked to him at all if not in reference to training. And now that I think of it, I don’t really talk to any of my dogs conversationally!! I guess I make up for that with the amount of talking I do with humans 😉
Over this next month I fully intend to cuddle and pet Trooper more, and more. To scratch his tummy just because he likes it and to give him kisses on his muzzle simply for his pleasure. Yet, the truth of the matter is — we only have one chance to raise our dogs right from the start. To prevent bad habits, reward good behavior and set lifelong expectations of canine etiquette. So although some may call it cruel and unusual punishment to with hold affection, I call it necessary training and will power for the greater good and human-animal bond! What is a few months of doing it right in the grand scheme of having a forever companion? Just as I don’t intend for him to be crated forever, I don’t intend to strategically withhold affection forever. The truth is, by with holding affection thus preventing the creation of a spoiled dog, I’m guaranteeing a lifelong of happiness and joy without stress by ensuring training came first. He has the next 10-14 years to be hugged on. So until he’s finished learning all his basics, I’m using my love strategically.