Monday, November 19, 2012
I have a 13 month old Golden Retriever named Hanzo, and he has to be among the best dogs I've ever met in my life. I'm not kidding. Sure, he's dumb as a post but he's imminently trainable. He will do just about anything you can communicate to him for a bit of cooked sausage, bacon, or catfood. I mean that literally, he's nuts for catfood. Once taught, he retains his training with an ease that is wonderful.
Sometimes, when he's being a 'teenager' and rebelling, or trying to be an Alpha and thinking he can get away with marking, I wonder why I ever signed up for this. To be entirely fair, the 'teenage rebellion' of Golden Retrievers is mild compared to other breeds. That may be all the agrument in the world never to get another breed. OMG, I've never raised a puppy before and to say the least, I Was Not Prepared!
We made the unfortunate mistake of getting the Alpha of the litter. Our decision wasn't made lightly, those of you who have read my blogs for the last year will remember that his litter suffered a couple episodes of Parvo. Of the two left when we went to get him, there was him and one of the puppies that had come down with Parvo. We chose our Hanzo because he was both exposed to and did not contract Parvo. It argued to us that he was stronger and healthier that his little litter mate.( My husband had a Parvo survivor many years ago, and that dog was never quite entirely right both mentally and physically.) He's a wonderful dog, but his instinct to be Boss is keen to say the least. Once we get him fixed, I know that most of the marking and minor challenges will fade. Right now, I can't wait until we have the $300 it will take to fix him.
In the middle of the frustration surrounding his behavior problems caused in part from hormones and in part by lack of exercise (I'm occasionally a bad puppy parent and he doesn't always get the exercise he needs), I have been forced to wonder if I'm up to this challenge. That doubt is followed on the heels of the realisation that I have no choice to be up to this challenge. He is ours.
To be fair, there are days when I despair of my ability to parent my own children with no evidence in the slightest that they are anything other than stellar young women who are at once responsible, brilliant, hardheaded, and curious. Perhaps not the easiest combination to parent, but definitely qualities to be glad to see in children.
That's not to say that owning him has been one long frustration or that he's nothing but a very large and furry ball of behavior problems. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He's a sweet, responsive, and wonderful companion that even as a puppy was most content to curl up on my feet and cuddle my toes (occasionally nomming on them) until I was ready to join him for some fetch. He's ALWAYS ready to play and NEVER ready to quit and he's so sweet with the kids that it's entirely touching.
On to what prompted this blog: One of the behaviors I have insisted on in our Hanzo is the willingness and ability to sit while I feed him and then to wait until he's been given permision to eat. I trained this into him because we have children who will, and do, take part in the tending of him and to be honest, I didn't want him bulldozing kids in an effort to reach his food. I've been trampled by pushy dogs, it's not fun. That has been, perhaps, the MOST consistent behavior he's met in the 11 months he's been in our home.
So today, when my husband took a turn feeding Hanzo, he didn't consider that he'd need to give Hanzo explicit permission to eat. So he didn't. My sweet Hanzo laid down under the table for half an hour and made pouty-eyes at me. When I next went into the kitchen, I saw his food still untouched. I called Hanzo over and asked him to sit, then told him was a good boy and gave him the command to 'Go Eat.' He promptly inhaled about half of his bowl with his tail wagging so fast it blurred. My poor good boy.
He's worth every hair on the floor, slobbery tennisball at my feet, and muddy paw print he leaves on my floor. As for trying to mark, we kept him on a leash inside for a couple weeks and reinforced that he is NOT to mark in the house under ANY circumstance every time he tried. That seems to have fixed that, for now. We also limit his access to places where he is tempted to mark (like the corners of beadspreads). Like every other undesirable behavior, consistency and clear communication is key.