Pauline Harte

Advice you won't find in dog training books

Pauline Harte · July 1, 1997

A friend of mine recently acquired a puppy. She seemed a little concerned that she might never have a life again. Or her landscaping. I had been through this "puppy thing" not too long ago, but I really didn't have the heart to tell her that after only two months it was still much too soon to be looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.

Puppies! Irresistible and precious, a puppy will come into your life and turn it upside-down and inside-out. That goes for your house and yard, too. But I have some advice and warnings you won't find in dog training books.

When you are picking out a puppy, remember that if a puppy has the paws and appetite of a grizzly bear, chances are you will end up with a dog the size of a grizzly bear. Chances are, you will not have a little dog with big feet.

The Christmas before last, I brought home Star, a 5-week-old puppy, half Chow and half German Shepherd. She looked like a black bear cub and weighed only seven pounds. Six pounds accounted for her feet, which she grew into like everyone predicted.

Since we have a pool, Star could never be left alone in the yard while she was a puppy. She had to be taken outseide every 20 minutes. Now, if you are a housewife and alone with the puppy most of the time while hubby is at work and the kids are at school, this is the start of the end of your life.

But there are advantages to being the lone puppy trainer all day. For instance, you can train the puppy to jump up only on your husband's side of the bed by patting his side just a few times a day until your dog actually believes that there is only one side to a bed. Don't feel guilty. Since you are the principal puppy trainer, you will need your rest. Star jumps up and down off our bed a dozen times a night, according to my husband. I don't feel a thing.

Three months later, that 20 pounds of Science Diet every week paid off and Star was finally big enough to use her pet door. I was free!

Allow me to tell you about pet doors: If you have a big dog, you will need an extra-large pet door. King Kong could shoulder his way through Star's pet door. But we never have to worry about losing house keys.

Now is the time to kiss your landscaping goodbye. And if you have a big dog, you might give your patio furniture a last hug.

Very soon, that pet door became the bane of my existence. Star was able to drag our palm trees through the door, along with patio furniture, tree limbs, garden and pool hoses, most of the landscaping and about 2 million wood chips. She became rather fond of snails, too. If is was outside, it ended up in the house.

Dogs love trash. Star could turn our family room into the Sunshine Canyon Landfill with only one bag of chewed-up trash. But I found a way to cure her of this distasteful hobby. Since I have a fear of china that dates back to a mother who insisted on 42-piece place settings even at breakfast, I use a LOT of paper plates. I just give Star a couple of paper plates every day for her to tear apart. This satisfies her trash addiction, and she stays out of the trash. Compromise is the name of the game.

Your dog lives to please you. Don't make a big deal out of your dog's transgressions. Make a BIG deal about how wonderful your dog is, and soon your dog will understand what pleases you and displeases you. We praised Star when she DIDN'T bring something in from outside, and eventually she figured out that a debris-free room made us really happy.

Never hit your dog. They only learn fear when you hit them.

A funny thing happened when we finally saw the light at the end of our tunnel. We discovered that the light was actualy family and life without our Star would be dark and dismal.

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