Pupdate #7: The Plate, The Crate and the Expectation Debate

Winston: Downward Dog Yesterday, I got a crate for Winston. It seems he's familiar with having one, but not very comfortable in it just yet. When I went to bed last night around 2:15 a.m., I didn't put Winston in his crate because it's still new and he's been successfully sleeping in his bed. I passed right out. Fifteen minutes later I woke up the sound of a big crash.

My bad. I ordered pizza last night -- I know! But I was hungry and I'm still adjusting my schedule to Winston's -- and left my plate on top of the box on the kitchen table. Winston tried to get to the pizza, knocked both the box and the ceramic plate to the floor. When I came in to see what happened, he ran straight into his crate and laid down. I left him alone and cleaned up the mess, picking and sweeping up shards of ceramic all over the kitchen so he wouldn't step on any of them.

Fifteen minutes later, around 2:45 a.m., I closed the crate door, since Winston was still in it laying down calmly. At 5:30 a.m. this morning, I awoke to the loud, repetitive sound of Winston pawing at the crate door. Under normal circumstances, I would wait until he is calm-submissive to open the door, but at 5:30 a.m. in a building where the sound travels, I'm sure Winston had also awoken the neighbours who sleep directly above and below my living room and kitchen area. I let him out of the crate; he went straight to his bed and I went back to mine.

After our walk this morning, when I usually feed Winston from a bowl, I grabbed a handful of food and started running him through some basic commands -- sit, down, stay, come here, okay (a release command) -- rewarding him with a small piece of food every time he responded correctly. If he didn't, we corrected it and he was rewarded when he got it right. Since it's feeding time anyway, I don't need to use treats, his actual food works perfectly. He's learning while eating. By the end of our brief training session this morning, I got him to come to me, lay down and stay in the same spot for 10 minutes before I released him. He didn't leave his spot at all. Smart dog.

Expectations

My good friend Jen asked me the following questions in a comment on the previous post:

I'm curious what you expected dog ownership would be like. Were you thinking it would be like how it was when you grew up? What were your expectations based on?

Here was my response:

It's likely my expectations were based on all the happy images and loving photos of people and their dogs, and my fond memories of the dog I grew up with. You never hear or see about the bad stuff, or how trying, tiring and stressful it can be. My mother took care of training our dog Caesar, so I don't really have memories of her struggles.

When I said I wanted to adopt a dog, everyone said things like: "You're going to love it" or "That'll be so awesome" or "Dogs are the best." No one said, "Hey, I know it looks and sounds great and can be very rewarding, but it can also lead to some of the most stressful days and nights of your life. Here's what I experienced..."

It wasn't until after I started posted about my experiences, that people started saying: "What did you expect?!" and "That's a dog" -- as if I should have known, having never owned one before -- and even "You don't deserve to have a dog" as though being fallible, experiencing stress and expressing doubt were inappropriate responses and that I was inhumane for thinking I couldn't do it.

What I am getting from all the comments is that everyone's experience will vary. It really depends on the person and how well matched their energy is with that of their dog's. I've done a lot more research now -- research I wish I had been directed to before adopting to help me prepare... and cope -- and have learned a lot about being pack leader.

Every dog has the ability to either be pack leader or a more submissive member of the pack. The good thing is that in a pack of 2 or 200, there can only be one pack leader. (Surprisingly, breed has very little to do with energy, as a bull mastiff could be submissive to a chihuahua in pack.) It's my job to provide that calm, assertive energy of pack leader for Winston. I am also finding that my instincts in training him were mostly correct, from how to hold the leash (keep it short, but not tight, so that he stays beside me) to making sure that I am the first to pass through the threshold of the house at all times.

I've got a friend coming over tonight and I have a small dinner party tomorrow night, so that will give me a bit of opportunity to work with him on people coming to the door, currently the only thing that really causes him to bark.