Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Pet Mom Mistakes

Most pet parents have been there. We do our best training and raising our furry charges, but then we look back and realize there were things we could have done differently. Okay; could have done better.

My dog Kelly is 7 years old now. She's mature, set in her ways, and a little bit spoiled. I make excuses for her bad behaviors ("She didn't mean it." "She deserves it." "She was just trying to show us she cares..."), but I realize, I am responsible for pretty much all of her flaws (however cute I may think they are.). Despite my mistakes, Kelly is sweet and reasonably well-behaved. But, looking back, here is what I could have done differently:

1. Don't let her up on the furniture
I love the feeling of a warm puppy snuggling up with me. I love sitting comfortably on the couch and reaching down to scratch my dog's ears. Why have a dog if it's relegated to the floor, where we rarely share a comfortable cuddle? But I don't enjoy dog hair all over my clothes and furniture. It's difficult to brush off or clean up. And why have a nice-looking couch if I always keep it covered with a blanket to keep it hairless? I'm not sure there really is a solution for this one.
2. Don't feed her scraps from the table
Big puppy dog eyes can be cute, but begging is not cute. Why did I ever start tossing the crust of my bread or scraps of meat onto the floor, where Kelly was lurking eagerly? Now she expects to be fed any time we eat.

3. Do socialize her with other dogs
When Kelly was a puppy, we took her on outings. But as she got older, she growled whenever she saw another dog. She reacted aggressively: the hair on her neck and back standing straight up, her teeth bared. Instead of combatting this problem with training, we just avoided other dogs. This makes trips to the vet's office or groomer's challenging. Now I think she's missing out on playing with dog pals, too.

4. Don't give her snacks just for looking cute
Simply said, this led to Kelly gaining weight. We've since solved this by giving her carrots and healthy treats, and increasing her walks. She lost weight, but she still expects snacks for looking cute.

5. Do expect her to behave when people come to the door
Kelly may not like other dogs, but she loves people. When my friends come to the door I usually hold onto Kelly's collar as I open the door. She lunges and tugs and pulls to "greet" the company. While I may not mind a dog jumping up on me, not everyone feels the same. I should have trained her to sit calmly and wait to be acknowledged when company comes to visit.

Well, these are my mistakes. Maybe reading about them will help you decide what not to do with your dog. I know, it's not too late for me and Kelly to work on most of these problems. And we will, I promise! Fortunately, Kelly is usually calm and well-behaved, even if she is a bit tactless in some of her social skills. We all have room to improve, right?

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