Rules, rules bloody rules. Everywhere you look; don’t do that, don’t touch this and leave them alone. And that’s just a quick synopsis of sexual disease literature; once we allow the eye of angst to rove into the land of puppy, it’s all you must not let your dog run, don’t let him turn round too quickly, keep him off those lethal polished floors and, if you don’t wish him to spontaneously combust, don’t even think about the mildest smidgen of exercise until at least two days after his last meal.
And then we move onto don’t play rough, stop him jumping, don’t make a fuss when you’ve been away and never, ever hit him. Some of it makes sense as you’re going to ruin a lovely friendship with the postman if 30kg’s of in-flight dog t-bones him at a full gallop. But my Grandad’s dog lived off scraps from the dinner table, and was simply disciplined by a size 10 mining boot up the fundament.
I don’t remember taking him to the dog psychologist or finding my granddad hand wringing by the suggestion he may have created an environment for ‘early onset separation anxiety’. And if the new media doesn’t get you with its’ do good forums and virtual hippy hounds, then the big square tube offers up ‘Dog Borstal’ and ‘The Dog Whisperer“. Closest my Mum’s dad ever got to that was “Oi, leave that alone tha cheeky bugger!” BOOT/YELP “Now, get in tha bloody kennel you scabby sod”
The problem is pets – and especially dogs – sometimes seem to offer a kind of child substitute. They are treated like little humans and so anthropomorphically laden with child like emotions. And while dogs view the world as a simple mix of other dogs, and things that are probably just funny shaped dogs, they themselves need to be characterised as a widdle of simple mental levers topped off by a waggy tail.
Once you realise they’re greedy, opportunistic food obsessed quadrapeds accesorised by the full set of soulful eyes, wet snout and flappy ears – all encased in the kind of smell which suggests a sprout convention setting up in your garden, you’re ready to take on the mantle of pack leader. Almost. Except for the sleeping bit. You see puppies sleep whenever they’re not eating their food, eating your furniture or giving you the “not me pal, you must have fed the other fella” look. But once you want to get some of that zzz action, then they’re wide awake and wondering noisily why you’ve abandoned them.
It starts with a bark, then a whine, then a noise suggesting the pup is painfully performing a solo Heimlich manoeuvre. You’ve not really lived until that’s been going on most of the night. One hour Friday night, two hours Saturday night including a 2am emergency wee session, and about the same on Sunday convinced us that maybe the controlled crying technique we’d tried doesn’t work for puppies. I’d tried almost everything else, bit of comforting, stern words, scooby snacks and mildly abrasing my forehead against a passing wall. None of it was working and he was just getting worse.
Carol took her turn and returned to the sound of doggy silence. Only in the morning did I discover she’d lost patience and metered out some swift justice with the rolled up newspaper. The way we were feeling, it’s a good job there wasn’t a gun in the house. I remember thinking “I’m really too old for this deja-vu baby experience, and I’m betting you wouldn’t get this shit with a rabbit“. But we’re through it now* using the two big guns of dog ownership – tough love and food bribery.
He’s not going to be a puppy much longer, certainly if you consider that on size grounds alone. Murf is quite a bright cookie (bit of a worry for me, I was quite enjoying the not dumbest family member status) although he is the world’s slowest retriever. He’ll fetch stuff alright but it might be an hour later. Or the next day. So we’ve given up on all the do gooding advice, and going with let the puppy be a puppy. And if he’s really naughty, then fetch me the Sunday Times with all the supplements.
How do I know so much? Well I just made it up, and fully expect to have my own prime time TV series by the years’ end. Working title is “For F*cks sake, stop mincing about and just boot it up the arse”
* Please by writing this, let IT BE TRUE.