Adversarial Relationships

The other day I was reading one of my e-mail lists (probably Clicktrain) and came across a post in which someone said something like if you find yourself in an adversarial relationship with your dog, you’re doing something wrong. This brought me up short. I know it to be a truth, but sometimes I guess I just need to be reminded.

As you have probably read, Tuck and I do not share the same views about where dogs should defecate. Unfortunately this often means that I am not very happy with him. I know all abut setting a dog up for success. I really do try to do so, but short of giving the darn guy an enema, there is only so much I can do. The compromise I had worked out was that I would take him out as soon as I got home and wait for him to potty. If nothing was forthcoming I would unemotionally carry him back to his crate and let him try again about every thirty minutes or after eating, whichever came first. Apparently my ‘unemotionally’ was not as good as it should have been because I noticed my sweet, loving little guy starting to avoid me. In my defense I will tell you that it’s cold out, it’s been raining, and I’ve been late for work almost every day for the past four weeks trying my best to give Tuck as many chances to succeed as humanly possible. That’s when I read the post and once again applied the rolled up newspaper to my forehead.

Last week I kept the same regimen, but if I was to carry him back to his crate I would at least tell him I loved him and pat his round little head. I didn’t go overboard telling him he was a good dog, since he really hadn’t done what I wanted, but I did not withhold affection either. This week he’s better. I don’t know if he would have started to get the idea anyway about this time or if the change in demeanor helped (perhaps by lowering stress levels so he could process information?) Either way, we’re both having more fun and are better friends, and he’s eliminating outside. Life is good.

Now let’s back up and talk about c*ts. You know – those furry, four-legged creatures that often inhabit our homes and drive our dogs batty. I have them. In multiples. Normally life in the cat population at B’Haven is pretty sanguine despite Wynnie (a Birman) who hates all other cats and screams bloody murder if one of them looks at her. Wynnie has managed to carve out a corner of the dining room and all of the kitchen as her territory, and the other cats generally leave ‘the crazy cat’ alone, rather like the way a town treats their town kook.

lucy.jpgWell, they did until about six weeks ago. Suddenly Lucy ( a Siamese) decided she wanted to get up close and personal with Wynnie. At first I thought she was trying to be friendly, and it may well have started as that. However, after being ‘screamed’ at repeatedly, Lucy quit resembling friendly and proceeded to being a bit of a bully. Most of these encounters occurred right after I had gone to bed at night. Let me tell you, the sound of two cats trying to start World War II in the next room is enough to put my blood pressure up into the range of never sleeping again. I was not pleased. So I got out the squirt bottle. Whenever Lucy made Wynnie scream, I squirted her. That made the screaming stop, but it didn’t stop it from starting again. So I thought I’d try negative punishment. Any time Lucy made Wynnie scream (think “Mom, she’s looking at me!”), I’d scoop her up and deposit her into Libby’s crate for a time out. Being a social beast, Lucy didn’t like that, but she did quickly figure out she could get attention in the crate by removing Libby’s water bowl from its ring and dumping the contents. (Grrrrr. . . ) Still the incidents were not decreasing in frequency.

Last Saturday, with ‘trainer’ hat in hand and humbly bowed head, I went to the Siamese Rescue Sewing Bee and asked the ladies there if they had any ideas. Not one but three people immediately said “She’s bored!” DUH! My forehead is getting rather flat these days.

For almost a week now I have been making a concerted effort to shower Lucy with affection and playtime. It’s not hard to do. She’s very sweet. And guess what – now night falls and she curls up in bed with me rather than harassing Wynnie. We’re not perfect yet. There are still spats, especially when I’m working at the computer. But they are certainly less frequent, and generally Lucy just comes looking to me for entertainment. An added bonus is that I have an additional back warmer under the covers at night. Life is good.

So what have I learned? 1) If you find yourself in an adversarial relationship with your dog (or cat, or parrot, etc.) you’re doing something wrong, and 2) sometimes, no matter how much we “know,” we need someone else to assess the situation because we’re just too close to it to see properly.

Hug your furkids. They probably deserve it, and besides, they’re warm.

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