Wednesday, 19 December 2018
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Pet Shop: Fear and loathing with puppy in the Triad

In the north side of Winston-Salem lurks a fuzzball of gnashing teeth. Her name is Sophie, and she’s a four-legged anarchist.

My wife and I brought Sophie home when she was just 6 weeks old. It had been four months since our Lucy died, and we felt it was time to bring a new face into our home. It took a little time for her to get used to her new surroundings and Gonzo, our 14-year-old self-appointed supervisor and chief of security.

We took pictures of her sleeping. We took videos of her exploring her new world. She was a bundle of snuggling joy.

Sophie drew first blood less than a month later.

Now we know that the sweet face is disarming. She’s 5 months old, and all of the things we’ve been told she’ll grow out of — the biting, chewing on furniture, peeing on every square inch of carpet, more biting — are still happening.

Poor Gonzo now looks at us every day like we invited Satan into our home. I feel his pain. My wife feels the most pain, and she has the still-healing wounds on her arms to prove it.

Leash training has been a daily battle, but thanks to a newly-acquired Gentle Leader, Sophie’s getting the idea that a leash isn’t a giant game of tug of war.

But her efforts to escape the halter, which resemble swimming on dry land, prevent one of the primary outdoor activities from happening — the potty trip. She tries so hard to escape it that she ignores why she’s outside in the first place. It’s a Catch-22: Don’t use it, and she goes to the bathroom outside after 30 minutes of fighting the leash; use it, and she won’t go until she’s back inside and it’s off.

My wife and I have raised puppies in the past, but neither of us can remember have such a hard time with training. Lucy was an escape artist, but she never caused chaos.

Gonzo was a little hard-headed and slightly destructive when he was younger — one night, he peeled up a linoleum kitchen floor, ate a pair of sunglasses and left me a present in my bed — but he grew out of it pretty quickly. He’s a big dog, and I knew the importance of making sure he behaved. Thankfully, he was a quick learner.

Sophie is extremely intelligent, so we have had some successes. She’s quickly learned to fetch and will even try to put the tennis ball back into the throwing stick. She has learned sit (most of the time), and she knows not to dig in the trash.

I’ve read a lot about different breeds of dogs to try and understand better ways to train Sophie. She’s a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and she will eventually be large. Because of that, training is essential. In the three months we’ve had her, she’s grown 8 inches taller and about 20 pounds heavier, and she hasn’t even hit her primary growth spurt yet.

We know Sophie’s puppy-ness eventually will wear off. She will stop chasing every stick she finds on the ground. Her ability to focus on learning will be longer than 30 seconds. She will stop trying to boss Gonzo around the house. She will stop biting and gnawing everything she can, including us.

But until then, I’m still scoping out the chain mail gloves I found on Amazon. I put them in my basket. I’m just waiting until my wife gives me the green light to buy them.


The Bark Box

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