One of the things I am most proud of is that I am raising a good dog. I’ve been thinking about her a lot over the past couple of days because she not at home right now. She’s off adventuring in the mountains of Sun Valley, Idaho with my in-laws. We’ve received updates of her as she runs free while they snow shoe and xc ski.
Dog with a trail pass. (photo by my mother in law)
When I moved back to Seattle when I was 25 John and I had been talking about getting a dog and living together. It seemed like perfect timing, I was going to be unemployed (between contracts) and he wanted a Labrador. I did all of the research and while yes, many dogs need rescuing and my family in NJ has rescued almost every dog that I ever grew up with, we knew we wanted a purebred lab. I found a breeder, found the best dog trainer in Seattle and was so ready to get our baby when she was this big.
(that may be her, unclear which of the girls was Sol when the breeder sent us a bunch of pictures.)
It was excruciating to have to wait until she was 10 weeks old! We wanted our cute puppy ASAP. The day we picked her up was surreal. We saw her beating up her brother, insisting that her mom feed her, and being a silly puppy with the last of the litter. Suddenly we were taking her from what she knew, putting her in a car and traveling off to the city.
Playing with her first toy in the car.
The bond being made. John says Sol and he are soul mates, I say that John is Sol’s spirit animal (you didn’t think dogs had spirit animals in the form of humans? you’re wrong).
So once we had her, it was kind of like, okay now what? Let’s not damage this incredibly cute ball of fur, let’s make sure she can be the best dog that she can be.
I’m not kidding when I say I had dreams of her being a dock diver:
Turns out, she can’t get into water without steps, and she’ll decide if she wants to play fetch when she is good and ready. Besides a little bit of stubbornness when we ask her to act like a dog, Soli is incredibly well behaved. I grew up with dogs and never knew anything about training them, my parents let the dogs act out their whims and dealt with any bad behavior through yelling, locking up and generally unhelpful ways. Because I’m a researcher by profession and I knew that Sol had the potential to be a handful (we were told we were getting the “active puppy” out of the litter) I looked into different training methodology and read A LOT about dog behavior.
Did you know if let your puppy sleep in the bed on the pillows that you’ll get the best sleep of your life for the rest of your life? No? Just us? (just kidding that’s not true at all)
I am 100% on board with positive reinforcement, socializing puppies as soon as possible, and getting them through puppy classes with other puppies. When people say they don’t want to “bribe” their dog to behave and would rather “show dominance” over their dog and be the “pack leader” a la Cesar Milan, I can’t help but get heated and try to calmly tell people about what I’ve learned. A very good, scientific based book to read about this is Inside of a Dog.
Now I’d LOVE to say that Solitude is perfect, that she comes every time she is called and that she never jumps up to say hello, and that she is great in every situation that we put her in. However, she’s still a dog. Soli is perfect, to us. She amazes us with her personality and her gentleness. What other dog will calmly open up plastic easter eggs to get a treat, and not destroy and eat the plastic?
We can ask her to do a lot of tricks without having to “pay her” in treats. When we get home and she’s at the top of the stairs we can ask her to stretch into a downward dog and then “speak to us”. She’ll usually give us a loud yawn, and if we insist she’ll give a low bark. When she was a puppy we lived in an apartment and the last thing we wanted was a barky dog (there was one who lived across the hallway already…) so we didn’t let her bark for the first year of her life. We then realized that having a dog who didn’t bark was kind of sad so we started teaching her and allowing it, so now she can “speak” on command.
It does take a village, however, and as I mentioned she’s currently off on vacation with my in-laws who love her as much as we do. While I have to say some of her bad habits are reinforced at their house, what kind of puppy grandparents would they be if they didn’t spoil her? Solitude is a member of our family through and through, I learned in my twenties how to carefully raise and set boundaries for her. I feel like I have a small glimpse into the type of mom I might be through Sol, and I cannot wait for her to be the sweet protective “big sister” to a baby when we hopefully have one.
(photo by my father-in-law)