I always say that I want a dog. They are so cute and friendly and fun. But honestly, I know that they are too much work and dedication for me. Some people work well with dogs. The people need social interaction and daily love and affection and so do the dogs and so they make awesome companions. I KNOW that I would ultimately be one of those sucky pet owners who only wants to give my dog attention when it serves me and doesn’t understand why the dog is unhappy and unsatisfied in life. So, although I constantly debate getting an “adorable little puppy!” I would like to think that when the time comes to make the decision I would be responsible enough to say no.
That being said, Nikola and I have a dog in our lives. Nikola’s sister was unable to take her dog with her when she moved and the dog stayed on at my in-law’s house. They feed her, give her attention, take her out etc, but lately she has gotten very anxious. I think it is a combination of us moving rooms (Our room is now the room she used to sleep in, and she is no longer allowed in there), a lack of exercise over the winter months (she was taken outside for hygienic purposes but didn’t get long walks or time to run), a lack of stimulation and positive attention (lately all of the attention she gets is- go away- without play and engagement on a reliable daily basis), and confusion about me being pregnant (she has definitely started acting differently towards me, in a positive way). Due to all of these factors and maybe more she has been barking and growling more often, usually at nothing, occasionally looking like she is frightened, begging at the dining room table when we eat, and running away whenever she gets the chance.
Yesterday we had a wake-up call to just how bad it had gotten. She got out of the house and the door to the sheep pen was open. Before anyone realized what had happened she killed one of the lambs. That was very unsettling, especially because we are about to have a new baby in the house. Although I recognize that killing sheep is a natural predatory reaction, and not an aggressive action, it still made me concerned for her behavior. It made me and my husband realize just how unhappy Zora is, and looking on her daily routine I don’t really blame her for being dissatisfied. I know (and knew) to never leave her alone around a baby, but after yesterday I decided that if we are going to live in the same house as her changes have to be made, so that we can trust her and so that she is a happier pet. I wish we would have recognized the need for this sooner and started giving her a routine early during the pregnancy but it is what it is…
So today we started basic training with her. She has already been trained with the basic commands so she knows what they mean. It is now a matter of getting her attention and reminding her what they are, teaching ourselves to use the proper commands in the proper ways (everyone in the house tends to use different words, repetitively, for the same commands and get annoyed when she doesn’t obey), and building a relationship with her. Today we worked on, “sit,” and, “lay,” both of which she is familiar with and was able to complete successfully. Nikola also took her for a brief jog and gave her a MUCH needed bath. So, hopefully we can keep things up, give her the attention, stimulation, and exercise that she needs, and she will return to being a calm, loving, engaged family member again (that doesn’t kill sheep).
Unfortunately neither of us have experience training. I am reading material online and kinda training Nikola how to train her (because I know that he will have a bit more time to continue with her when the baby comes than I will, and because I don’t want her to jump on my belly when we go outside). If anyone has advice, links to websites, or encouragement I would be happy to hear it.