Tag Archives: dog training

Dogs have chores, too

Dogs have chores, too

Some people enjoy the chores that make a house a home. We wish we were among them, but, for the most part, we consider housework to be a necessary evil. We want a comfy home, so we have to put in the work to make it that way.

Since they are members of the family, our dogs have chores, too.

Picture of a dog doing chores - Tango putting his toys away

What they can actually accomplish is limited by their complete lack of thumbs. Even if we ask them to “go get” something – it has to be something that we don’t mind gets covered in dog slobber.

All of our dogs know “put your toys away” games, and we play at least once a week. It’s not really a “chore” – since we dump the toys out for them to put back in the bin. It’s a dog training game we all love.

Not really useful

Ever since Hope’s French Bulldog Dax broke a tooth “helping” with the vacuuming years ago, the dogs’ assistance is pretty much limited to being cute while we work. Because we don’t really want them:

  • Chasing the dust mop
  • Licking the dishes while we fill the dishwasher
  • Trying to “kill” the evil vacuum
  • Playing tug with the dust cloth

And of course it’s always fun trying to move the furniture while the dogs are jumping on and off. We didn’t really want to clean behind there anyway!

Reason for chores

The dogs’ actual specialty is giving us a reason to do the housekeeping. Like when you hear the unmistakable sounds of a dog being sick at four in the morning. You may not actually have planned to clean the rug that day, but now it’s on the agenda. 

None of our dogs have long fur, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t accumulate if we attempt to ignore it. So the floors get attention.

And just because we don’t have picky eaters, doesn’t mean they’re tidy. Either eating or drinking. Oddly, one of the dogs (not mentioning Simon’s name) doesn’t understand the concept of closing his mouth when he’s done drinking. The puddles he makes are just water, but they still have to be cleaned.

For the ones we love

We may not like doing housework, but making a nice home for the ones you love is motivation enough. Even if they never notice, or care. We know.

The dog who doesn’t cuddle

What do you do with a dog who doesn’t cuddle? 

It’s a dilemma we’ve been coping with since early July, when a foster French Bulldog puppy came into our lives. There are many breeds of dogs that are naturally more aloof. French Bulldogs, and any breed classified as a “Companion Dog” would never be classified that way. 

Too friendly would be a more apt description. One of the reasons Hope’s Torque doesn’t have Obedience titles up the wazoo is because, when he was younger, he was unable to “Sit for Exam.” He was absolutely convinced that the hand reaching out to touch the top of his head needed to be licked and the judge would welcome enthusiastic greetings. He was mistaken, but remained unconvinced.

The dog in front of us

One of the precepts of dog training is to train the dog in front of you. That means not loading old baggage onto the current dog. See who this dog is and adjust to him. 

Image of an eager white and black French Bulldog illustrating a dog who doesn't cuddle.

There are lots of reasons the foster puppy isn’t like other dogs. He spent many formative weeks sick with a deadly virus. After a week in ICU, he spent many subsequent weeks in isolation. He didn’t have the benefit of a full-time “pack.” For his own safety and the recovery home’s, it just couldn’t happen.

This puppy never learned to relax around other dogs and people. When he’s awake, he’s active. He’s busy, nosy, exploring, chewing, annoying, and exhausting. He’s also sweet, fun, smart, biddable, and a little sponge, learning at a great rate. But he’s never relaxed outside of a crate or exercise pen. 

Project not a pet

When most people look to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue, they are probably looking for a pet, not a project. But most dogs from shelters or rescues have a history. They may not be from abusive situations, but their known circumstances have changed, and that’s usually not a good thing. 

The ironic aspect is that most newly-adopted dogs use “company manners” for the first few weeks. They don’t understand they’re home to stay. It takes about six weeks or so for the dog’s true personality to emerge. By which time the family loves the dog and is completely committed. So they take on the project that is the dog in front of them.

Commitment to change

We weren’t sure how to cope with a Frenchie who has no particular training issues, but social shortcomings. It’s relatively easy to train a dog to be calm. He can do that. But it requires our constant attention and training. Even if all the other dogs are sacked out, snoozing. He can’t. Torque would like nothing more than to cuddle with him, but the puppy has no experience and doesn’t know how. 

The two keys we preach as dog trainers are patience and consistency. Sometimes it’s hard to be patient. And the guilt is a bit overwhelming. This puppy is crated for many hours a day. Our lives can’t be paused to watch the puppy all the time. We carve out chunks of time to let him be a puppy; playing with toys, with the other dogs, going for walks. But the “down time” just isn’t there.


The puppy’s recovery continues, and he still requires lots of sleep. Almost dying takes time to get over. And in the wee hours of the morning, when Hope opens the crate door, he belly-crawls over to lay his head on her arm for a few minutes. And that very precious time gives us hope for the dog who doesn’t cuddle.

Small dogs are different

In lots of ways, dogs are dogs. Their commonalities far outweigh their differences. But in a few significant ways, small guys differ from their larger counterparts. Some of those ways are purely physical. Others are more a matter of perspective.

Focus on the physical

Just in terms of the size differences – little dogs are prone to some specific maladies. Collapsing trachea is one of the most common, which is why it’s always a good idea for little dogs to wear harnesses instead of collars. Other specific issues common to toy-sized dogs include dental issues, hypoglycemia, and slipping knee caps. 

Bigger dogs also have size-related physical issues, they’re just different issues. Joint dysplasia, bloat, and wobbler syndrome are all more common in giant breeds. 

Every size of dog has something going on. As do we all. To put the physical in context – no one gets only the “best” genetics from their ancestors. There’s good and bad in everybody’s genes. Same for dogs.

Differences in outlook

Picture of a Shih Tzu illustrating that small dogs are different

Small dogs see the world from a different point of view. As a thought experiment – picture yourself walking through a forest of giant Redwood trees. Now imagine that all of those giant trees had two legs and were moving around. And you have no way of knowing which way they’re going. Not mentioning that those trees, with their long legs, are going so fast that you can barely keep up. Or get out of the way.

For a more realistic sample, get down on your floor. Not on your hands and knees. That would be a medium or large dog’s point of view. Get down on your stomach and see your surroundings from your little dog’s viewpoint. Be sure not to kick your dog while you army-crawl around to take a look. 

Small dog issues

The world’s a different place when your sight line is less than a foot off the ground. It’s likely you’ve seen all kinds of nooks and crannies around the place you never noticed. And dust bunnies even the most meticulous housekeeper had no idea were there. Not to mention all the cords there are to chew. When you think about all the trouble your small dog could have gotten into, and didn’t,  it’s marvelous she’s such a good girl. 

Small dogs are often faulted for being hyper, or yappy, or jumping on people. But let’s face it. Behavior that people don’t tolerate in larger dogs, like jumping, is often not addressed with little dogs. Their jumping doesn’t hurt, and likely won’t knock anyone over, so small dogs aren’t trained not to do it.

Same with walking calmly by your side. Little dogs learn quickly how to avoid getting stepped on. And most people don’t care where their dogs are walking, as long as it’s not underfoot. Many little dogs are actually afraid of feet. We can’t blame them. Getting those tiny paws stepped on a couple of times would teach any dog that feet are scary.

Call for attention

Of course there’s no reason that little dogs can’t be trained to behave appropriately at home and out. But many people don’t bother, knowing they can simply pick up their dogs to get out of a difficult situation. It’s certainly more fun to bring your dog anywhere with you, knowing he’ll behave himself. But there is some effort involved in acclimating dogs to society.

We know one woman whose Chihuahua is a hostile, reactive menace. Both at home and, when she used to take it places, away. Offered all kinds of resources to help her dog become more comfortable with the world, this woman refused. She feels safer knowing that no one can approach her, or her home. That’s her choice. But we feel a bit sorry for the dog.

Go against stereotype

Small dogs are just as smart, trainable, and terrific as any other dog. Some are smarter than others. Some are absolutely brilliant. A few may have candlepower that only flickers. But all dogs deserve the chance to live up to their full potential. Understanding your dog’s unique view of the world may be a door to letting your dog unlock the best she can be. The view from under the couch may be different, but it doesn’t limit their lives.

Puppies are awful, tyrannical beasts

We seriously dislike puppies. Puppies are awful, tyrannical beasts. They try to control every aspect of your life, demand attention 24/7, and try to maim you with their teeth. 

Puppies are awful, and also awfully cute.

After a couple weeks of getting up in the middle of the night to parade around outside in your jammies, going through an entire bottle of peroxide, doing innumerable loads of laundry, and mourning your favorite pair of shoes, you may wonder, “What was I thinking?”

And then you glance over to where the little dictator is napping on his back, having little puppy dreams with twitching, huge paws, and your heart melts just a little more.

Puppies are awful (ly) cute

We are actually blessed (we think) by having terrible recollection for bad stuff. It’s a mixed blessing. Because when we get ourselves back into a frustrating and exhausting situation, like raising a puppy, it comes rushing back after we’re already in the midst of it. 

And then we remember “Oh, yeah. That’s why we don’t like puppies!”

Let’s face it. If puppies weren’t so incredibly adorable, there’d be no excuse for them.

Like grandparenting

One of the great joys we have in the shop is outfitting new puppies – getting to meet them when their people bring them in. We get all the good parts, petting, cuddling, nuzzling adorableness. And then we get to hand them back to their people. Having a supply shop is like being a grandparent. You get the fun, play parts of being with the puppy. And then they go home and someone else does their laundry. 

Love dogs

On the other hand, we love dogs. Dogs are sweet, cuddly, fun roommates that never tell your secrets, never judge, and always willing to lend an ear. The best way we’ve found to wind up with an amazingly wonderful dog is to raise them up from puppyhood. 

We understand that there are countless wonderful adult dogs to adopt. For various reasons (other dogs in the home, dog sports training, etc.) we’ve always started with puppies. 

Not that we can prove it. There never seem to be enough puppy pictures. That’s probably because instead of taking pictures, you’re too busy chasing the puppy to grab something out of its mouth. Or peeling it off the other dog’s ear. Or stopping it grabbing the laundry and running off,  shredding the rugs, gnawing on the furniture, peeing on the floor, etc. Exchanging your sock for the toy you bought especially for the little darling.

The only time you can count on getting a good picture is when the puppy is sleeping. And how many sleeping puppy pictures does anybody need?

Remember to stop and enjoy

Puppies are awful, but puppyhood is a fleeting instant in the dog’s life. The misery is really acute during the teething period, starting at about four months. But we keep telling ourselves that the more “work” we put in when they’re little, the less we have to do later. And after all – we sort of wrote the book on “Puppy Basics.”