Tag Archives: life with dogs

Ghosts of dogs gone by

Our homes are filled with the ghosts of dogs gone by. If you’ve loved dogs all your life, chances are the lucky one currently sharing your home is surrounded by phantoms of dogs past.

In one way, that’s a wonderful thing. When your now dog does something adorable that past dogs have done, like the way he wiggles around on his back, you get a flash of memory that lets you smile and remember.

In another way, it’s sad and harmful to the dog in front of you. We tend to think about the stuff that was good, that we miss, that was comfortable. Stuff our now dogs can’t live up to.

Rose-colored glasses

We have a dog training student who dearly misses her last dog. Her almost-constant lament is that her 11-month old dog isn’t like her last dog, Mortimer. “I just want him to be a good dog, like Mortimer!” she says. 

There are good reasons Oscar can’t live up to the standard she’s set. For one, he’s an adolescent, intact terrier boy. As anyone who knows, or has been, an adolescent boy knows, it’s a particularly volatile time of life. Another reason; Mortimer was an old, mellow dog when he died. He’d lived with her for a decade and a half, knew her, knew the rules of the house. Their relationship was long-standing, suited both of them, and was comfortable. 

And it’s been 17 years since she’s trained a puppy. Everyone tends to forget the hard work, constant attention, and continual frustration that includes. She remembers the end product, not the difficulty of producing that perfect dog.

Get over it

It sounds kind of harsh, but we’re constantly telling her “Mortimer’s gone. This is Oscar.” Oscar doesn’t deserve to be shrouded by ghosts of dogs past. Actually, he’s a pretty neat little guy. Handsome, smart, willing to learn, and he’s got a great “work ethic” – up for any training game his owner will play.

The biggest challenge for his mom, Christine, is to focus on the good stuff about Oscar, instead of the jumping on guests, biting the leash, running away when called. We’re working on all those pleas for attention.

Christine’s assignment this week is easy. Every day, while she’s drinking her morning coffee, look at Oscar and write down five things she likes about him. And only three can be the same good stuff as the day before. 

Focusing on the dog in front of you is sometimes hard. There are days when we miss the last dog, or the dog from 20 years ago. The pangs of loss are almost tangible. They’re indicators of the great love we’ve shared. Luckily, there’s no limit on love. 

Look to the future

The dog in front of us will never be the same as the last dog we had. Dog people know that every dog is a unique personality. If this dog is the same breed, there will be some similarities defined by genetics. But there will also be traits and quirks unique to this dog. Seeing the dog you have, embracing those unique characteristics, is part of the joy in the relationship. 

Christine and Oscar are getting there. There will come a day when Mortimer’s ghost won’t be superimposed on Oscar. Instead, he’ll be off to the side, watching with that doggy grin. Matched by one from Oscar, and a smile from Christine.

Dogs’ lives are too short

The longer you live, the more dogs you love, the more mourning you’ll have to do. As author Agnes Sligh Turnbull said: “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” 

Picture of a short-haired brown dog's face for the post Dogs lives are too short

A friend of a friend got some awful news this week – her dog has an untreatable condition that will soon take the dog’s life. “Coco” is small and only nine years old. The woman expected to have many more years with her best friend. And now has to reshape her vision of the future.

Dog bucket lists

In the last couple of years we’ve seen stories about dogs completing “bucket lists.” And if it helps the people cope with the impending loss of their dogs, that’s what they should do. But we’ve never been big fans of lists of “things to do before death.” 

If there’s a goal you want to reach, accomplish, attempt – make plans and go do it. For yourself and your dog. 

If you’re facing a similar situation, instead of projecting new stuff on your dog, do more of the stuff your dog loves. Not all dogs will enjoy, or even understand, a sudden change in routine. As we’ve said many times, most dogs are big fans of schedules.

Preparing for the day

Some people think it’s better to have time to prepare for a dog’s death. We’re not so sure. Over the years we’ve lost dogs in all different ways – none of them is “better.” Sudden is shocking. Slow is a constant ache. And, no matter how you try, you’re never prepared for the quiet emptiness when you come home.

Coco has been diagnosed with the same silent killer that took our dog Teddy a couple of years ago. That’s probably why the news is hitting us hard. We’ll never “get over” it, but we have learned to live with it.  

And, fortunately, the community of people who understand and sympathize is easier to reach and larger than it was before the internet. Back in the day, there weren’t social groups whose common interest was dogs. And non-dog people just don’t understand the impact. 

Sorry for them

Actually, we feel sorriest for people who have never known the love, and loss, of a dog. They don’t understand the selfless, unconditional love that dogs bring to life. As badly as it eventually hurts, loving a dog is never a mistake.  Their loss never overshadows the smiles they brought. We can’t let it. 

It’s advice we’ve given many times over the years. People, mourning their dog’s death, will say “I’m never getting another dog. It hurts too much.” 

Yes, it does. But to honor  your dog’s life, you can’t let their death be more important. Dogs’ lives are too short. The joy they bring is disproportionately large. Hug your dogs.

What’s your dog’s story?

It’s not a big secret that we’re addicted to dogs. Or that we think dog people are the best on the planet. We love talking to people and hearing their dog’s stories.

Every dog has one. Whether you bought your dog from a breeder, adopted her from a shelter, found her on the street – every story is unique. But every dog’s story has a common denominator. That dog changes his family’s life forever.

One of the best dog trainers we know did a thought-provoking video this week. Margaret trains dogs at every level – from household obedience to the highest level of dog sport competition. This week she cautioned against letting our dogs’ stories define them – as if their history predetermined their future. We were captivated!

Let the dog’s story change

Just because your dog’s story started with some kind of issue, whether it’s fear of storms, or trucks, or loud sounds, or getting his nails trimmed, doesn’t mean she’s destined to have that issue forever. Dogs do love routine. But they can adapt, especially if changes come at the dog’s pace and comfort level.

Over the years we’ve met lots of people who think their newly-adopted dog is just the most amazing, good, well-behaved creature ever to walk the planet. 

We talk to them a couple of months later and the world has turned upside-down. The dog is mischievous, naughty, and can’t stay still for more than a few seconds at a time. It turns out that about six weeks after a dog or puppy arrives in its new home, the dog realizes it’s there to stay and starts showing his/her true personality. 

As a “guest” – the dog is on its best behavior. As a member of the family, he sits on the couch in his underwear, burping, smacking, and eating all the snacks in the house.

Past and future

We can never really know what shaped our dogs’ personalities, why they react to certain situations the way they do. Perhaps the dog was frightened by an opening umbrella when it was a tiny puppy. Maybe while riding in a car, heard a vehicle backfire, and retains the fear. We’ll never know – and they can’t tell us. 

We can recognize the issues and come up with a plan to help our dogs overcome them.

A friend’s Havanese puppy fears getting her nails trimmed. Our friend doesn’t want to use a guillotine-type nail clipper because she’s afraid of hurting her dog. We get it – we’re chickens about the clippers, too. 

Our friend got a Dremel and wants to use the sanding drum to grind down her dog’s nails – just like we do. It works quickly, leaves the nails pretty smooth, and, when the dog cooperates, takes only moments. But her puppy fears the sound. It’s understandable, they’re not quiet machines. So we shared our trick – the grinder has an attachment that lets you hold the working bit like a pen, a couple of feet away from the loud motor. It’s a simple thing, but it may save a lot of aggravation for our friend, and avoid frightening her dog. 

Get help

If your dog has issues from his/her past – don’t let them define your dog’s future. You’ll both have a better, bigger life if you can help your dog put the past in the past. 

You know dog people – both in person and on social media. Ask if anyone faces the same issue. If our friend hadn’t happened to mention to Hope about her puppy’s nail phobia, she never would have learned about the amazing Flex Shaft attachment. Now Lulu’s learning, one nail at a time, that trimming isn’t terrifying.

Changing your dog’s story

You can change your dog’s story – a lot, or a little. If you want to live the biggest life possible with your dog, we invite you to join the 2-Minute Trainer community. You’ll see just how fast your dog can learn, change, and fill with confidence to try new things. The 10-day trial of 2-Minute-Trainer is free. Because we know you’ll become an addict. Like us. And you’ll get a Quick Start game free, so you and your dog can start having fun right away. Because games are learning, and learning is fun in the 2-Minute Trainer world!

Join 2-Minute Trainer now

Welcome to the Naughty Dog club!

Do you have a naughty dog? Welcome to the club!

Not to name-drop (which we’re actually not going to do), but we know some of the top dog-sport competitors in the country. In a variety of sports; obedience, rally, agility, etc. Some are friends, some friendly acquaintances, some we nod and smile when we see.

Every single one of them is a member of the Naughty Dog Club, too!

They’re dogs!

Our first “Aha!” naughty club membership moment came a few years ago when a friend, one of the highest-achieving obedience competitors we know, admitted that her dog jumped on the dinner table, while she was eating, and begged for food. To protect her identity, we’ll just say that, naturally, her naughty dog was a toy breed. Just sayin’.

That’s when we realized that even the most competent trainers, world-class dog sport competitors, all have naughty dogs – just like you and us. There are times when their dogs are brilliant in public. And there are those private moments when we just sigh, or laugh, or throw our hands in the air. 

Everyone has a story

One of our favorite “naughty dog” stories happened quite a few years ago. We had a Boston Terrier named Daemon, a very well-mannered gentleman, most of the time. 

It was Memorial Day and the family gathered around the kitchen table, enjoying an adult beverage, catching up with each other, and waiting for the grill to heat up. The sirloin steak was waiting on the table, seasoned and ready to go on the grill. 

Boston Terrier Daemon the naughty dog

Daemon was sitting on the breakfast nook, as he always did, watching the conversation like it was a tennis match. With the utmost delicacy, he reached over, sank two teeth into the steak, and started dragging it over. 

At first, we were too flabbergasted to react! Our perfect “gentleman” was attempting Grand Theft Steak right in front of our noses!

We were laughing too hard to yell at him. So we rescued the steak (yes, we still ate it!), grilled it, and Daemon got some. Crime does pay, after all!

Every dog is naughty

You’re not alone – every dog has moments of indiscretion! Some are funny, like Daemon. Others are frustrating.  Or infuriating. Or just aggravating. When Hope’s Teddy decided it was bedtime, he caterwauled until everyone knew about it. And usually got his way. He had an uncanny built-in alarm clock – it was usually time.

Those odd naughty dog moments are the ones that stand out. They’re the fabric of your special dog’s personality, the times that bring a smile to your face long after that beloved dog is gone. We’d love to know your “naughty dog” stories! Won’t you share?