Cayce and Wampum were two pound puppies. Their stories started out pretty much the same. Born and left at the shelter to take their chances, they were lucky. They were each taken home by someone who adored them. That was the easy part.
Dogs and people get along amazingly well, considering we don't speak the same language. Gestures and words that mean one thing to a human mean something else entirely to a dog. What Cayce and Wampum's people meant to tell these puppies was that they loved them. What Cayce and Wampum learned was that they were in charge. When they whined, they were catered to. If they didn't mind, it was so cute that the people just laughed. If they ran off, the people chased and caught them. If they bit, it was turned into a game.
This all worked just fine for everyone involved for a while. Then one day, Cayce and Wampum weren't puppies anymore. When they bit, it hurt. When they ran off, their people couldn't catch them. If they jumped up, they got clothes dirty. Cayce and Wampum's people weren't so much in love anymore.
Cayce and Wampum didn't understand why everything had changed. They were just doing what they had been taught. Now it made their humans angry. So they tried harder. They jumped more. They ran faster. They bit harder.
Because of his behavior, Cayce was banished. Tied out in the backyard, he learned to bark and whine. That was the only way he ever got any attention, even if it wasn't exactly the kind of attention he craved. Where were the soft beds, the treats, the hugs and kisses? Eventually his humans grew tired of him, and Cayce was taken to the country and abandoned. His parents thought he'd make a good farm dog. Someone was sure to take him in. If not, well, they'd tried, and he just wasn't a good pet.
Wampum's family was different. They realized that maybe they were responsible for Wampum's behavior. They saw that he was behaving exactly the same as he had when he was three months old. They started reading books about dog training and behavior, and implemented a consistent training program. They found that it wasn't all that hard. It didn't even take a lot of time. They didn't have to be mean or to punish him to get him to behave. And Wampum understood what they wanted. Within a few months, the relationship had changed. Wampum was happy to let the humans be in charge. His confidence grew, and he became such a wonderful companion that not only did he have run of the house, he got to go most places with his human companions. He was fun to be around. It was easy to have him along. He was a wonderful companion. Wampum lived happily ever after.
Cayce wound up at a shelter. He was like many other dogs there: a year old, cute, but completely without discipline. Being in a shelter made him act crazy. It was easy for humans to pass by his cage and go to the sweet little puppies. His time was up.
At the last minute, Cayce did get one final chance. Today, he sleeps at my feet, one of the nicest dogs you'll ever know. Cayce has a sweet, loving nature, so with a little training, his early problems were easy to overcome. He hadn't become vicious, which can be the case in a dog who has a strong alpha personality, and he hadn't lost his ability to trust. Often dogs like that prove too difficult for someone without much experience, and their stories don't have happy endings. Cayce was also lucky that someone who saw what a wonderful dog he was came along. Even the sweet ones like Cayce often have stories without happy endings.
The take home message is this: Teach your puppies well, right from the very beginning. Imagine what a particular behavior will look like when your pup is the full size version of himself, then decide if it's something you want to live with for the next twelve or fifteen years. If not, gently, consistently and firmly show him how you want him to behave. He's not going to magically discover what you want if you don't show him. Make sure you don't encourage the wrong types of behavior. Take an obedience class or read one of the new books on dog training. After all, you're supposed to be the smart one.
For Cayce and Wampum. May more stories end like theirs.
In case you wondered if Wampum and Cayce are real dogs...
to Angie and Wampum