Raising a puppy teaches you a lot about yourself.

I am learning (or being reminded of the fact) that I am a creature of instinct: I have strong ones and I want to rely on them, even when logic would dictate I ignore them; and I get quite emotional when I behave in contradiction to my desire. Seeing any living creature suffer bothers me immensely.

Crating my dog in a small cage while I’m at work for his comfort and protection and training purposes conflicts with my desire to let him run free and be comfy, even though I know he may mess up the house, defecate and urinate all over and maybe even chew things he shouldn’t, not to mention the possibility that he may get stuck somewhere, given his diminutive size and curiosity.

Forcing my dog to stay outside in the cold and dark, just beyond the threshold of the door into the light and warmth, until he acquiesces to my commands to sit and stay, gnaws at my gut as I struggle not to scoop him up and hold him and warm him and beg his forgiveness; even though I know he must learn to obey for his own safety and our eventual ability to take him places and let him off the leash in the yard.

Placing him back in his crate at night while we sleep, pains me, as I want to let him lie between us and snuggle with us as part of the family, even though I know he won’t be able to until we can be sure he will not wander off and make indoor messes and accidents in or out of the bed.

I knew, going into adopting a puppy, it would take time to train him and it would require me to be more of a disciplinarian. I understand that as a dog, he speaks a different language and understands behavior and body language in a different way than humans do, so I have to assert myself in a way he will understand and learn to obey.

Readjusting how I think and react to Harvey makes me realize that I have been learning to change my behavior in my human relationships, too. For the majority of my life I was a diehard people pleaser, avoiding conflict at all costs and doing anything I could do to foster, nurture and maintain relationships with everyone and anyone. Even when my brain would recognize I was being mistreated, ignored, taken for granted, harmed or abused, my heart and instincts would impel me to try harder to be liked and wanted, to overlook the negative and try to hold onto as many people in my life as I could, at all costs, no matter what they said or did. Learning to accept the discomfort and pain of letting go and severing ties with people who harm me, emotionally, and poison my life and happiness, has been a slow and difficult process, and the negative emotions that come with it – hurt, anger, sorrow, confusion and fear – are all components of learning, growing and maturing. Being able to ask and expect something in return from the people I have invested time and energy into, as I have learned, is not a sign of weakness but strength. I understand and accept that not all relationships are meant to be or are healthy for me. It is evidence that I am learning to value myself, my own wants and needs, as strongly as I value and respect others’, as well as devote my time and energy into nurturing the relationships with people who have shown the same efforts and interest in me and my well-being.

SO, I will continue to forego my compassionate human being impulses and strive to be a good dog owner. I will fight my instincts to smother my puppy with love and pander to him, knowing if I do I will be unable to avoid the harmful effects that approach will have, in the future. I will remind myself to do the right things in the right way so that I will ultimately strengthen our bond and relationship when all is said and done…no matter how much it conflicts with my natural instincts to do so. And maybe in the process of trying to teach my puppy to be a stronger and better behaved pet, I will learn how to be a stronger and better behaved human as well.

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7 Responses to Training

  1. David says:

    While crating is for potty training, mostly… dogs like the crate as it gives them a sense of security… especially small dogs like that. You can’t look at it as a punishment… but it is a reward to be let out… and especially while a puppy. They say they should only be out a few hours a day at first. This is a valuable lesson for them to learn… especially for dogs that have a Napolean complex…. so small, yet they think they are in control. These are the hardest dogs to train, not because they are stupid… but because they are smart. If you fall for their doe eyes, you will regret it later. They know exactly what they are doing… controlling you. I would recomment you grab a book on the breed if you don’t already have one… I hate to keep harping on it… and it’s not that I question your abilities… but this isn’t your typical dog. Shelby, my dog… loved her crate… she would go in it on her own even with the door opened… and this is even after I gave in and stopped crating her a few weeks after I got her because I felt the same way. From experience (being around friends who have Chihuahuas, you have to be firm with them or seven years from now, you’ll be picking up rebelliously placed crap. Again, the crate isn’t a bad thing. The smaller the cage, with nothing in there… and the sooner they have to lay in a puddle of their own pee… will they learn to hold it for outside.

  2. Walt says:

    Your new baby is absolutely adorable!

    I completely understand what you’re talking about when you talk about severing ties with those poisoning your life. When Mom was sick and dying in the hospital, I had a lot of time to live inside my own head. I learned a lot about myself during that painful process. I realized how short life truly was and how much time I wasted trying to please people who didn’t deserve it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pleasing yourself before feeling the need to please others. It’s been so freeing tossing aside some of the dead weight and negativity and I think it’s made me a better person. Definitely a happier one. I think you’ll find the same thing!

  3. RG says:

    Did you know that Chihuahua’s have the largest brain of any dog breed relative to it’s size? The are very smart dogs. And I’m glad that you’re treating your small wonder like a dog and not a clutch-purse. And don’t worry – it’s rough going at the beginning, but training a dog properly is worth the trouble.

    I can’t wait to meet Harvey.

  4. Raybeard says:

    That was a difficult read, S/b. As someone who is heartbroken when witnessing animals – ANY animal – in distress, I doubt if I’d ever have mettle enough to train a dog. I’d be suffering as much, or even more than, the poor thing itself.

    Btw When you lock Harvey in his cage do you have in there with him some small articles of clothing that both you and Jeffery don’t mind discarding, so that he can find some comfort in picking up your distinctive smells? Although only a poor second to actual physical presence I’ve heard that it might speed up his training.

    • Sassybear says:

      Ray: i know thats as hard for you to read as it was for me to write. I promise you we are making his crate as comfy as possible. He has a fluffy bed mat, one of our T-Shirts and a stuffed ducky we rubbed all over us before putting in his cage. He also has a chew toy and a rawhide bone to chew on. He has to be crated for the day because he’s not housebroken, but my Mom comes every day at noon to take him out and let him play and run for an hour or so. So he’s only crated in 4 hour stretches and at night for bed when we go to sleep. Once he’s house trained, he will sleep with us and not in the crate at night and so long as our trainer and vet approve, we’ll let him run free during the day once he’s trained. It is REALLY important to train him now so we can take him with us on vacations and cartrips and to other people’s homes. It seems harsh now, but in the long run, he will get so much more freedom and time with us if we all just suffer a little now and train him properly. This is what we call “tough love.”

      • Raybeard says:

        Thanks for that, S/b. I should have guessed that you would already be doing all you can to expedite his training. I feel considerably better now, whilst hoping that he’s a quick learner and will get his ‘reward’ before very long, viz sleeping in your bed. I know you’ll keep us posted on his progress – with plenty of pics, please.

  5. Will J says:

    Those puddles that you find in the house – those aren’t urine. He’s just melted someone else’s heart.

    You are right. The key to any relationship is self knowledge and appropriate boundaries. As you wrote, Harvey is just reminding you of this hard earned lesson.

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