Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hassles vs. Problems vs. Babies

One thing that some of the puppies do that I think is very sweet is that they ask/beg/demand to be picked up. Geneva just did this -- all the other puppies are asleep but she walked around the x-pen opening, trying to get out and whining loudly. I picked her up and just carried her as I did a few things. She quietly tasted my fingers, growled when I played with her, licked my face and just was content to be held for a few minutes. I put her back in the pen and now she is asleep with the rest.

This is a very typical request from a puppy. If Cadi is close-by, I will sometimes put the puppy with her to have some special nursing time but often we just hold the puppy or puppies who are asking for something outside the box, so to speak.

Some might wonder why we would reinforce a puppy for crying -- because that is how a baby conveys his/her needs. How else is a puppy to tell us that they want/need something -- send an email?! I want the puppies to find humans reinforcing and enjoyable -- it is a good thing that the puppies ask to be with us. If I ignore them, these early efforts at engagement will extinguish -- that is what happens when we ignore behavior.

Once again we have to talk about development. Puppies are not small dogs -- they are babies. We gently shape behavior, of course, but always with thoughtful consideration of capabilities. I want to shape positive interaction with people, and so when a puppy asks for it, I want to reinforce it.

I worry when people talk about being the "leader" or admire about that abusive dog whisperer person on television. If I have to prove to my dog that I am the leader, well -- I think I have bigger problems than a dog who ignores me. My way of training is more collaborative and respectful -- don't you think the best leaders are the ones who are not always out to prove they are the boss?

And so I have nothing to prove to a baby puppy except that the world is a safe and loving place, and that his/her needs will be met. There is plenty of time for these puppies to learn about grown-up dog things, but for now they have baby needs and wants, and they deserve to have those met.

Many years ago when I was teaching in Eau Claire I had a student talk to me about her nine year old son. It seems she was having a really hard time getting him to take a shower and stay clean, and this was causing no end of conflict. I told her that it was pretty normal for that age boy to be like that, and that he would grow out of it so not to worry too much about it. Less than two weeks later the boy was accidentally hanged while playing with friends; I know that his mother would do anything to have that dirty, smelly boy back -- suddenly showers just did not matter.

We give meaning to tragedy when we learn from it, and so I have tried hard to learn from all the families I have worked with. The biggest take home message for me is to not sweat the small stuff -- so what if the puppy pulls the leash, chews a slipper, or cries to get out of the crate? Those are not real problems.

So my puppies get to be the babies they are, and that tough love crap doesn't happen around here. When one of those even more adorable than yesterday puppies want to be held, you can bet there are loving arms to hold that baby. Soon they will be too big and this precious, fleeting time will have passed -- I intend to make the most of it.

And speaking of babies, look at that sweet little boy who came to visit puppies yesterday!!! That is Cooper who is visiting his Aunt Lesley. Cooper thought the puppies were okay but he LOVED Karma :) And look at the puppies' reaction to Cooper's dad -- that is what happens when puppies are learning that people can be trusted. Lesley is holding Ireland, and you can see that Toronto got to go out and see snow! He did not think it was all that fun actually so we will try again in a few days.

We practiced some group shots. The four together are the girls -- can you tell who they are? Then there is Hudson and Sutton together, Whitby and Toronto together and just Ireland and Sydney. Today we will be working on five week pictures -- can you even believe they are five weeks old?!

I hope that you will think about the difference between a hassle and a problem, and have a great day free of both! Thanks for your visit :)


  1. It's often so hard to see the differences between small stuff and otherwise -- or to know when one should provide security and when one should support steps out into the world of 'big dogs' (or big kids). Of those difficulties come the joys and regrets of parenting! As a new grandma, I see the cycle starting again, and I'm in a better position to focus on the joys.


  2. Bom dia M-A!

    Thanks for your post on this topic! As a fellow counselor I feel warmed by your description of how attachment forms with puppies, and it seems so natural for it to happen this way. Why would we want our dog to fear us when we could create building blocks of respect in a caring and loving manner? Sam and I have always used love as the foundation of a relationship with our pug, Kiko, and he has been friendly and loving to everyone he meets.

    Also, as usual, I L-O-V-E the pictures!

    Toronto . . . be still my heart!

    -- Liz & Sam (who's currently swinging in a hammock on his dad's veranda)