Charlie and I had made the decision, after we put Monty and Molly to sleep that we would not - under any circumstances - get a dog until we were 100% ready to care for a dog. We would absolutely positively not bring another canine in to our home until we were committed to keeping that dog indoors with us (as opposed to sequestered to the yard and garage) and we were in a position to successfully assimilate that dog in to our family.
We adopted Louie in November.
Housebreaking took a long time. Maybe it took almost seven months with Monty and Molly and I just don't remember, but it felt like we were cleaning up after Louie quite frequently until June. We walked him, a lot ... at least once every couple of hours. We put him in his kennel after walks and play time. We limited his fluid intake by not leaving his water bowl out all day. We did everything right (or so we thought) and it's only been recently that his itty bitty bladder can last for more than 15 minutes without springing a leak.
In conjunction with the housebreaking activities, we've endured a fair amount of chewing. I've attributed this to the fact that he's a puppy and he's learning. See, I remember the amount of chewing Monty and Molly did when they were puppies, so I'm not surprised that we've replaced four dog beds in six months time. But for some reason, it wasn't until the fourth dog bed was decimated that we finally wised up to the fact that until such time Louie was past the point of chewing up the beds we'd given to him, he'll sleep on old towels.
We've also endured a fair amount of nipping. In regards to the nipping, I've been stressing to the kids that they need to RESPECT Louie's personal space and not initiate sword fights with him. First because he doesn't have an opposable thumb nor the ability to hold a sword and second, real dogs don't sword fight. Nonetheless, kids will be kids and regardless of what we adults say, they will infringe on Louie's zone so when the dog doles out a nip, I'll tell the children, "SEE? That's his way of telling you - BACK OFF." And they typically do. For at least five minutes. Give or take three.
When Monty was a puppy, we hired a personal dog trainer that cost the equivalent of a monthly two bedroom, two bathroom townhouse rental payment circa 1993. We paid for the "lifetime warranty package" although, come to think of it - I can't recall if it was for the duration of Monty's lifetime or ours? Nonetheless, a guy named Dominic came to our home every single Thursday for several months and he trained us how to train our dog. In addition, everyday we sent Monty to a doggie day camp where he was socialized with other dogs while Charlie and I were in school and/or at work.
What we learned during the training of Monty, we applied during the training of Molly. And we've tried to apply those same principles during the training of Louie. Thus far, it hasn't gone so well. Even when I take him out on a leash with a choke chain, he'll nearly yank my arm out of it's socket. And he's pulled all four of the kids down, face first.
"Oh, but he's a puppy!" I keep telling myself.
That's the same excuse I offer as to why he jumps up to people whenever they come visit. When Alex and Kathleen were here a few weeks ago, Louie jumped up and scratched Alex on the arm. While this typically might not have been much of a problem, Alex is on Coumadin and he bled for nearly two days. So this turned out to be a big problem.
Although it's been suggested by more than one person that Louie is perhaps not quite the right fit for our family (I'm not naming any names, Kathleen and Mom), I'm not one to easily give up when I've got my mind fixed on something. Just because I was born on the astrological cusp of Bull and Ram, what makes you think I'm set in my ways? I'm not stubborn, it's just that we'd made a commitment to the children, and to each other, and to Louie and to the Universe.
We were seeing this thing through.
Two weeks ago, we decided that Louie needed more socialization, so we packed him up and took him with us to Michigan where he received an abundance of socialization from my dog niece, Star ....
... and all of the people that passed through my sister's home during the time we were there. Louie did great. Except he ran away twice and almost got hit by a car on a major road.
Other than that ... perfection.
He also learned how to fetch balls in the lake after he was gently tossed in (repeatedly). Turns out, he loved the swimming and the fetching thing - he just didn't like the entrance thing too much.
Since we've returned home, Louie has been out of sorts. Or maybe we've been out of sorts. Coming back from a vacation is never easy, especially when there's a massive tree downed in your yard. Alas, in one of his worst snaps yet - late last week, Louie bit William and nearly broke the skin. Yesterday, he growled at Henry when Henry disturbed him from a nap (not a good thing for Henry to do, but not a good thing for Louie to do, either) ... and shortly thereafter, when I swatted him on his hindquarters for jumping up and licking a stick of butter off the counter, he flipped out. He darted in to the dining room and beneath the table. Maybe I should have just let it go, but because I was ticked that he'd eaten our LAST STICK OF BUTTER, I scolded him, "Bad dog Louie! No jumping on the counter!!" And that's when he growled at me.
Whoa. NO DOG GROWLS AT ME. Especially not a dog that *I* feed and shelter and vaccinate and whose poop I scoop up in a bag twice a day. I pulled back a dining room chair to look at him and he came charging out - with his teeth bared and snapping wildly.
But small and black.
Charlie snatched him by his collar and brought him downstairs in to his kennel and I made all kinds of loud and dramatic assertions that HE WAS GONE. HISTOMATIC. OUT THE DOOR. NO MORE. Even if he did miss Michigan and his cousin, Star ... there was no way in hell I'd have a dog in THIS HOUSE that would turn on ME and nearly take my shins off.
What if he showed that kind of aggression to the kids?
But then, after the kids cried themselves to sleep because, "We LOVE Louie and you promised us and him and the Universe and now you are breaking your promise you wretched woman....!" I pulled out Cesar Milan's book and started reading it. Again.
I also texted my sister, Eileen, whose good friend is a veterinarian. His advice was that when Louie turns like that, we need to demonstrate our alpha position and quickly throw on a pair of leather gloves and flip him over on his back for 15 seconds. Uh huh. I'll be sure to try out that technique ... once I can find a pair of leather gloves that extend up to my armpits.
At this moment, I can't make any long-term guarantees to Louie because the safety of our children is at the absolute forefront of any decision we will ultimately make. However, I do believe that we can do better training him and there's no doubt, he needs it. There's no doubt, we need it, too. So I'll be signing the entire family up for a "group" training session, later this week and I'm so excited how in the process of training our dog - we, ourselves, will become better, more compassionate, patient, tolerant, connected with the natural world human beings.
Meanwhile, Charlie has been lamenting Monty and has been looking at Lab Rescues. He desperately wants another squishy, docile, nothing fusses them up ever yellow lab. And he's trying to convince me that maybe if we had two dogs, we'd have a pack and instant order.
This is the face of a crazy man floating in denial.
(And the feet of his totally sane wife who believes one dog is plenty enough.)