puppy love

We saw Oldest for a while the other night.
He came into town to pick up a couple of friends and go to a concert.
He's so happy - he loves what he's doing right now...have I told you what he's doing right now?
He's living with a family with two small children and is responsible for some nanny work, some household work, and general houseman stuff: Costco shopping, simple repairs, errand running.
It's been especially funny receiving calls from him from places like Target, for advice on fabric softener or floor cleaner.

Over the holidays the family he lives with bought a puppy.
Oldest was even more excited to be responsible for its care.
All I heard about was how adorable the puppy was, how funny, how snuggly.
Oldest was in heaven with this tiny dog, and the dog was in love with Oldest.

But the last couple of times I saw him, Oldest was feeling frustrated.
The puppy has been hard to train.
And while it was wonderful snuggling a baby dog, Oldest was not pleased with cleaning up after it.
There were a lot of accidents.
On one visit, Oldest said that he and his boss had disagreed on how to deal with this problem.
She didn't want Oldest to scream or swat at the puppy...
but Oldest felt that it would be imprudent to not smack the puppy, just a wee smack, when the puppy peed in the house.
Oldest was tired of picking up poo and had resorted to yelling.
The puppy reacted by not wanting to snuggle so much and didn't rush to the door to greet Oldest after he had been out of the house.
Oldest was feeling crappy about it.

Of course you see where I am going with this.
I explained, over the phone, in my most rational sounding voice, that I had learned this lesson too, and that Oldest should try to turn it around.
It's the hardest thing, turning something like this around...you have to be willing to let go of the power that you think you have, ignore the negative behavior, and offer a reward every time the puppy does the right thing, I told him.
It's harder, too, because you have to focus only on the positive behavior and give up the idea that punishing will make the difference. You can't be angry.
I told him to bring the puppy, six times a day, to the place where the dog is supposed to relieve himself, and every time he does Oldest should give him a treat and lots of encouragement.

It's so hard to let go of the idea of reprimanding and, simultaneously, to embrace praise.
But, you know, raising puppies, is like that.


Badger said…

And also, Oldest might want to read that book by the monks of New Skete: The Art of Raising a Puppy. I think he would like it.
Anonymous said…
Oh, bb, yes: raising puppies. I know this shouldn't have, but it swelled a tear in my eye. I guess I'm feeling sentimental today, about puppies, and boys getting older.
robiewankenobie said…
you are awesome. that is all.
Jennifer said…
Thank you bb. I'm going to use that advice. You know... with my two "puppies" the blonde hair blue eyed 5 and 2 year old that leave me frustrated and resort to yelling and punishment every darn day.
Anonymous said…

It is hard. Too hard. I don't manage it very often. Can you and Oldest come over and manage my "puppy?" I could use some help with fabric softener and floor cleaner as well.
You are my idea of a good Mother. Perfect words to give to your son, and surely he knows he has lived them growing up. Kindness rewards!
Susie Sunshine said…
Awwww, your puppy is getting all grown up......
Anonymous said…
Beautiful and wise.

But we wouldn't have expected anything else.

Much love and thanks,
tut-tut said…
Ah, puppies.

Your Oldest will learn quite a bit during his tenure there . . .
Heather said…
I've been thinking of this all day as I've watched my 2 littlest puppies pee all over the floor.
Thank you bb.
Suse said…
Number One started high school yesterday and as we watched all the kids gambol about and kick a ball and scrum together, one of the parents commented how apt it was that they are all Year of the Dog children.

They looked like a bunch of rambunctious playful puppies.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the reminder.
Anonymous said…
thank you for this.

(and I'm so happy to hear that Oldest is doing better)
Paula said…
Anonymous said…
The way to housebreak a dog is: everytime the dog begins to pee inside you say "NO" in your Alpha dog voice, not yelling, but being authoritative. Then you pick it up, which will cause it to stop peeing. Then you carry it outside to finish peeing, at which point you praise it like crazy. I broke my dog in three days using this method.

It has not been so effective with my toddler.
Anonymous said…
So young and so savvy!
Wish I can learn from you as much as I can.