Gazette Vet: Don’t Get Started with Bad Habits

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By John Andersen, DVM

When I adopted my first dog Kaya, you could tell she hadn’t spent much time indoors.  She was about 9 months old and a nervous wreck. She had no idea what couches were and would never consider getting up on a bed. It was as if she was on her best behavior, hoping not to be sent back to the shelter.

Fast forward 10 years and the daily routine before leaving the house had become stacking up all the cushions on the couch so we didn’t come home to find the old girl sleeping soundly on the couch and leaving one of her classic drool marks.

It all started one fateful day when I literally had to pick up this young dog against her will and lay her on the couch next to me as I watched some TV. Granted, I was a student and bachelor at the time, and the only sentimental thing about that couch was that I picked it out at the Goodwill all by myself. I just really wanted a couch buddy at the time.

But soon, despite the initial anxiety of being where only humans are supposed to sit, Kaya began to get the hang of it. Fast-forward 10 years: “Honey, did you put the plastic down on the couch before you left? Did you put the gates up?”

Don’t get any bad visuals of my house. It is of course spotless with two dogs, a cat and an 8-year-old boy. Not a single dog hair out of place, couches in pristine condition, stair banisters all smooth and unchewed on, carpets free from stains.

Those without pets are perhaps now saying to each other, “See, we’re never getting a dog!” But the pet owners are saying, “Don’t forget about chewed up table legs, vomit in the back seat of the car, and destroyed door jambs!”

It’s amazing what we will put up with to be with these hairy, drooly, dirty, chewing, scratching, vomiting creatures we call pets. We love them to death, yet are constantly having to redefine our standards of “clean,” “new,” and “hypoallergenic.” Dogs and cats are sure to leave a permanent mark on your heart, but may leave an even larger one on your home. But they’re worth it. We don’t know why. It doesn’t make logical sense when we try to explain to our non-pet-owner friends, and there are times when we question it ourselves. But they’re worth it.

For many of us with mature pets who are well set in their ways, we’re probably stuck just trying to remember to put the cushions up on the couch and close the bedroom door. We know we can never let our guard down but we have perhaps lowered our standards a little.

But for those of us with puppies or newly adopted dogs, it really is important to try and prevent bad habits early. Even if you are reading this in your bachelor pad on a 30-year-old vinyl couch, don’t let that puppy up there! Consider a time eight years from now when your spouse will blame you squarely for your dog leaving drool spots the size of dinner plates on a new couch. Thinking of letting that cute puppy sleep in the bed?  Consider the future when your spouse is tired and not sleeping well and there isn’t enough room in the bed for the three of you. I’ll bet the one who gets kicked out only has two legs.

It is rewarding to spoil our pets for some reason. I suppose it’s as simple as their loving us makes us feel better about ourselves. But try and remember to think about some of the decisions you make with these young pets and how they could make your life more complicated when they grow older.

Since Kaya, our two newer dogs have been raised under the influence of the mistakes we made with our older dog.  No couch.  No bed.  Sleep in the crate.  Unfortunately, these two somehow were born with the knowledge that couches and beds are for dogs to sleep on and that if you’re going to vomit, you should really try to make sure you walk over to the nice wool rug first.  We have a new set of “home challenges” with our current pack, but in the end, we are blessed to be able to have them in our home and enrich our lives.

 

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