In my excitement over being a new puppy parent, I have been freaking out over the dumbest things. I was exasperated by his endless chewing. I was frustrated by the biting of my fingers and hands. I was going insane over not being able to wear my favorite shoes because he kept chewing on the things… and I got a GREAT deal on these Dansko sandals… and I will not find such a deal again if I end up having to replace them.
It was killing me.
I was losing my mind.
I KNOW that Mugen is a good boy. He was not the alpha dog in his litter, he was not the most submissive dog in his litter. He is sweet and loving and is eager to please. He is very smart. For the last week, I have been trusting in these things to carry us through. The problem is, I forgot something very important that had to be in this picture.
I forgot about me.
In one year’s time, I expect Mugen to weigh 85 pounds or more. I am really looking forward to watching him grow and I kept thinking to myself, “Okay, he’ll settle down and this won’t last.” And of course, all of this is true. But what is really important here is that I give him a good foundation for the time when he is so large that I will not be able to ignore him when he’s nibbling on my toes. His teeth will be nearly ten times the size they are now and his jaws will be extremely powerful and his nibbling on someone’s toes could send someone to the ER with stitches if I let it go on.
This is dangerous. It is a recipe for disaster and I am intimately familiar with this because I lived through it with Reilly. It wasn’t Reilly that had the problem though. We did obedience work from day one. He was a great dog, he always minded me. The problem was actually with my daughter. I let her run hog wild over him. I trusted his infinite and endless patience and I trusted that I had a great dog… and I did. But one day, that patience which I so prized in my boy ran out.
The result was a trip to immediate care for my daughter when she was 6. I had people tell me that I had to put my dog down. Everyone that I discussed it with said, “That dog is dangerous, you need to put a stop to this now.” Everyone, that is, but my vet and my friend John. Both of whom looked me in the face and said, “Stacy, the dog’s not your problem.”
The next step I took, was getting a grip on my kid. I crate trained Reilly. He had a safe place to go. If she went near the crate, I sent her to her room. If she chased after Reilly, I picked her up and hauled her to her room over my shoulder. If she pulled his tail, she went into time out. I had to become her boss.
I had been letting her get away with bloody murder, and I have been doing the exact same thing with Mugen. I had been setting aside behaviors that I know to be wrong and allowing them to continue because he’s cute. Well, he’s a Lab. He’s always going to be cute. That doesn’t mean that I should allow him to chew on my couch cover or my wood work, or the barstools in the kitchen, let alone my feet. I need to say “No” like I really mean it. I need to be the boss. He’s really looking for someone to lead and I just have to step up to the plate and do it.
I know how to be his boss. Reilly taught me how and I know for a fact that it doesn’t have to be like this because Reilly made it clear to me how wonderful the dog-owner relationship can be if I realized my responsibilities first.
I have felt his absence horribly these last few days. The stress of all of the chewing and the puppy fighting has been wearing me down and I am aching to have that big head rest against my knee and sigh as if to say, “Well Mom, I guess we’re stuck with him.” In my frustration and sorrow I was asking myself, “Why? I know Mugen is not insane. I met his parents, they were the sweetest dogs. What is causing all of this?”
Tonight, Mugen bit my daughter pretty hard. Not enough to draw blood, but enough that she’s got a mark. When I saw it, it hit me in the face what was going on. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t even his fault.
It was mine. I allowed myself to be blinded by puppy love. Not just a little, but completely.
I’m ready to step up to the plate now.