Hey, Dog Whisperer: My Dog Begs for Meatballs, and Other Problems

Gus at rest, but not in his crate like he’s supposed to be. Perhaps he is dreaming of meatballs.

Dear Cesar Milan,
OK we bought your book. We know the importance of calm, authoritative attitudes when handling puppies, no matter how cute. We’ve practiced the art of going through the door first and letting the dog follow, of owning our space and of saying “tssst!” to show displeasure when our puppy whines or jumps too much.

So what can we do when the dog isn’t buying it?

We’ve had our new puppy Gus for just two days. It has been an adjustment. On the plus side, he is getting used to the crate. On the minus side, everything we’ve read in the Dog Whisperer book about being a calm and authoritative pack leader has gone out the window. Gus ignores the people who’ve best learned to be authoritative (thanks to your television shows and book) and lavishes all his attention on the weak link: me.

He’s already turning into a picky eater, even though we are using the same puppy chow as his breeder. He has hardly touched his food bowl, despite our cajoling. But he clung to my ankles last night as I stirred a pot of gravy and meatballs, and whimpered and begged while we ate dinner. Could it be that Gus, descended from a prestigious line of German miniature dachshunds, is really Italian?

Perhaps that would explain his attachment to his new “mama.” While my son has projected a more authoritative presence (thanks to you), Gus has me pegged for a softie. He ignores other family members and follows me around from room to room. When I tell him to “stay,” he must interpret it to mean, “within a two-foot radius.” As soon as I sit down he jumps into my lap – even though dachshunds supposedly should limit jumping because they are prone to bad backs — and starts licking my face. He cries pitifully if I put him into his crate so I can get something done. He is a mama’s dog through and through. If this continues, will he turn into Paulie Walnuts?

He certainly is capable of bonding with the guys in the family, at least if I am not around. Last night, ignoring his whimpers, I left to do some food shopping. When I returned Bob and Gus were peacefully curled up on the couch together watching the Red Sox. Gus was nearly asleep, but when he saw me he started wagging his tail furiously and immediately climbed into my lap. I should have told him “tsst” and pushed him away with a clawed hand, like you suggested.

Dog Whisperer, I am making the same mistakes with Gus that I made as a parent of small children. I have a hard time with the tough decisions and the “executive” part of parenting, whether it’s a two-legged or four-legged creature. I let my daughter live on Spaghetti-os for months at a time when it was the only thing she would eat. When my kids had problems going to bed I would sit in the hallway outside their bedrooms with a magazine and reassure them that I wasn’t going away, instead of locking their door as some childhood sleep experts would recommend. Now Gus is sleeping in his crate in our bedroom, something that really should not be happening.

House training has also been challenging at times, just as potty training was. I’ve brought Gus outside many times and waited, but nothing has happened except for a lot of sniffing, pointing, and digging up tuberous plants. I’ve brought him to a nice tree and encouraged him to take a whiz there, even modeled the correct technique. I prayed that no neighbors saw me when I lifted up one arm and one leg and said, “see Gus, this is how it’s done,” while he stared quizzically at me. Only later did I find out from his breeder that a dachshund’s legs are too short to pee like other dogs do; he just lets everything trickle down. He hasn’t pooped outside either, but that doesn’t surprise me since that the “number-two” part of potty training was challenging for my other boys as well. (My youngest pooped in my shoe once after I refused to let him put a diaper back on.)

So, Dog Whisperer, please help. My weiner dog is on his way to becoming an anal-retentive, meatball-loving, authority-resistant, Italian mama’s boy. Please bring over Blizzard, Mr. President and Junior and tell me what to do. I need to get over this problem before I have grandchildren.

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