Sunday, January 31, 2010


Interesting title, huh? But no, I'm not referring to anything kinky. What's on my mind right now is an essay that appeared in today's New York Times magazine.

In a nutshell, a writer named John Moe says that his dog, a Yorkie, doesn't like him. The dog cowers and growls at the sight of him. Such behavior understandably hurts the guy's feelings, especially since he's the one "providing the income to make the house function." Long story short, they really don't have the sort of human-canine bond that motivates people to add dogs to their lives.

I can relate to this. For quite awhile, I didn't think Allie liked me much--and frankly, I wasn't all that crazy about her. During her puppyhood and adolescence, she never chose to be near me, and I didn't like her rough play style or her propensity for using her leash as a tug toy while we were walking. I seriously questioned whether we were a good fit. We muddled through, time passed, I let go of certain expectations, and we both came to appreciate each other. Now, I can't imagine life without her. God help me when she truly enters seniorhood.

But back to Moe and his dog, Dave. (love the name. So *not* the typical cutesy-poo name given to a toy dog.) I decided to ask some trainers what they would suggest to help the two. One respondent noted that Moe likes to wrestle with his kids and that perhaps Dave was reacting to that practice. Her prescription: have Moe feed Dave all his meals, tone down the rough play, and invite the Dave to have a belly rub at the same time Moe is snuggling with one of the kids. Another suggested that Moe be responsible for all of Dave's care (assuming that Dave was okay with that) so that the dog would realize all good things come from him.

Those are good starts. But maybe Moe is already doing some of those things. If that's the case, my suggestion would be that he pick up a copy of my good friend Victoria Schade's book, Bonding With Your Dog: A Trainer's Secrets for Building a Better Relationship. Vic's book has all kinds of great ideas for improving the relationship between dog and person. And I should know, because she worked with Allie and me. She told me then, as she says in her book, "The love between dog and guardian should happen naturally. Developing a bond takes time and attention."

I hope, both for his sake and his dog's, that Moe is willing to expend some of both. Because no one should have to live with, as he describes, an individual "in which one partner ... will scream at the other ... for no apparent reason."

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