One year ago today we went to meet an unneutered male 3 year old Pomeranian who was being surrendered to a shelter for biting a child. He was so adorable but when he was allowed to run around in the kennel he peed on everything. The husband was adamant that we weren’t taking this dog home. I told him that this dog was everything we had been looking for. It was just that he was unneutered and that this was a kennel where lots of dogs had already peed that was making him mark everything. The husband was unhappy but I’ve never pulled rank as hard as I did on that day. I figured the rescue would get him neutered and refresh his manners a bit and then we’d pick him up and be fine. Then they said, “Do you want to just take him now?”
Yep. I did.
One year later Nemo is spoiled rotten and the husband is obsessed with him. They go to the dog park every day. He doesn’t like to be out of the house too long because he needs to get back to Nemo. Every so often I have to remind him how much he did not want this dog.
We’ve had two major challenges with him over the past year – housetraining and his prey drive.
I’ll never admit it to the husband but I may have been wrong about that peeing on everything issue. For the first several months after we got him (and he got neutered on day 3), he acted totally unhousebroken. He was perfectly happy to go outside to use the bathroom but he wouldn’t tell us when he had to go. I tried all kinds of ways for him to let us know. He sniffed down his nose at all of them. He wouldn’t touch a string of bells on the doorknob. I tried to do the push buttons that say words so your dog can talk to you. He would leave the room if I tried to get him to push the button. (He was enrolled in a study about learning to use those buttons. He’s a drop out.) It was so weird. He’s very smart but we couldn’t figure this out. As part of learning the buttons, you model words that you want your dog to know. I realized that he had learned the words and their meanings but he just was too good for the buttons in his mind.
Then it just suddenly seemed to click for him. I actually saw realization dawn in his eyes. I wanted to know when he needed to pee. We haven’t had a problem since. At that point he decided to train me. When he was going in the house, he would go downstairs. If I would hear the pitter patter of little feet on the stairs, I’d come running to take him outside instead. One day I heard him start downstairs. I jumped up off the couch and yelled, “Nemo, let’s go outside!” He appeared beside me. I was so confused. How was he right here at the top of the steps when I heard him go down? Then I realized that I hadn’t heard him go down four stairs. I heard him go down two and back up two. He knew it would make me come and get him. It is still one of his favorite ways to get my attention. (Honestly, wouldn’t pushing a button be easier?)
He also responds to his modeled words. He’ll come and sit and stare or bark at me to get my attention. We run through a list of options. “Do you need to go outside? Do you need to play? Do you need a chewy? Do you need a whupping?” Option 4 is usually nonsense of some kind to see if he is just messing around. He’ll bark and jump up and down when I get to the one he needs. It is like he is so proud of me for being able to communicate correctly now.
If it moves, it needs to be barked at.
Squirrels, birds, and cats are all the same in his mind. All bad. All need to be driven away.
My cats have retreated downstairs. They come out at night when he is in the bedroom or when he is out of the house. Honestly, at this point they aren’t really scared of him. If they want to they will stand their ground and he’ll back off. I just have very passive cats who won’t stand up for themselves. The last time I had a dog that needed to be taught to live with cats I also had a big thug tom cat who sat on the dining room table and smacked the dog every time she walked by until she knew her place. That’s what I need now.
He’s also obsessed with the squirrel on the back deck. There is a bird feeder there and the squirrel loves the spilled seeds. Nemo hates the squirrel. He likes to check often to make sure the squirrel isn’t there. Sometimes this occurs to him while he is in the bedroom. He starts barking while he is still in the bedroom. He runs barking wildly through the house to the back door to see if the squirrel is there. I’ve told him to start barking only if the squirrel is there but that is apparently not how the game is played.