My blogging, never consistent at the best of times, has become almost non-existent. So has my blog-reading. For some reason, my mind has been elsewhere for the last few months.
A change in routine affects everyone, including the dog. At first, I didn’t notice much difference in Our Best Friend’s behaviour after The Spouse moved out. I figured it was because I’m the one who feeds him 95% of the time, walks him 99% of the time (I now allow the Middle Child to walk him up and down the street, though I probably shouldn’t), and takes him out back for his final relief of the night 50% of the time (the Oldest shares that responsibility– grudgingly and with a lot of complaints). And of course, I take him to the dog park 100% of the time. The Spouse almost never did any of that, even though keeping OBF was his idea in the first place.
The Spouse has been gone a while now. In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a change in Our Best Friend, and it’s not a positive one.
He barks more.
He used to bark whenever someone came to the door, or when the doorbell rang. We never managed to train him to stop barking on command (to be fair, we never really tried), and though it was annoying, it was never ridiculously prolonged. Plus the trigger was consistent– the door. Ingress to the home. He’s a German shepherd mix. This makes sense.
Well forget the mix part. These days he’s all German shepherd guard dog. The slightest sound gets him barking, and he’s almost impossible to stop. Picking up the leash also sets him off on an unstoppable round of high-pitched yips and woofs; only the deeper bass of a big breed precludes one from thinking he’s a small yappy type. Of course, as usual, he’s under-exercised, especially since I was bedridden for almost a week during Passover with fever and a sore throat that was not strep and thus did not get better with penicillin, and other than potty breaks he was house-bound FOREVER. We are just getting back to a good routine of a walk every morning after the kids leave for school, a walk that’s way too short and gets cancelled in rain or because of unseasonably cold temperatures. So, yes, berserk excitement at the concept of “out” is to be expected.
But he’s barking more in general. This spring we’ve been infested with spiders. And not small ones; the one I killed last night could have played Aragog in the Harry Potter movies. When the girls or I come upon one of these eight-legged beasts, we’re apt to squeal (or even yell at the top of our lungs). These vocalizations inevitably bring Our Best Friend racing into the room, barking his face off, ready to defend his family against whatever horror they face. And he’s hard to calm down, maybe because the threat is invisible to him, but he knows it’s there.
I’ve want to fix this. When I’m not rushed, I do what I’m supposed to do: I wait for a break in the barking, then praise and treat. I don’t put on the leash or take him out until he stops. He’s a tiny bit better, but as I’m the only one doing it, and I’m not doing it consistently, it’s easy for him to fall back into his barking ways. However, other than annoying the new tenants (who thus far haven’t complained, G-d bless them), the barking might drive us crazy but doesn’t actually hurt anyone. Last week, though, we had a stereotypical dog event that really shook me– he chased the mailman.
Our Best Friend and I had just returned from our morning walk. I have gotten into the bad habit of unclipping his leash from the collar right at the front door of the building. The house is a duplex; we live on the bottom, the tenants have the top, and we share an entrance, with a set of interior stairs leading first to our door, then up a flight to the tenant’s apartment. I hate being dragged up those stairs, so I unhook the leash and let him run up. This time, however, before I got the door open, he suddenly turned and hared off across the lawn, barking madly. I looked around to see our poor postman with his hands in the air, backing away slowly.
Mortified doesn’t cover it. I called the idiot dog, re-attached the leash, and apologized profusely. I made OBF sit on the lawn and watch the mailman put the letters in the box. Fortunately, he sat and watched without lunging or barking. I apologized six more times. He said, “We are trained to deal with this– don’t worry!” Too bad someone else wasn’t trained properly to deal with the mailman.
I was quite shaken; while it’s nice to know there’s a big, barky dog holding down the fort when three girls are home alone (and with a teenager in the house, I don’t have to pay for a babysitter anymore!), I don’t need him chasing random strangers. I don’t want any complaints about him made to the police. So far he’s never bitten anyone, not even another dog in a fight. But still, I’m scared of what he might do one day, all because he takes his role of protector of the realm too seriously.
This post is part of the Monday Mischief Bloghop, sponsored by Alfie’s Blog, Snoopy’s Dog Blog, Luna, a Dog’s Life, and My Brown Newfies Please click on any of the links to join in the fun! (Chasing the mailman is just mischief, right???)