I think my biggest mistake as a dog owner is holding onto crappy moments long after they’ve passed. Not only does this not fix the problem, but I think Rufus can pick up that I’m frustrated or irritated which makes him unsure and anxious as well. And what does this do? It makes the rest of our walk/hike/adventure/experience a total mess.
For instance: this morning, I was expecting a visit from our maintenance man. He’s a very sweet guy who is totally cool with Rufus and his weirdo ways. I’m sure he’s a pro due to the fact that most of our neighbors own at least one dog, most of them yappy and untrained.
The first few times he had to come in and fix something, Rufus was very barky and rude. I leashed him while treating him for being calm, doing tricks, etc. Since then, he’s been better. Most of the time he just barks a few times and then goes back to laying on the couch while the dude does his job.
But today totally sucked. I was in the middle of breakfast when he knocked on the door. Rufus barked a few times, and then I let him in. At first, Rufus was actually excited to see him. He was relaxed with his tail wagging. Totally great, right? Well, while I was showing the guy our broken door, Rufus snatched my breakfast off the table! This is something he never, ever does. Usually I can leave the room for an extended period of time without having to worry about him devouring my meal. The only other time he’s done this was the first time the maintenance man came to our door, but that was because I had left dog treats on the coffee table in anticipation for our training experience. Does it make it different if he eats his own food instead of mine? Probably not, but this time really shocked me.
I didn’t catch him in the act, so I really couldn’t do anything about it. So my annoyance level went up a few notches. While the guy was in our home, I sat on the couch talking to him while Rufus snoozed by my feet. And then? The guy went to leave and Rufus jumped up and nipped at his pant leg. I have NO CLUE why he would think this was ok to do, but I was so shocked and embarrassed. I apologized a million times. Again, the maintenance guy was really understanding, saying “I honestly don’t even think he wanted to bite me – he just gave me a little warning air-nip.” Of course I was relieved he didn’t make contact, but I’m also concerned about this behavior. It seems like a herding instinct, but I can’t remember him doing this before, so I have no real answer.
I immediately gave Rufus a time out in his crate. I didn’t yell or shove him in, but I was fuming inside. I’m sure Rufus could sense this, but he went in his crate willingly and waited for me to give him the “ok.” It’s not an ideal lesson to be learned, but at least it’s something.
I try hard to stay upbeat and positive in these negative moments, but it can be so hard when you feel so helpless. When you’re as connected to your companion animal as I am with Rufus (and I’m sure many of you feel the exact same way), it feels so personal and as if you’ve messed them up. But I know that Rufus has learned more good than bad since we took him into our home. It’s just moments like this that can wipe away any progress you’ve made as a team…
Ugh…what a way to start my weekend.