My baby boy, Riggins, is a 10-year-old pup who is pretty set in his ways. Those ways include a number of bad habits for which I take full responsibility.
When I first got Riggins, he was only 3 months old, and I had the best intentions regarding how I was going to raise him. He was going to be a model pup. So wonderfully behaved that we would be a superhero duo of happiness and would spend all of our free time visiting children’s hospitals and retirement homes, bringing love and light to everyone we met.
There was no doubt in my mind that Riggins would be able to easily pass any kind of behavior test required to be such a productive member of society. This was before I realized I was raising an overexcited puppy with the energy and destruction power of a never-ending hurricane. It didn’t take me long to abandon my dream and come crashing down to earth. Riggins’ fear of anything with wheels wasn’t the only thing holding him back. It was me — and the giant shift in my puppy-raising philosophy.
When Riggins was still very young, we were enrolled in doggie behavior classes where we met a lovely and well-grounded trainer. He once explained to a few of us how shared a steak dinner with his pup now and then — after all, the dog’s joy was food and hanging out with him. With such a short lifespan, didn’t his dog deserve a special treat now and then?
Seemed logical to me. With that, I found validation for some of my lazy parenting. I’m sure that’s not what Riggins’ trainer had in mind, but I still think to myself, “Life’s short — let the dog eat steak!”
Here are just a few areas where I have failed my baby boy as his dog mom.
You knew this was going to be on the list, didn’t you? Well, it is, and not just on the list but the TOP. I live alone, and 99.9 precent of any meal I eat at home is consumed on the sofa, plate balanced on my knees, TV remote in hand, and with Riggins at my feet, staring and uncontrollably slobbering. Why is he there? Why does he persist when it’s obvious I’m eating my human dinner?
Because I give him bites.
To make matters worse, I don’t just give him bites, I FEED him bites from my own fork. A piece of chicken, veggies from my salad, a bite of burrito — all of it goes from my fork to his mouth. He is an expert at carefully taking the delicious bites off the tines, and yes I do put that fork back in my mouth. Dr. Drew says a dog’s mouth is cleaner than that of a human, and I believe everything Dr. Drew says.
This little ritual doesn’t just happen at mealtime, but also for any snack. We will often share an orange, with me giving him a slice and Riggins carefully pulling pulp from the skin and eating it like the professional he is. Apple slices are a one-for-me, one-for-him deal, and during the right season it isn’t unheard of for me to hold half of a small watermelon and a spoon, doling out delicious bites to each of us.
When I’m finished eating, Riggins is usually part of my pre-dish-washing ritual, as I let him lick the plate before putting it in the sink to deal with later. If you have eaten anything at my house, there is a good chance you have digested Riggins spit. Oh, calm down — Dr. Drew says you will be fine.
Riggins loves humans, and if he really likes you he gets so excited to see you that he jumps up to say hi. He is big, and this can often hurt or throw you off balance. It’s not okay. Yet, I could never break him of the habit. Obviously, I didn’t try very hard. Eventually, I got him to stop doing it to me, but anyone else who came through our door was fair game. He is older and calmer now, so it isn’t as big of an issue. Thank goodness!
This is TOTALLY my fault. I’m a single woman living in a not-so-great neighborhood in a single-family house. I WANT the neighborhood to fear Riggins. People who live around me don’t have to know that if they ever got inside he’d happily show them to the treat cabinet and become their best friend for the low, low cost of a treat. His “come see me and say hi” bark is deep and furious sounding, and I let him use it all he wants. His voice can echo through the neighborhood, and I will do nothing more than utter a half-hearted “Riggins, enough” command over my shoulder.
Yeah, I let him. It’s his house, too!
Riggins is a smart dude. In puppy class, he learned “sit,” “lie down,” “stay,” “no street,” “leave it,” “walk pretty,” and name recall. To be honest, he is a bit shaky on those when he wants to be stubborn. He’s now 10, and the only other “trick” he has learned was “go around,” and that was only because my mom taught it to him when I was out of town for work once and Riggins stayed with her. If you have a treat in your hand, he will frantically go through his entire routine one command after another in the hope that one of them will get you to hand over the goods.
Obviously, he has the mental capacity to learn more valuable skills, but I just don’t have the energy, determination, and patience to teach him.
Sure, Riggins may not be a perfectly behaved pup, but he is a perfect baby boy to me. It’s not his fault he has a few bad habits. Blame those on me.
Does your dog have any parenting-fail problems? Let us know in the comments!
Read more about Wendy’s life with Riggins:
About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.