I've looked at this photo of Foxy the loyal pit bull almost daily after reading about her and Mr. Vargas in the New York Times in March '07. You can read the full story at Foxy the Pit Bull . Briefly though, Foxy and Mr. Vargas were homeless and lived together on the streets of Hoboken, NJ. He rescued her from a life of abuse with another homeless man. She paid him back by giving him purpose, companionship, and love. Mr. Vargas cared more for Foxy than he did for himself. She got sweatshirts in the winter, an umbrella shelter from the rain, off leash runs at a dog park, and vet care.
I look at this photo to remind me of the great relationship we can have with our dogs if we're willing to put in the time and love. Our dogs never fail to do their part. In my adult life I've lived with a crazy border collie, a bossy chow mix, a golden retriever lump of sugar and a pit bull like Foxy. Based on my experiences with each of them, here's my ABC's for living with and loving dogs:
Affection -- part of the formula for a balanced dog, comes after Exercise and Discipline
Boundaries -- dogs, especially strong breeds, must be taught what they are allowed to do
Consistency -- there are no off days in being your dog's leader, they thrive on routine
Discipline -- NEVER by hitting or physically man-handling, but by calm assertive energy and tone
Exercise -- dogs of all breeds and sizes must have daily activity--a tired dog is a good dog
Followthrough -- relates to consistency, if you want a certain behavior you must make it happen
Good -- there are no "good" or "bad" dogs--only dogs that have, or have not, received leadership
Help -- read books, watch TV shows, attend classes to better understand and train your dog
Intelligent -- try not to get a dog smarter than you are--that includes border collies for most of us!
Jumping --on anyone is a show of excitement or dominance by your dog, not happiness--don't allow it
Kindness -- is different from indulgence. Kindness is keeping your dog balanced with exercise, discipline and affection. Indulgence leads to an anxious, demanding or aggressive dog.
Leadership -- is what your dog wants you show him --then he doesn't have to take on that responsibility. However, if you don't he will.
Males -- are not necessarily harder to train/lead
No -- is most effective when said in a low, firm voice--not a scream
Old -- our dog's life span is never as long as we would wish
Pets -- provide purpose, friendship and happiness for many of us
Quirky -- a good name for a border collie
Rescue --there are so many homeless and abused dogs who need us--do what you can to help
Sofa -- hopefully your decor allows dogs to share your living space--remember that they miss you and want to be around you whenever possible
Toenails -- regular trims can show your dog that you're in charge, not him
Ugly -- there's no such thing as an ugly dog
Volunteer -- help your local animal shelters or rescue groups--build up some dog karma
Walk -- the most primal bond that you can have with your dog--goes a long way in preventing a lot of behavior problems and establishes you as the leader. I like to use a shorter slip leash and keep Willie close by my side for most of the walk.
X factor -- we have the major influence in what kind of dog we'll get from a sweet puppy
Years -- a good dog never has enough years with us
Zzzzs -- dogs make great bedfellows, if you can get around the snoring and hogging of most of the bed space--they don't get the king bed concept.
There you have it--one person's ABC's of dog ownership. Now head on over to Swampy's for some more interesting lists.