Ego Sum Attila Flagellum Dei ("Attila" for short, or "Tilly" to his Mommyand nobody else!!!) is almost ten months old now. We got him at eight weeks, and he proceeded to turn our lives – and our house – inside-out and upside-down. His Mommy never had a dog before; let alone one that would grow to a 90 pound mass of rambunctious muscle and fur. Fortunately, having raised three of our own children and being a retired elementary school teacher, she has a behavior modification skill set, and a lot of patience. She needed both.
There are general principles that minimize the disruption (and destruction) a dog can cause, while at the same time maximizing the kind of satisfaction with life only a dog can render unto you. These principles can be extrapolated to life writ large.
First, even though a dog can possess many noble human-like qualities in abundance such as loyalty, love and pure joie de vivre, he is not human, so don’t expect him to act like one. He is a dog. You, on the other hand, are human, and as such you can learn to be a dog, or at least try to think like one, even though you will never know what it is like to have your brain constantly bombarded – kaleidoscope fashion – with sights, sounds and especially smells coming from up to a mile away.
General Application: Do not go through life as an obnoxious egocentric who cannot bring himself to see things from another’s point of view – else you will live out a lonely and bitter life.

Second, contrary to popular belief, most dogs do not wish to be the leader of "the pack" (your family). The job involves too much stress and responsibility, and interferes with his main desire to simply have fun. But there must be a pack leader, and if you won’t do it, he’ll have to, even though he knows he is not as good at it as you are, because it’s your (human) world.

General Application: Do not be cavalier in assuming responsibilities, but when you do so, take the job seriously. Others may have to take up your slack, and the results may not be pretty.

Third, never discipline a dog for something he stopped doing more than a few seconds ago. He lives only in the present, and will act as though he is being punished for what he is now doing. If he tore up your slippers while you were out, for example, and you yell at him when you get home, in his mind he is being punishedfor greeting you as his bestest buddy in the whole world when you came through the door. Is that what you want? Although it is often necessary to discipline a dog, remember that punishment is the least effective means of behavior modification – it does not remove the reinforcement that caused the undesired behavior, and inadvertently reinforces simple avoidance of the punishment or punisher (you). Always try to reward alternative behavior whenever possible.
General Application: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." You don’t react well to punishment, so don’t expect others to. You could also afford to spend a bit more time in the present, just like your dog: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Matthew 6:34. Try to enjoy life as it is right now… You KNOW your dog does!
Fourth, most dogs (unless their are behavioral issues that need to be cleared first) need to be walked daily, in addition to off-leash play. Spending day after day cooped up in even a large back yard simply won’t do for many of them. Dogs are descended from wolves, and wolf packs roam. Ideally, the dog should be trained to walk loose-leash, and be allowed to stop and sniff here and there (and of course leave his scent for the others). Walking over familiar ground with a few new sights, sounds and smells each time is just enough excitement without undue stress. A tired dog is a happy dog, if the fatigue is from a full day of new experiences balanced within the usual rhythm of his life. Watch him as he flops on the floor, unable to keep his eyes open anymore. They flutter and close…. In a few minutes they roll around under his eyelids – he twitches and maybe whimpers, as the film of the day’s happenings rolls in his brain, and he is content with his world.
General Application: ‘Nuff said…


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