Corky, my 16 lb. Miniature Schnauzer is turning fourteen this November and it will be time to celebrate! It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed. How fortunate I have been to have such an amazing little dog that has been the perfect companion all these years. Corky is always ready to join me whether lounging around the house, going shopping or getting ready to go on camera. Everyone loves Corky and truth be told, she is an extension of my life, my friends and my personality. What ever do I mean? Well, I believe that over time, a dog can take on the good or bad habits of its owner or the environment in which it lives.
Let me give you an example. Three years ago, my dear friend Mary purchased a beautiful, playful and well behaved Springer Spaniel puppy and named her Elizabeth Taylor. She brought her home to her large three year old blonde Lab, Maxwell Smart, Max for short. Well, these two became best buddies but with Max being a high energy male he began to create havoc in the home with his new playmate.
Elizabeth became a victim of her environment. I say this because unlike when she was with Max, when Elizabeth was alone with us, she was wonderful to be with; calm, obedient and gentle. It became apparent that Max needed more open space to run and exercise. Luckily Mary had a friend in the country who was looking for a dog. The idea was suggested and soon Max was living on a country estate running, playing and being the perfect pet to his new family. A happy ending here. But what happens to lots of other people in this same situation? You know the answer and it’s not pretty. Mary was extremely lucky that Max could be placed with a family that could handle his exercise and space requirements. We even got visiting rights! My point is that we need to know what type of dog or animal we can and cannot handle and train. Mary admits to being a one dog, one child person. The idea of having two dogs sounded like a good idea (for Max) but truth be told, it did not fit her lifestyle.
When choosing a dog there are several considerations: first and foremost, the dog should fit your family and lifestyle; one should always consider the size of your home and property and the exercise requirements of the dog. That will determine the size and temperament of the breed. A dog should compliment your life not destroy it. Pet owners need to take ownership of the experience and responsibility of owning a dog. Dogs need to be trained and require socialization. That requires the owner to be disciplined about disciplining their dogs. Just like a child, a dog requires your full attention and devotion for them to be polite and integrate into society. If you don’t have the time (or desire) to invest, then perhaps owning a pet is not for you. After all, you are the “alpha” dog and you pay the bills!
When is comes to Corky, I am always the boss. No matter how much I love my little girl, she still often needs reminding that I am in charge, not her, no matter how cute or old she is. Many times it’s hard to keep a straight face with her antics but dogs, like children, need consistency in their lives.
So, are you the boss of your dog or does your dog run your life? It is your responsibility to control and train your dog. As a dog owner, it’s also important to train people how to approach your dog. I’m always shocked by parents that allow their child to walk up to a dog and pet them without asking the owner first. That’s asking for trouble.
If asked, I always say of course, but with a caveat; the child or person needs to get down to eye level with her so she can see and smell them. Then she is prepared to meet and greet. Corky has always been gentle with kids and other animals (except squirrels!), but she is not as young as she looks and her eyesight and hearing are failing. Well, she does possess selective hearing. When a biscuit hits the floor she can hear it from any room in the house. That’s my girl!
Here is what I have learned sharing my life with Corky for the past thirteen years.
DO give your dog a first and last name. For example, Corky Von Schnorkenheimer.
DO get your dog a license. A MUST !!!
DO take time out of your day to train your dog until they learn the commands to be social and obedient at home and out with you or your family.
DO take your dog on road trips so they can lean to enjoy the car experience rather than equate it only with going to the vet.
DO provide fresh water DAILY and when possible, add ice cubs for a cold treat. Use the existing water for your plants.
DO introduce your dog to different places, people and locations. Social dogs make the best pets.
DO reward your dog for good behavior, not for what you expect of them. A small treat is always better than a large cookie. Like us, dogs can become overweight so limit the treats to small portions.
DO give treats by placing them in the palm of your hand, not holding them in your fingers. You might learn this the hard way.
DO acknowledge immediately when your dog has done something wrong so you can correct the situation fast.
DO brush your dog and learn how to cut their nails early in their life so it’s not a disaster. I made this mistake.
DO keeps your dog protected from the sun and heat when outside.
DO give your pet a place to relax both in the home and in the garden. I recently designed the BOW-WOW Home collection for dogs, inspired by Miss Corky. There are four designs that can be customized to your and your dogs needs. They even have a fabulous cedar ruff (roof). I don’t even have a cedar roof. These dog homes are earth-friendly, functional, transportable and perfectly adorable. If your dog lives outside, than a doghouse is critical for their safety. For more information, log onto HYPERLINK “http://www.teichgardensystems.com” www.teichgardensystems.com .
DO scoop the poop. Just pick-up after your dog and you’ll be fine. Yes, I do need to mention this as I often still see people failing to pick-up after their dogs. If you’re not willing to scoop the poop then perhaps you should reconsider owning a dog. Sorry people, this comes with the territory. I don’t like it either, but I do it!
DON’T think it’s cute when a dog jumps up on others.
DON’T buy a dog from a puppy mill or store that supports them.
DON’T feed your dog from the table. Rather, get up and place the food in their bowl when you are done. Begging is not CUTE!
DON’T let your dog wander around your neighborhood. Your dog is your property and should remain on your property, not your neighbors. If they wanted a dog in their yard, they would have their own.
DON’T waste the not so-fresh-water in your dog’s water bowl. Pour it on your house plants.
DON’T expect to get off the hook if your dog bites someone. If your dog bites someone you should be prepared to pay all expenses and provide current medical records. I speak from experience as I was bitten by a dog ten years ago while walking with a friend. I was really upset when the owner brushed it off, then disappeared saying, “Isn’t she cute, she thinks she’s a killer, ha-ha”. Funny to whom? If I was a small child I would have been rushed to the hospital, not to mention, scared to death. If you begin to notice your dog nipping at you and or anyone else, and you allow it, expect the aggression to build. The next thing to expect is that your dog may bite. Stop the behavior the moment you notice it! DON’T MAKE EXCUSES such as, “She’s tired” or “You must have scared her”. IT DOES NOT MATTER! NEVER, EVER tolerate this! Whether provoked or not, you must take charge of the situation and let your dog hear and see your discipline. “NO, NO, BAD DOG, BAD DOG” in an authorative, loud voice is the appropriate immediate response to your dog. You might consider seeking professional help in this situation.
Corky is my pet, my child and my devoted friend. Just like any relationship it required work, time and lots of energy. Dogs look to you to take the lead and show them what you expect of them. If you don’t, then be prepared for them to take control. Your dog is a direct refection of you so take the extra steps to ensure that you put your best foot/paw forward!
And there you have it.