In the first days, Opie wasn’t too keen on my husband. Whenever Daddy entered the house or even entered a room, Opie would growl and bark at him. Ears and tail angled down, he’d hide under my chair whenever Greg walked around the house. These were clear indications that he was frightened. Now, those of you who know us personally, know how ridiculous this is. Greg may be a sharply intelligent fellow, but he is not scary. A gentler and sweeter man never walked the earth! Greg was not happy with this situation, and the kids were not happy either. My eldest son was irritated by Opie’s attitude. There were quiet late night conversations about giving Opie back to the rescue people if things didn’t turn around — and not just among the grown-ups in the house. In our application, there had only been one thing we’d noted that would make us return a dog — viciousness. I don’t think anyone really believed Opie to be vicious. He was too sweet to the boys and to me. However, nobody wanted Greg to be left out of the puppy love fest. Opie could ignore him, but he couldn’t growl and snap at him. That was completely unacceptable. Opie was supposed to be a family dog. He had to like everyone in the family!
We tried outright bribery! Greg would give Opie treats if he came to him when called. This worked a little bit, but just when we thought it was really working, Greg would go to the bathroom and come out and get growled at. Tail down, head down , teeth bared and growling — this was not some sort of puppy game. The bribery didn’t work. It was time to consult an expert.
I put out a somewhat frantic emergency email to the Culver City Friends of Animals. Their response was immediate and the organisation’s head referred us to an animal behavior/dog trainer. We called other trainers while waiting to hear back from him. That’s when we learned exactly how expensive training Opie out of this behavior might be. Not only was it a big money committment but a huge time commitment as well for the entire family. I was beginning to feel as if I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Luckily, our first choice returned our call. He was of course booked solid until mid August. Luckily, that didn’t stop him from giving us some “homework” that he felt would make an immediate difference. Here was our assignment:
- Mom needs to disassociate herself a bit from Opie. ( No more gratuitous belly rubs, or other spontaneous “love’!) Mom is over bonded.
- Opie needs to have firm boundaries in the house ( So, the living room furniture was now firmly off-limits.)
- Dad needs to walk Opie at least twice a day
- Dad needs to be the one who feeds and treats exclusively for a while.
- Dad needs to hand feed Opie the first part of every meal.
- Opie needs to go to the dog park.
I can’t tell you how hard the number 1 task was. I could only look on longingly as Opie was petted and “loved up” by others. I had to ignore him.
I did tag along on the walks. Opie’s walk is the best exercise of my day! I worried that my tagging along on the walk might interfere with the bonding. Opie kept looking back at me on the walk. However, my tortoise like progress allowed my husband to practice Opie’s “Sit” command several times during the walk. Opie got lots of praise and treats from him whenever he complied. This had to help the bonding process.
A firm “Off” command over a couple of days and Opie understood that he was limited to the floor. He was also banned from Mom and Dad’s bedroom. Dad took over the evening walk exclusively. Opie learned to “Heel’ and got to cover a lot more territory with my husbands ground eating strides. He was good and exhausted after these walks. He got lots of praise and treats on his walk for “heeling” and “sitting” when asked. He reveled in his obedience!
Opie was rather cagey about the food issue, though. We finally saw a complete turn around when we increased Opie’s meal times from two meals a day to three under vet’s orders. Dad’s hand feeding three times a day seemed to really do the trick.
Opie loved the dog park! The break from the human pack was like the prize at the end of a good week of long walks.
We continue to see improvement in Opie’s attitude everyday. Our behaviorist gave us concrete things that are really turning him around.
I can safely say that the problem between Opie and Dad is solved.
Opie is slavishly devoted to Greg. He no longer barks at him. Opie comes when called with ears and tail up, visits him in his office and sits at Dad’s feet adoringly. He spontaneously rolls over in front of him for a belly rub. He greets him happily at the door when he comes back from an errand or work. When Greg pulls out the leash Opie is ready to go! He sits patiently but happily at the front door and waits for his leash.
One thing Greg discovered while learning to deal with Opie that surprised us all!
Greg has a deep voice. When he said “Good boy,” he had a tendency to drop his baritone even deeper. Opie’s tail would and ears would immediately drop. I noticed that our deep voiced male veterarian talked to Opie in falsetto. I suggested this to Greg and once again we saw another improvement. Maybe Greg’s baritone rumble sounded like a growl.
I can’t wait for Opie to show off to the trainer. Maybe we can work start working on his AKC good citizenship certificate! He already knows how to sit, and he comes when called. We just need to work on the requirements for that good citizenship certificate. We all want Opie to get a good report card. Now that he understands that everyone in the house loves him maybe he’ll be more relaxed about our friends and neighbors, and dare to dream….the mail carrier! I think he’s on his way!