Ask Dog Lady

Ask Dog Lady


Dear Dog Lady,
When I was 17, I broke up with a man whom I have missed for 30-some years. Last year, he contacted me. I now live at his house with my two small dogs. They used to be in my bed and on the sofa with me. When I moved here, I knew they were not going to be allowed in the house.
We live on 80 treed acres (coyotes in the area). I have managed to get the dogs into the basement for the night. We also have an outdoor kennel I use when I go out for the day. Other than that they can run free. My question is: Why do some people feel so strongly about where dogs belong? My boyfriend says he is never going to have a dog control his life. His mom did, he says. Actually, his mom loves dogs so I don’t understand this.
I really miss having my dogs available in the house and cuddling with me but it isn’t going to happen here. I am considering moving away from this man over my two dogs. Why on earth would I do this? Also, my dog Bruce doesn’t get on well with anyone who comes over (he’s only an angel to me). He barks and barks at my boyfriend’s little grandchildren and nearly anyone else so I have to put him in the basement kennel whenever anyone comes over. He is pretty good if I leash him; he is much better behaved then. I am contemplating giving Bruce away but I love him so much. This is a horrible predicament! Any suggestions? Can you shed any light on my dogs’ behaviour or mine, or my boyfriend’s?
—Chris, Redwater, AB

Chris, you sold your dogs short when you moved into your boyfriend’s house. In the heat of desire for a long lost love to blossom anew, you gave away much more than you thought at the time. You agreed to the rules to keep your dogs out of his house without thinking of the consequences. Dog Lady assumes you did so without much discussion with your boyfriend. You were yearning for his embrace and forgetful of the comfort from your dogs’ fuzzy behinds in the bed and on the sofa. You now suffer the consequences. The dogs have become a roadblock you never anticipated when you got that fateful phone call after 30-some years.
Your boyfriend obviously has psychological issues around dogs in the house. He mentions his mother. He vows dogs will never control his life the way they did hers. Wow, that’s deep. Does he feel mama loved her dogs more than him? We can only speculate in Freudian fashion. You say his mother really does love dogs so we get things from two perspectives. From your point of view, his mother bestows canine affection appropriately. Your boyfriend has a whole different mindset about this. Do you care to enter into therapy and sort this psychodrama through? It’s an option.
In the meantime, try to reason with the guy. Show him how little Bruce behaves when he is on the leash in the house. Tell him you’d be happy to keep Bruce tethered by your side when grandchildren are afoot. Ask him if your dogs might be allowed inside the house three days a week, as a compromise. Tell him you will be totally responsible for their behaviour. Assure him that you will never let two dogs come between the two of you. If he ever feels you’re giving more attention to the pets, you will be responsive to his complaint. Let your boyfriend know in real terms what’s in your head, because you seem miserable in this situation and ache for your dogs’ company.
If he’s still dead-set against allowing your dogs in the house, you will have to figure things out further. It may mean moving out and getting a place of your own nearby so you can still live close by but have the life with dogs you want. Always remember: you got yourself into this mess. And let’s hope you’ve learned a lesson—you will never sell your dogs short again.


Dear Dog Lady,
I am a first-time dog owner. My Pug, Butters, is 16 months old and I have had him since he was two months old. I wasn’t going to let him sleep in the bed with me, and so we went through about two months of crate training, sleepless nights, crying, sometimes making it through the night, most often ending up with me sleeping on the couch with my puppy. But when a friend died in a terrible accident, I felt sad and lonely. I decided to let Butters sleep with me.
He has been sleeping with me ever since and is happy as a clam! He is a good little sleeper, too. He snuggles. He doesn’t snore or disturb me. But now my problem: I have started a new relationship and it looks like a good one. My boyfriend does NOT believe that dogs should sleep in beds with humans. Fair enough, I’m willing to accommodate. But how do I start training poor little Butters to sleep alone in his bed? Do I put his bed on the floor in my room? Or in another room entirely? Do I just put him to bed, go to bed myself, and ignore the crying? Thanks so much for your advice! Butters is a smart, sweet, fun little dog. I love him and want him to be happy.
—Meredith, Sedona, AZ

Meredith, first of all, Dog Lady is enthralled by the name “Butters.” Perfect for a Pug. On Comedy Central’s South Park, Butters, the butt of many jokes, is a favourite character.
In the delicate new boyfriend/bed matter, you can train Butters to sleep on his own. Dog Lady would allow him to sleep on the floor next to you so he can feel comfy and close. Buy him a wonderful bed. Look anywhere on the pages of this magazine and you will see advertisements for dog beds. Now is the time to spend some bucks so Butters can sleep in style.
When you introduce the new bed, place it right next to your own. Bring Butters into the bedroom and point to his stylish lounge with great excitement. Each night, direct Butters onto his place. Create a new routine. Place small tasty treats on the bed for the first few nights. After Butters is settled down, you should go to bed as you normally do. Turn off the light, and you’ll both sleep tight.
When the new boyfriend stays over, if he complains because Butters is too close, explain how you are training your dog to accommodate b.f.’s wish that the dog doesn’t sleep in the bed. Ask for his cooperation to support the idea. If he’s a boyfriend worthy of sweetheart status, he should understand and become more invested in Butters. It won’t be long before the three of you enjoy sweet dreams. 


Dear Dog Lady,
I had a haunting dream in which my Basset Hound, Sophie, spoke to me. She didn’t say much, but Sophie’s words formed a scrap of dog-speak I keep hearing in my head. In the dream, I had taken Sophie to a tot lot for dogs. I stood near the slide and waited for her to come down. As my hound slid by me, our eyes met and she said simply, “Hello, Mark.’’ Her tone was matter-of-fact, yet warm and familiar. I know you don’t claim to be a pet psychic or a Dr. Freud for fuzzy creatures, but how do you interpret this? 
—Mark, New York, NY

Dear Mark, your dream opens the door for Dog Lady to opine about the linguistic chasm between humans and their dogs. It can be frustrating that our dogs can’t talk to us in a language we readily understand. We love these wordless creatures so, naturally, we want to get inside their heads to understand what they think and feel.
In your waking world, Sophie doesn’t banter in English, Urdu, French, or Swahili, but she does communicate with you. In body language, dogs speak volumes when their ears are up or flattened, when their tails wag or go limp, when their backs arch or relax, when they curl up in a hiding place or enthusiastically join the crowd.
Each yip, bark, squeal, growl, groan, or sigh, is part of Sophie’s language. You have to decode your dog’s dialect as best you can. Sensitive dog owners have an ear and eye to interpret what their dogs are saying to them. Usually, the best we can hope to understand is when our dogs demand: “Gotta go potty. Take me outside. Now!”
Imagine the psychological chaos if our dogs really could speak English to us. We’d be forced into a relationship with them far different than the silent, unencumbered connection that exists now. Instead of getting vibes from our animals, we would be confronted by them. They would become as emotionally demanding as our human friends and family. Perhaps their wordless innocence is the font of all dog love.

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