His love of bones really knows no bounds…
His love of bones really knows no bounds…
So, you may have read this once or twice throughout your time on this blog, but I have a dog. This dog is named Simon. Simon likes to play. If allowed, Simon would probably play up to twenty-three hours a day. You say, “No, that’s physically impossible! A dog couldn’t and wouldn’t stay awake for so long just to play.” And I would be fast to answer, “Clearly, you just haven’t met Simon.” Of course, I don’t mean this rudely or in an over-inflated kind of way. I honestly believe that if Simon had his way he would stay awake and play with his squeaky toys for twenty-three hours a day!
The truth of the matter is when Simon was little he always had a very difficult time giving himself boundaries. Simon would be tired because he had been awake all day long, yet he would fight any attempts his body made to actually fall asleep. As a puppy Simon would valiantly battle Sleep and Exhaustion, looking to put them in their place and rise above their glaring drowsy-inducing abilities as only Simon could. However, even the best knight could not win the battle or the war and snoozing was soon heard throughout the land.
That doesn’t mean that there were no battle wounds though.
As a little guy my sister Theresa and I basically had to force Simon to rest. This meant pushing him into a nice quiet room by himself, with his bed set up so that he would have no choice but to sleep. And he slept, after about an hour or so of whining first. We tried other methods as well, putting him in his kennel with a sheet over it to make him feel a little more content and willing to sleep, except not so much. We tethered him to his bed in the front room, thinking that with nowhere to go he would eventually submit. He did. . . .eventually. We would ignore him, take away all of his toys, be quiet and still, and yet he would sit there staring and whining at us. His little puppy eyes would be begging to close every three seconds and still his dogged spirit to remain awake would persist.
And man, he is so grouchy when he’s tired, but won’t sleep. He snarls and snaps a little more than usual. He runs slower. He jumps up a little bit more. He’s much more talkative about everything, crying just because he can. In fact, I think he cries because he doesn’t know what else to do with himself. He knows he’s tired, I know he’s tired and yet he still persists in acting like “How dare you insinuate I am anything other than perfectly wide awake!”
Why does he do this? I only know that Simon, since the time my family adopted him at six weeks old to now (currently at three and a half years old) has always had an almost insurmountable amount of energy constantly bottled up inside his little 75lb body. He’s the type of dog that needs to go on a walk at least once a day, no if, ands, or buts. If Simon doesn’t get his daily walk he is truly a monster. He will be awake from six in the morning to ten at night. He will jump on every counter, look constantly for food, rush into the garage through the cat door any chance he gets, pick wrestling matches with Rosee all afternoon, want to play with his squeaky toy outside regardless of the weather, and constantly bark at whoever is around him. He’s just got so much energy coursing through his veins that he needs some type of outlet, and walks are a good start. Our daily walks consist of forty-five minutes to an hour of fast-paced walking, taking rights and lefts, relentless in our pursuit of new corners to explore in our neighborhoods. And I don’t write this to brag. I write this for awareness.
I’m sure Simon is not the only dog who has insatiable levels of energy. Truth is I just never knew dogs like him existed until I got one of my own. All the dogs I had met in my past had been the usual suspects, maintaining more balanced levels of energy, and I guess being more “normal” in that when they were tired they actually laid down and rested. Simon, still to this day has a difficult time doing this. Even before his daily walks, he usually needs to play with his squeaky toys for about thirty minutes, and then after his walks he walks around the house not really laying down until about a half hour after we first got back. You could say this is just his time to calm and cool down, and this may be true. However, he doesn’t just cool off, he jumps up on the couches, barks at strange noises, and goes in and out the back door about five times, then he finally, finally lays down.
Rosee, while maybe not being his polar opposite, has shown me over time that most dogs see sense in listening to their inner voices when it comes to being tired and needing rest. The only inner voice Simon seems to listen to is “Food!” The point is, Rosee may also be an energetic and upbeat dog, but even she pales in comparison to the ball of vigor that is her brother. So, while Rosee appreciates her daily walks as much as Simon, when we drag her outside in the afternoon on at least two separate occasions she usually fails to grasp the necessity of such hefty endeavors. She hardly appreciates being forced outside to watch Simon run after some silly ball, even if it squeaks!
The fact remains that before Simon, and Rosee too, I was what could potentially be called a couch potato. I enjoyed watching television, reading books, and surfing the web. Not many of my extra-curricular activities included doing much of anything too active. Yet, the moment my mom came home with a ten pound bundle that became known as Simon (he went through many names his first few days) life would cease to be laid back or God-forbid boring ever again.
Getting a dog, especially one with such a high energy level like Simon was certainly an adjustment, one that even three years later I still am getting used to. It’s the daily walks, the multiple daily sessions of playing fetch, the weekend trips to the lake or the beach, and the hour-long hikes at local reserves. Life has become so much more involved and exciting since getting dogs and practically being forced to turn my potato-lifestyle into one more reminiscent of the Energizer Bunny.
Dogs are a commitment. High-energy dogs feel like a commitment and a half. There are some days where I would give anything just to put Simon in the backyard and leave him there because he just won’t leave me alone. Other days he is still bouncing off the walls, but I appreciate his ability to make me move throughout the day. Most days though, all the looks of endless love he throws my way in between his whines for attention make me love him even more than the day before.
So, don’t be daunted by a pup that has a seemingly endless love for life and all it has to offer. Instead take a lesson from that pup. Throw yourself into life and whatever makes you happy with wild abandon, you might just be glad you did.
Simon knows no boundaries, and it’s not for a lack of trying. Really. My family and I tried and try and will try to always give Simon limits, borders, and edges. However, he is a very willful boy. Apparently, that has meant just being calm and assertive when telling him what to do is not only harder than it looks, but needs to last through every minute of every day. Simon needs his people to constantly and consistently be calm and firm. Turns out, Simon is extremely sensitive to everyone’s wayward emotions. When I’m upset, he’s upset. When I’m excited, he’s excited. When I’m tired, he’s not tired (have I mentioned he could play for 23 hours a day before?). Anyway, learning to be Simon’s point persons and taking control of his defiant ways has been a seemingly endless rollercoaster ride, one that probably won’t reach its end until Simon does, but of course I wouldn’t have it any other way. This doesn’t change the fact that Simon needs boundaries.
When Simon was a puppy my mother stumbled across the idea of tethering. Tethering usually consists of setting up a slightly long, slightly short leash somewhere within the house, and when he is attached to that tether Simon would be forced to stay in one spot instead of being allowed the free reign of the house. Ultimately, tethering would provide a way of teaching him boundaries and limits because he would be unable to just do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Simple idea with a simple action.
So, armed with new knowledge and fledging optimism my mother purchased a rubber-coated leash to attach to the leg of something in our living room that could act as a tether for a puppy Simon.
Now, the tether is useful for many reasons, the main one being it ties Simon down to his bed. When both Simon and Rosee (who received her own tether when she joined the family) are left alone they cannot be left to their own devices. My family tried to leave them outside in the backyard, but unfortunately that caused more problems what with Rosee barking at the fence with the neighbor dogs, so that idea was quickly squashed. Instead, it became much safer and quieter to tether the pups to their beds and leave them waiting comfortably inside the house. And since they each had a tether of their own it worked out perfectly. Scoreboard standing—tether: 1, free reign: 0.
You see, Simon never “got” the tether and whatever it was trying to teach him. This being the same dog that even when buckled up in the car will pull on his seatbelt and collar until he’s practically choking himself, so clearly the tether was yet another object for him to just pull, and pull, and pull. . .
Where Rosee will give up and give in, though not when it comes to giving up her favorite rubber football, Simon’s brain just does not have this function. He would steal food from the kitchen counters while I was making dinner or jump on people walking through the front door, so he would promptly be tethered in order to show him some restraint and his place when certain exciting activities were happening. However, Simon never seemed to understand the connection. Anytime I walked into the kitchen to cook he would be there. No matter how many treats he received for being good while tethered to his bed, the lightbulb never went off signaling the fact that he realized when I go into the kitchen to cook he goes to his bed. Now, my mother might disagree with me, but I believe that tethering Simon wasn’t actually making him learn anything. Tethering just forced him to stay in one place, it did not actually teach him to do so.
After more than a year of fighting with Simon and the tether, and him not actually learning from it, I stopped. My sister Theresa and I decided, a little more implicitly than explicitly, to just stop tethering Simon and at this point Rosee too unless we were leaving and they needed to be left on their beds. No more having to deal with Simon’s whining howl voicing his displeasure with his tether. No more having him endlessly gnaw on the tether as if he could try break through the wire one day. Instead, Theresa and I just told Simon what to do. When I started to cook in the kitchen we would make him sit in “his spot” right off to the side, so he could see what I was doing, but he was far enough away to not be a nuisance. Anytime people come through the front door both Simon and Rosee have to go “park it” on their beds. Sure, their commands didn’t work overnight and once in a while Simon doesn’t want to stay in his kitchen corner, but for the most part it does work. Simon, when he’s feeling cooperative, will put himself in his spot while I cook. The first time he did it I was amazed! I couldn’t believe that this was my dog deciding to actually give himself boundaries!
Of course, I had to be frank with myself. Simon was learning what behaviors were expected of him. He was learning what was considered good and acceptable. Case in point: he was learning!
Now, I say he because Rosee has never exactly been the chowhound that Simon is. Sure, she loves her food and any treats she can get, but she’s never been as pushy or audacious as Simon. Where he has jumped up on the kitchen counters to steal food since the time his tongue was long enough to reach (his legs hadn’t quite grown tall enough yet), Rosee is content with just sitting and waiting for food scraps to be given to her. Rosee has always had a better sense of boundaries and limits than Simon. She just has a more people-pleasing personality whereas Simon is a little more self-centered. I believe this personality difference is mostly due to Simon being an only child for the first year and a half of his life with four people constantly doting on him (yes, I take one-fourth responsibility for his rascally ways). However, a slightly older dog can certainly learn new tricks and Simon did wonderfully.
Don’t take my split from tethering as any indication that it doesn’t work for other dogs. It just isn’t a useful technique for Simon. Tethering has really only shown itself to be beneficial for both pups when all adults are gone from the house and they cannot be left in the backyard or to wander the house unsupervised. The fact is Rosee steals pretty much anything she can find around the house (socks and tissues being her favorite) so she can chew, and Simon would just break everything left on countertops because he loves to surf on them without any regard. At least when they are tethered to their beds while we are all gone they do have to stay in one place, but they still have enough length to move around and be comfortable. However, for my guy Simon it is more important for him to learn commands by way of his people directly teaching it to him, rather than the more indirect way of tethering forcing him to exist only in one place. So, learning boundaries and limits is certainly still a work-in-progress, but it is actually progressing.
In fact, it seems this whole foray into tethering was a way for me as a human to recognize the ways in which my dogs learn. I had to distinguish between making Simon do something and teaching him good behavior that he will know for the rest of his doggy life. And it seems that Simon’s brain is particular in that forcing him to do certain actions, making him stay in one place for instance, had absolutely no effect on him whatsoever. He needed to go through the process of sit, stay, good boy. It may take longer, it may be more frustrating, but it is also very gratifying.
As for Rosee, well she’s always a good girl compared to her crazy brother Simon!