Monday, February 4, 2013

The Wrong Crowd

Like most parents, one of the (many) things I worry about is that my kids will end up hanging out with 'the wrong crowd', a.k.a. kids that make questionable decisions that might get them locked up or, worse, negatively influence my own children's behavior. To give myself a false sense of security, I clearly and regularly communicate with my kids about our value system and what I expect of them. If nothing else, I figure that if they even *think* about making a bad decision, it will inflict such terrible guilt that they will run screaming for the nearest confessional.

So what do you do when the bad influence is on your pet?

Ever since adopting our beagle Flash, we've treated both of our dogs the same--plenty of play, food, water, walks and lovin'. Flash had never really been trained, so our house with rules took some getting used to, to say the least. We had hoped, as we did when we had children, that the newest addition would learn from the already established, bigger sibling on how to behave and score the most points with his parents. Lately, though, the reverse has been happening, and I'm starting to wonder if Bailey has a previously untapped rebellious streak that Flash has managed to bring out.

Bailey is a very clear communicator. Like a baby's many cries, he has various whines and barks that let us know when he needs something. "I need some water" is different from "I need to go out", and "play with me" is different from "there's a bogeyman at the door and I want to go for his throat before he gives you the package in his hands that is clearly a bomb".

Flash, on the other hand, seems to bark for no reason. Sometimes incessantly. I was starting to wonder if he was hearing cat voices in his head because sometimes, I just could not figure out any reason for his barking. He also barks at every other dog in the neighborhood, whether the dog is present or not. Monty had a walk two hours ago? I smell him, he went this way, bark bark bark bark bark. There's a doberman walking on the next block; I can hear his chain jangling. Bark bark bark bark bark. Spot is inside his house, but I can see him through the glass in the door 100 feet away. Bark bark bark bark bark. Annoying, but not earth-shattering. Until recently.

Bailey, who was always very business-like on his walks (sniff, do the job, keep walking) has changed. If he's being walked by himself, he acts as he always has. But if I am walking the dogs together, Bailey starts barking as soon as Flash does. He may not know why, but that doesn't stop him.

Flash is also a jumper. If I pick up a leash, or start putting on my coat, Bailey will pace and whine, knowing we're going out. But Flash will jump up and down and run circles around my feet. I have to be careful not to trip on him. Well, the other day, Bailey got it in his head to try the jumping thing too. Except that he's twice the size of Flash. And he did it while I was bent over him, trying to fasten his leash on. My black eye is almost gone; the lip swelling faded by that afternoon. The neighbors seem to know better than to ask.

So what do you do when one pet is being a bad influence on the other? I praise Bailey for his good behavior, and scold them both when they act up, just like I do with the kids. And now, I am walking them separately and putting leashes on veeeery carefully. It seems to be helping, and the upshot is that I'm getting twice the amount of exercise I was before. But so help me, if I find Flash smoking cigarettes in the back corner of the playroom, there will be a cone of shame with his name on it.

1 comment:

Karen Hug-Nagy said...

Oh that's funny about dogs, sorry about the black eye! I have one dog who's too smart for her own good and the other one is a troublemaker. Luckily they haven't picked up any bad habits from one another, oh yes, one, begging!