Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To cage or not to cage

Gizmo, the interior decorator, has flipped his pad so he can get under it.  Earthquake preparedness?

The debate over the “cage” (or training enclosure for the politically correct) vs. letting the puppy roam and scolding him whenever he does something wrong.  Many wise dog trainers advise that scolding or hitting a dog (or rubbing his nose in the Spot of Error) is not the thing to do.  Unless the scolding is virtually at the same instant as the sin, the dog’s brain doesn’t really understand what you are trying to communicate to him.
With Beowulf, the Shih Tzu who lived almost 19 years with us, Grace was firmly of the opinion that cages were cruel and unusual punishment.  She would ask, “Would you like to be in a cage overnight””  The answer, of course, was “Certainly not,” but I am not a den-loving dog.
It took, as I remember, months to toilet train Beowulf.  All we wanted him to do was to relieve himself on a newspaper.  We lived in Chicago at the time and we knew that every winter the temperature would approach Hell Freezes Over (when the Chicago Cubs were sure to win the World Series).  When that weather was upon us, a dog who was happy about urinating on newspaper would save both humans and dog a lot of shivering misery.
(We quickly learned that Beowulf preferred to relieve himself on the Chicago Tribune or the Wall Street Journal, two full-size newspapers which presented a larger target for him.  The Chicago Sun-Times, which was a tabloid, was not his preferred target.)
Beowulf was never caged, meaning that for many months he gnawed on shoes and leather pants and didn’t realize why the newspapers were spread on the kitchen floor.  Perhaps he thought that was where we read them.
Gizmo was not only provided with a cage, but he quickly grew to prefer it.  He would go into his cage if there was too much excitement in the house.  Within a few weeks, at night he would stand at the door of the cage, if it was closed, and look at me as if to say, “I’m tired and I have a tough day tomorrow if you are going to try to train me to fetch that stupid toy you gave me.  So please open the door so I can go to sleep?  Mr. Cute is leaving the building.”

               "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you;  that is the principal difference between a dog and a man." –  Mark Twain

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