It has become apparent to me that my dogs, Brutus and Murder, have separation anxiety. Brutus has always been an anxious dog, and I put that down to his inconsistent routine. He’s been through a few different living arrangements over the past three years, and it’s easy to see the toll that all of the moving around and uncertainty has had on him. Murder is barely a year old, so I know that his anxiety is entirely my fault for being a terrible pack leader and raising him completely wrong. I’ve already achieved my all-time greatest fear of screwing up my kids, and I haven’t even had real kids yet. This fills me with confidence for the future.
I’ve decided to do some research into curing their separation anxiety, but so far all of the solutions seem to demand weeks of daily obedience practise to train these behaviours out of them, and I don’t have that kind of time. I’m out of the house from 7:30am – 6:00pm, and I’m in bed by 8:30 for my 5:00 start the following morning. With grocery shopping, cleaning up after the boys, cleaning up after myself, and maintaining personal hygiene, I really don’t have that much time to spend hiding on the other side of a door, trying to encourage my boys to behave like normal people when I leave. But I know that’s just a poor excuse for being a negligent parent. I could easily make the choice to spend even half an hour training with them, rather than watching eight episodes of Sex and the City, but I don’t, because I suck. It seems to me that changing my behaviours might be the biggest struggle that I face in overcoming my dogs’ borderline retarded tendencies.
Training Brutus and Murder to cope with my absence is made all the more difficult by the fact that there are two of them. Brutus on his own is a cinch – he’s intelligent, eager to please, intuitive and loves doing the right thing. Murder on his own is also easy – he doesn’t pick things up as quickly as Brutus, but he’s clever, and once he’s been shown the right way a few times he excels at obedience. Brutus and Murder together are a nightmare. Murder won’t allow you to show any attention to Brutus – he tries to steal the treats as you’re rewarding Brutus, and he’s a horrible distraction, always demanding to be the sole focus of your attention. Brutus is reluctant to follow instructions in case Murder gets a treat and he doesn’t, so he just dances around in circles, trying to sit closer and closer to you, but further and further away from Murder – while Murder follows him and stands in front of his face – and it’s just chaos.
Another problem is Brutus’ aggression toward other dogs. At first it was only black and white dogs (which has always baffled me, since Brutus is black and white himself), then any dog that threatened his territory/family, he only ever seemed to have an issue with male dogs, getting along with females just fine, but after introducing him to the female dog I pet-sat a few weeks ago I have discovered that he doesn’t particularly care for any dogs, regardless of gender. It has gotten to the point where he approaches every social situation with aggression and hostility, always attacking the other dog/s immediately, without even a tentative sniff first to assess the situation. This is a problem in itself, but it’s made worse by the fact that I’ll be moving to a new house, with a new roommate, who also has a dog. Murder isn’t particularly aggressive, but he follows Brutus like he’s god, and copies everything his big brother does, which makes intervening in a conflict situation difficult and dangerous, since Murder is twice the size of Brutus and weighs about 50kg. Trying to restrain two dogs – one huge and clumsy, one small and quick as a fox – is no easy feat, and I’ve received my fair share of cuts and bruises for my efforts. That being the case, I’m sure you can understand my lack of enthusiasm to introduce these two to another dog built similar to Murder.
I’m hoping that if I make a start on obedience training immediately I’ll be able to make enough progress to avoid a bloodbath once we’ve moved, and to prevent them from destroying the new house the way they’ve destroyed the current one. In this interest, I have also decided to transition them to outside dogs, which was my original intention when I decided to take Brutus on, but he was just so happy to be in the house, I didn’t have the heart to kick him out, and once Murder came along (and spent all night crying) they were inside dogs, on-the-bed dogs, do-what-they-want dogs. And now here I am, one year later, tearing my hair out with frustration. Sigh. I’d had such high hopes. I thought I’d practise obedience training with them all the time, and they’d sit and stay until I said they were allowed to eat dinner like those dogs on all the Facebook videos. I thought we’d go on walks, and puppy play dates, and trips to beaches and parks, I thought I’d take them to the Pet Expo and they’d have so much fun! Thanks to their humiliating behaviour, of course, none of that has happened, or if it has, it only happened once and ended badly and we’ve never tried it again.
As much as I love my dogs, I do sometimes regret taking on so much responsibility. I really do have the worst tendency to make my life so much more difficult than it needs to be. And I feel guilty that they aren’t getting the most out of their lives, even if it is kind of their fault for being psychopaths that can’t be taken out in public. Perhaps a little responsibility will be good for all of us – the boys will have defined boundaries and won’t stress whenever I leave the house, and I’ll have a healthy relationship with my companions and won’t have to deal with the constant destruction of my belongings. At this point I remain cautiously optimistic.