The Pink Heart Society welcomes Harlequin Heartwarming author Melinda Curtis, who will introduce us to her lovely and verrrry small dog. Take it away, Melinda!
For more than 30 years, my husband and I have owned big dogs – English Setters and Labradors. These dogs have been calm and lovers of people. But things are different now. We’re empty nesters. All three of our kids are in college in other states. So when we lost our dear Labby of 15 years, I was yearning for a more portable companion.
Enter Tally. Half Shi-Tzu, half Yorkie. When we adopted her, she was eight weeks old and less than four pounds – but 100% sweetheart. At about the same time, my neighbor across the street adopted a puppy that is half poodle-half Shi-Tzu. Guess whose dog is a ball of fire? Yep, that’s right. Tally. Guess whose dog barks at everything and everyone? Yep, that’s right. Tally.
Tally has little dog syndrome. On walks, she barks at anyone who looks at her. She barks at passing dogs that are larger than she is. She barks at unfamiliar landmarks (fire hydrants, a sprinkler, skateboards, basketballs…you get the picture).
Because it had been so long since I’d trained a dog and because I’d never had a small dog before (particularly a barker), I hired a trainer. Trainer Tom used to ready dogs for the military. Trainer Tom doesn’t like yappy behavior. Neither do I. Who wants to be “the grandma with the barking dog” someday? Not me, my dearies.
And so, I learned that time out isn’t just for misbehaving humans. Time out is for yappy dogs.
· If someone comes to the door and she won’t stop barking, she gets time out (30-60 seconds) in the bathroom.
· If she begins barking at something on a walk, we head the other direction, then when she quiets, turn and wait, letting her check out the situation before approaching the distraction again.
· If I put on her leash and she barks without obeying the “hush” command, she earns a time out in her kennel, leash and all.
· If the mailman comes to the door and she barks, I ask him to wait a moment, close the door, and tell her to hush. If she doesn’t hush, it’s the bathroom for her.
But the absolute worst time out for Tally is when we go to puppy training, where yes, she’s the smallest dog. If she barks (and oh, does she), we have to go face a corner. During the first 10 minutes of our hour-long class, we face the corner a lot. She huffs. She sighs. But eventually, when we return to the line-up with the other dogs, she accepts life without her vocal chords.
It’s hard to spend your life always being the little guy, but I believe Tally will gain her confidence and not use her bark to express her emotional insecurities. Does time out work? The mailman is my best witness. Now when he comes to the door, Tally sits on the edge of the tile and watches him with silent interest. Tally is nearly nine months old. We’ve been working on this since she was three months old! But progress is sweet and so is she.