Puppy Training – But Who’s Training Whom?


soft-coated Wheaten terrier puppy has come to live with us. We call him Mackie. He’s adorable. 

Mackie has one habit that’s making me uncomfortable — he constantly stares at me. He follows me everywhere I go, watching, always watching, watching. He never speaks. He doesn’t blink. He just stares into my eyes. It’s unnerving — it feels like the puppy is judging me. 

It’s raining today, so instead of walking Mackie, I put him out in the yard. He knows what he’s there for, but he doesn’t do it. He just stands there looking at me in disbelief, instead of bouncing around the garden, sniffing for the perfect spot as he usually does. Now he’s laying down on thpatio and staring at me, the oneeyed stare of the betrayed. Is this puppy training me? 

Tonight, while I made dinner, Mackie watched every chopping, mixingstirring move I made. His expression said, “You go through all this to make dinner for you and Ron, but for me, all you do is pour a scoop of dried stuff into a bowl — a bowl you haven’t washed in three days? 

For emphasis, he chewed up a wooden spatula. 

I’m taking Mackie for a walk. He lets me know he’s happy by gleefully nipping my legs and ankles, then running, jumping, and dragging me around by the leash. I’m bleeding. His teeth are razors.  

Covered with Band-Aids, I Google: “how to train a puppy to stop biting.” I find an expert who says, “Yell ouch,” real loud, then turn my back on him and ignore him. That’s supposed to tell him he’s in trouble and make him feel bad. It’s worth a try. 

I didn’t have to wait long for him to bite. I looked him in the eye. I yelled, “Ouch,” at the top of my lungs. I turned my back on him. 

Apparently, it didn’t make Mackie feel bad. He wasn’t fooled by the turning my back trick. He simply walked around to my other side, sat down, and stared up at me.  

I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to laugh, but I laughed. He’s really a smart little dog — and he’s funny. I think I’m falling in love with the judgmental ankle-biter.  

On SundayI wanted to sleep in. Ron took Mackie downstairs, gave him breakfast, and walked him. 

Maybe ten minutes later, I was awakened by the pounding of paws on my bed. I turned over and there was Mackie’s adorable, yet reproachful face, peering over the covers at me. If he had fingers I’m sure he’d have pointed at the clock. 

Last night, I was busy writing and let time get away from me. I looked at the clock in horror that I was half an hour late getting Mackie’s dinner. rushed to the kitchen, filled his bowl, and set it on the mat 

“Enjoy,” I chirped.  

But Mackie didn’t enjoy. He didn’t run to his bowl. He didn’t get up. He cocked his head and stared at me with his one visible eye — showing he was disappointed in me. There’s no doubt that the puppy training is on me, and he’s mastered the skill. 

At least he didn’t turn his back on me. 

Mackie taught me a new game today and it doesn’t involve biting my ankles. The game is Fetch & Keep. I throw his toy. He runs to get it — then he keeps it. Game over. 

Maybe the constant surveillance is because he thinks I’m no good on my own and the only hope for me is his constant attention. But I’m getting used to it. I’m even starting to like it. It feels good to know when I open a door I’ll find him waiting for me on the other side. It’s nice to be missed.  

Tonight, while Ron and I were watching TV, Mackie put his paws up on the couch, laid his head on my lap, and stared into my eyes. I felt his stare pulling me deep into his eyes 

I stare deep into his eyes.

 

And deeper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And deeper.

And deeper.

 

 

 

 

 

And we both know I’m hooked — totally. Mackie’s puppy training is complete. I’m his! Now he gets busy pulling tissues from the box and shredding them to decorate the room.  

By Ruthi Birch   

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.” – John Steinbeck