Molly joined our family at 8 weeks of age. She was a pretty little Lhasa Apso who, like all my dog’s, had resource guarding. A trained eye can spot this undesirable behavior very young. So choose a pup wisely! Many behavioral issues are rooted in genetics. The exact percentage of nature vs nurture is still unclear. But we know training can improve behavior resulting from poor genetics. Molly’s long life was a testament to that.
What became undeniable over her life was that we never erased the guarding. We only changed the outcome.
You would often find her sitting perfectly still amongst the chaos. Only to eventually reach underneath her and find an object she felt compelled to guard. The funny part was the relief she displayed as you removed the item. I swear I could hear her say “What took you so long? I’ve been watching over that for hours!” Molly never bit! Not because we were pinning her, dominating her or controlling her. But because we had convinced her early in her development that humans were not thieves or her competition! This dog was going to spend a lifetime around school-aged children with a million different possibilities. You can’t have a demo dog and a bite prevention ambassador that believes biting is a choice! But make no mistake, she was still a guarder!
Raising a small breed dog is a joy.
We can pick them up, take them more places and control them so much easier. We generally don’t have to spend as much time on training as we do indulge these little guys. Our expectations are just less than that of a large breed. So maybe you can see the obvious correlation to creating “Little dog syndrome”? What I have noticed is that many of these inflated egos are also being mislabeled as dominant, when in fact many are just feeling vulnerable. They make a big stink whether it’s to get what they want or to ward off an assumed assailant. It is this lack of skills to deal with excitement, frustration or even fear that makes them appear so misbehaved. A small dog should be raised with the idea that he will develop into a 140 lb dog. Learning how to show impulse control, good manners and reliable response to a request/command is what makes a dog like Molly such a superstar.
Molly almost made it to her 18th birthday.
Her deteriorating health both mental and physical was the deciding factor to say goodbye. Knowing she was so close to such a big milestone wasn’t enough to delay making the decision. Choosing “The” day is never easy nor would I ever want it to be selfish. After a lifetime of service and companionship, it was my sole responsibility to dignify her in the end. Molly’s best friend and co-worker had gone a few years before. Nellie was a German Shepherd Dog that took the role as Molly’s guardian angel. They spent a decade going into schools to help Jack and I teach children about dog safety. When we said goodbye to Nellie, Molly refused to participate. The rest of our gang said their goodbyes and barely mourned. Molly took months before she had a little spring back in her step. The last day I walked her into the vet’s office, a man and his young son were leaving. They asked if the little boy could pat her. She showed no emotion. My eyes welled up and then I noticed the German Shepherd puppy in the dad’s arms. It was so fitting they were the last to say goodbye!