I've read the books. I've seen the Dog Whisperer on TV. I know the dos and don'ts of establishing yourself as the alpha dog. But with Kodiak, I was never quite able to do it. He was my first dog and I acted like a total little kid with him. He was a friend to play with – not a creature that I had to control and discipline. I left the hard stuff to Peter, who was undeniably the alpha dog of the house.
The Dog Whisperer says that when you come home, you should ignore your dog for several minutes, maybe 10 or 15, to let him know that he's not the centre of the universe and that you will deal with him in your own time. Where is the fun in that? The knock-me-over-tail-wagging-happy-happy-happy dog greetings were one of the big reasons I wanted a dog in the first place. And nobody does happy greetings better than Kodiak.
We didn't let the dogs sleep in our bed although I did let them nap on the guest room bed. And when Peter went out of town, it was a dog-fest in the guest bed because I was too chicken to sleep in a room at the back of the house alone. I know that are other examples of situations where I ceded some power to Kodiak in order to have a more fun relationship with him.
The arrangement worked because Kodiak listened to me just as much as he had to and we spent the rest of the time goofing around and wrestling and cuddling. I knew I was trading some authority for canine friendship, but that was okay. It was a choice I made and as long as Kodiak heeled nicely on the leash and didn't pull me into traffic when he found a squirrel to chase, there was no harm in our arrangement.
With my nieces and nephews, I'm seen as one of the fun aunts – half-kid, half-adult. I'll do silly things and play games and am just generally fun. Hey, it's a tough job, but someone has to do it. As long as the kids remember that I'm an adult, we get along just fine. The troubles come in when they decide I am just a playmate.
I've noticed this happening more often with my six-year old niece, since I sometimes mind her and her sister when their parents go out. She's a great kid, but she's gotten this idea that I'm there to be her playmate, not her minder. As long as we're playing games and having fun, things are good. The minute I have to become an adult, it all breaks bad.
When Peter and I took the nieces to the movies, it was going pretty well until we were on the way back to the car. We had to go up this escalator/moving sidewalk thing. My niece decided to dash up the thing, giggling all the way, playing a fun catch-me game. Only it wasn't the time or the place. When I caught up with her, I told her that she couldn't be running around like that now, that we were about to go into the parking garage and she had to be careful and listen to us because I didn't want her to get hurt. In short, this was not the time for messing.
She went into the sulk to end all sulks. On a scale of 1 to 10 on the sulk-o-meter, the kid was racking up at least a 17. The pout, the refusal to make eye contact, the refusal to speak at all. I have absolutely no patience for that and had to hand her off to Peter for the walk to the car.
I don't know what the answer is. Peter and I agreed that I might need to let him do more of the bad-guying, since she responds better to him in that department. But really, that's a poor solution because Peter's not always going to be there. Any advice, oh wise Internet?