I usually feel guilty when I bring up Shiva’s behavioural issues. Really she is such a good dog, better than I ever anticipated, and it feels a lot like whining. Wah, wah, she doesn’t come when I call her every single time, sob sob, she takes food out of the garbage can, boo hoo, she she ate my neighbour’s hamster. It sounds so petty. I try to just forgive and forget as opposed to complaining about every little incident here. What’s a dead rodent between friends?*
Nonetheless, we had an altercation last week that still bugs me today. I’ve asked a few people for their opinions and decided I may as well put the same question to blogland. At the very least maybe you’ll be able to sympathise. Mostly, I am oncerned I didn’t handle the whole thing properly.
But I digress. Here is the scene:
Me: I’m walking my dog, oh yeah, just walking my dog, life is cool, I’m walking my dog…
Shiva: Sniff, sniff, sniff… Sniff? Score! Pizza! *jerks off to the side, pulling my arm out of its socket*
Me: Hey! What are you doing? Sheevs!
Shiva: Mmmm, pizza.
Me: Ugh. Shiva. Drop.
Shiva: *snicker* As if!
Me: Drop it.
Shiva: What a smeghead.
Rightly or wrongly, it was drilled into my head early on that once you give a verbal cue, you cannot allow your dog to get away without following through. If you don’t think your dog will perform the behaviour than you shouldn’t give the cue. Otherwise they will learn the word means nothing and practice ignoring you. So already I’d screwed up.
In my defense, Shiva does have a terrific “drop it”. Most of the time. She will drop anything I ask her to in the house and she will usually drop things outside. Except food she knows she isn’t supposed to have. I could get her to drop a bone a lot easier than I could a piece of pizza or a chocolate bar. By the way, why do people keep throwing these things on the ground? Just to test me? Sometimes she will find a whole unopened bag of chips. Once there was a package of ground beef. Who leaves ground beef just lying in a bush?
Anyway, once I said “drop it” I felt I had to make her do it. This is where my uncertainty comes in. Should I have just let her have it? What if it was a bottle of pills? What if it was poison? She needs to drop things when I tell her; it could mean the difference between life and death.
On this day, I decided I had to get that pizza out of her mouth.
It wasn’t easy. Shiva wouldn’t bite me, that I knew. It wasn’t the first time I’d put my hand in her mouth to pull something out. It wasn’t even the hundredth time, sadly. She is used to it and doesn’t even growl. She just tries really hard to keep her jaw closed. I managed to pull away the pizza that was sticking out the sides and grab the stuff at the front, but there was no way she was opening any further, no matter what I did. For a few minutes we just kind of hung out like that, waiting to see who was more stubborn. Against my better nature, I tried offering her some of the treats in my pocket, hoping she would go for the kibble. No dice. A bird in the hand is worth to in the bush, I guess. And pizza is the most valuable bird of all.
Eventually I called it a tie. I removed everything I could from the inside of her mouth then pulled away, letting her swallow the chunks she kept hidden from me. But I was left with a very bad feeling. I felt guilty for fighting with her in such a way and worried I’d damaged our relationship. The whole episode made me feel like crap.
Of course, true to her nature, Shiva couldn’t care less. A few steps back into the walk, she was trotting happily by my side, like nothing had happened. Gotta love a dog who simply doesn’t know how to hold a grudge. It made me feel even worse.
What would you do in this scenario? Would you even ask your dog to drop the pizza in the first place? Should I have let her go at it? Should I have waited her out longer? Am I the worst dog person in the whole world?
*Shiva didn’t actually eat a hamster. I was trying to be funny. If I offended you, I am sorry. It was actually a chinchilla.**