Parameters and Patience

Our Brittany pup, Cooper, is stretching my patience, the chewing, the digging, the nipping. Our list of repairs is growing. The lower siding of the house has chew marks. The lawn has various sized holes. The woodwork in the hallway bears teeth marks, and the lining in the bed of the truck is now hanging in strips on one side. Sigh.

Often he is too excited, jumping, nipping, and grabbing our clothing. Other times he is the sweetest pup, loving, obedient, and fun to have around. 

After a particularly bad afternoon, I lost my patience when he tore through the house smearing mud on our off-white carpet. A quick peek out the door confirmed the source, a huge hole right off the patio. When I tried to grab him and subdue him so I could clean his feet, the free-for-all was on, which pushed several of my buttons. When things settled down, wise words came to mind. “A dog’s bad behavior is usually the fault of the owner.”

Guilty. Our training book emphasizes, “You cannot leave a pup younger than one year unattended.” Period. I was doing other things rather than watching Cooper in the yard. He got bored, and the hole was the result. Who’s fault was that?

This morning, I vowed to take a different approach. After re-reading the how-to-manual on puppy obedience, I reapplied the experts’ advice. You can guess the results. I enjoyed the interaction as much as Cooper did, one of the big reasons we wanted another pup. We wanted the joy of companionship and the pleasure of doing things with him. I was amazed how quickly he responded when I kept my cool and used persuasion instead of force. (Hmm, works that way with other things in life too.)

So, once again, I learned a life lesson from my dog. Patience, coupled with firmness, more than music, soothes the savage beast. At least the savage eleven-month-old Brittany.  I can see applications in other areas of my life too. Anger and resentment only leads to more anger and resentment, and certainly contributes to problems.

With Cooper, when he wants to jump and nip, I do what the experts suggested. I tell him “off” and turn my back. He stops. He’s not getting the attention he wants and stops his unwanted behavior. After he calms down, we interact again.

Psychologists say it also works with naughty children. I’ll even stretch it to include misbehaving adults, as long as they aren’t wielding an ax. Then, I recommend running.

Humor aside, I can see laying down parameters, then turning my back on inappropriate behavior, resuming interaction when they can respond in a respectful manner. This also would improve my attitude, reduce my anxiety, and lesson my tendency toward anger. It will take practice and some self-control, a good thing.

Now, if I can just remember all of this when Cooper, or a cranky driver, push my buttons….

With God, anything is possible.


  1. Oh boy, can I ever relate! Now nearly full grown, our puppy has constantly taught us how to show grace in trying situations. He is calming down dramatically this month, and I'm sure sweet Cooper will, too.

  2. Yes, he will. Already he is much better following good advice and staying calm. 😀

    Paavo is about a year now, I think? That's about the time the raging hormones subside. 😉


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