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Overactive poodle drains busy mother’s energy
Dear Dr. Spiegel, I am writing to you because I am at my wit's end with my miniature Poodle. We adopted Sammi from an animal shelter about eight months ago. The workers at the shelter told us that he was hyperactive and may be difficult to train. We adopted Sammi anyway with the hope that he would calm down once we got him home. Sammi turned out to be very smart, and was apparently trained by his previous owner to sit, stay, come, and heel. However, Sammi is easily excitable and he "forgets" himself and disobeys. For example, when I'm cooking or we're eating a meal, Sammi paces constantly around the kitchen. When I tell him to go and lie down in the family room, he'll go and do it... for about a minute. Then he's sneaking back into the kitchen and pacing around again. I feed him before we eat dinner and I never feed him people food. Usually I end up having to confine him. Another problem he has is with visitors. He always jumps up on people even though he gets reprimanded every time. When small children visit, he often tries to mount them or steal their toys. (Yes, he's neutered). When he gets let in after being outside he races through the house even though I try to settle him before letting him go. Sammi is an extreme "people dog." He can't bear to be separated from the family, especially me. He follows me around the house all day, which makes me tense and nervous. Since we have four children (ages 9, 5, 3, and 3 months), I often feel overwhelmed by Sammi's need for attention. Our nine year old daughter is responsible for feeding Sammi and letting him in and out. She has difficulty controlling him and often comes to me crying because he jumps on her. Since his rambunctious nature intimidates her, she never plays with him. I feel that I have done all that I can do to train him, but frankly I have my hands full trying to "train" and care for the children. I have given up on Sammi and have even come to resent him. My husband, however, doesn't seem to understand why I feel this way. I would find him a new home in a minute (...the dog, not my husband), but my husband won't even discuss the issue with me (even though I am the one who is home with Sammi all day). His refusal may have something to do with our history with pets. Our first dog, a large mixbreed who my husband loved dearly, died while chasing my car. Several months later, our cat was crushed by the garage door while my husband was out of town. Needless to say my track record with pets is far from exemplary. I am afraid that if I give Sammi away, my husband will hold it against me forever. I am so torn up about this. Am I expecting too much? Can he be given a mild sedative to calm him down? Would he be better off in a home without young children to make him overexcited? Wouldn't it be more fair to the dog to be with a family who could give him the attention and training he needs? Sincerely, D. T., Dover
When I was able to contact this owner, Sammi had just been placed with a single adult who works out of her home... an ideal situation for this kind of dog. What I find particularly interesting is how certain people are drawn to certain types of animals. In this situation, what D.T. ended up with was exactly what she didn't need; that is, a dog whose demand for her energy was sapping the little she had left to devote to her sanity. I suspect when picking out this dog, it's high-spirited enthusiasm for life was just the breath of fresh air her family could use. However, when the novelty of these overly energized, love-to-be-with-you dogs wear off, they can become a burden. Reprogramming these dogs to fit comfortably into your life can be accomplished, but it takes time, energy and devotion. And from the sound of your letter, D.T., it would seem that you made the right choice for all concerned parties. While your husband may have a tough time with it, having a happier, more relaxed you to come home to will invariably serve him better in the long run.