Raising Rotties (Or: why my office smells like methane)

Brooke here:

New house-related posts will soon be in the works.  I finished my office, minus a much-needed flat file cabinet, over the holidays and am working on an illustrated breakdown.  The holidays destroyed our budget for interior maintenance and repair; the weather made it too cold and sticky to do any yardwork.  The weather is changing and I’ve begun to pull down ivy, but for the time being, here’s yet another post about the dogs.


Sometimes people ask us about what it’s like to own Rottweilers, which… I don’t know, do people with schnauzers ever get asked what it’s like to own schnauzers?  It’s strange to own a dog that has such a bad reputation because he’s (they’re, now, I suppose) just your dog.  Every so often we come home after spending time with friends who have smaller dogs and we realize Rottweiler Prime is nothing less than enormous, but the most dangerous part of our dog is not on the end with the teeth.

(Brown refers to it as the “ion cannon” since it vaporizes all living organisms in its path.  ’nuff said.)

But we’re now spending a lot of time training Zu, and there’s the voice at the back of our minds which reminds us that a training process which is absolutely mandatory for Zu might be more flexible if he was, oh, say, a chihuahua puppy. And a few weeks ago, a reader commented that these blog posts “present a better image of Rottweiler’s than is usually seen [and] I assume the mass-media portrayal of them is completely unaccurate and biased.”  To which I answered, “It’s sort of… not.”

Back in the day, Rottweiler Prime was a biter. I’m dating myself here as Cutter John was my graduation present to myself. I figured I’d be living and traveling alone so I got this eleven-week-old puppy and invested a ton of time and money in training classes and doggie behavior seminars. I worked in a book store and read everything I could about dog behavior and how to raise a happy dog and how your dog can be your best friend and all those other publications in the “treat your dog like a gentle flower and love him!” flavor of self-help dog-training dross which was popular at the time.*

Is she talking about how I was a terrible puppy again? Sheesh, lady, let it go.

It’s amazing how we’ve spent a couple hundred thousand years with these fluffy buggers and we still can’t figure them out. Every decade or so, there’s a revolution in dog training and all of the practical advice is thrown out the window or refitted in new clothes.  For example, if you’ve got a dog, you might be interested to learn you can play tug-o-war with them now, whereas before it was a game that would destroy not only your authority over your dog but all surrounding natural ecosystems.

When I first got Cutter, the catchword du jour was respect; respect your dog, and your dog will respect you, or so the popular wisdom went.  I had no luck whatsoever with this approach.  Respect is a meaningless concept for a dog.  We worked out our issues, but it would have been easier for the both of us if I wasn’t doing everything right.  Then I started doing things wrong, and things fell into place.  This experience, I’ve heard, is similar to first-time parents who spend nine months preparing for the kid, then find everything they’ve read is beyond useless.  Except a seven-month-old baby doesn’t weigh eighty pounds or sport a set of chompers to put a bear to shame.  So doing things wrong got desired results but was … stressful … and I really don’t recommend Rottweilers for twenty-year-old girls straight out of college who don’t know poop about poop.

Which brings us back to today and raising Zu.

Zu at four and eighteen weeks, top and bottom, respectively (which you probably already knew unless your experience with puppies is some sort of Benjamin Button thing).

I’m okay with the current catchword in dog training, which seems to be that dogs are dogs.  Working with Cutter got worlds easier when I got past the belief that he was a fuzzy little person who reasoned like a human being. Today, everyone in Dogdom is running with the idea that dogs are animals, and, as animals, are rather dumb and have to be spoken to in a language they understand.  Pack order and such.  We’re training Zu using the (successful) techniques I learned from training Cutter, as well as a few new things we’ve picked up from dog trainers who follow the dog = dog policy.

Although there are some training techniques that we’re writing as we go.  One is the belief that dogs need to be left alone while eating because it blah blah blah.  I left Cutter alone in his private happy space while he was eating and he developed huge food possession issues.  I did the same thing for Zu, at first, until the day he growled and snapped at me when I walked into the kitchen.  Now, I schedule his meals around the same time I load or unload the dishwasher and do it directly on top of him while he’s eating.  I also touch him and talk to him constantly, and during the meal I hold a chunk of wet food out on my palm next to his head so hands near his food bowl are perceived as a positive thing. Cutter helps; Cutter sits over him and drools.  The food possession issues have vanished, and Zu demonstrates very little possessiveness over toys or found objects.  I’m now working on training him to leave the food dish in the middle of eating; this is very hard for a puppy, but it’s necessary and he’s learning to back off of the meal.

Brown’s training sessions involve forced physical contact.  Late in the day when Zu is tired, Brown will stretch out on the couch with Zu on top of him.  Dog trainers will tell you that dogs think they are dominant when they are on the best seat in the house, or when they are physically positioned above their owners, but there’s no question who’s dominant during forced cuddling.  Brown pins Zu in a death grip and the puppy fights back until he realizes he’s going nowhere, then sighs and submits for long periods of downtime.  They have been watching Doctor Who together.  Brown has explained to Zu that while we might miss David Tennant, Matt Smith is an excellent actor and we should give him a chance.

Zu remains unconvinced.

*The Monks of New Skete and Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond between People and Dogs come to mind.  These days it would probably be anything with the Dog Whisperer.

4 thoughts on “Raising Rotties (Or: why my office smells like methane)

  1. Perhaps Zu is just skeptical of Amy Pond’s value to the franchise. Lord knows I am. No problems with Eleven, but I’d be perfectly happy if someone stuffed Pond onto a starship and let the Cybermen crash it into ancient Earth.


  2. Hey, I LIKE Amy Pond. She and Martha are the only 2 recent female companions who haven’t suffered from a severe case of “carrying the stupid stick.” Rose had this chronic ability to do the exact opposite of what she was told, and Donna was inclined to hysterics. Amy so far has had a very proactive attitude in the face of danger, she doesn’t always know what to do, but she’s damn well gonna DO SOMETHING rather than just sit around and wait for the Doctor to save her.

  3. Boo! I like Amy Pond too and it is quite hard to define value. Matt Smith has also become my new favorite Doctor and is such a good actor. Anyway, how much is Zu’s feelings about Tennant and how much is the author’s, I wonder?
    I love dogs so no worries about more dog articles, bring them on I say. I also agree with you regarding dog training and how dog=dog, certainly sums it up. Also the same way that a three old child is not half a six year old and that kids are not little adults.
    What Russell T. Davies did to Donna in Journey’s End solidified my feelings about him into outright disdain, dislike, and low-level hatred. Tainting practically everything else he did, even in retrospect and looking back.

  4. You know, the forced cuddling thing actually worked with my cats back in the day. We got them when they were around seven weeks old, and from day one we picked them up -constantly-. They would yowl to be put down and protest, but eventually realize we weren’t going to give in and just… deal with it. It got to the point after a few months where our female kitten would actually begin seeking us out for attention, and the male would still protest when we picked him up…. but only for a few moments. After a few moments of token protesting, he would settle down and begin purring and eventually fall asleep on us happily.

    On the other side of the spectrum are my friend’s cats. She has this pet peeve where she can’t STAND to hear her cats cry for ANY reason, even when they’re just crying out of pure annoyance. Because of that, nobody is really allowed to pick up her cats at all. They are anti social creatures when it comes to being picked up… one of them will let you pet him and he comes when he is called and will even rub up against your leg… but you try and pick him up and he does absolutely nothing but cry and writhe until you put him down. None of her three cats like to cuddle at all, which is terribly sad cause they’re all adorably cute.

    Cats aren’t dogs, but hey… the “corporal cuddling” as my friend calls it, worked for one kind of fur, hopefully it works for yours. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s