Tag Archives: Pomeranians

Today’s resolution, from Simone: Expect treats, but watch the hand that feeds you

14 Nov

Ever the optimist, Simone shares these words from I Ching 25, Innocence (The Unexpected):

“Man has received from heaven a nature innately good, to guide him in all his movements. By devotion to this divine spirit within himself, he attains an unsullied innocence that leads him to do right with instinctive sureness and without any ulterior thought of reward and personal advantage. …

But, Simone warns, temper optimism with realism. A dog knows these things instinctively:

“However, not everything instinctive is nature in this highest sense of the world, but only that which is right and in accord with the will of heaven. Without this quality of rightness, an unreflecting, instinctive way of acting out brings only misfortune.”

Simone at the rose garden, Clinton School of Public Service. Simone notes that the metaphor here is too obvious to mention. (2011/RO)


Creature Feature: Secret to pottytraining small dogs is owner commitment

22 Sep

Creature Feature appears each Wednesday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

 Is it true that small dogs are harder to housetrain than large dogs are?

"Of course we can be trained!" (Simone/RO)

Housetraining a small or toy breed of dog is more challenging than training larger dogs — it’s not the impossible task many people believe it to be although the process is longer and requires more time and attention from the owner.

“They are more difficult to housetrain. With little dogs, you have to take more responsibility about them going to the bathroom outside,” says Lisa Mantle, a certified professional dog trainer in Little Rock. “Instead of just assuming that the dog is going to let you know when he needs to go outside, you have to be an equal partner in the process.”

Small dogs have a poor housetraining reputation primarily because owners don’t stick with the training program for the long haul, she says. Because it takes longer to train a small dog, “people get tired of it. They don’t want to keep going outside with their dog.”

Mantle, owner of Running Dog Academy, has five dogs in her home. “I have big dogs and little dogs. I don’t treat them remotely the same. If my big dogs don’t ask to go outside, I don’t worry about it. On the other hand, if my little dogs haven’t asked to to outside for a while, I put them out.”

Theories about why small dogs are more difficult to train range from their smaller bladder size to breeding to owner expectations, Darlene Arden says in Small Dogs, Big Hearts.

“There are a lot of variables, including the fact that some breeds do take a little longer,” Arden says. “It’s not a measure of intelligence, but more likely an indication of behavioral tendencies.”

Training small dogs to potty outdoors requires vigilence, consistency and commitment, Mantle says. “It’s do-able but you have to stick with it. You can’t cut corners. You have to go through all the steps.”

With small dogs, training requires some type of containment when the owner can’t be with the dog. Some people use a dog crate while others put up a baby gate to confine the dog to a specific room or area of the house.

Another tactic is tethering, which requires an owner to keep the dog with him on a leash at all times. This keeps the dog from wandering off into another area of the house to potty out of his owner’s sight, plus helps the owner learn to read when his dog needs to go outside.

The downside of tethering, Mantle says, is that most people don’t want their dog attached to them continually. “It’s just not very realistic” unless the owner is committed to it.

I agree, although I had excellent results by combining crate training with tethering when Simone was a puppy. At home, I put the leash on her and she shadowed every step I took in the house and outdoors for months. When I took a shower, I hung the leash handle on the door knob and she would settle down on the floor. In the kitchen, she laid on a mat while I washed the dishes. At night, Simone stayed in her crate except for when I got up to take her outside at about 3 a.m. (during the early weeks of training).

Simone wasn’t bothered by being on the leash. It got tiresome for me at times, but the positive results were worth the effort. Not only is Simone well-trained, but she and I are bonded for life.

A key thing to remember about tethering: The dog is attached to you and within a few feet of you at all times. You never tie the dog to piece of furniture or anything else and leave her alone.

Mantle offers this advice for training a small (or any size) dog:

** Don’t let the dog out of your sight.

** Go outside with the dog and praise him every time he uses the bathroom in the right place. Mantle says to continue doing this even after the dog consistently goes outside to potty.  “I do this all the time and  my dogs are 13, 14 years old.”

Why is it important to go outside with your dog? First, so he’ll know why he’s out there. Second, so you’ll be there to praise and reward him for pottying in the appropriate place.

**If the dog makes a mistake indoors, “just clean it up,” she says. “If you see the dog in the process of going to the bathroom, try to calmly interrupt without scaring the dog. Then take the dog outside and reward the dog for going outside.”

** The most important thing to remember is “to stick with it until housetraining is complete. Don’t look at it like the dog is now such-and-such age and should be housetrained by now. Dogs complete housetraining at different ages.”

When the dog is consistently asking to be taken outside for bathroom breaks, he’s trained. But, Mantle says, if the dog is still having accidents indoors, training is incomplete.

“Some people expect dogs to just know things like they should go outside,” she says. “But remember, dogs don’t care where they go to the bathroom. We care where they go.”    

If you have questions about training, email me at askcreature@att.net.        

Today’s resolution, by Simone: Get down to it

15 Sep

“When presented with two ways to approach one’s food, select the one that gets you closest to it.” — Simone’s razor (apologies to Ockham)

Nothing wrong with a little food in your fur.

Today’s resolution, by Simone: Make every moment one of exploration

18 Aug

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

You find amazing things when you look under the bushes. (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution, by Simone: Remember the cool old days

3 Aug

If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back? — Steven Wright

Cold comfort (2011/RO)

Little dog, big fear

20 Mar


ADDENDUM 10/3/2011: Since I wrote this post, something happened to make me change my mind about letting Simone run with the big dogs. While I still believe that my attitude toward big dogs while walking Simone contributed to her stress behavior, I now will say that little dogs and big dogs should not play together. The risk is too great. Although dogs are domesticated animals, they’re still animals and are subject to animal instincts.

They go after prey…. whether it’s a squirrel, a bird or a rat … .or the neighbor’s Yorkie. When they see a small furry critter flash by, their predatory instinct fires. It doesn’t matter if the critter in question is a Pomeranian or a squirrel.

Anyway, I had a bad scare with Simone. Two dogs (mixed breeds, 30-45 pounds) attacked Simone — she was minding her own business — during play time before dog class. They went after her viciously. The incident happened right at my feet so I was able to snatch Simone before she was injured. But she could have seriously hurt or even killed. They could have snapped her neck with one quick shake. So, folks, when you take your small dog to the dog park, put him on the small-dog section. Don’t take a chance. Don’t.  Seriously, don’t.

That said, here’s the original post:

At 10 pounds, my Simone is a giant among Pomeranians. Those puffs of fur you see competing at Westminster top out at 6 pounds, but usually weigh more like 4.

But even at 10 pounds, Simone is tiny in the dog world, which means she’s more vulnerable to injury than larger dogs — for me, that means big fear.

So I’m protective, not that Simone feels she needs protecting. Simone is sassy, confident, bad to the bone. A few weeks ago, she caught and shook a rat to death — broken neck, broken tail, broken body. Big stuff for a little dog.

Anyway, Simone is unafraid of most things — well, there was that time with the cows — so I have to be afraid for her. That’s why, on her behalf, I’ve been wary of large dogs. They have big mouths, big teeth, big feet. Without meaning to, a big dog can hurt a little dog.

A few years ago, my wariness grew into fear. It happened one Easter.

We were in my mom’s back yard, letting Simone and Ashley, Mom’s chihuahua, hunt for bites of boiled eggs. (Yes, we have an Easter egg hunt for the dogs.) Mom’s neighbors were also outdoors, with their children and boisterous Labrador retriever. Simone, sniffing around for eggs, wandered into the neighbor’s yard. That was just a little too close for the Lab, who immediately rushed, rolled and pinned Simone to the ground.

The neighbor and I pulled the big dog off of Simone. Once Simone was free, she lit out for the safety of Mom’s deck. The Lab lunged and rolled her again. Simone escaped the Lab’s slobbering mouth by herself this time. She wasn’t hurt, but she was shaking. I was shaking. The neighbor was shaking. The Lab was panting.

Looking back, I think the Lab was trying to play with Simone but, at the time, it was scary. Simone’s life flashed before me.

A week later, Simone and I were walking in our neighborhood when we were approached by a woman walking … yes, a freaking big black Lab. Simone growled, then lunged. After that, every time we saw a big black dog, Simone reacted, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Then she started doing it every time any large dog got near us.

I began avoiding big dogs. Every time we saw one, I took Simone in another direction. If a big dog came within a block of us, I tensed and watched it fearfully.


Recently, I began attending a Canine Good Citizen class conducted by Charlotte Mallion and Jamie Walden, partners in See Spot Sit Dog Training of Central Arkansas. The two professional trainers are mentoring me so that I can learn how to teach dogs myself, something I’ve been thinking about for years.

When I arrived at the first Canine Good Citizen class — without Simone because I was there to watch and learn — the owners and dogs were already there. All but one were big. The dogs, not the owners. There was Allee the Rottweiler, Juno the German shepherd, Gracie the brown Lab and a medium-sized speckled dog whose name I can’t recall (sorry, pup). All lovely and good-natured dogs.

It was a wonderful class and I learned a lot. Afterward, we talked dogs. I told everybody about Simone …  and confessed my fear. I also assured them that I love big dogs —  some of my best friends are big dogs — but not when they’re around Simone. I told them … sigh … that Simone had an “issue” with big dogs.

Then Jamie and Charlotte suggested I bring Simone the following week so I could work along with the class as well as observe. Instant anxiety, big fear. I didn’t believe Simone was up to the pressure, I told them.

But they assured me Simone would be fine and the experience could be good for me in a face-the-fear way. Earlier, Charlotte had made the point that people like to find explanations for their dogs’ problems and quirks. We try to pinpoint defining moments in their lives — just as I had with Simone and the big-dog issue.

I decided it could be OK and said I would bring Simone to class.

The day before class, I had second thoughts. I woke up in the middle of the night, terrified, imagining all the things that could go wrong.

What if Simone snapped and growled and pissed off the big dogs?

What if they wanted to play and wouldn’t take no for an answer?

What if they crushed her with their enormous paws?

What if, what if, what if ….?

I got up and took a pill.


When I arrived for training the next morning, the fenced training area at the Sherwood Animal Shelter was empty, except for one pickup in the parking lot. Inside the training area, Simone wandered away from me, sniffing and marking as she explored the new territory.

A man got out of the pickup with … the biggest Doberman in the world. The description “small horse” doesn’t do this dog justice. Next, Jamie arrived with Juno. Then came the other owners and their dogs, including a new one — a pit-bull mix named Gracie (giving us two Gracies in the class).

Gracie’s owner volunteered that her dog was aggressive toward other dogs. Oh joy. Just a few minutes earlier, Bella the Doberman’s owner had told me Bella liked to put her mouth on smaller animals, particularly his cat.

I didn’t react (points for me), but I wanted to grab Simone and run for the car.

Then the dogs began to approach Simone. As each sniffed her, she gave a low warning growl. I decided that turning my back was the only way I would keep away a full-on panic attack. I couldn’t watch a 75-pound Rottweiler — even an extremely sweet one like Allee — approach my tiny Pom. But I was determined to be calm.

Here’s the thing: Every one of those huge dogs walked away from Simone after she growled — what Jamie calls a “distancing signal.” They just turned and left, then played among themselves, chasing each other in circles around the training area.

Simone wasn’t stressed at all. Her tail was up and she kept sniffing around, interested in everything, especially when she discovered that all the people had treats and were willing to share.


Charlotte and Jamie had us stand in a circle with our dogs leashed and at our sides. One by one, we went through basic commands — Sit, Stay, Come — and the Greeting a Friendly Stranger exercise. No problem.

Then we had to walk our dogs in and out of the circle. Every dog had to make the loop without reacting to the other dogs and their owners.

I walked with Simone past pit bull Gracie. A twinge of anxiety. Past Doberman Bella. A bigger twinge. Then toward German shepherd Juno. More twinging … Big sweaty fear twinging. Simone fell behind me and pulled backward on the leash.

Charlotte yelled for us to stop. We did. We know our commands. She explained to the group that they had witnessed a dog reacting to an anxious, fearful owner — me, always happy to be demo dog-owner. She told me to start again, but to hold my shoulders back, keep my head up and walk confidently. Show no fear. Apparently I had started pulling my body into itself back by Gracie.

We started around the circle again. I kept my head up, shoulders back and didn’t look at any of the dogs.

And that was it. No hesitation, no pulling, no twinging.

So the big-dog fear was mine, not Simone’s. It was all about me, at least in regard to encountering other dogs while walking Simone on a leash.

Now I’m less apprehensive about taking Simone for a walk around the neighborhood to see if I can keep my cool when approached by big dogs in an uncontrolled environment.