It’s a ruff life.

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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

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As any dog owner knows, there are many benefits and joys to having a four-legged friend. They love unconditionally and are comforting companions.

Mud is a lab-mix rescue that NC adopted several years ago. He has become my best friend, and I’ve since taken on responsibility for his care. When NC is away at work, Mud never leaves my side. He hangs out in the kitchen while I’m cooking and sleeps in bed with me at night.

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A few weeks ago NC decided it was time (finally) to buy a new bed. We had been using a 20 year old full size mattress, and it was far beyond worn out. So, we journeyed out and bought a queen sized foam mattress and comforter set. I chose a silky comforter, and warned NC before we left the store that Mud would no longer be allowed on the bed.  

{The Process}

As soon as the bed was set up and the new comforter in place, I shooed Mud out of the room and closed the door. My theory was that if I eliminated his access, I could prevent the problem.

My mistake was in assuming that NC and I would remember to close the door every time we left the bedroom. Unfortunately, we’re both busy people and creatures of habit. When you live with doors open for years, it’s harder than you would think to start closing them.

For the first two weeks we mostly kept up with it. There were a few cases in which we forgot, but for the most part we kept Mud in whichever room we were in.

Gradually, I started leaving the door open more often. Whenever Mud left the room I checked on him. If I caught him on the bed I scolded him with a firm “No,” and sent him back out to the living room.

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NC gives Mud everything. They’ve been together for years, and he treats him more like a friend than a pet. Every time I kicked Mud out of the bedroom or tried to discipline him I was met with protest.

“He’s just a lonely dog. He misses his room.”

“Poor little guy, he’s so abused!”

I couldn’t imagine a dog with an easier life. He has his own room complete with his own bed for crying out loud! (It’s the guest room, but we never have sleepover guests.)

Should he decide not to sleep on the bed in his room, he has free reign over the couch and two doggie beds. Must be rough.

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Despite his protests, I kept up with my training and Mud no longer jumped on the bed. I could chalk that up as success. Old dogs can learn new rules after all.

As J-Term approached, I was confident that my training would stick, even though I would be away at school for four days of the week. I would miss Mud and NC, but I wasn’t worried.

{The Result}

The first Friday in January I sped home after class. When I walked through the door, neither NC nor Mud were there to greet me. Unusual. Even if NC is busy in the office, Mud always meets me at the door with tail wagging and love.

Confused, I went searching for them.

I found them in bed watching TV.

As soon as he saw me, NC looked at Mud. “Run! She’s gonna be angry!”

Mud scampered out of the room.

I left for 4 days and all of my training went straight down the drain. It turns out as soon as I left the house NC had allowed Mud back on the bed.

So much for preserving the quality of my new comforter.

I learned a valuable lesson here. If NC and I ever have kids, I’ll never be allowed to leave the house if I expect them to retain any sort of discipline, and I’ll never again choose to buy an expensive comforter.

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