All in a dog’s work

Reuben (1 of 1)

Dear Reuben,

You are pretty damn brilliant at following the four paws on the floor rule of this house. So congratulations. I am never concerned that you are going to randomly jump up on any of the other inhabitants of this house or indeed any guests that you might deign to allow into the house. I think there are a few other points that we should have a little chat about though…

Number One
You are not now, nor have you ever been (or will be) a lap dog. I’m not quite sure how this apparent confusion has come about. You are not welcome to reverse into my lap and plonk 50kgs of Dane butt on me any time you choose. How would you like it if I did that to you?

Number Two
I am not a stool. I am not a seat. My shoulder is in fact not as strong as you seem to think it is. Do you see where I am going with this? I don’t take kindly to you just depositing yourself willy nilly on my person. You have ample beds around the place and you are also, you know, a DOG. You have four working legs and I am not a human easy chair assisting you to lower yourself to an appropriate place to rest.

Number Three
Doorways are not for standing in like a statue. They’re just not.

Number Four
If I am walking forwards, standing directly in my path will not endear you to me. When I change my path, moving so that you will still be standing directly in my path is not my idea of a fun game. You do not need to fulfil the position of Mobile Live Obstacle Course…

Number Five
When I am hanging washing on the line and my arms and hands are not able to swiftly shift to protect my vital organs at a moment’s notice, it is not playtime. Ramming a solid rubber chew toy into my torso will do you absolutely NO favours if you persist.

So I know that’s a lot to remember, and you probably feel as though you are not getting enough love at the moment but maybe if you work on even a couple of those points, we might be able to come to some sort of compromise. Yes?


The Old Lady You Let Live In Your House


It Sucks To Be You

Reuben Cone

Dear Reuben,

The opening of the movie Marmaduke has Owen Wilson’s voice talking about the feelings of ignominy associated with being someone who “doesn’t fit in”. He talks about being a kid in high school and then he says “If you think that being a big awkward teenager is about the worst thing that can happen to you, try being a 200 pound dog with a radar dish on your head!”. I guess you can relate to that. Only in your case, you’re kind of closer to 110 pounds and it was not easy to get off.

For the second time you needed to go to the vet for eye surgery and to make sure that you didn’t undo all the good doctors work, we had to stop you from scratching your stitches. Which sucked for you but it was kind of funny for us. Every time you would go to eat or drink, you would bend down and the buster collar would slide up your neck and then land on the floor. It was like this little cone of silence descended over your head. Your own kind of privacy screen. Or a kind of blinker set in one. Your field of vision was drastically diminished.


We would watch you lose your ball by your feet constantly because you couldn’t see it when you stood up. Then, when you sat down, you found it much harder to play with your toys. You tend to paw things to get them in just the right spot to chew them but the collar sat over your paws and under your mouth. So it was kind of like asking someone to eat a meal with their hands tied behind their back. It looked pretty silly but you kept on trying. On the plus side though, when you did get it in your mouth and you tipped your head back, if they slipped out, there was nowhere for the balls to go except back towards your mouth.

It wasn’t as if you didn’t get a little of your own back on us though. Your spacial awareness is not actually the most brilliant on the planet and being further incapacitated by the big bit of plastic around your head, you would bash into every door jam, gate and person that you could. Neighbourette’s pregnant belly was in your way? Simple, just keep pushing straight past it and it’ll probably move. You seem to be caught on the baby gate? Not to worry, you’re pretty strong and you can probably just knock it over. From me to you, that got old real quick.

I promise though that it won’t be long before things go back to normal and you’ll be free again. Till then, try not to be so impatient.

Yours Sincerely,

That Lady You Let Live In Your House

Its The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine?

Reuben Bed

Dear Breeder,

I do believe we have come to the end of the world as we know it. Or perhaps it is the beginning of the end. Some people think this is when you have children but I’m not so sure. And you did warn us what would happen. We even managed to heed your advice for about a year and a half. That’s a long time for Sparky because he’s like a big kid. Especially where Reuben is concerned. But now we’ve gone and done it and there’s no going back. We can’t undo what has been done and now it just remains to be seen if we have unleashed (no pun intended) a force we cannot control. Which is highly likely because – the dog has been allowed on the bed!

I guess it sort of happened in degrees. I mean, there was a progression from him sleeping in the kitchen, on his own, with closed doors in between us and him. Then we had a really hot summer and brought a baby into the house so to make him feel included (and cool) he moved into the hall, right at our bedroom door. Then we booked him in for another eye operation and felt sorry for him. Even more sorry than those times we would see him stare at us pitifully from the end of the bed when we were having a family moment with our daughter as if he wasn’t invited. So he got himself invited.

Now this isn’t such a big deal for some people. I am aware that many masters (ha – as if he ever sees either of us as a pack leader) allow their pets on the bed and some let their pets sleep on their bed in a permanent arrangement. I’m pretty sure however that the majority of those pets are not 50+ kilos. Because what we’re talking about here is less like letting a little pet sleep on your bed and more like inviting another whole person to share the space with you. Now Reuben may be kind of undersized for his age and he’s kind of skinny but he is not small. And he likes to sleep spread out with his head thrown back and his legs out straight. Which is inconvenient enough as it is on the floor occasionally, let alone on our bed.

It’s not as if we can go out and get a bigger bed either. We have a king size bed and he will happily take up close to half of it! In a vain attempt at controlling the situation we are trying to teach him that he is only allowed on the comforter and not on the other bed clothes so we can keep him at the end of the bed rather than smack bang in the middle of it but he seems to have a way of getting precisely what he wants in the end. Perhaps we’re lousy owners who confuse him with a lack of discipline and hard rules but we do love him. The little (figuratively not literally) bugger.

Yours sincerely,

Grand Duke Nicholas’s host mother.

I Am Sorry


Dear Reuben,

I am kinda sorry that I put you in the car when I went to pick up Sparky. I know you like to be included and we love to have you with us but if you had not been in the car, the incident would not have happened.

I am quite sorry that i didn’t take the pram base out of the car and bring it into the house. I knew that I would not need it “out” before I was likely to need it “in” but I was lazy. I figured I could always bring it in later.

I am very sorry that when I turned the car around the corner, the pram base that I hadn’t brought inside tipped over onto you who I hadn’t put outside. It (understandably) freaked you out.

I am extremely sorry that when you were freaked out, you jumped up in haste to get away from the falling contraption…because in said haste, you threw your weight into the side of the car and punched out the rear window!

A rear window that cost three hundred dollars to replace, a multitude of phone calls on Sparky’s behalf to arrange and some manual labour (again by Sparky) to clear the debris off the road.

So I just wanted you to know that I was sorry.

Apologetically yours,

That lady you let live in your house

* Photo by David and Claire Oliver

Absence Makes The Thing Grow Longer


Dear Genevieve,

A friend of mine who had a baby a couple of weeks before I had you, mentioned that when she and the baby came home, she could have sworn that the dog had grown. In less than a week, the dog seemed to have undergone a rapid growth spurt and she was sure he was significantly bigger than when she had left for the hospital. I must admit, I thought this was a little odd. I didn’t get it. Now I do.

When we came home from the hospital, Reuben was huge! I mean, he is a Great Dane so that is kind of the point. There was no way he was not going to bigger than you for a long time but all of a sudden, he appeared to me to be a whole butt length longer and taller than he was when I left. Maybe that makes me sound crazy but I just thought you should know. The phenomenon of the spontaneously growing dog is totally real.

Alles Liebe,


Now I Have Dog Beer!

Dear Husband,

Do you recall when I mentioned how not to train your puppy? You know, by clouding the lines of pack leadership or by rewarding questionable behaviour because it was cute? Yeah, well on the weekend, I think you confused the poor boy again. I know that it was hot outside in the sun and I know that his water bowl was inside where he couldn’t get to it. I also know that you were trying to be the responsible dog owner by making sure that your pup was not suffering unduly in the heat by offering him what water you had personally, but seriously? Out of your own glass? I think that’s slightly more ridiculous than responsible.

And as you will recall, I told you at the time that I felt this was sending the wrong message. I also told you that I thought you were setting a dangerous precedent because you had just effectively taught him that he is allowed to have whatever is in a glass. We already have to watch like a hawk any food that we put down on a surface under 1.5 metres in height because he’s cheeky. Now we’re going to have to start watching our drinks as well! I will tell you however that I did feel slightly vindicated (and decidedly unsympathetic) when about 24 hours after the aforementioned drinking out of the glass incident, I heard you wail from the living room “Now I have dog beer!”.

See, that’s what happens when you teach your four-legged friend that he is allowed to drink out of your glass. He assumes that it is a blanket allowance that means he is permitted to have whatever is in your glass, whenever he can get to your glass. And if your glass just happens to have a beer that you have been waiting all day to have in it, well then beer is what he is going to drink. I do find it amusing that he actually appears to like beer though. You said he got a couple of laps in before he lifted his head and cocked it to one side to consider the new beverage that wasn’t either water or milk and then decided to go in for more just as you figured out what was happening and removed your drink accordingly.

You seemed very upset by the fact that he had sampled your beer as though it was now contaminated and was a wasted glass. I thought that was a bit over dramatic because you took a nap and spooned with the dog earlier in the day and you let him “kiss” you regularly so I can’t really see the difference between that and him having stuck his tongue in your beer. When I told you that you should just drink the beer anyway and get over it, you assured me that you were definitely still going to drink your glass of beer like that wasn’t even the issue. You were just a little miffed that he got to it first.

As I said, unsympathetically yours,

Your Loving Wife

* Photo taken at Hanging Rock Winery

How Not To Train Your Puppy

Dear Husband,

Picture this: a young(ish) man is sitting on a lounge chair in his home, trying to eat his dinner after a long, cold and tiring day. In the mean time, his erstwhile Great Dane pup, who is not a young pup under 12 months but still a pup nonetheless, is doing his best to thwart this activity and beg food for himself. As the aforementioned pup is not a young pup, he is certainly not a small one either. Strong enough to push around a grown adult and tall enough to walk up to any bench or table and rest his head on its top whilst maintaining four paws on the floor, he is a bit of a force to be reckoned with when he wants something. And the man’s dinner is what he wants.

Never a canine to let a “sit” command or an “on your mat” to get in the way of possible illicit treats however, the hound embodies both noun and verb as he continues to sniff around the meal and vocalise his disapproval of the fact that he is not being given any. He makes quite an argument as he comes back with a vocal rebuttal every time his master commands him to “sit”. Oddly enough however, it would appear that he thinks if the man in engaging with him rather than ignoring him (as his master is occasionally wont to do), he is far more likely to be rewarded should he give the man a little space.

This is apparent as he backs up, ever so slowly, till his back legs eventually hit a 3 seater couch adjacent to where the man is sitting. At which point there is the tentative lifting of first the right hind leg as the Dane debates whether he can in fact move further backwards…onto the couch. After a few seconds of indecision when the leg is raised then lowered then raised again he apparently settles on the idea that in fact, yes, backwards is the way to go. He then places his right hind leg on the couch followed by his left hind leg and stands tall so that his rump is now close to a metre and a half off the floor whilst his back is at a 135 degree angle downwards with the front paws still firmly grounded. When this still doesn’t produce any food or response other than a firm “sit” from his master, the pup decides that perhaps he will sit now and lowers his hind quarters till they are resting comfortably on the couch (and the front paws are still on the floor).

Understandably, this whole process is somewhat hilarious to watch and it is very difficult for the master (and his wife) not to piss themselves laughing as the Dane sits there looking somewhat confused. At this point however, there is no “NO!” from the master to indicate that there are firm boundaries that have been crossed (like sitting on the couch), no alternate commands for an action or activity that would be far more appropriate (than sitting on the couch) and there was in fact reinforcement that if you do the wrong thing (such as sitting on the couch) you can still get what you want as the master then dutifully provided food off his own dinner plate for his pet.

What is wrong with this picture?

Remember all that advice we received regarding training a puppy? You know, those fundamental basics like:

  • Always be clear what the rules are and where the boundaries have been set
  • Make sure you do not let your dog become the “pack leader”
  • Reward your puppy for good behaviour
  • Don’t feed your puppy from your own plate

Those things? Because last night they appeared to go totally out of the window and I’m afraid that you might have started off behaviour that is going to take us twice as long to stop.

I swear, if the puppy gets anywhere near our bed, he’s getting your side.

Lovingly yours,

You Loving Wife