As many of you that know me and/or my handsome partner Jeff, we are obsessed over our lovable fur-baby, Kirby. This little 8lb. bundle of joy came into our lives in 2013. He's a long-haired Chihuahua sprinkled with a mix of Pekingese. We also know there is a solid dose of pure love in there as well. Not only is he the perfect lap dog, he's also a wonderful companion. A true joy to have around.
Although us humans are unsure of whether our pets have any awareness to the impact they have on our life, it got me thinking. It was that thinking that inspired this blog-post and I hope this resonates with you and your fur-babies as well. Please enjoy.
Kirby continues to teach and subsequently we continue to learn from him. Here are a few puppy love lessons from our time together:
Consistency builds trust. We’re very intentional about what and when he eats and when he plays and when he sleeps. This is so he knows what to expect and when. It works so well. He never whimpers, begs or barks, and he always knows when to expect the next big thing to come his way.
Understand and accept the other’s communication style. After nearly nine years together, Kirby pays very close attention to us. He has gradually grasped English and knows words and our voice inflections. He obeys fully to the words: "treat?" "wanna go for a walk?" "wanna go for a ride?" "want some dinner?" "wanna bath?" "want some breakfast?" "good boy" "over here" "you stay right there" "thank you" and "that's all." I often joke that I can communicate better with Kirby than with some of my coworkers.
In turn, Kirby has taught us how to understand him as well. He will huff once which will usually mean yes or I agree and he will use his right front pay to scratch on his toy to tell us he wants to play, he will scratch his bowl for food and the front door when nature calls.
Take responsibility for mistakes. We can’t be frustrated with Kirby. We own his mistakes. Although he has never had any single episode where he has destroyed anything, if he ever were to, say, chew on my slipper, or rip a pillow apart, this is likely because we became inconsistent with his routine or we didn’t set him up for success by managing things better. He's become very dependent and this responsibility is solidly on us.
Follow the Platinum Rule. A slight twist on The Golden Rule, we treat Kirby in the way that he wants to be treated (not the way we want to be treated). This should be self-explanatory – we don’t (usually) need our bellies rubbed.
Positive reinforcement. We've had Kirby since he was 8 weeks old. He's imprinted on us and us on him and sees us as his parents. Since he was very small, we've used treats concurrently with the phrase “good boy Kirby” which has been instrumental in his development. This tactic has worked wonders to reinforce all the positive, loving behaviors that he exhibits each and every day.