A Boy & His Pursedog
Little kids and little dogs: It ain’t exactly Old Yeller over here.
Amalah is currently on maternity leave. In her absence, however, she’s just as tethered to the computer as ever, and will be using this space to ask you — our intrepid Advice Smackdown Commenter Crew — questions. What’s been baffling her, as a parent, you may wonder? Why, she’s so glad you asked!
Dear Internet Wan-Kenobi,
We got our dog before we had kids. Before we had a house. Or a yard. Basically before our lives resembled anything even close to what they are now. So we have a little dog. A city dog. A tiny high-strung runt of a thing who basically wants four things in life: 1) Access to my lap and my lap only, 2) imaginary things to bark at, 3) people food people food PEOPLE FOOD, and 4) to otherwise be left alone to sun herself on velvet throw pillows. She likes walks but not to the playground (makes her nervous), she likes chasing balls and sticks but not bringing them back, and she likes our kids up until they are too tall for her to steal crackers and waffles from. Then she pretty much has no use for them, other than a misguided excuse for barking to PROTECT PROTECT PROTECT I AM EIGHT POUNDS OF TERRIFYING GUARD DOG FURY.
Basically, we don’t have a kids‘ kind of dog. I know this. She’s not a big ol’ furry lab or golden retriever, she’s a dainty and easily startled pursedog. She has never, ever shown any aggression towards our boys, and we’ve worked very, very hard to make sure they understand that she is NOT a toy, but an animal who can easily be hurt or scared and must be treated gently.
What we seem to have missed along the way is…well, any nice sort of boy-and-his-dog BOND of any kind. Noah loves dogs — big dogs — but generally sees Ceiba as little more than an annoyance. (She DID steal snacks out of his hands and mouth for YEARS, though, so she’s hardly blameless.) He tries to play with her but I’m usually intervening within five minutes because he’s trying to carry her around or lay on her and she’s protesting and I worry Noah doesn’t know his own strength. Or they do engage in a nice game of chase or tug-of-war but Ceiba’s totally over it after a few minutes and heads off to lie down while Noah still wants to play and doesn’t understand that he can’t MAKE her do anything. Basically, I’m not really getting the sense that either of the boys particularly LIKE our poor little dog and I’m wondering if there’s anything at all we can do to course-correct.
(Our cat, on the other hand, obviously isn’t a big rascally playmate either, but they LOVE him anyway. He regularly submits to being a big furry body pillow for them and occasionally sneaks in bed with them, and this seems to be enough to cement their complete adoration of their kitty cat.)
(Maybe they’re just…cat people?)
Anyway, we’ve tried getting Noah more involved in Ceiba’s care — letting her out in the backyard, holding her leash on walks, “helping” me give her baths — but then I wonder if he’s now just thinking of her as a chore, and if there’s a different approach I should be taking. And I have no idea how to make a DOG engage or play more with children, or if I should just be happy that everybody seems independently happy and nobody’s hurting each other.
Any ideas, Oh Great Internet? Or is ignoring the long-suffering, always-there family pet just a common thing for preschoolers, because new puppies and other people’s dogs are just always going to be more exciting and attractive than what you already have?