a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Mar, 2012

We should have called her Snowy

Posted by andrea tomkins in: dog stuff

We have passed our two year anniversary of dog ownership. We brought Piper home over March Break in 2010. I can’t believe we’ve had her that long already. She has made herself quite at home.

Piper is snoozing

Piper makes me happy – incredibly happy – and every day I am thankful that she has come into our lives.

I have been thinking about the things I think we’ve done right as new dog owners, as well as the things we’ve done wrong. Let’s start with the “right”:

  • Although I used to roll my eyes at the thought of crate training, we did some research and realized it was the best thing for a new puppy. Not only did it teach her to sleep through the night, but I also think it sped up the housebreaking process. Today we have a dog that almost always sleeps in longer than we do.
  • We chose “positive reinforcement” over punishment when it came to training her. We went through loads of cookies in those first few months. There were small dog cookies sprinkled in her crate, I gave cookies out to the kids at school so she wouldn’t be afraid of them, I had cookies in every single coat pocket for every single kind of reward I could think of. Today, she’s not afraid of people, dogs of all sizes, and she loves little kids. I think it was because of all those cookies!
  • Speaking of cookies, we even put them in the bathtub. We taught her to not fear the tub very gradually over time. First, the girls sat in the tub (fully dressed without water), and I let them hold Piper and feed her cookies. Then we put Piper in a dry tub alone, with cookies. Then we put in a bit of water (more cookies), then we gave her a short bath (more cookies). She doesn’t love getting the bath, but she doesn’t turn ever tail and run either. (Or jump out of the tub before we’re done.)
  • We taught her some basic commands: sit, stay, come. She also knows how to do a dance (stand up on her hind legs and turn around in a circle), sit up (beg), shake a paw, play dead, roll over, and show us her tummy. She kills me with cuteness every day.
  • I recently trained her to let me clip her nails (!). I think I need to write this up in separate post because I am still amazed that I was able to pull this off. And yes, there were cookies.
  • We buy good quality dry dog food which I supplement by a few tablespoons of homemade “wet” dog food every night. She eats really well!
  • We taught Piper to ring a bell if she wants to be let out (no scratching at the door)!

Now, here’s what I think we did wrong:

  • We took the car through the car wash while she was in the car with us. She freaked out, and she hasn’t enjoyed being in the car ever since (no matter how many cookies are in it for her).
  • Not trusted our gut when something was wrong. She had a big itchy spell last summer, and we waited too long to take her to the vet’s thinking it would pass with different shampoo. Turns out she has a ragweed allergy. Sigh.
  • Jumped to scary conclusions when something small when wrong. Remember this? Turned out to be pretty much nothing.

It’s hard being a doggy parent sometimes, isn’t it? And how much of the “bad” behaviour is your fault? How much of it is genetic? We’ve never been able to overcome Piper’s stubborn streak, something that her breed is famous for. I’m not sure if it’s the terrier in her, or a shortfall in her training. For example, she almost always comes when she’s called, except when she’s having too much fun. Watch this short video to get an idea of what she can be like (I shot it before our BIG MELT):

What about you? What have you done “wrong” with your dog? What have you done right?

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14 Responses to "We should have called her Snowy"

1 | Kaitlin

March 20th, 2012 at 8:16 am


I’ve heard that most terriers don’t have good recall, especially if they’re having fun. So, you can probably chalk that up to genetics. I’m curious what the homemade wet dog food is that you’re giving her. I’m always looking for a little something to put in Jayne’s Kongs.

2 | andrea

March 20th, 2012 at 8:21 am


Terriers have one track minds. Totally. We are told that she’ll get “better” with age. We’ll see. :)

We feed Piper a whitefish variety of Fromm’s dry food and top it with our homemade stuff for a bit of variety. I can’t stand the smell of canned dog food (and who knows what goes into it) so I just make my own. I wouldn’t put it in a Kong though. The “wet” portion of her dinner usually one of two things:

– lean ground beef or chicken with a can of peas and diced carrots thrown in
– cut up boiled chicken hearts, maybe with a bit of grated carrot. (Admittedly, cooking this doesn’t smell much better than canned, but at least I know what’s in it).

Sometimes I just give her a bit of chicken, or maybe a bit of fish if that’s what we had for supper. Nothing fatty or saucy though…

3 | andrea

March 20th, 2012 at 8:22 am


I should add that I make a big batch ahead of time and freeze it in small plastic containers. Works great. (Sometimes I add a tiny bit of rice too!)

4 | Harry Nowell

March 20th, 2012 at 8:51 am


LOVE this piece.
I’ve had two fun furry friends in my life in the last 20 years and I did many of the things you tried – with great results. I often say “Invest well in the first year and you will have many years of dog happiness.” Persistence, consistency and positive reinforcements go a long way and make for a lovely relationship.

5 | Ruthie

March 20th, 2012 at 9:31 am


I came here from Pawsh and I loved your post and video of Piper. Our first family dog was a mix of fox terrier and he was very sweet but extremely stubborn. We did many things wrong and spoiled him too much. Now I have a mini dachshund and it’s a different story. I spoil him but I have also taught him commands and many other good things. I know that dachshunds can also be stubborn but mine isn’t, he’s very affectionate and good with other dogs. Cookies are a great treat and it made me smile to read you use them so much for training, I do too! :-)

6 | Javamom

March 20th, 2012 at 10:07 am


So nice to read about dog lovers who do things right! We have a lot of experience with dog training (ours was adopted at 18 months and within two weeks had, and continued to have, severe emotional issues). We are now dogless save our part-time pup Molly, but the dog training experience is inbred in us now.

Question: when you use commands on Piper, do you also combine the command with sign language? This is something I found immensely handy, especially later when poor Rusty (he died of cancer a couple of years ago) was older and stiffer. I would be in mid sentence and see him out of the corner of my eye trying to go someplace I didn’t need him to go to and all it took was a sign (sit, or stay, or lie down) and he saw me, and obeyed. This took practice and patience but I will do this again when we go back to raising another dog some day.

Have you heard of doggy sign language?

7 | Finola

March 20th, 2012 at 11:55 am


We don’t have any pets because we are allergic to EVERYTHING (yes, even hypo-allergenic dogs), but I so appreciate a well-trained dog. It sounds like you have done a wonderful job with Piper. Nice!

8 | Mary V.

March 20th, 2012 at 12:31 pm


As a parent considering getting a pooch, this is a great read. And, is it just me, or are a lot of the good tips for being the parent of a four-legged friend similar to those for nurturing two-legged friends? Positive reinforcement, teaching them basic rules, the importance of sleeping through the night, etc. Oh, and beware the carwash with unsuspecting small children or dogs, as it turns out!

9 | andrea

March 20th, 2012 at 1:49 pm


haha! So true Mary!

10 | Mark

March 20th, 2012 at 2:09 pm


One thing I can add if you are considering getting a dog is to make sure your children are also aware of what they are getting into. We made our girls sign a contract agreeing to share in the daily care :) I think they were the perfect age to assume this responsibility (at the time 10 and 8).

11 | Anne Rodrigues

March 20th, 2012 at 3:05 pm


Just wondered if you have any good tips for cutting a dog’s nails? I have a 5 year old schnauzer/beagle mix and she absolutely hates when we cut her nails. She now has taken to putting her mouth around my hand, not biting, but giving me a warning. Soon, I’m afraid she will bite. We’ve tried treats, we’ve tried my daughter cuddling her while I cut her nails but it just seems to be getting worse and worse.

12 | andrea

March 20th, 2012 at 3:44 pm


Good point Mark! We did wait awhile to get a dog. The girls have been great helpers.

Anne – I do have tips! I am planning to post a video because it’d be too lengthy to explain.

13 | Sara

March 21st, 2012 at 8:05 am


Great post! I love the ringing the bell trick, plz include that in your next doggy post :)

I have a pug named Roxy and her bff is my parent’s Western Terrier. They are hilarious together because they are such opposite breeds! We are thinking of getting another pug (a black one!) and the one thing I would do differently is to show them that bigger dogs are just as friendly. Roxy goes CRAZY whenever a larger dog walks by, and I mean crazy! I can’t seem to get her even close to one to show her it’s okay because she just freaks out.

The one thing we did right was change her diet when she was 2 years old. She was starting to itch a lot and her ears were always red. We went from IAMS (the cheap stuff) to Holistic Select (salmon), and all her problems went away in about a month. All of them! It was amazing what a simple change in diet did for Roxy, even her fur is so shiny and smooth. It’s a bit pricy, but definitely worth it!

14 | pet50956@gmail.com

March 26th, 2012 at 1:47 pm


Great information there, I have always wondered the right way to go about this, thanks for showing me!
Some of them points are really straight forward but all too often you will over look them……..

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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