Originally posted April 26, 2014




Lately with all the puppy stuff happening at Dogs in the Park, I have been thinking a lot about being a super hero for your puppy.  One of the most important jobs we have as families who live with dogs is to advocate on behalf of our dogs when things don’t go the way we think they should.  Imagine for a moment that someone came into your home and kicked your puppy.  What would you do?


Puppy Super Hero to the rescue….carry the very tired puppy on the trail!


In this rather unlikely scenario you would probably dismiss your guest from your home and not talk to them anymore.  Kicking your puppy is for most of us a non negotiable deal breaker for a whole lot of reasons.  First and foremost, your puppy won’t like it.  Secondly it shows a disregard for the socially common value of protecting the weak and vulnerable.  Thirdly it is disrespectful of you and your family.  We don’t tolerate these things in people in our homes or even on the street.

An interesting situation often occurs when you are training your dog.  When you are training your dog, you come to the table with certain values.  When you train with me, I share those values with you.  Not unlike when you are pregnant, everyone and his brother, along with the plumber and the waitress who served you lunch has an opinion about what you are doing with your dog.  I have personally experienced a situation where an airline stewardess, thinking she was helping grabbed my leash and yanked on my dog’s neck.  Not nice!  What should you do?  What I did was probably not the best choice-I yelled at the stewardess.

I am my dog’s advocate.  He cannot speak for himself.  I want my dog to think I am a super hero able to produce treats and games in a single bound.  I want my dog to know that I will protect him from harm.  When your dog knows you have his back, when he knows that you won’t willingly allow bad stuff to happen to him, then when bad stuff does happen, he will turn to you for assistance.  When you are a puppy super hero, your dog will be on your team.

Being a super hero is a lot of work.  You have to know a lot about dogs in general but also your dog in particular.  If you know that your dog is afraid of large men wearing long coats, then you need to make sure that large men wearing long coats don’t interfere with your dog.  You also have a duty to help your dog to learn that large men in long coats are not in general frightening.  You have to understand dog body language well enough to recognize when you are approaching threshold not only with your dog, but with any dog.

Sometimes being a Puppy Super Hero is a little bit like being one of the super heroes in the movie “The Incredibles”.  Everyone of us has our strengths and weaknesses.  If you are like Elastigirl, you might be able to reach out suddenly and catch the hand of the person who is going to grab your dog.  Or if you are like Dash, you might be able to run really quickly and get between your dog and the oncoming dangerous dog or person.  You might be like Frozone, cooling down the hottest of tempers.  Often we feel like Violet, uncertain of ourselves and our abilities to keep our dogs safe.

The best of the super heroes are less like the cartoons though and more like the alter egos of the super heros.  If you are really going to be your puppy’s Super Hero, you need to think ahead about things.  Will taking your ten pound Min Pin to the local dog park be a good idea?  Likely not.  Is it fair?  Not really, but then again, it is pretty unfair to put that Miniature Pinscher into a situation where he could get hurt by a larger dog or by any of the natural predators that you would encounter out and about.


Is it a good idea to place your baby on your Mastiff’s back and take a picture?  Again, probably not.  If you are going to be a Puppy Super Hero, you need to think about what might go wrong.  Recently I have been seeing dozens of pictures of babies posed with dogs, and none of them really look safe to me.  If you want to pose your dog with your baby, you need to take great care that neither your dog nor your baby is going to get hurt and laying your baby on a big dog or a tiny dog on a baby is just not a particularly good idea.  As a Puppy Super Hero, I had to acknowledge the cute factor while being aware of the risks and the dangers.

As a Puppy Super Hero, I have to always look at the dangers that lie hidden and take care to avoid any un-necessary risks.  I need to do this while I avoid putting my dog in a china cabinet, and prevent him from doing everything he loves.  I have to provide interesting and exciting activities while being aware of what risks I can control and avoid.

As a Puppy Super Hero, I have to also be aware of the other dogs and people around me.  I have to be aware that if I have a predatory German Shepherd, he may not get hurt at the dog park, but he may cause a great deal of harm to others.  Putting the ten pound Min Pin into the dog park with a predatory German Shepherd really causes me to scratch my head about both parties; why did the Min Pin’s owner think this would be a good idea?  Why did the German Shepherd’s owner think this was a good idea?  When everything goes well, problems don’t occur, but when it all falls apart, why should either party carry all of the blame?  If both these dogs are brought to the dog park, neither owner is being a Puppy Super Hero.  Ultimately, we all have to be super heroes in our community by making good choices both for our dogs and for the others around us.


When I was a very young girl, my uncle, who I loved very much took me out with him to the yacht club where he kept his boat.  It was an exciting trip and I got to go with him all by myself without my mother; something very special that only the big kids were permitted to do.  I remember being both very excited about being away from my mother, but also very apprehensive because I had never done this before.  I think a lot of our dogs feel this way in new situations.  My uncle took me into the club house and went to the counter and got us two drinks.  I was always a really observant kid and I noticed that he did not pay the man who served us.  We sat down and I remember clearly being really uncertain.  After several minutes, my uncle asked me if I was going to drink my drink.  I remember not being able to make eye contact with him.  I told him I couldn’t.  I was devastated.  I had watched him take the drinks from the counter, but he DIDN’T PAY.  I knew that when you went to a lunch counter or a take away window, you had to pay and if you didn’t it was stealing and stealing was bad.  My uncle must have had a moment of insight though, because I remember him asking me if I was worried that he hadn’t paid.  When I looked up and said yes, he looked over at the window and asked the man behind the counter what we should do.  The man behind the counter must also have had a real understanding of children because he looked right at me and said “It’s okay.  You enjoy that soda.  Your uncle will pay me tomorrow when he pays for everything he ate this week.  We do this all the time.”  Super Heroes.  People who noticed that a little girl was frightened about something normal, were my heroes then.

I challenge you dear reader to become a Puppy Super Hero.  Look at the world not through the lens of your own interpretation of the world but with the broader view that you need to take as a member of a responsible community.  By asking first if your dog is comfortable in the situation, and next if he is really safe, and finally if he puts others at risk by participating in an activity an awful lot of dog and human problems can be avoided.


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