In praise of bad dogs

No jumping!

None of my dogs is what most people would consider a good dog.

Out of the driver's seat!
Out of the driver’s seat!

They are unrepentant jumpers. They treat every walk as if it’s the Iditarod. They spend more time on my furniture than I do. They wrestle like hairy, Ritalin-starved adolescent boys re-enacting an episode of Smackdown.

Wyatt squeals like a stuck pig when forced to remain still for longer than five seconds. Miles barks unexpectedly and jarringly at things perceptible only to him. Reese routinely turns what should be a brief jog around the neighborhood into a marathon, alternately halting abruptly to analyze fire hydrants and lunge at passers-by whose lives he apparently believes will not be complete until they have been affectionately mauled by a 75-pound canine.

Off the couch!

As pups, they each had a destructive phase trained not on their ample toys, but on books, DVDs and flannel pajama pants.

People often cross the street to avoid them. Potential relationships have ended after their introduction. A kid at a park one day deemed them “feral.”

Off the counter!

I intended, of course, to train them well. I read the books, took them to classes, practiced drills and tricks at home. But stubborn independence melted into circus seal-like obedience only when a treat was in hand.

So I gave up. I agreed to embrace their rambunctiousness as long as they agreed to not eat children, use the inside of the house as an outhouse or treat furnishings as objects requiring disassembly.

Off the picnic table!

I don’t care that they view being leashed as a tug-of-war match, that I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night pressed to the precipice of my mattress with all three curled up beside me despite strategically placed dog beds, that they delight in terrorizing stray cats and uptight humans, that not caring about these things puts me in a class with the type of people who have “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student” bumper stickers.

Because their joyful unruliness is pure. Because they never try to be anything more than what they are. Because they’re always ready to go …. somewhere, anywhere. Because, at heart, they are good dogs. And even if one of them ate a child, I would probably say the little brat had it coming.

Off the bed!
Off the bed!

5 thoughts on “In praise of bad dogs

Add yours

  1. My mom had a copy of “No Bad Dogs” on the shelf when I was growing up, one that was probably never cracked during my lifetime, so I have no idea what The Woodhouse Way was, but I always assumed that it was a statement of fact: there are no bad dogs, not, at least, as long as they have people who love them.


    1. I have not read that book either–no surprise considering my dogs’ behavior–but Barbara Woodhouse did give us the immortal catchphrase “Walkies!” (further popularized by Wallace and Gromit).


    1. I think it’s just the thrill of the chase. A friend actually has a cat they are terrified of (and rightfully so; Reese has a scar from getting a little too close).


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