Where do dogs get their personalities? I have been curious about this lately.
Four years ago my lovely and talented wife Alison and I were having dinner with two other couples at the Olive Garden. I love the breadsticks. But these two couples talked about their dogs and what they liked and didn’t like, what the dogs watched on TV, how they behaved and misbehaved, etc. etc. Honestly, it all sounded kind of silly to me to have adults talking like this – like your dog really knows what television show it’s watching? Seriously? They sounded like children talking about their latest toys. I was embarrassed for them, honestly.
Then we got a silver Labrador retriever three years ago and named him Russ. And we got a Maltese last November. And now, guess what? I have become the very people I mocked four years ago over lasagna and salad. I guess I should be embarrassed for me.
Before we bought this Maltese, I had no experience with this breed of dogs. I had only seen them on some of these dog shows on ESPN where they let their hair grow long such that they look like a dog version of Father Time. I don’t care for that look, personally. But this Maltese has more “personality” that many people I know. We named him Champ. We named him that because of his diminutive size, hoping to boost his self-esteem since he will be hanging out with a 75 lb. Lab. (See there? That is what I am talking about. I am ascribing “self-esteem” to a canine.)
Champ weighs maybe six pounds with very fine snow white hair that almost feels like cotton. Maltese do not shed and are non-allergenic.
Champ also has some idiosyncrasies. Dogs have them too. To be such a small, incredibly cute dog he sees himself as a defender of our property. From kids riding their bikes in front of the house to the UPS man delivering a package across the street Champ pulls against the leash like an Alaskan Huskie barking loudly as if to say, “Hey, look at me, I’m over here. You got to come through me if you come in this yard.” He has no fear of other dogs much larger than him. When Champ and Russ are out at the same time Champ jumps in front of Russ’s head, and on his head and body, over and over and over clamoring for his attention. I am not sure if we have “little brother” syndrome going here or what. Like most Labs, Russ is friendly and lets Champ harass the dog out of him for a few minutes before he gently puts his mouth on him as if to say, “Dude, it’s time to stop.”
When he eats he puts his face in the bowl, takes his food, steps back a couple of steps and then chomps down, swallows and repeats. He eats from the middle until such time as he sees his reflection in the bottom of the stainless steel bowl. Then he looks up at me and barks. Then you have to refill the middle. Then he continues eating. It’s funny. What makes a dog behave this way? He hears a doorbell ring on a TV show; he thinks it’s ours so he starts defending the home again by barking loudly. So I tell him, “It’s only on the TV Champ, calm down.” And I say this seriously, as if the dog can understand the difference between a TV show and real door-bell. Which begs the question: Who is really the fool here? A dog barking at a doorbell on television, or his owner who expects him to understand his explanation?
TIM WILDMON is a Lee County resident. He is president of the American Family Association, but the column represents his personal opinion unless otherwise noted. Contact him at email@example.com