Before we brought Sawyer home, I thought my fiancé Jerrica and I were prepared. We watched instructive videos, read how-to articles, and asked everyone for advice. We felt over-prepared even, ready to eliminate the smallest unwanted behavior before it had a chance to take root. Besides, we already had one dog – Cooper, our Yorkshire terrier – and he turned out great. We scoffed at our neighbors as they were dragged around by dogs on leash. We wondered how they could allow their pets to howl so incessantly. “Not Sawyer,” we said.
Since then, we’ve learned that a hunting breed puppy – which will someday become a highly functioning, rigorously trained asset – is still just a puppy.
This is a list of problems we were prepared to deal with:
- Whining through the night, rendering sleep all but impossible.
- Digging, chewing, and scratching.
- Failure to follow commands due to high energy and over excitement.
We’ve actually had very little trouble with these. This, however, is a list of problems we do have, that we did not expect – perhaps you will notice a theme:
- Sawyer playing too roughly with Cooper.
- Sawyer attacking so regularly that Cooper has to sneak around the house.
- Sawyer hunting Cooper.
I’m not using the word “hunting” liberally, there. Sawyer will stalk, point, and pounce on Cooper, just as he’s supposed to do with birds. If Cooper was bigger – he’s less than a foot tall at the shoulders, and weighs thirteen pounds – this would probably be hilarious. As it is, it might be a health risk.
Sometimes Sawyer will want to play, but Cooper won’t. Sawyer will usually flail about the room for a while – he’s fond of jumping for no reason and tripping over his too-long legs – but eventually he’ll get bored. Then he’ll spot Cooper, lying peaceably on the carpet, and Sawyer’s whole demeanor will shift.
Sawyer lowers his body and seems to tense every muscle. He creeps closer, eyes trained on his prey. He pauses before the strike.
It’s important to note that Cooper sees all this happening. Though Sawyer may be instinctual, he is no master of stealth. Cooper watches his doom approach, growling a low warning, but Sawyer ignores the sound.
Sawyer pounces, and the fight erupts in a din of snarls and yips.
Cooper has two real defenses at his disposal: speed and altitude. If he’s lucky enough to escape before being pinned, Cooper will dart away. He runs low and fast, and the sound of his paws on the carpet is low thrum. He’ll put as much distance as possible between him and his attacker, sometimes making a few laps around the coffee table, then he’ll leap onto the couch and perch along the backs of the cushions.
However, if he doesn’t flee in time, Sawyer can usually get a few solid bites in before Jerrica or I can step in. One of Sawyer’s favorite moves is to latch onto Cooper’s ear, then shake his head as if trying to tear the ear off.
Eventually, we’ll break the fight up, usually returning Sawyer to the back room, which he’s allowed to have free reign of. But the next incident is, at most, a few hours away. They’re never a real problem, but they are trying in a way I was not prepared for.