Nancy Roman

Status: In A Relationship

On December 1, I wrote about my pressing need for Patience.

The cause of my patience deficit was, of course, my puppy.

Theo and I had not had a good week. His emerging leash skills had retreated back into the weird cave he seemed to share with Satan. He nipped constantly at the backs of my knees, and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand the fascination with that part of my anatomy. Neither could I fathom his desire to gnaw on my hands, as I had spent a considerable fortune on seven kinds of squeaky and smelly chew toys. He’s gotten bigger, and so has his barking – louder and shriller. And after he had finally seemed reliable on the peepee front, he had suddenly regressed to an attitude of “I think I will pee wherever I happen to be no matter where I am or how small the urge.”

My husband and I tagged-teamed the dog. When I was at my breaking point, he would take over. “Calm” is not a word that I would use to describe my husband, but somehow he found some measure of calmness when I was completely on the edge of berserk. But still, twice that week, I sat down and had a good cry.

Why had I not been satisfied with cats? Even with the smallest kitten – you just show him the litter box and you are done. Training complete.

And they are quiet.

Last week, we went to our fourth puppy kindergarten class. Theo is the oldest, biggest guy there (at five months and 25 lbs) but he is hardly the star pupil. But the teacher has been training dogs for 27 years. She’s a little better at it than I am.

So instead of my usual overt show of cheery optimism – (no matter how I really feel, I always have an enthusiastic “Great!” when anyone asks me how things are going in any aspect of my life) – I confessed to the trainer that I was terribly discouraged.

We stayed after the group class, and the trainer watched me walk around the yard with Theo. He started out great (the little liar) but soon reverted to pulling at the leash, nipping at the backs of my knees, and barking.

And the trainer said,”You don’t have a behavior problem. You have a relationship problem.”

Yes, it seems that Theo and I are not communicating. He wasn’t really Satan. He was a little boy who couldn’t understand what he was supposed to do. So he was confused and frustrated. And making me anxious and angry. “Walk faster and talk slower,” she advised. “And Theo doesn’t want to play rough and tumble with you – he wants that from your husband. He wants gentle hugs from you.”

She showed me (again) how to walk with him. How to soften my voice and use simpler language. What behavior I shouldn’t tolerate, and what I shouldn’t fret about. What touch Theo liked. What he didn’t.

I felt bit better.

We got home and hugged. And played Fetch. Which is boring, but Theo seems to like it – and he does look awfully cute trotting back with a slobbery ball.

We discussed it. Theo and I. I said, “We have a relationship.” He put his nose in my crotch.

And this week, he walked a little better on the leash. Not perfect, but when he even came close to adequate, I lavished my praise.

“We are in a relationship,” I reminded him.

He slept late several mornings this week. I got a little more sleep.

And last night!

I was Christmas shopping online. My husband was playing a game on his cell phone. And Theo was chewing away on a bison bone. (We have a bison farm nearby. Yeah, in Connecticut.)

We weren’t paying much attention to Theo. He was quiet. Which we love.

And I suddenly realized that he had wandered away. I heard him in the kitchen. I was just about to call him (okay, yell at him), when he came prancing back. In his mouth was his leash. He dropped it at my feet.

I was amazed. I clipped on his leash, put on my coat, and took him out. He peed. He pooped. He wagged his tail.


He knows.



I feel a little like Annie Sullivan.






  1. Deb

    Thank you, and Theo, for making an enormous grin spread across my face. Just what I needed.


    • Theo makes me smile too – except for the times I want to strangle him.


  2. Hety

    Hi Nancy – Good job! The first one is the best. If nobody told you, Theo probably started peeing wherever at 4/5 months because that’s a major teething time for pups. Their little mouths hurt so much they forget about potty training and …whoops! I didn’t know either with my first and could mark the calendar with the rest.


    • The gnawing on your hand could also be because he’s teething.


    • That could be – he had been SO good, and then all of a sudden we felt like we were starting over with him again. All his perm teeth are in now, I think… maybe he’ll recover his pee and poop memory.


  3. Your trainer sounds brilliant. Those I came across here in the UK were only in it for the money, the classes were too big, they wanted the dogs to do tricks and so ours got bored and played up.
    We did everything ourselves this time, and potty training with Maggie was every half an hour whether she wanted to go out or not. When she performed, it was praise and treats. She soon got the idea. Hubby did all the off lead training and her recall is 99%. I was told by a dog psychologist that for recall to work, a dog has to want to be with you, so building up a relationship is important in the early days. We’ve been really lucky with Maggie though. If she’s feeling unwell she’ll come to me for sympathy and hugs, but if she’s uncertain or frightened, she goes to Hubby.
    Sounds like Theo is responding well by bringing you his lead. Maggie herds us to the door!


    • Similar situation here…Theo comes to me for cuddles, but he goes and stands behind my husband for every scary little thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love it! I am so happy for you, that’s every dog-owner’s dream. Yay, Theo!


    • Theo’s trying. We’re trying. I’m just worried that he is way smarter than us.


  5. RE: “She showed me (again) how to walk with him. How to soften my voice and use simpler language. What behavior I shouldn’t tolerate, and what I shouldn’t fret about. What touch [he] liked. What he didn’t.” Does this approach work with husbands, too? Maybe I’ll try it this weekend. 🙂 Congrats on smoothing out your relationship issues with Theo!


    • I have been trying it with my husband – but he appears to be hopeless.


      • Hopefully he doesn’t nip at the back of your knees when you go for a walk, though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. When we live with our dog family members I often wonder who is training whom… 😜
    Theo is such a cutie and I’m glad you and he are reaching an understanding in your relationship – a good feeling, right? Is he still growing or is 25 pounds it for him? I often think about having another dog in my life but then I realize I’m still too selfish right now to do that, so I’m holding off – maybe one day I’ll be ready again for that constant companionship. If so I’ll let you know and will think of you and Theo when I’m in the middle of the new relationship. Thanks for sharing with us!


    • He’ll get to be 35 lbs or so. He’s a bit on the big side now, so he might be a bit bigger than 35 lbs full grown. My husband is hoping so. He wanted a BIG dog. I wanted a dog I could pick up. This is our compromise.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yeah! Theo! It’s wonderful when a relationship moves to the next level. 😉


  8. Good boy Theo! Good girl Nancy! Your trainer sounds like a gem.


    • She’s amazing. And it is amazing the way Theo (and the other dogs) respond to her. It’s like Theo is a different dog – a GOOD one. I don’t think she really believes me when I tell her that he is a little monster.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ray G

    Ever watch Cesar Milan on TV? His “technique” with dogs (strange or familiar ones) seems amazing, being both subtle and authoritative.


    • I haven’t seen him. But now I think I can relate.


  10. Aw….such a sweet post! Sounds like you and Theo are going to have a wonderful relationship!


    • We have our ups and downs, but we’re working on it!


  11. Hahahaha! You are on your way to being a “dog person!” Theo will have you trained in no time. 🙂 And he’s adorable by the way. Thank you for providing a great big smile with this post and I know, without a doubt, your relationship with Theo will turn into real love. 🙂


  12. I’m going through the same situation with the puppy we recently rescued. I literally had to go through the same transition. Now, I am the only one that he will walk calmly on a leash with and even sit down and relax for. Sadly, my dog has a foot fetish and my toes are never safe. LOL! This story was awesome.


    • Theo walks better with my husband, but plays better with me. Take care of those toes!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Yay! Congratulations on yours and Theo’s ‘new’ relationship status.


  14. That dog is so cute! How interesting that Theo needs hugs from you but can be rough with your husband. He must see you as a mother figure!


  15. I just discovered your blog a couple of days ago and am reading through it during my lunch break. First of all, I really love your writing style and your stories (I already shared one of them on FB). At any rate – we adopted a German Shephard/Chow Chow mix a few years ago, and for the first couple of weeks I was constantly trying to show her who’s boss. And then I read one of the Dog Whisperer’s books, and I calmed down. I remember sitting down next to her and putting my arm around her shoulders like she was a person, and just talking to her. Same way you did to Theo. I told her I realized she wasn’t the one with the problem, I was, and that I was working hard to “train myself” to be a good leader for her. She seemed to listen, and everything was wonderful after that. She passed away a few months ago and we miss her so much. She taught me more about being a dog parent than any of my previous pets had been able to do.


    • Thanks! I’m glad you found me and are enjoying my blog. It’s been almost 2 months since I wrote this post, and Theo is doing SO much better! He’s becoming quite a little delight. I haven’t read the Dog Whisperer books, but I think I will put them on my list!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: