little whizzer

It's a lucky thing for puppies that they're so cute. Otherwise, they might all be homeless at a young age.

Let's face it, with the possible exception of your aging, wealthy Aunt Matilda, if anybody else came into your house and persistently peed on your floors, you'd throw them out on their ear.

Cuteness only counts for so much, though. The power of those big eyes only goes so far. After that, your puppy will be relying on your patience and kindness to get him through.

Getting through the first few months with your new puppy is a test of your character. He'll remember the way you treat him, in this most exasperating time, for the rest of his life. Stains on the carpet will fade. Scars on his fragile little heart will last a lot longer.

We were lucky because our puppy was a very fast learner. He was also cuter than most, and that helped too. Still, it wasn't easy

Harry probably wouldn't want me talking about this because it all happened way back when he was just a little puppy. He's all grown up now, and is a serious dog of Much Dignity.

Harry was just a little guy when he came to live with us, though. As such, we had prepared ourselves for a challenging house-training experience.

Harry is a very bright dog, which was a big help. He also had an education. While still with his littermates at the breeder, Harry had graduated from the equivalent of canine kindergarten. He was paper-trained.

Being paper-trained meant that, in theory, Harry was prepared to do his business on newspaper, rather than the floor. We soon learned, however, that theoretical assumptions do not always meet their target in the real world.

One of the basic design aspects of the standard Corgi chassis is that it is proportionately quite long. This has the result, particularly in puppies, that the front end is not always completely in tune with what the back end is doing. This is much the same problem that prompted the railroads to add cabooses to their trains.

Harry, looking down and seeing newspaper under his front end, would naturally assume that he was, pardon the expression, good to go. His caboose, unfortunately, was often on a completely different track than his engine, resulting in a delivery of the payload to an area other than the designated drop zone.

It was hard to blame Harry for his miscalculation, however. It seemed like more of a flaw in our plan, rather than a fault of Harry's behaviour. He meant well, I'm sure.

So we put our heads together to ponder our puppy's problem. Rejecting our initial plan to fit Harry with the kind of rear-view mirrors they put on long trucks, our collective primate intelligence settled on more paper, spread wider, as a reasonable adaptation.

Over the course of about two weeks, Harry drank lots and unleashed a well-aimed torrent on numerous copies of The Age Dispatch. It was perhaps the first time that I was actually glad I work for a newspaper. I brought home a couple of hundred surplus copies of an issue that had a front-page picture I took of Ernie Eves, who was deputy premier at the time.

Harry gave old Ernie a good soaking during the time it took to convince him to do his business outside. (Harry that is, not the deputy premier).

Our training strategy for the ultimate move to the great outdoors was to shower Harry with praise every time he watered the lawn. We clapped and hooted and offered him a treat every time he peed out of doors. Much of our demonstrated joy was quite genuine, having bagged up way too many wet newspapers and mopped the floor a a few too many times.

The result of our enthusiastic reward system was that Harry came to expect the treats and every time he successfully answered nature's call, he would come waddling over to us like a trained seal looking for a mackerel. Almost three years later, he's probably still expecting a reward.

The important result, though, is that Harry did learn, thankfully quite quickly. We were very proud of him the first time he made it through an entire day without any indoor activity.

Harry is all grown up now, and ponders much larger issues than where to pee, but I'll always remember that awkward little puppy and how hard he tried to please us.

Next, we moved on to the chewing issue.