Week 1


The journey from smart, adorable puppy to well-trained adult family member

On June 28, 2018, my husband, son and I picked up Theo, a black-and-white spotted Shepadoodle (German Shepherd/Poodle mix) and brought him into our home. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Think again. You see, we already have 3 dogs, all females. Bringing in a rambunctious little guy would not be easy.

One of our girls is a 15-year-old Irish Setter named Cassie, the grand dame of all the girls. She is beautiful – red, long, slender and graceful. We adopted her when she was about a year old, and almost immediately, she assumed her role as the dominant dog in our home. At the time, we also had a Pit Bull/Labrador mix named Chester. He was the most affectionate, loving, goofy, sweet dog we have ever had. Sadly, we lost him a year ago, at age 14. I still miss him.

About 6 years ago, we adopted a beautiful female long-hair Chihuahua, and we named her Cosette (think Les Miserables). As you might expect, she is a prissy, bossy girl who thinks she rules the roost. We let her think that, so everyone’s happy.

And then about 3 years ago, we happily adopted our daughter’s Goldendoodle, Raleigh. She too is gorgeous – a buff-colored, curly, quirky, smart girl. We love her, too.

Now Raleigh and Cassie weigh about 75 lbs each. Cosette weighs about 6 lbs. They have been together as a “pack” for 3 years. They’re comfortable with each other, and with us. They know their home and their family. Each of them is very well socialized and even pretty well traveled. Things were going along swimmingly here in our household. We had our routine. It was all very comfortable.

And then came Theo.

Theo is absolutely adorable. This “designer” breed, the German Shepherd/Poodle mix, was actually developed by the US Military back in the 1960s. By combining the smart, loyal, protective qualities of the German Shepherd and the bright, amiable characteristics of the Poodle, the Shepadoodle is a clever, easily-trained, eager-to-please, highly active dog who is also gentle and friendly (if socialized early and well). They make wonderful family dogs, as long as the owner knows what he/she is in for. As long as the Shepadoodle is well exercised and allowed to enjoy time inside with his family, he is an ideal family dog.

Of course there are several issues here. One, how am I going to l keep my old girls from making his life miserable (they do not tolerate 8-week-old shenanigans well)? How am I going to keep him from making their lives miserable? I know that, given time, they will all figure out their places and get along well. Peace will be restored. But it will take time to get there. I’m not sure my nerves can take it.

Another issue is this: I know that the really smart dogs can also be the most difficult, if they are not trained properly. It’s been explained to me that they have to know that you are in control, that you’ve “got it,” so that they can relax and let you lead. I love dogs, and I know that this is where I need some work. I tend to baby them, to treat them like children rather than dogs, and that’s where the training thing breaks down in this household. I am the proverbial weak link.

I’m going to try to “break the cycle” with Theo. I’m already crazy in love with him, so I’m going to have to cool it with the baby talk. I will work on consistency and age-appropriate training. And I will be sure that he gets the exercise he needs (thereby giving me the exercise I need) to be a happy, well-adjusted dog.

Please be sure to visit this blog, THEO.LOGY, weekly to see how we’re doing, to share your own photos and stories of your journey with your dog(s), and maybe even give me some tips on how to succeed.

Carole Townsend is an author, journalist, and columnist living in metropolitan Atlanta. She and her husband have been married for nearly 20 years, and during that time, they have raised their children and now delight in doting on their granddaughter. Through those 20 years, they have brought 6 dogs into their home and family, and they have loved every one of them well and thoroughly. When she’s not writing, gardening, cooking, or training Theo, Carole travels throughout the southeastern United States, talking to women’s and civic groups about being a woman, loving a family, and writing. Visit her at www.caroletownsend.com, Carole Townsend – Author (Facebook), @caroletownsend (Twitter), and @carole.w.riter (Instagram).