Fred: I just want to eat him up!

Fred Is Broken: Tales of a Strange Little Dog (with Video)

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Hi, I’m Dr. Karyn. Read my introduction to learn more about me and my five funny dogs, Poppy, Bailey, Kodah, Ned, and Fred.

This is Fred.

Fred is a little bit broken…or so we often say!

Fred joined our busy household in 2023, when he was almost 4 months old, from a litter related to Ned – they are cousins! From day 1, this adorable duo started doing everything together – eating, sleeping, getting into mischief… But it was clear that, despite his tiny size, Ned was the leader, and Fred was happy to follow. So much so that when all attention focuses on Fred, he seems to go into a state of mild panic, practically turning himself inside-out, seemingly unsure of what to do under the pressure of scrutiny.

In other ways, he is also the braver of the two, fearlessly launching himself onto and off of chairs, tables, and garden beds, where Ned will only venture with the aid of a footstool or step. And despite being the stockier of the pair, he is less possessive of food, and when singled out to be offered a treat, he reverts to his awkward self, making his funny little squeaky sounds and avoiding eye contact.

Seconds later, he is bounding around, tail wagging and playing. One moment he loves the attention, but when it’s just on him, he becomes painfully shy.

His Cheeky Grin and Expressive Ears

I almost forgot the best part! Fred is a smiler!

Fred's Grimace

Have you seen such a smiling dog? I’m not talking about the wide grin of a panting dog, I’m talking about the happy, anxious, lip curled, teeth bared grimace that can often be mistaken for a snarl. It’s something that many dogs, including Fred, will do when they’re feeling a mixture of happiness, excitement, uncertainty, and anxiety.

He also has the most mobile, expressive ears. If Fred is awake, his ears are twice as awake, constantly moving up and down, side to side, seeming to shift from high alert, to content, to excited, to worried, and back to alert, all in the space of about 30 seconds. And this is almost constant. No wonder he sleeps so much!

Those ears!
Those ears!

His Hoarding

Another of Fred’s eccentricities is his toy-hoarding behavior. His absolute favorite toy is his little stuffed donut, which I have needed to repair on a number of occasions. Although we have picked up a few more of these little donuts, the OG is apparently the best.

Fred loves hoarding his donuts, but his first one, the OG, is still his favorite.
Fred loves hoarding his donuts, but his first one, the OG, is still his favorite.

He is also a huge fan of the various flavor-infused chew toys we have accumulated, and I have seen him manage to jump up onto our sofa with two clamped tightly between his tiny little jaws! He’s like a magpie or bowerbird, collecting all these shiny toys and storing them in his bed. If poor Kodah, our German Malinois, dares touch one, he gets a proper telling off, and if Ned decides he’d like to chew on a tasty bone, Fred sits there crying piteously. Never mind that there are five others he could have; apparently he needs them all!

His Cuddle Paralysis

When Fred isn’t turning in awkward somersaults, we are usually greeted with enthusiasm, wagging tail, and excited yelps, as he reaches to be picked up. Once cradled in the safety of our arms, however, he enters paralyzed mode. For some inexplicable reason, picking Fred up turns him into a flaccid lump, unable to make eye contact, move, or eat. When returned to the ground or sofa, he is miraculously reanimated into his strange, happy little self.

He always looks so comfortable!
He always looks so comfortable when sleeping!

His Guilt

Like many Chihuahuas, Fred has been quite difficult to toilet train. This is a new problem for me, as I’ve never had any difficulty getting other dogs to toilet outside. The problem, I believe, is that with larger dogs, you invariably see them try to poop or pee indoors, and can stop them and take them outside straight away. When your dog is smaller than a loaf of bread, you often don’t realize there’s a ‘situation’ until well after the fact, at which point, it’s too late to address it. The result is a dog that gets lots of positive reinforcement for going outside, and a neutral reaction to toileting inside – outside is good, inside is okay.

Over time, Fred has started to pick up on our frustration when we find poop behind the lounge, under our bed, or beside my desk (which, in his defense, is where the cat litter boxes are, so…). Although we don’t shout at him, he has started to make the link between us finding a poop and not being overly happy with him, so whenever he sees us discover an ill-placed nugget, the ears go back, eyes go wide, and he skulks off looking very sorry for himself. Unfortunately, being that ‘guilt’ is a human construct, it does not mean that Fred understands that our annoyance could be prevented by his improved toilet etiquette, it just looks that way.

Fortunately, he is starting to respond better to our cheers and praise when he goes outside (although I’m pretty sure our neighbors think we’re weirdos), and his precious little sad face is one that you can never be mad at for very long!

His Tantrums

A bit of an extension of his plaintive crying when Ned has one of his toys, when Fred doesn’t get his way, out comes his most effective weapon: the tantrum. Digging, crying, yelping, squeaking, rolling, and begging. It is adorable. So obviously, it usually gets him what he wants, often a bite of my food, which in turn reinforces his dramatic performance. And you know what? I don’t mind one bit!

Two things that make Fred happy - Ned and toys.
Two things that make Fred happy – Ned and toys.

Broken, But Perfect

Fred is definitely the strangest little dog I’ve ever known. His social awkwardness, anxious smile, hoarding tendencies, cuddle paralysis, and guilty little face combine to create the weirdest, cutest, and perfect, broken little dog, and we would not change him for the world.

And just when I thought I was finished…he starts licking the walls. Oh dear!

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