I like to think I take the usual precautions when out with the dogs such as walking during daylight hours, always on the lookout for glass and other debris, avoiding busy streets and not talking on the phone. Taking a walk through my neighborhood with the dogs should be a fun and rewarding experience and not potentially hazardous.
Somewhere along the route, without warning, when we least expect it, with no where to run, we are confronted by the “Fluffies Gone Wild”. Yikes! They are always in groups of two or three with one or maybe, two handlers. These little dogs are allowed to fly out to the ends of their leashes while barking and growling. Their owners will usually give me the look. I could be wrong but my interpretation of that look says; “There must be something wrong with you and your dogs” and then (are you ready…) “Because my dogs never did that before.”
At that point, my dogs are looking up at me wondering “What’s up with that? We didn’t do anything. Didn’t start it. Swear. Pinky swear!” The Greyhound doesn’t have much patience for this rude doggie behavior and I’m sure she would like to retrieve one or two of them but figures I will not be too keen on the idea. On the other hand, what if someone walking a Greyhound, (not me of, course) as an innocent joke, shouts “Heeeeeeere’s Barney”! right when the Fluffies were charging. (That’s the general announcement at the beginning of the race.) Now you will see a couch potato go from mozy to 40mph before you can say “Holy Hounds”.
Many of these Fluffies have been given names such as Sugar, Muffin, Sneazy and Squeak. Within the pack they are known as Slugger, Stud, He Who Runs in Circles and Mr. Barks Alot. These little guys have some serious issues and instead of dragging their people through the park, they ought to be attending a local PUPS Anonymous meeting *(Pups under Pointless Stress) to address this anger management. *(Made that up; doesn’t exist.)
LITTLE GUARD DOGS ON AUTO-PILOT
About 90% of owners interviewed say they believe (or like to believe?) their dog is “protecting” them when they act aggressively towards people and other dogs. Hate to be the bearer of bad news here but your dog could care less about you during these frenzied moments. Trained protection dogs are given a command for the start and stop of the action. These Fluffies are making their own decision. Common sense is not being applied here. Does smaller dog mean smaller lawsuit? A small dog is just a big dog in a tiny package.
When asked why this behavior is tolerated, many small dog owners will simply answer “because they’re small and easier to control.” Their definition of “control” was quite varied. This is where the trouble starts. These little guys are ruling the roost and getting away with marking all over the house in-between jumping and humping. Leaving little tootsie rolls under the couch and pretending to be a fussy eaters to ensure there are at least 25 different bags of dog food in the pantry at any given time. (They have no intention of eating any of this food. Why should they when there’s toast, cookies and bologna available?) They will act as though they will not get a good night’s sleep unless they sleep in your bed, howl and whine in their crate because they were meant to be a free spirit, and so on.
So how do we control this? Having the “talk” with them hasn’t worked so far; therefore, no reason to waste time on that. You know what I’m referring to; we’ve all done it. It starts with bending over and getting right in their face while petting them the entire time. “Now, Sneazy, be nice. Be quiet, Sneazy. It’s ok, Sneazy, it’s ok. Why do you act like this, Sneazy? Sneazy, that looks like a nice dog. He didn’t do anything to you. Bad boy,Sneazy. Do you want a cookie? Sneazy, you are so crabby today. Sneazy, you’re not listening. Sneazy, no growl! Now be a good boy, Sneazy. I’m not going to bring you to the park anymore, Sneazy. What am I going to do with you? I mean it, so unless you stop barking, no more ‘Sneazy go park’. No more ‘baby go bye bye’ for a very long time. Now look what you did. Sneazers, you’re coughing. It happens every time you pull on the leash, Sneazy. Why can’t you walk on the leash like a good little boy. Maybe we should go over there and make ‘nice, nice’ with that pretty dog. I think that dog is smiling at you. He wants to be friends. Dammit, Sneazy, shut up!”
That’s the “talk” I’m referring to.
This is what Sneazy actually heard…”Blah, blah, blah, Sneazy. Sneazy, blah blah! Sneazy!! Blah!! Blah, blah, blah, blah, Sneazy! Blah! Blah, blah, blah, dammit Sneazy! Sneazy, go bye bye? Nice, boy. Blaaaaaah! Cookie? Good boy, Sneazy. It’s ok, Sneazy, it’s ok. (Here we’re telling Sneazy it’s ok to act that way…) Blaaaaah!” Dammit? Sneazy, ok, good boy.” Lots of mixed signals going on there.
If you try to pick him up, he will probably snap at you or bite. The more upset you become, the more he’s restrained on a tight leash and the more you say “it’s ok” just adds fuel to the fire.
These little guys require more exercise besides pulling, lunging and growling. While I agree these activities may work some major muscle groups, it really doesn’t count. How about throwing the ball or tossing the Frisbee? Then, take them on a walk since being just a bit tired might make them better behaved. When out walking, they don’t need to visit every tree and kick up the grass and dirt after every little squirt. These little things start to add up after a while (in their favor) so start making some gradual changes.
They need mental exercise, as well. While we can only dream of them enjoying a good book on a rainy afternoon or the occasional crossword puzzle in the morning; we can offer them a “treat ball”. These interactive toys involve some work on their part in finding the goodies before they can eat them. Some are happy just to chase the light from a flashlight or the reflection from your watch. (Seriously, that works for a little while but always have an immediate, back-up plan.) Bounce the ball down the stairs or toss it up the stairs. My terrier would amuse himself by going to the top of the stairs, dropping the ball and catching it at the bottom of the stairs. This could go on for over an hour. It doesn’t get any better than that! Teach them a new trick each week. Better yet, give them a job.
In reference to the above photo:
This handler is putting a lot of faith into the strength and condition of the leash and collar. (I also believe his dogs are ignoring “the talk” at this time.) Dogs can easily slip out of a collar and handlers can lose their grip on the leash. This photo with the 2 dogs is a great example of what the dog’s behavior looks like to the innocent person walking by. The handler only sees the back of the dog. Quite a night and day difference. Size does not matter when it involves aggression.
Chances are if your dog gets loose and charges us, it’s already too late to stop him from getting underfoot. I cannot pick my dog up to help ward off a situation but even if I could, why should I subject myself to a potential back injury, sprained ankle, scratches, bites or anything else that might come with the territory? If two dogs start fighting and someone tries to break it up, one is bound to be bitten. Ouch!
Many become embarrassed by their dog’s behavior towards other dogs and people as they don’t understand the cause of this aggression. Some feel that the dog should be better behaved prior to enrolling in a class so they procrastinate. If it really bothers you that much, wear a wig, pay cash, give a fake name and put Mr. Sneazy in a pretty, pink collar and paint a black circle around one eye. No one will be the wiser. Just take the first step and look for a qualified instructor. Maybe your vet’s office can give a recommendation.
As your lessons continue, you will gain the much needed confidence for that Alpha status, so the dog doesn’t feel he has to be the one in control 24/7. If a dog feels that the leadership is not being taken care of properly in the household, he will assume that roll.
I can’t outrun your dog. I can’t move over on the path because those stinky, slippery things that weren’t picked up are waiting for me and my shoes. If you pick up your dog, the situation will escalate. So, I still recommend you enroll in a class. Better yet, I recommend some private lessons initially working on puppy submissive exercises. (Regardless of the dog’s age) You will have your hands full with those exercises alone. Then, once you have more control and respect; take them to some group sessions focusing on their behavior around other dogs and people.
In the meantime, how about walking just one dog at a time? Just pop in the ear plugs as you leave the house. When you start your formal training, concentrate on one at a time and start with the instigator.
I promise in a future post I will pick on the big guys! Swear! Pinky swear!
See you next time and remember… You can’t run with the big dogs if you pee like a puppy…
Always pick up after your dogs!
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