Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ask the Internet

I struck on the idea a few weeks ago of looking for dog training podcasts. In my travels, I discovered a few interesting podcasts, mostly call-in radio shows where people asked questions about how to manage their pets. I did discover a dedicated training podcast done by a guy whom I've nicknamed The Dog Facist (TDF).

Given TDF's ideas about how to keep a dog, it makes me wonder why he would advocate having a pup when all of his methods seems to suck the joys right out of dog ownership. One of his podcasts is even entitled "Who Can Pet My Puppy?" The answer? Pretty much nobody. Keep your dog kenneled all the time when you first get him. Control every aspect of his life. When he earns the right to be out of the kennel in the house, keep him on a short leash. Using his methods, it might take years before your dog ever earns the right to actually be loose in the house.

I did listen with great interest to his podcast on adding a dog to a house that already has dogs. When we got Caper after having Kodiak for about 8 months, we let them meet on neutral territory, then just took them both home. There were a few scuffles and the first evening, Caper peed in his kennel (he wasn't quite housebroken), so Kodiak peed near the kennel, just to prove that it really was HIS house. (This happened when we weren't home, but I like to picture it in my head that Kodiak caught a whiff of Caper's accident and said "I don't think so, buddy!" before lifting his leg and peeing on a box of Corona.) Caper was laid back enough not to care that Kodiak HAD to be the boss and after a period of adjustment, they got on well together.

TDF is against the "let them sort it out" school of thought on dog introduction. He is also militantly anti-dog park because of the risk of dog fights. He's seen some nasty dog fights in his day and warns against putting your pet in the situation where it could be traumatised for life. His dog introduction program is lengthy and careful and involves kenneling and seperate walks, and meeting through a fence briefly after ages, with possibly the dogs earning the right to be out together. I'm all for a measured and careful introduction, on neutral territory, but so long as you have a dog who tolerates other dogs and you find a suitable new pack member, sometimes I think you just have to let the dogs be dogs.

I was a little concerned about what he said about dog fights and how they can scar the dog for life and how, as Pack Leader, you have a responsibility to protect your dog. Toby doesn't seem to have been socialised with other dogs and he was only neutered recently. I've been keeping him away from other dogs until we can find a socialisation class where introductions can be done in a controlled environment and we can figure out if he's actually dog aggressive or just the canine version of socially retarded.

He seems to bark somewhat aggressively at other dogs, especially little dogs. Little and cute is not good in Toby's books. He doesn't bark at the dogs behind fences who bark at us. He did get interested in having a few words with the crazy chained watchdog at one particular house, but a few corrections got him over that interest. (I feel bad for crazed watch dog, who was sporting a muzzle last week and seems to be the not-so-proud owner of an electric shock anti-barking collar this week.)

Then, there's the retriever-y thing (whom I will call RT for the purposes of this story) who has become the bane of my existence. This dog, a lanky golden retriever mix (I'm guessing), hates Toby. It started with RT barking when we passed. Then it escalated to RT coming out his yard and stalking us. I'd yell at him to go away and he would. Then a few weeks ago, it culminated with RT stalking us then attacking Toby, leaping on him from behind. There was a little bit of a dog
fight that happened quickly but thankfully didn't involve any blood or real harm. I managed to pull Toby out of it and RT slunk off back to his yard.

I've cut a run short because I saw RT loose in the middle of the village and we've had a couple of barking/stalking incidents since then, but there hasn't been a reoccurance of the attack. Two days ago, we had a barking/stalking incident with a cocker spaniel at the other end of the village. I'd seen this guy before once (he growled but didn't move from where he was) and I'm not even quite sure where he lives. I am concerned though that he might decide to start a fight some day.

I don't think Toby is scarred for life. He seems to be a fairly dominant dog and can fight his corner just fine. But I don't like the fights and I never know what to do. This is the country - most dogs are unneutered and a lot of dogs are just loose in their unsecured yards. The chances of this reoccuring are high and I'm trying to figure out how to handle it. None of the radio show podcasts I have listened to thus far have discussed this issue. TDF would probably tell me to find a different way to run, but running into the village is really my only option. The road in the other direction is narrow and twisty. I ran it once and felt that I was continually one blind curve away from death.

So, when all else fails, ask the Internet. :) How would you handle this situation?



At 22 March 2007 at 07:44, Anonymous Primal Sneeze said...

My 2 cents, Ann:

Try walking. Running through another dog's territory is a bad idea. You and Toby are giving out the wrong messages. On approach you are attacking. Then running away submissively. Walking says we are no threat to you, but we are not afraid either.

The next bit is taken from the GAA field. When a row breaks out, you always try to extract the opposing player, not your own, from the melée. If you are holding your own man he cannot protect himself from a punch. Same applies when dogs fight. Pull the other dog away. Give him a root where he'll feel it if you feel inclined.

At 22 March 2007 at 09:16, Blogger Fence said...

I don't think a dog fight will traumatise Toby. It can often be a natural reaction, once it is your average "looks a hell of a lot worse than it really is" sort of fight.

I'd second the fact that part of the problem is that you are running, every time you run through the other dog's territory you are probably reinforcing the notion that RT is in control encouraging him to bark/fight more.

Have you thought about maybe approaching the owners of the other dog and asking if you could meet the other dog properly.

I know that people running/jogging by our house tend to get more barks from our Mutt than people walking.

At 22 March 2007 at 11:46, Blogger laurie said...

socialization classes will help toby, too. i've never actually owned a dog that could completely ignore other dogs in all instances, but i've seen dogs like that and admired them.

that said, sometimes i think there are always going to be dogs that just hate each other, as it is between RT and toby.

our guys hate dakota, a beautiful husky-shepherd mix who walks beautifully at the side of her owner. but years ago she attacked OUR toby, whcih made boscoe hate her. now toby is gone, but the hate has been passed on (through boscoe, i assume) to riley, who goes ballistic whenever he sees her.

i've always heard that untethered dogs sort things out pretty quickly and that it's unnatural things like leashes and fences that make things more dangerous, but i've never been brave enough (or scofflaw enough) to give complete freedom a try.

good luck.

At 23 March 2007 at 13:37, Blogger Terri said...

I haven't met too many dogs would be traumatised for life from a fight - however, the walking as opposed to running thing is very sound logic.

At 23 March 2007 at 18:55, Blogger laurie said...

our border collie once got attacked by an airdale (aerdale?). we were walking past a yard with a very high wooden privacy fence, and boscoe sniffed under the bottom of the fence and the aerdale on the other side pounced and bit him on the snout.

i'd say boscoe was traumatized. he would not walk past that yard--you could not drag him past that yard--for years. literally years.

but border collies are just way too smart for the rest of us anyway.

At 30 March 2007 at 13:03, Blogger laurie said...

how's toby doing? he ever, um, pass those shards of nylarbone?

At 30 March 2007 at 21:48, Blogger Shelly said...

Hi. I really like your blog. Was wondering if you want to add it to my directory? Thanks Shelly

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At 1 April 2007 at 14:31, Blogger -Ann said...

PS - Good advice. I haven't seen the RT thing since I made this post, so I haven't had a chance to put it into practise yet.

Fence - Toby's neurotic enough - I can't let him develop any more. :)

Laurie - Yeah, the trick is finding such a thing in the Middle of Nowhere. Sorry to hear about Boscoe although you're right - the main "problem" there is the Border-Collie-Ness. :)

Terri - I think only the smart dogs have long memories - the Dog Facist breeds Alsatians, which is what Toby is.

Laurie - Yes! I had three days of cleaning up blue spotted dog poop but I am happy to report that the offending item seems to have passed without incident.

Shelly - Thanks. What the heck, I need all the publicity I can get. :)

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