Da Pooch Report

Carol’s Review: And thus, it begs the question: Who among us DOESN’T respond favorably to a well-timed treat?

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The precious in tight containment

Like so many people during the start of the pandemic, we adopted a dog for long walks in the woods, amiable companionship and quiet evenings snuggling on the couch.  Our expectations were a bit on the rosy side.  People write books about the great relationships they have with their dogs, which give the reader a false sense of the possibilities for adventure and bonding.  Our new pet was into biting, tearing up stuff and ripping our arms off during her daily walks.  She behaved as if she had never been inside a house, never encountered human beings and certainly never had a good relationship with another dog. 

Now that several months have passed since we taught our Mindy to sit and stay, which she does with tacit reluctance, our training has finally shown some effect on her mongrel-like tendencies.  She still acts like a junkyard dog, barking and lunging maniacally at anyone who dares to pass our house or has the gumption to knock on our door.  She has, for the most part, stopped ripping up couch cushions, rugs and whatever falls on the floor.  In order to ensure her own safety (as well as that of our belongings), my friend Mary taught me the “Leave it!” command. Mindy, to her credit, will let go of the pillow, hat, avocado pit or baby mole when we issue the command to do so.  She does this with the expectation that we will then throw the object so that she can run to get it and bring it back for further chewing.  As a means of distraction from whatever tasty tidbit we made her relinquish, we present her with a treat or her tug-of-war rope, thus hoping to reinforce the prudence of not mangling/ingesting the rotting squirrel carcass she so happily discovered.

A superior vantage point

What our Mindy has, is an abundance of enthusiasm–a swooning-with-excitement malady.  Our previous dog Kelly had a fear of the mailman.  She broke two windows in the front of our house when he lingered at the doorstep too long.  Most other times, Kelly’s behavior among humans displayed a normal level of curiosity.  She never bit anyone, though growled a bit when children swarmed her.  Conversely, our COVID-period canine acquisition has had some disadvantage in that we kept her away from other people for months, only took her out to walk in the neighborhood or hike in the mountains and did not allow anyone in our house until vaccinations hit the scene.  These restrictions made seeing passing humans and their dogs as thrilling as hitting the jackpot at a casino to our cloistered canine. Everybody within a five-block radius became familiar with the uproar coming from our house as they scurried past on their daily walks. The mailman is afraid of her.

After the first few months of challenging doggie behavior, we felt the need to consult with a few professionals.  I took an online class in walking an easily-distracted dog.  In the early days of 2020, I could not hit the streets with my dog due to her out-of-control shenanigans in response to anything that moved. So great was her excitement at seeing other beings, I became concerned for the safety of all parties involved.  I would be besieged with back spasms after only a block’s worth of encounters.  Given a bit of incentive (say a rottweiler on a leash headed our way) our feisty 24-pounder could haul a sled across the tundra in the Iditarod—though we would probably end up in some remote corner of Canada should the rottweiler decide to bolt in that direction.

Crouching tiger

Our neighbors quickly learned to give us a wide berth whenever we chance to meet on the street.  However, the techniques of the dog-walking class paid off quickly.  We see a human/dog duo ahead.  We grab a treat or two and, as we are about to pass, but before the chaos begins, we shout “Canine!!” and toss a treat onto the road ahead of us.  Mindy loves a treat.  We repeat the rouse if we have not yet passed the leashed distraction.  It works most of the time.  Lately we only need to say the word “canine” for her to look our way for the tossing of the goodies.  It is a bit of a circus performance, which can get tedious in the early evening when there are multiple dog-walking neighbors to get around.  We enjoy this level of progress except when we have to hide behind a parked car to avoid the barking and lunging of someone else’s badly behaved pooch, which Mindy feels compelled to respond to in kind due to some deep-seated canine instinct.    

Also, Mindy is a cute dog, and her looks hide the beast within.  People walking past us want to pet her saying,” What a cute, sweet puppy,” just before they approach us.  We learned from the start of our outside adventures to stop such irrational moves before Cujo emerges for the kill and lawsuits ensue.  It’s not like our pup has distemper or something, but we didn’t trust her to behave like a docile pet around anyone, including us.  We needed to find a way to ensure safer, smoother introductions to humans.  Our Atlanta dog-owning friends taught us the trick of the treat.  If the people involved are able to follow our simple directions, there’s a lot less snarling and snapping and displaying of other bad manners.  When a stranger shows our pup something yummy, she will literally be eating out of their hand…until the treat is gone, then she will find them to be the most exciting and fascinating person on earth.  It’s like meeting Santa Claus…for the dog anyway!

Bumper sticker: I bark at everything

Mindy has made quite a few friends of the human variety lately.  The real problem lies with meeting other dogs.  “Mine’s friendly,” we hear.  “Mine is Charles Manson,” I report.  “All smooth and mellow until the butt sniffing starts and then mayhem.”  Most people take the hint.  That’s not to say that Mindy does not have a few puppy pals.  Maggie next door has been a playmate since the start, having arrived shortly before Mindy’s adoption.  Cricket is her good buddy too, an amiable hiking companion and all-around wrestling partner.  Esme, who lives in Atlanta, is a trail friend since that is the only place where they have had the opportunity to work on getting along with one another.  And then there’s Chris, who is not a dog.  He’s her best pal, human buddy.  We pay him to be that.

We would never let Mindy off leash.  We would not ever take her to a dog park.  She has not been around a pack of dogs, ever.  These are the things we emphasize to Chris during the interview phase of hiring him to be our dog’s friend.  We call him our dog guy.  Part walker, part trainer, he takes her off our hands for long training walks.  Since he is the giver of an abundance of attention, treats and fun activities, Mindy goes completely ape-shit when she sees him.  He’s our local dog whisperer who has managed to make our walks with our crazy pooch go a bit smoother.  Now he wants to introduce Mindy to other dogs, to socialize her into a group where she will learn from well-trained animals.  We didn’t put a screeching halt to that idea, but our heels did sink into the ground a little as we reeled back in horror.

The joy of dogdom.

We were unsure of this plan.  Mindy’s behavior has advanced to tolerable in the house and out on the street.  There is no reason to believe improvement can’t happen in a fenced-in yard with unknown dogs.  Our reluctance runs along the lines of our worst nightmare scenario.  What kind of damage is possible?  We feel we might be paying a big vet bill for some poor damaged pooch whether that dog is ours or his.  There is a big trust issue here.  We would have to trust Chris to know how to handle the introduction and Mindy to cool her jets and enjoy the company of new friends in an open environment.  We knew this day would come. 

We decided to give the doggie debut a try.  But first we need to clip Mindy’s nails.  Those nails have torn the skin of multiple humans and are in need of a professional trim.   As Cricket’s mom has explained, dog groomers know how to handle a tactile-defensive dog that has a tendency to go for the jugular when being washed and pedicured.  I plan to tire that pup out first with a long walk and some play time in the back yard with the jumping bar, then hope I have enough energy to drive her to the groomer.  Mindy and I are continuing to work on our relationship by daily wearing each other out until we are able to call a truce at the end of the day and collapse together on the couch for some dog-tired bonding and evening snuggles.

Adventures await,

Cheryl

Guest Editor Carol also adopted 2 canine scallywags during COVID Times, and soundly agrees that the weirdness of 2020 even compromised our dogs’ social lives. She remains the queen of dog synonyms and awesome word suggestions, like “shenanigans!”

8 Comments

  1. Love you, love Mindy, love the Pooch report

    Esme is thrilled to receive a mention and hopes she can feature as the star of the show next time

  2. oy oy oy. I will be sending this to a friend who adopted a dog like yours!! Good luck!!

  3. If Dogs ever have a pandemic of their own, would they adopt Humans? Maybe not, they are too smart for that folly.

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