Sunday, December 12, 2010

How far my dog has come...

So, my park story. I took Heidi to the park yesterday. As long as there is no one on the tennis courts, I close the gates and throw the ball for her. Yesterday, an older man (mid-60s) comes up to the fence with his young dog. It was a 10 month old Golden Retriever mix, neutered male. He asks if he can come in, and I acquiesce. Heidi has been really good with other dogs thus far, although she is very timid. I am conscious of this and am careful with her in unknown situations. She weighs 75 pounds, so I am cognizant of her ability to do damage. While well trained and obedient, she has sort of a "SQUIRREL!" mentality, so I have to keep her very focused.

At any rate, said bouncy 10 month old puppy comes in and promptly tries to mount Heidi. This proceeded to continue for a few minutes. Heidi was becoming highly agitated, and I was very uncomfortable. The guy kept saying, "oh, it's ok, she can teach him some manners." Meanwhile, my dog is trying everything she can to get away from the puppy. He is tormenting her and trying to mount her - and I couldn't catch her, because she was terrified. She starts snapping at the puppy, trying to get him off. She's running from him, and I'm running after her - without much success. The owner keeps saying, "oh, it's ok, she won't bite." I'm pretty damned sure she will. Immediately after he said that, Heidi came away with a mouth full of golden fur - but no punctures.

I finally catch her, and while I'm holding her to put her leash on, the puppy mounts her again. The owners is meanwhile explaining how SUBMISSIVE his puppy is. THE PUPPY THAT IS ATTEMPTING TO MOUNT MY DOG is submissive.

I held my tongue, got my dog on her leash, and left the park. I was shaking I was so angry. Heidi was remarkably good. While she snapped, she only made contact once, and she only got fur. It was clear she was warning the other dog off. In retrospect, I can't believe that I said nothing to this clearly clueless owner.

Lack of training infuriates me. That dog will grow up to be 60+ pounds and capable of knocking children over.

I am so anal retentive about training that my husband gets annoyed. For instance, I take Heidi to PetSmart so that she can be around other dogs and people. She is not allowed to solicit interaction from people. She is also not allowed to approach other dogs unless I give her permission to do so.

Further, she's not allowed to beg. If we are eating, whether in the kitchen, dining room, or on the couch, she is not allowed to be nearby staring at us. I also don't let her eat her food without express permission or go out the door ahead of me. She knows "wait" and obeys well.

Training a dog - especially a large breed - is so crucial to their well-being and safety. A big dog, no matter how mild tempered, can do a lot of damage without even trying. Heidi isn't perfect and neither is my training, but she's come a long, long way from the timid creature she was when we adopted her.

While we're on rants - it drives me crazy when I verbally reprimand my dog for doing something she shouldn't, and people say, "oh, it's ok, she's not bothering me." And the dirty looks you get in PetSmart when you verbally reprimand your dog! It's like people think I beat her because I take a sharp tone when she is doing something she knows better than to do.

Dogs need training. They need to know where they stand in the order of the household. It should be BELOW the people, otherwise all sorts of problem behaviors come out - housesoiling, destructive behaviors, separation anxiety. Having a dog that is stable and mentally appropriate involves some work, but it is doing a disservice to your dog (and to the world that has to deal with it), if you don't.


Holly said...

Dude was clueless. And stupid. Heidi is an exceptionally good girl to put up with the young dog being so rude.

And Dude...from a trainer.....someday your irresponsibility may catch up with your young dog in the form of an intolerant adult who has not had the inhibition training Heidi has. Not all dogs have self restraint and not all dogs are as timid as this good girl was.

It should NEVER be up to another dog to train a strange dog. It is up to the owner/handler to do that.

Dude is also lucky it was you and not me. I'm certain that my dogs would have held still (if possible) or tried to come to me for protection and God help that Golden if I could have gotten my hands on him. Mr. Owner wouldn't have liked me very much.

Holly said...

let me be clear
"It should NEVER be up to another dog to train a strange dog. It is up to the owner/handler to do that."

it is up to each of us to train our own dogs, not to expect another dog to do that for us.

gotta say, this kind of owner really gets under my skin. It's so dangerous when you don't know the dogs involved extremely well.

Liz said...

I have a question, and it's probably stupid...but for those of us who don't know /how/ to train our dogs, where would you recommend going to find resources?

I'd love to teach my dog how to behave better, but I really have no idea how to start.

Holly said...

Liz, the first place I always recommend is your living room. Really. Training is not difficult, nor does it have to happen for hours each day. 10 minutes per day is enough for most dogs who are pets and not competition dogs.

This is where I start ALL of my students because it's a go-at-your-own-pace program and take-to-where-you-want.

Sue Ailsby is from Canada and had done more, with very untraditional dog breeds, than anyone else I know. She's a judge, a trainer and she's disabled so she has trained her own service dogs. The program is also free.

There is a free Yahoo group to go with if you like, that has some really outstanding trainers on it.

Another outstanding resource is here,

these are posts from the member or previous members of Shirley's clicktrain list. Again, it's free.

A blog from another friend of mine who is raising her German Shepherd puppy and is posting what/how she is doing it. Robin is an accomplished trainer who is one of two people in the state that is certified by the courts to deal with court remanded aggression cases.

if you have any questions my email is

Life in vet school said...

I HATE when I'm telling my dog not to do something, and a stranger says, "Oh, it's okay!". Would you say that to someone's HUMAN child if the parent were telling them to stop doing something?

Two of my dogs are TDI-certified therapy dogs. One of them LOVES people and desperately wants to meet every single person we pass on the street. Sometimes she gets too excited, and stands up to put her front feet on their arm (she's not jumping around, but it's still a definite NO for a therapy dog) so I tell her no. The person ALWAYS contradicts me and says it's okay! I'm always like, "It is NOT okay! She's a therapy dog! If she gets into the habit of jumping on people, then she CAN'T BE a therapy dog, which is her favorite thing in the world, so I'm HELPING HER by telling her no!". But you'd think I was beating her by the reactions I get!

The Homeless Parrot said...

Holly, I feel partly to blame. I never should have agreed to let the guy come in. In his defense, he was working on training the dog on a 20 foot lead, and the dog did sit and wait as told off leash. As soon as he was released though, he was mounting Heidi. The dog obviously needed continued training. In retrospect, I just should be more careful. I still haven't recall trained Heidi appropriately, and that's totally my fault. We're going to get working on it ASAP.

Liz, I would also suggest some reading. When I adopted Heidi, I knew nothing about training. I read "How to be Your Dog's Best Friend" written by the monks of New Skete. It was really instrumental in helping me understand pack mentality. It also helped me to understand how important it is that dogs know their place in the order of the household. I recommend it to anyone new to training.

Holly said...

I never posted a link to Robins blog.

here it is

Holly said...

These are the dogs that get other dogs bad raps. I am not cutting him a break just because he was training before he came in either, UNLESS you saw the Golden mounting a dog outside. How could you have known he would be so rude to Heidi?

What he did to your dog was extremely uncalled for (especially if he is actively training his dog) and it was wrong of his owner to expect YOUR dog to discipline HIS dog. That was his job as an owner to stop the bad behavior.

I would not want or allow (and if I could prevent it) my dog to discipline a dog outside our own home group. It could get very ugly, and very expensive, very quickly. If my dog injured the other dog by accident, I could be liable. I also don't want my dogs to become proactive about others approaching them if they are apprehensive. I could soooo see this becoming back chained to a point of any approaching dog increasing anxiety.

Sorry HP, he's still responsible for his dog.

Heidi is still a saint in my book for only pulling some hair, which IS an appropriate response to an inappropriate behavior.

voguevet said...

Couldn't agree more! I enjoy reading Jon Katz's books about dog training as well as Dr. Nicholas Dodman's. Furthermore, I don't want to get a dog until I know I have the time to train it properly.

Elizabeth said...

The very first time his dog tried to mount Heidi, the owner of the Golden should have put a stop to it. he was teaching his dog it is ok to do that..
Not your fault at all. I however would have spoken up told him to get control of his dog. I have done that at the Vet clinic when idiot come in with dogs on flexi's and let them run all over and annoy my dog and ever other dog in the clinic.

Holly I love that what you recommend for training is positive reinforcement.. Clicker training works so well and is so easy. I love catching my dogs doing something good and rewarding them!

The Homeless Parrot said...

Training my husband has also been challenging. He's much more lax than I am. I ALWAYS make Heidi sit before going out the door, as well as wait. Sometimes, he skips the "sit" and just does "wait." Drives me crazy.

He's also really bad to give her treats in the kitchen. I'm okay with treats, but they should be given in an appropriate place (i.e. NOT the kitchen or dining room) and only after she has obeyed a command...

We're working on it. I can already see what our role as parents will be one day...

Mary said...

I'm glad Heidi behaved so well (and of course she's so gorgeous!)

While running this summer, I have been jumped on 6 times by dogs off-leash. Luckily, no bites, but I did get some pretty severe scratches. Twice while the dog was barking and howling. I don't know what the dog has in mind while chasing me and then jumping on me! (And the owners just sit there laughing, "Oh, she's friendly!" -- really?)

I just don't understand why these owners have their dogs off-leash when the dog clearly isn't capable of handling it. Plus, it's against the law, not that my city enforces it.

In any case, I have started to develop a minor fear of dogs due to this, and it's frustrating me because I love dogs.

The Homeless Parrot said...

Mary: one word for you: MACE. Start using it!

Liz said...

Thanks, guys! I'll start reading those once I'm done with my last final (college student and all) and hopefully get some grounds laid out with my dog over Christmas break.

Small sessions are good! Again, thanks both of you. =)

The Homeless Parrot said...

Oh, and Holly, you're right. Ask my husband, I look for any way to take partial blame in situations. It's a "charming" flaw of mine.

Lunachance said...

Well, I have gotten to the point where I will not let my dogs interact with others unless I really know the dog and other owner. No one is allowed to "correct" my dogs, and I do not correct their dogs. When approached about another dog "playing" with mine (why do people think all dogs need to play together???), I lie and tell the person that my dogs are just getting over kennel cough, and while I think they are not contagious, it would be better for their dogs to not interact with mine. Then, we are generally given a wide berth :) Since I use crutches when I walk, it is much safer to avoid the people who do not have control of their animals (and don't get me started on their children). I also get annoyed when I select a park with leash laws and idiots let their dogs off leash. Your post really hits on one of my pet peeves.

Keep training,