Thursday, January 31, 2013

Unleashing the Tiger and Winning Your Dog

So When Did This Become a Dog Blog Anyway? 

I've been in this house more than six years at this point.  There are immediate neighbors here on my little street.  I know them fairly well.  Some are more open than others, and some are more reserved. 

Down the block, there's this one lady who I know by face.  Actually I know her more by dog than by face.  Very sweet woman, in fact that's probably the rub, she's so sweet that I don't know her name.

Not knowing names with me is more the rule than the exception.  I am Horrendous when it comes to remembering names.  If I have offended you, I apologies here in print, but I just don't have the hardware installed in that mush I call my brain to remember a name first time out. 

In the case of the sweet lady down the way, it is more due to her dog than my insultingly bad memory.

You see, her dog is an alpha dog, and probably highly fearful.   This dog is now quite old, grey around the muzzle.  While many people believe the axiom that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, in reality I think that should be applied to the owner and not the dog.

When my neighbor would walk the dog and see another dog on the block, the entertainment would begin.  This dog would begin to growl and prance, basically freak out.  Taking the path of least resistance, my neighbor would do things like hide behind cars, and behind bushes.  Trying to block the view of her dog, she turned into a prowler of sorts, hiding behind a trash can one time.

Getting more and more frustrated, she asked me how I got my dog to behave so well.  First things first, you have to have a conversation with your dog.  You have to be able to tell the dog that certain Dog Behaviors are NOT acceptable.  Charging your neighbor's dogs is not only rude, but it can get you killed if that other dog decides that it doesn't like it and is trained "worse" than you are. 

Secondly, you have to take charge of the relationship and set boundaries.  It's said that a dog, even an intelligent one, has the brain power of a child, but it's wired differently.  You have to let that "Dogness" out at times to sniff the grass, but if you let it out too long, you'll never get around the block and you'll be late for work because you were hiding behind a trash bin and letting little fluffy snuffle that tree too long.

What I told her is simple:  You have to unleash that tiger inside and be the Pack Leader.  I said "you're one of the sweetest people I know on the Island but you have to gain control and respect of your dog or else you'll be hiding out for the rest of your dog's life". 

"Unleash that Tiger I know you have inside of you!  Grrrrr!".

Ok, so it sounds cartoonish and silly but guess what?  That silly saying clicked.  I empowered her to do the right thing for the dog. 

I explained that Cesar Millan has this thing called The Touch that he does to break the behavior.  I said that does NOT mean to slap the dog, but merely touch it enough to get her attention.  She didn't quite grasp that but I pointed at the hair on my arm and said "All I have to do with my Lettie is merely flick a few hairs and she'll snap to".  In illustration, I flicked a few arm hairs not even touching the arm and explained how I did it.

I also explained that at the start you may have to rest your hand on the dog's haunches or neck but at no time am I saying to hit the dog.  Literally all it takes with my dog is a flick not making contact with the body.  On the other hand I have a very good and deep relationship with my dog.  Best to start out light and see how that works.

I could visibly see her gather her strength and get energized.

Closing the conversation I told her that it's time for her to come out of the bushes and gain a lasting relationship with this dog.   She added that she was getting another dog in the house plus a Parrot, so she had to act fast.

Two days later, I saw her and we were able to get within about 10 feet of her dog without the dog freaking out.  She took the instruction to heart, it's not perfect, but it's getting better.  

Clearly.  Her dog would bark at us from down the block at times.  It was a bit odd, to say the least.

Some dogs are more hard headed than others.  In the case of this older Corgi and Akita mix, the dog realized that if the owner wasn't going to lead, she'd have to and this was the result.   All it wanted was a little guidance and now that it got it, she was a happy dog. 

I know my neighbor is a happier person as a result.   In fact, today we were able to actually have a conversation about current events while both her dog and mine sniffed the grass - at a healthy distance from each other.  Some day I may even learn her name!

All it takes is a gentle guidance and a tiny touch.  Tiger Not Included.

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