Posts Tagged ‘territorial dog’

The Joy of Being Bitten

March 31, 2010

Yes, it’s true.  Being bitten by a dog can be fun.  I know, this sounds wrong, ridiculous, crazy.  But when you do a lot of private lessons covering everything from puppies peeing on floors to senior citizens getting pulled around by their new Vislas (what were they thinking!  “I’ve had Vislas my whole life, I’m not stopping now.”  Umm – but you’re 78, with a cane, in New York City), then yes – it’s fun to spice up the lessons with a little dog bite every now and then.

I don’t mean bites that cause real injury.  Those suck.  Good trainers avoid those.  You read the dog and the situation and you simply don’t let those happen.  But the kind of bites that sting just enough to shoot up your adrenaline – those add flavor to a private lesson, like hot sauce on a burrito.

I was reminded of this yesterday, as I was about to open the door of a beloved client’s apartment.  I hadn’t seen their dog since she was a pup and apparently she had blossomed into quite a territorial adolescent.

“You’ll see why we called you as soon as you open the door,” my lovely gentleman of a client said.

“This should be interesting,” I thought, and swung the door open.

“ARR-ARRR-ARRRK!” out of nowhere there was a Mini-Aussie terrorizing me at the threshold.

She came at me full frontal, barking and pinching my coat with her (dare I say cute) little mouth.  She worked me from the sides too, jumping up to my hands and giving the fingers a nip, then back down to my legs for a little grab and shake on my pants.

I later discovered those nips were just the appetizer.  The little dog calmed and sniffed me curiously once I sat down to hear the owners’ take on everything.  But I still had to test what she would do if I got up to move around.  So I calmly packed up my stuff as if I were leaving.  No response from the little aussie.  Then I turned and left the room.  The dog did not budge.  I went out of sight behind a wall, rattled the front door knob.  Heard nothing from the dog.  Then I turned around and came back into the room.  Wham!  That little dog bolted off the couch like a shot, circled around behind me and NAILED me on the back of my legs 2 or 3 times before her owner scooped her up and brought her straight to the crate for a cool down.

“Okay, now we know everything we need to work on,” I said.

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This Week’s Most Amazing Dog Sports

March 29, 2010

No, no, not agility or schutzhund – I’m talking about the sports the dogs invent.  You know, your bored dog.  He’s not going to sit around doing nothing for too long.  He was born to use his keen mind and athletic body – but that won’t always turn out the way you want.  If he gets put in a situation with a healthy serving of territoriality and a dash of barrier frustration, you might see some intense behaviors cook up quickly.  Here are some of this week’s most amazing dog sports, the ones that produce big headaches for owners, but a really great adrenaline rush for the dog.

Television Attacking:  favorite targets are other dogs and animals that, to your dog’s mind, seem to have suddenly and magically appeared out of nowhere.  Even more frustrating – these intruders have no scent.   Some dogs will bark at anything – even cartoons will spring them into action.  Many mad dashers go right up to the screen and give ’em hell.

Window Frothing: a variation on television attacking, this can get intense.  A particularly bedeviling problem is when your dog learns to run to multiple windows to track the “perpetrator.”  Better get your squeegee, top dogs in this sport can really spit up your glass.

Now that's what I call a dedicated athlete.

Fence Frenzy: this is when there is something on the other side of the fence that your dog really wants, but can’t have.  Like another dog, a squirrel, children running.  All of the above can unleash the nightmare fence runner.  My border collie used to fence-run so intensely that he dug a fifty-foot long trench along one side of our yard that was 3 feet wide and one foot deep. He would bang straight into a park bench and then keep running.  Back and forth, back and forth….

The problem with these “sports” is they are self-rewarding for the dog.  Adrenaline rushes are fun.  If left to their own devices, dogs get really really good at producing them, become obsessed with them, pine for the moment when the slightest trigger will spring them into action.  Then they are thrilled: barking, chasing – wild-eyed, unable to hear a word you say.  I call it off the planet.

Dogs can be trained out of these behaviors, but it’s usually not easy.  Not easy at all.  If you see your dog starting to teach themselves one of these sports, stop the pattern.  It’s time to show them new ways of using their brain and body.  Check out my nosework blog from yesterday.