Saturday, July 12, 2008

Canine Bad Mediocre Citizen

The Biggie Momma here. Biggie's been mostly a g'boy lately, but each time we think he's ready for a Canine Good Citizen test, he reverts to doing something he KNOWS he's not supposed to do, though it usually comes from his kuvasz instinct. At the same time, he is progressing nicely with some other skills that I would not have expected of him (like being a good quiet boy in a hotel room in DC). One step forward, two steps back...

In some respects, teaching a kuvasz just to live in the city (especially our neighborhood - full of WTFs) requires skills far beyond the CGC. It is, and always will be, a struggle between what is expected of a dog, especially a large one, in a very close urban setting, and the kuvasz temperament (See here, here and here for more on the kuvasz temperament...) Every walk is an adventure, or a learning opportunity, or both.

It's a 2-mile round trip to a public dog run we've been going to since the closer, private run has been closed for unspecified "work." Yesterday morning is an example of the highs and lows that come on a morning outing. It started out auspiciously enough... At the industrial kitchen next door, there was an older man hosing down the sidewalk. He saw us come out of the building and turned the hose away, and as we walked past, asked "What kind of dog is that?" Biggie seemed relaxed, so we stopped to chat a bit, and he seemed curious about the guy but didn't a) bark at him or b) immediately ram his nose into the crotch, the two most common reactions he has to strangers. When the guy held out his hand, he went to sniff it and then went to get petted. After brief conversation, we moved on to a guy at the butcher/sausage maker next door, taking delivery of giant barrels of pork pieces, who asked, "Did you know when you got him that he was going to be so big? I remember last summer he was sooooo little!" We chatted very briefly, and Biggie just stood there, and we've just aced 2 CGC tasks: Accepting a Friendly Stranger and Sitting/Standing Politely for Petting.

Actually three more tests are no-brainers for Biggie: Appearance and Grooming (Biggie loves having his face brushed and his ears cleaned with a cool wet cloth), Walking on a Loose Lead and Walking Through a Crowd.

Half a block later, we are on the sidewalk and there is a man approaching us. He is pretty nondescript, maybe he walks with a little limp, but really he's not anything that would normally set him off. He certainly doesn't look domicile-challenged or likely to make WTF remarks. But Biggie gets The Stance - his ears go forward, he gets tall, all while walking on a loose lead toward the guy. As we get to about 8 feet away he lunges and growls/barks, but since I'm ready for it (and he happens to be walking next to me in good "heel" position), he gets pulled around by his collar and shoved off the sidewalk by my left knee, and pushed into a sit by a suddenly dominant Biggie Momma. The leash goes onto the Gentle Leader, and he doesn't get to resume his walk until I say so. After that, the remainder of the walk to the run proceeds uneventfully - Biggie walks politely past loud, exhaust-spewing buses, trucks and cars, some off-duty cops outside the stationhouse who call out, "Hello, Wolf!" as we walk by, a doorman who shouts, "How's my boy?" (Who are these people? We walk by most days but we have not stopped to talk to any of these folks before). Biggie smiles and trots by with just a turn of his head to acknowledge all his fans, and we finally get to the dog run, where there are a few dogs already in the run.

Biggie runs in and...

immediately aggresses on an intact* male yellow lab about his age and half his size. The lab is yelping and jumping on his owner to get away from Biggie, who is double his size, and making a big show of teeth but otherwise not hurting the lab. I am silently shouting to the dog, just lie down submissively and he'll stop! while racing in, chasing and grabbing him by the collar and wrestling him away from the appalled onlookers. The intact male's owner says in an aggrieved tone as I take Biggie out of the dog run, We were leaving anyway. I think of creative uses of the English language but hold my tongue - one thing I've learned is that it's always the bigger dog's fault, and I'm not going to convince this woman otherwise.

*people, there is a reason why most dog runs have rules like "no intact males and no females in heat"...

So Biggie gets a time out from the dog run. We go to the benches outside where he has to lie down and I stand with my back to him. After a few minutes, so Biggie doesn't think he successfully chased the lab away, we go back.

A few minutes later, when most of the other dog owners have left because the 'aggressive' dog is back, a WTF walks by the outside of the dog run wheeling a bike with clanking chains on it. Biggie goes up to the fence and starts barking at him, I take Biggie by the collar and start walking him away. The guy calls after me,

"yeah, that's right. You better make him F--ing stop because I got a gun and I'll shoot him and then I will stab him so he better stop barking because I'm gonna stab him and stab him if he don't stop...(etc) I HATE DOGS!"

I don't know why, but this bit is the last straw. "IF YOU HATE DOGS THEN DON'T HANG OUT AT THE DOG RUN!!!"

Of course, once I react to the guy Biggie gets protective too, and he turns and starts barking again. WTF goes, "What, he doesn't like black people?"

And I don't know why -- I guess I was trying to show I'm not racist, though why I even care what the WTF thinks, is beyond me, since he's going to think what he's going to think -- but instead of saying "No, he just doesn't like YOU," I said, "He doesn't like bikes."

WTF proceeds to sit down at a bench with his back to the dog run, and once he stops yelling at us, Biggie ignores him.

On the way home, we walked nicely with his friend Puccini and his dad, past a group of 6 police horses walking slowly past (Biggie sees them but acts as if it's the most ordinary thing in the world), stopping on traffic islands with morning rush hour traffic and bicycles whizzing in front and behind him, and greeting another dog friend and her mom calmly.

Sigh. We have to work on the approaching joggers, greeting a friendly stranger with dog. Someday...


Saint Lover said...

Keep working with him.. you are doing a great job getting him socialized. He is only a year old and is in the second "fear impact period" of development. Things like joggers and bikes and strangers will not seem so daunting to him as he matures a bit more and moves on to full maturity. ( there is quite a bit about if you google fear impact stages.

Getting him out and working with him consistently will really pay off for you, keep up the good work :)

Georgeous said...

Oh Dear Bigggie, I sympathise your one paw forward 2 paws back. It's difficult being a big dog trying to be a dog.
Get you Mum to read this,:
it's really interesting. My Mum wants to give it to all dog owner's that make assumptions about other dogs and not their own. You sound like your having a transition into adolesence too. Tell your Mum to also keep up the 'I'm the pack leader' stuff, my Mum's been doing it all the time. I feel more relaxed now.
Love ya Biggie
George x
note to self: get Mum to post about the pack leader on my blog.

Wimsey said...

Dear Biggie,

It's ALWAYS the bigger dog's fault and your human's fault. Be glad you aren't still intact, it's even worse then.

Sigh, it's so hard to be a big dog in the city sometimes.


Lindsay said...

Yeah, he is only a year old and still maturing. Sounds like you have good control over him. Ace and I have worked on the CGC test too but have never actually taken it. It's only offered a few times a year here and I'm always doing something else when it's offered. Keeping working with him and let us know how it goes. Ace would go nuts too if some guy started yelling at us. Certain people set him off as well and I won't always know what it is. Must just be the energy of that particular person or dog.

Harley-D said...

Sounds like his instinct about people is working pretty darn good . Too bad Biggie couldnt have his way with that bike wtf......Opps my bad hehe

Chris & Mackenzie said...

Did the butcher offer you a sample? I'm licking my lips just thinking of what lovely things he must have in his store.


Biggie-Z said...

SAINTS & GEORGEOUS - thanks for the links! Yes, working with the big dogs is both rewarding and sometimes a little frustrating too. Most people have very little tolerance for the big guys acting up in any way. I think back to the typical puppy behavior that Biggie was showing at 6 months, when he was already bigger than most full-grown dogs. People expected him to behave like a dog, not a pup. Luckily the DOGS we encountered seemed to understand this.

WIMSEY - You are my role model! My mom has met you and she said you are very well-behaved. It's in your nature to be loud, as it is mine. We should make some beautiful music together sometime. When it's not raining!

LINDSAY -same thing with us - someday we'll get to CGC too. Instead we work on our new tricks/commands! Ace has crawl down a lot better than Biggie does.

HARLEY-D - when are we gonna see more pictures and stories about YOUR kuvasz nature? It IS hard to get too mad because he is doing a lot of what comes naturally.


Anonymous said...

The article He Just Wants to Say "Hi" told me a lot about my dog and how I have not handled the intolerance very well. I try to protect my dog from advancing dogs, mainly by removing us both from the situation. I will try stepping in front of him to show him my intention. Jackson wants to approach folks with puppies like I want to approach the puppies, so it is a tough situation. And like with children, it is difficult to voice a different opinion for discipline when they behave poorly.

Jackson's mom

Huck said...

Biggie- I'm sorry about the stupid people! My mom gets so mad at dummy owners who bring their gajingled dogs to the dog park too! They are such bullies! If I am being pesty to another dog, Mom lets the other dog submit and correct me so then we will have some peace! Unfortunately, it is not a two way street. Few other owners let their pesty dogs be corrected. Well I know we will have fun play times together, Biggie! I can't wait to wrestle you.

Biggie-Z said...

JACKSON'S MOM - I totally agree. The article was so helpful. Biggie reacts worst when pesky little dogs drag their owners toward us and bark ferociously at him. He could be fine with them off-lead, but a lot of the owners don't realize that when their dogs are off lead they (the dogs) are a whole lot more respectful. And I can't easily let Biggie "discipline" a pest when we're on lead on the sidewalk, much as I'd like to sometimes! >:)

HUCK - The problem with intact males - and our vet brought the point home when we were still considering keeping Biggie intact - is that no matter how sweet your dog is, an intact male attracts a lot of dominance/aggression attention from other males, intact and neutered. He's either going to be a bully, or he will get bullied, or both. Biggie has actually interacted with intact males in the dog run before, and he is willing to give the intact male some space (especially if he is large), but he has to assess the threat first. So that involves some posturing and some testing, and either the intact male submits (and they are fine) or he postures back (and then they are fine). Sometimes the posturing is so subtle I almost don't see it, and it depends on the size of the dog.

Petey said...

Hi Biggie!

I'm a Terrier in the City so I know what you mean about meeting lots of different dogs and people throughout the day. I like puppies (actually, I'm pretty indifferent to them once I've had a good sniff) and I LOVE kids (strollers almost guarantee random Cheerios and pieces of bagel to gobble up). Lately, I've been more aggressive towards bigger dogs when I'm on the leash, particularly if I'm with another dog. Mostly boxers, german shepherds and huskies. I was getting a drink of water at the run once and washing off my tennis ball when a huge Malamute came and grabbed me by the neck. Mommy and his owner rescued me immediately, but I haven't been too crazy about those guys ever since. Mommy keeps an eye for big guys at the run, especially puppies, since they sometimes don't know their own strength. And when I'm the aggressor on the leash, she makes me sit down immediately and think about what I said.

Your fellow city-dweller,


Harley-D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harley-D said...

Biggie-Z - Daddy J is really lazy he needs to get off his butt and get more batteries for the camera

Mango said...

Oh Biggie Mom! That could have been me. Sometimes Mango is cool and other times he goes into that stance with that bad look on his face. My husband says I am tranmitting tension down the leash (well, duh, who wouldn't).

Fortunately, I can avoid most situations by carefully selecting time of day and location of walks. I can even totally opt out of walkies if I need a break. It must be very difficult in the city.

Even though Mango hates it, I still always use the gentle leader. In fact I double leash him (buckle collar and gentle leader) just in case.

Mango Momma