A blog about my life with dogs.......

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rude, Rude, doggy dude.

Recently the dog that greeted Harry and I so unpleasantly crossed paths with me, again. Comet and I on a walk, working on our loose leash walking skills (and kill’n it, if I may say so) walked by the house of the dog we will call Rudy (not cuz its his name, but because he is rude!) . Rudy and his person were playing fetch in there own yard, when Comet and I attempted to walk by on the opposite side of the street. Rudy was off leash, and not in a fenced area. When Rudy saw Comet his eyes locked hard onto him and Rudy froze for a split second showing all the signs you do not want to see in an approaching dog; hackles up, eyes locked, mouth closed, tail up, body stiff, forward lean then began what I can only call lurking towards us bearing his teeth and growling.

You might think at this point Rudy’s owner might have upped the ante, to dissuade him from his impending attack. Or, maybe in her mind she did. I heard her angrily call her dog a few times before, out of breath, she began slowly lugging her body in the direction of the dog and picking up a stick along the way.

“No!” I said. A human reaction and a meaningless one at that.


Notes on “No”

“No”, as a command, an order, or a request is useless for clear communication with a dog. But why?

The word “No” is simply used too often. Imagine all the contexts the average dog owner might use it in.

“NO!” When the dog jumps on the couch

“NO!” When the dog steals a sandwich from your guest.

“NO!” When the dog is barking

“NO!” When the dog takes off with your favorite shoe.

Not to mention all the times us humans use the word “no” in our everyday conversations. I imagine when most dogs hear the word “no” to them it sounds a lot like “woof” sounds to us, meaningless noise that may or may not get our attention.

In the contexts above what a person really means is

“Off.” The couch please

“Leave it” That guest will have no trouble eating that sandwich themselves.

“Come!” Let me distract you from whatever you are barking at

“Drop it” Because you have no business chewing on my stinky shoe, then give the dog an appropriate chew toy. Keep in mind all these words/commands must be taught. Puppies do not come out of the box with a vocabulary!!!!


The dog crept forward and growled. Comet stood behind me unsure of what to do, he darted to the end of the leash and back trying to get away.

I was determined to control the situation. So I did.

The large black Labrador lunged forward toward Comet and I snatched him by the collar and held the two dogs apart, attempting to stay between them, until Rudy’s’ owner lumbered over. Immediately the woman began beating him with a stick. “Bad dog!” She yelled. “ I can’t trust you anymore!” And hit the dog multiple times before taking his collar and 90lb body from my hands.



Like it or not every day we are training our dogs. Training them that when we pick up the leash we are about to walk them. Training them that when we pick up our keys and put on your shoes we are going to drive away. Our dogs are watching us, and they are learning.

What did the woman teach her dog?

The woman taught Rudy that he has every reason to be stressed when another dog walks by. She may have also taught him that strangers with dogs approaching my get him beaten or that strangers handling him may get him beaten. In short, the woman increased the likelihood that her dog would be aggressive again, and increased the likelihood that level of aggression would become more severe.


Miraculously, I still have all my fingers.

I don’t recommend grabbing the collars of aggressing dogs. I had a few things going for me, the first, that I had an encounter with this dog once without any other players (no abusive owner, no other people at all, no other dogs). Rudy had pulled himself free of his collar while attached to a tie out. He ran over to pee on my fence and I grabbed a hand full of treats and walked him home. Knocked and no one answered so I hooked him back to his chain and left him with a scattered bit of treats on the ground in the hopes he would be satisfied sniffing them out rather than break free to follow me home. In these moments the dog was a lovely gentlemen. Long story short, I new I had made a good first impression.

The second thing I had going for me, was my ability to understand what exactly the dog was going for. Rudy was after Comet, and that was that. Rudy stared directly at Comet; all his body movement flowed towards Comet. Rudy was likely under socialized (to dogs) and defending his territory.

What’s more is that the women, in all her lack of hustle, probably for all the world believed truly and deeply, (and maybe still does) that her dog could do no harm.

Honestly, can you look into the eyes of your furry companion, who sleeps on your bed, or licks your face, or brings you your slippers, or whatever he/she does and think, oh sure, my dog could really do some damage??????? Doubt it. Our dogs really have us fooled when it comes to this. People are more often than not shocked at ill behavior from their four-legged friend.

“He’s not like this at home!” they might say.

“He’s never done this before!”

“But he’s so great with MY kids”

“Oh, he has plenty of socialization, he has 3 other dogs to play with in my house.”

The hard truth is

Socialization requires

-The sight of, smell of and/or near or actual physical contact with and positive experiences around a hundred or more dogs. NOT THREE.

-The sight, and smell, and the experience of good things around a hundred different children. NOT THREE.

-The experience of happiness around men with beards and hats, people with funny voices, of different skin tones, sizes, shapes and body postures.


“He’s never done this before!” a great example of canine / human misunderstanding. What is it the dog has not done before? Has he never growled at house guests and now he is growling? Ask yourself “What is different?”

Has he never seen a green bay packer fan in a cheese hat yell in your living room before? Well, then how does your dog know how to respond?

You have to teach him.

This is a picture of Bugsy on the anniversary of his adoption/his "birthday". The football was a present from me. Can't say I'm not sentimental!!!