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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Big vs Little Dog

Haley. My parents farm dog.
 Imagine the scene, It is a lovely summer afternoon and the farmers market has a small steady stream of customers walking through the park and to the market. Comet and I scan the venders for the best deals and familiar faces. A school age boy walks up to me "May I pet your dog?" I love it when they do that!
"Yes," I say  " Thank you for asking first!" and I kneel down to the childs' level and answer his questions about my dog. His mother steps over says hello. "Thank you." She says as she walks away. As I tell Comet what a good boy he is I hear a growl and sharp bark from behind me. A woman begins to laugh. I turn to see a teeny tiny Chihuahua snarling and lunging at Comet. The woman smiles and looks from me her her snarling dog.
"Isn't she something?" She says and walks closer to Comet and I. "What a good looking god you have!" The woman continues to make polite conversation with me as her dog continues to makes threats to mine. I am monitoring the situation closely, at about 3lbs this little Napoleon can't do much damage to Comet. My worry is that Comet will grow uncomfortable and annoyed, something I already am. I slip momentarily into my imagination and see Comet swallow that sucker like a field mouse. Crunch. Crunch. Swallow.
Coming back to reality I am proud of my dog. Most of the market goers have paused from their shopping now to see the little bully lunging at my big dog, and my big dog (He is really more medium sized weighing in at 70lbs) looking away, then sitting, looking at me, then looking away.
Comet looking away is a great response to the situation. A dog exhibiting a "look away" is saying something like "I am no threat to you, I am calm, you can be too". This is exactly what I would want him to do. His sitting and then standing and repeat was a cue to me that he was getting uncomfortable trying to calm that little stinker. 

When the little dog got too close to Comet I walked in between them, putting my big shoe in front of the tiny dog. The little dog then began darting back and forth between her owners legs, continuing to lunge and bark. Comet was getting uncomfortable and I was tired of holding my tongue. I finished my shopping and got out of there. On one hand I walked away from the market very proud of how well Comet had handled that situation. I rewarded him (Did I mention this whole encounter happened in front of a home made dog treat vender?)with green bean and garlic dog treats I bought at the market. All the people at the market that day saw how well behaved my dog had been. Good boy Comet!
But on the other hand a lot of people had a good laugh at that little dogs expense. No one, not even the owner of the little dog was respecting the fact that the little tiny dog was obviously uncomfortable in that situation. Instead of taking seriously the aggression her dog was showing, the woman and many onlookers laughed and egged on the dog. The little dog may be very little, but has teeth non the less and could inflict a fair amount of damage to someone. Also, from experience I can say that many dogs visiting the farmers market have owners equally misunderstanding of there dogs and many dogs have not developed the self control Comet was able to hold during that situation. While the Crunch! Crunch! Swallow! scenario is indeed very unlikely, the situation of little dog vs big dog with a different dog could very well have turned into something much more serious. If the little dog was lunging about the market threatening other dogs and a large dog reacted the owner of the little dog would have likely been surprised and blamed the large dog for reacting if her own dog had been injured.
Lets look at it this way. If there are many children on the playground all different ages, and genders and races all visiting the same playground. The smallest of the children would never be allowed to threaten the rest with a knife! The teachers and parents would not laugh and say "Oh isn't she something!" As a little girl scared others off the monkey bars with a butterfly knife! We would NEVER do this, because we understand that this is inappropriate behavior. Now we need, as a world full of loving dog owners, to understand that a chihuahua threatening anything else is also inappropriate behavior. Then find out,.. what can we do to better understand the situation to help that dog feel more comfortable so her life can be happier?

Unfortunately, the woman and her chihuahua never asked my opinion! If you see her give her the name of this blog and tell her to pick up a copy of "Feisty Fido" by Patricia McConnell.

Having trouble with your own feisty Fido? (look into getting that book and...) Looking to improve the bond with your dog? Check out local obedience and training clubs in your area.  Look for a place that uses positive reinforcement methods and asks proof of your dogs vaccinations. In my area this is one of my favorite places to encourage someone to take a class. Check it out.

Tool Box!
 Does your dog like to chase tail?
NO! I don't mean is he good with the ladies! A big fuzzy tail is a great motivator for prey driven dogs. I remember the first time I saw the raccoon tail on a rope. If you haven't seen one click here
Yup, I've got one!

Tip of the day! Wag of the tail!

Tip of the day!
Tip of the day is about trash cans. Have you ever come home to the trash strewn all over? Oh the lovely smell of it! The longer that trash has been in the can the more tempting it is! 3 days worth of trash in the kitchen can and it's just too much to resist, dog gone it! A young dogs curiosity is bound to let loose somewhere around hour 7 of your absence at work! Be smart and keep your trash in a can (or even better in a cupboard or closet!) that can't be knocked over and easily opened. I've got a round step open can with lid (Check it out.) When I first got it I put a cinder block in the bottom. This obviously meant I had little room to put trash in this, but it weighted the can down so well that when the dogs got a whiff of  yesterdays meat wrappings they couldn't get into the can with its lid closed and weighted bottom. I am very sure that if they hadn't been fed for days and steak was in that can that indeed they could have gotten it open. However that was not the case, and what ever investigation was made into the can while I was out never resulted in the trash ending up on the floor. After a month or so of success I removed the weight and have never had trouble since. The dogs had learned it was not worth there time to mess with this trash can and the battle is won!

Wag of the Tail!
I just finished reading a really great book entitled "Part Wild" by Ceiridwen Terrill. I absolutely, recommend it to dog lovers and wolf lovers alike. If you have ever been enticed by the thought of owning a wolfdog I suggest you read this immediately! This true story of one woman's journey with her wolfdog is interspersed with research based information about wolves, dogs and wolfdogs. Temple Grandin said this book "....will make you fully understand the differences between wild and domestic animals."  I would tell you more, but you've really got to read it yourself!

Oh! Did I mention I've added a reading list to the bottom of the blog post page? If you ever wonder were I come up with some of this stuff, or just want a better understanding of your own dog, pick up one (or all) of these books. Winter is coming, a good time for a good book, so tell Rover to move over and make room on the couch!

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