Archive for September, 2008

Reality Bites (If You Don’t Deal With It)

September 30, 2008

One dog year is equivalent to seven human years according to the experts. This puts Stella in the fourth grade en route to college in a year, marriage a year later and a full blown mid life crisis a year after that. But for the moment she’s an adolescent, a near teen. Which makes it easy for me to want to write off a lot of behavior as age related. But this latest issue, aggression, I couldn’t chalk up to an age or stage. Its consequences are just a little too steep to ignore.

The issue is she’s been going Teeth Face way too easily, snapping very quickly at other dogs both on and off leash. At first I buried my head in the sand, hoping it would pass, hoping it was due to a stomach ache or fleas but eventually I decided that reality in this case, could bite if I didn’t deal with it. So I put on a virtual rash shirt and started surfing–online.

What I learned is this: Dog aggression is a lot like ice cream–31 flavors and then some (apologies Ani.) There’s a variety of types and you can read a general description by clicking right here. You got your dominance aggression, defensive aggression, dog on dog aggression, dogs aggressive towards people.

Seems to me that Stella’s got a touch of the defensive agression going on. While she’s the fastest dog on the beach (hell, she should be, she’s a Greyhound) she’s still young and she’s a bit scared of the big dogs.

When insecure she protects herself by going Teeth Face. It reminds me of Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lechter in Silence Of The Lambs. She waits for a moment, the eyes focus, the fur rises on her back. I can almost here the words…

“Well Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?”

The teeth come out–no biting–just those sharp Hannibals and big explosed pink gums. And, every time, she effectively sends the other pooches scampering off in fear that she’ll have them (with a bottle of chianti and some fava beans) for dinner.

After a few difficult days I think we’ve got the two word solution: Liver Treats. I bring a few chickens’ worth to the beach. I walk her in on leash—let her know I’m around and supplied with liver treats. I let her go but I call her frequently and nail that recall down. Before she can get into any sort of skirmish she’s called. She comes running. She gets distracted. She goes back and plays, never getting amped up.

Distraction is a beautiful thing.

I wonder if some day she’ll eventually be easy. But most of the day she is easy. I mean how much trouble is it to deal with something passed out in your living room as long as it’s not dead, doesn’t smell too bad and isn’t wanted by the authorities? But really I think I was pondering if she was always going to have one problem or another. Hell. I dunno. I’m the Dog Virgin, the anti Cesar Milan, the one you call when you need the questions, not the answers.

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Crate Expectations

September 12, 2008

Note: This post could also be titled, Separation Anxiety In Your Young Greyhound. Or, Maybe It’s Not A Good Idea To Crate Your Dog Only Two Hours After You’ve Left Them In A Completely New Environment. Or, Live and Learn.

Poor Stella. Poor friends who so generously said Yes to keeping her for the weekend while we visited Sin City (me for business, P for tag-along purposes.) I thought I thought of everything (another good post title, actually.) Food, chewies, stuffies, phone numbers, detailed instructions, pillow, portable crate. Ah yes, the portable crate.

The last times we’ve left Stella she stayed with Greyhoundies who have, in addition to two hounds, a huge warehouse which is home to Barkstix, a business that makes yummy all natural dog treats. In other words, dog heaven. And then we left her with friends who were remodeling their place. Doggie daycare, never a problem. Smooth sailing. Never any separation anxiety. Separation affinity, in fact.

Well, I guess I was wrong. Turns out the key to making these things work out has been that Stella was not left alone. Stella’s not really attached to me or P. in as much as she just needs some company. Something three dimensional with a pulse will work.

So our friends who said they had to go to a play that evening that I left her, the ones I assured could go to that play and just crate her, did like I said and put her in. Not so fast. Within about a minute, after walking down the stairs, they heard barking, whining, blood curdling screaming going on. And then, she appeared, escaped from the travel crate and likely ready to destroy everything of value in the house if they were to leave her unattended.

Needless to say, they never got to the play.

Fortunately, I was able to get doggie daycare to take her so my friends could get on with their lives. But things continued on a downward spiral over there too as she could not shake the separation anxiety (“SA” as those far too in the know call it.) She gracefully jumped high fences, whined, barked and simply would not crate for love nor money. Basically, she was a huge pain in the butt–you know, the kid that the teachers call you in about–the kid at private school they have to put up with because the parents are paying the tuition.

Fast forward and she’s back at home not having really skipped a beat. As the Dog Whisperer likes to say, “Dog live in dee moment.” Owner, however, live in the dee past. And I’ve become way too well versed on SA but maybe, hopefully, better equipped to diminish the chances of putting Stella and friends in this situation again.