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Live like we do...and your little dog too

This is my dog. Isn't he a fine specimen of doggiehood? Handsome. Son of champions. And, probably from his breeder's point of view, utterly wasted on us: the people who love him simply as a member of our family. We don't compete with him, or hunt with him or hunt compete with him or anything.

His main claim to fame is the ability to lick a dirty baby clean in under 10 seconds and one time he swam across Ipswich Bay from Wingaersheek Beach.

A sailboat tried to rescue him, as did two sea kayaks, but he was determined. His favorite tennis ball was at stake. With many seacraft and a few life preservers around him, he paddled and paddled until he had rescued that ball and then---and only then---did he return to shore.

That, my friends, exemplifies how stout of heart and body my dog is.

He also strongly adheres to his own code of ethics.

In other words, he is pretty resistant to training.

We went through doggie kndergarten twice, obgility twice, hired a private trainer once, and continue to read and attempt to follow the Dog Whisperer rules.

The main problem is us, not him, I think, and so the private trainer told us. He was the New England Dog Whsiperer, with advanced degrees in human and animal behavior. My husband is too lax, he told us, and to compensate, I am too strict.

(Funny how that is not limited to the dog...)

Regardless, clearly we are committed to having our dog Under Command.

This is crucial as a member of any dog club we've belonged to, or to enjoy any park or beach during Dog Hours.

Our current dog club handed out Rules!!! (their emphasis) recently.

The rules were handed out because once again we are in danger of losing our dog park hours and privileges (ability to be leashless under a leash law) due to some dog owners' abuses.

The rules are simple and clear, and in my opinion are such common sense things that they shouldn't even need to be said, but they were written out, laminated even:

If you wish to join us and enjoy the freedom, exercise and fun that we and our dogs experience at the park, you need to be aware of and follow the simple guidelines below so that the behavior of your dog does not jeopardize everyone else's ability to meet and have "puppy park" time:

Your dog must be under verbal control with a reliable recall ("come!"). This is like having a leash on your dog. If you don't have control without a leash, put a leash or shock collar on your dog.

Your dog CANNOT be allowed to go into people's backyards or approach people on the sidewalks or other areas of the park.

All poop must be picked up and either deposited in the one trash we have remaining or carried out.

Agressive or extremely boisterous (out of control) behavior is not allowed. If your dog has too much energy, exercise him/her before coming to the park Smaller, older, rehabiliting or timid dogs can be harmed by overly physical interaction with other dogs.

If your dog breaks something, injures another dog or human, or otherwise does damage, it is YOUR responsibility to pay for the damage.
Accidents do happen, and as a responsible dog owner, we expect that you will respond accordingly if there is any problem.

We have been using this park for a long time. We greatly appreciate your consistent assistance in continuing our ability to do so.

We seem to go through phases at the dog park. Someone gets a new dog or moves into town and wants to join up. We're always glad for new members. The trouble is people who let their dog be in charge, and then, when something adverse happens, they blame everyone and everything except the true culprit: their lack of control of their dog.

Here's a big fat newsflash: Dogs are animals. Many of them are large animals (like mine).

Even well-trained dogs have been known to "lose it."

Just like people.

When we are scared, hurt, stressed, worried, hungry, sick or hurting...we might very well act out in a way that is not the ideal (at best) and dangerous or injurious (at worst). You ever in a rush and yell at your kid? It's like that. However, a dog might snarl, growl, or snap. And that can be very dangerous.

One time, my dog (a vet labeled "excessive wagger" and "industrious swimmer") suffered a case of "broken tail." (It's not really broken, just like a really bad sprain.) He uses his tail frequently, and energetically, so every time he moved it, it hurt, considerably. He was cranky, edgy, intolerant. Not his usual self. We made adjustments. He got a lot of kennel time, and we kept the kids away from him.

Under-exercised dogs can appear "over-excited" or "aggressive."

In any of the less than ideal situations for the dog, even a sweet one, even a trained one can do something...harmful.

In general, our dog is extremely well-behaved. It takes a lot of effort on our part. We keep up his training, work on his exercise, and pay attention to his health, mood and life. We blow it sometimes...too busy for adequate exercise, too distracted to notice the kids are pushing him to his edge, and so forth.

But in general, we work hard, we stay on top of it, maintain our alpha position, and he's well-behaved. Energetic. Friendly. Curious. But well-behaved.

Other dogs are not only not well-behaved, but don't seem to be expected to. And this is when it gets really, really dangerous.

Especially in public, when the situation is not as "controlled" as at home.

Let me provide an example; flash back a few months ago to dog club at the dog park...

One new member's two dogs pulled him along the street and into the dog park. He couldn't even get them to sit and stay while he removed their leashes. It might have been funny to watch him attempt to greased-pig wrestle with his dogs, except we all knew what this meant: out of control dogs, with only a matter of when, not if, someone or something would get hurt.

In this case, it was my youngest.

On weekends she loved to go to the dog park and see and play with all the dogs. They'd drop balls at her feet and sit patiently, waiting for her to throw the ball all of the six inches she could manage. She'd clap her hands and giggle joyfully after she threw the ball and after the dog returned it to her.

Our dog would occasionally circle her protectively, reminding the other dogs that this was HIS baby, but for the regulars, he needn't have bothered.

Then the new dogs arrived.

One immediately rushed at my toddler's back, knocking her over, and before we could react, bit her neck. It was "playful" not aggressive, and she was more frightened than injured. Not that this mattered a bit.

My husband, a calm man who rarely displays anger, went ballistic.

If you can believe, the owner of the errant dog not only wasn't apologetic, but bickered back with my husband, stating that my husband shouldn't have brought his daughters to the dog park. He even privately took his story to other members of the dog club saying that my husband had "over-reacted" since it was just a "little shove and nip" and didn't everyone thing my husband ought to apologize.

Actually, no, they didn't. Out-of-control-dog owner was further stunned---and infuriated---to learn that most people preferred that he, and his untrained out of control dogs, not return to the park until the dogs could be under control.

After this, we had a rash of out of control dog issues, including one bitten adult and one injured older dog.

Hence the printed out dog park rules.

Once again, dogs are animals. They must be under control or they might injure someone.

Animals are a member of the family, and we have the same obligation to raise and care for them as we do any dependent. The need proper shelter, food, medical care, and of course, discipline (that is, constructive and positive discipline, not after-the-fact punitive or injurious with humans, dogs need to know what to do, not just what not to do).

They don't come out knowing how to behave. No animal does. Every one of us begins life as learning young.

Dogs don't know "leash on" means walk paced with the owner, and obey verbal commands. They don't come knowing sit means sit, stay means stay, wait means wait, lie means lie. They have to learn.

And this? This means someone has to teach them. And the owner needs to learn too.

(Boy, would I ever like some owners to learn that YES, if your dog pooped it is YOUR job to clean it up! My grass? Not your doggie's potty. CLEAN IT UP! The park? Not your doggie's potty. CLEAN IT UP! Street? Same rule! Sidewalk, even more strongly same rule! In fact, everywhere outside YOUR yard...SAME RULE! CLEAN IT UP!)

It appears some people think that having a dog begins and ends with simply providing food and shelter. These same people seem to think their dog's poor behavior is funny, "Dogs will be dogs!" They also appear to think that there isn't an "out of control" issue, any potential for harm, and that the responsibility resides with the dog for its behavior. They expect the dog to do what they ask, with no constructive roadmap (aka training) of how to accomplish that.

This amazes me...I know many of these people. Is this how they raise their children? "Feed them and give them a place to sleep and that's good enough!" I really don't think so.

So why, then, is this how we raise dogs?

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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Added: My Family's Rules About Animals

1. Never approach a strange animal. Always ask a grown-up (your parent) and the animal's owner, first. Ask for the best way to approach. Never approach a strange animal who is not with a human.

2. Always use gentle hands, and watch/listen for the animal's cue about when he/she is tired of your attention.

3. Leave sick and injured animals alone, period.

4. Use your proper command words to tell the dog what to do, such as "sit" and follow training rules. Keep the dog under your control.

5. Clean up any mess you or your dog makes.

Probably more will occur to me, but that's the main gist.


Girlplustwo said…
You forgot the biggest rule of Dog Club:

No one speaks about Dog Club.

Oh wait, that's Fight Club. You go, sister...I can't imagine how you keep it all straight and still manage to make jam, but you do. And then come back to write about it.

PS. I would have went ballistic, too. way.
Seems your dog has you well trained ... as most pooches do with us human pets :o)

Andrew (To Love, Honor, and Dismay)
The dog trainer in me loves, with a capital L-O-V-E, this post. Especially after just getting back from teaching quite a few clueless owners about these very things. Apparently that "Massachusetts Dog Whisperer" had a good effect on you.

And your dog? Love him too. He'd make a nice friend for my yellow lab and my black lab. :)
Julie Pippert said…
Mrs. Chicky...I am not sure your specific location but maybe you've heard of this guy, Glenn Goldman

1 Good Dog

We really enjoyed training with him, although we did our original training with another place (also really good although I can't think f the name just now!).
Julie Pippert said…
Andrew, oh yes, the training has always been mainly for the humans LOL. If you asked my dog, and if he could reply, I'm pretty sure he'd say our training has been a little off since life hasn't been quite enough about HIM lately.

Jen, GASP! I forgot that rule, No talking about dog club!

And remember, the jam was a failure...just strawberry syrup. But that was due to Creative Children.

P.S. My husband's ballistic? Pales in comparison to mine. Hold me back man!
Gwen said…
Was that guy smoking something? Seriously? My husband would have been way more than ballistic.

See, this post explains all the reasons why I really don't want to get a dog even though my oldest daughter is always slipping me these notes that say, "wil you plesaz get me a puppe! soon!" and then looking at me with these big pleading eyes. The truth is, I don't love dogs. I don't hate them and when yours comes up and sniffs my feet and wags his tail at me and nuzzles his snout into my hand, as he will invariably do, because he KNOWS I don't love him and he's desperate to prove how wrong my lack of adoration for him is, I will be polite and say hello and pat him gently. And then hope he goes away. So, I think that having a dog will be even harder for me, because I will be that much less inclined to do the work that will make owning a dog a pleasurable experience. I need a little lazy dog that just wants to sleep all the time, preferably in my daughter's room but one that never ever yaps. Any suggestions? ;)
Julie Pippert said…
Gwen, adopt an older dog, already trained, with a known personality...also go SMALLER.

If you adopt a dog from a respected rescue/foster group, then you can get a lot of information such as "calm, good with kids, trained."

Smaller means easier to wear out, unless you get a really small and yippy energetic breed like a terrier (God help you). Yeah, research breeds (although rescued animals are often mixed breeds, in which case try to find out dominant breed and traits).

That's my BEST suggestion. Also you'd be giving a dog who needs one, a home and family.

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