I always carry Wina up and down the stairs for our walks. This is usually uneventful and predictable. Tonight, however, when I set Wina down after the walk, she spun around real fast giving me a hard look. I backed up, unsure if something snapped in her little mind saying to bite or attack me. She quickly followed up with a dog bow with her front legs collapsing to the floor, her rear end perked up high, and her tail…..wagging. She was inviting me to play. I was shocked. I mimicked her move by tapping my hands to my bended knees. She liked that. She almost barked at me. It was over just about as quickly as it started but it was a super fun second or two. I really like this dog. I just wish she would let me pet her!
Today was a great day for Irwina! We definitely had some serious tail wagging in anticipation of getting some treats. She also did her full business outside twice today, thats huge! Her good spirits were obvious on the walk because she was nearly sprinting for half of it. She then followed me around when we came inside. I sat on a comfy pile of blankets on the floor and she………(wait for it!!!!)…….sat down right next to me!!! I was shocked and I think she was too. She got up as soon as she sat down and found a comfy place to settle in a few feet away, but she still stayed close. This was a great day for us.
Irwina seems to be settling in and getting more comfortable with our “hands-off, only the necessities” routine. When I say ” want to go for a walk?” and pull slightly on her leash (that she still wears 24/7), she walks over and waits to be picked up. I still need to put the towel around her, and each time she seems shocked and nervous by it, but she does not try to bite me. She had been holding her bladder and was a bit constipated for the first week, but over the last 2 days she has relaxed and is doing her business outside, which is a relief for both of us. She has some pep in her step on our walks and is taking time to sniff and enjoy the outdoors. One of her favorite past times is sunning outside on a comfy towel on the porch. I am really pleased to see that she is finding some joys in life. It probably has been a long time.
I have stopped hand feeding her meals. Not sure why it provokes her to bite at times, but I will let her eat in peace. I will continue our hand feeding exercises with high value treats in the hopes she cant pass those up.
She spends most of her time in my office where we hang out together every day. I am gradually bringing my other dogs in one at a time to socialize her with her canine folk. She would prefer they not be there but she tolerates them. It is important that she sees how well-adjusted-dogs interact with people and their environment. They will be able to teach her lessons that I can not. She has been confined to the upstairs, but next week we will introduce her to the down stairs where the action is at in the evenings.
She is still unsure of me and is even more untrusting of other people. She trusts me the most but I am still not able to pet her or pick her up without good cause (and the towel). I had friends over for the 4th of July and she did not do well with new people. We will work on that, in time.
I thought Irwina and I were beginning to have an understanding, dare I say trust? She had been allowing me to hand feed her meals the last 3 days without incident. You would think that would indicate a bond of trust was forming. It is clear that we have a long ways to go. After the last two meals, she has bit my hand when she was finished eating. Without knowing she has decided in her mind that she is finished eating, I offer that last bite of food.. Instead of taking it like she has been, she snaps, as if she is pissed that my hand exists. Its like a game of Russian Roulette not knowing which time will set her off. Needless to say, this setback left me feeling a little defeated.
On the bright side, she seemed to be eager to go outside for our morning walk. By eager, I mean, she alertly watched me put on my shoes and willingly walked over to the stairs. I still can not pick her up with my bare hands. I must put a towel around her and scoop her up form behind. We have an agreement of no funny business with me sneaking in pets or holding her longer than necessary. This is simply a means to get out the door. We had a very productive walk with both poop and pee, amazing. This tells me that her body is relaxing. Awesome.
As we walked back to the house, I reflected on the win and loss of the day. Before our walk, I would have questioned if this effort is showing progress. I realized that success is not always linear, but more of a net gain. I am not sure if we are net positive, but I am at least hopeful.
Listen here, on Youtube!
People see me walking down the street, they all run and hide.
I used to take it personally, now I take it in stride.
I got nothing against no one, I wouldn’t hurt a fly.
But people seem to think I’m mean, and here’s why:
I’m a Pit Bull
A big brown, red-nosed pit bull.
A tooth-bearing, muscle-bound Pit Bull.
I look like I could tear the steel off a locomotive freight train.
People park three spaces when I’m waitin’ in the car.
All the kids in the neighborhood, they never walk through my yard.
There’s a rumor floating ‘round the county that I ate three cats.
But I swear from the bottom of my canine heart that I didn’t do that, no I didn’t do that.
But I’m a Pit Bull,
A tooth-bearing, muscle-bound Pit Bull.
A big brown red-nosed Pit Bull.
I looks like I could dig a hole through a concrete wall.
I got these Pit Bull Blues,
All I wanna do is sniff your shoes,
I ain’t no killer hound.
No, I’m the friendliest dog in town.
The sheer sound of my barking could break through arctic ice.
But deep down, I’m a pussy cat; I’m just trying to be nice.
In case you didn’t notice, I’m wagging my tail at the speed of light.
But no matter what I do, I’m accused of looking for a fight.
‘Cause I’m a Pit Bull,
A tooth-bearing, muscle-bound Pit Bull.
A big brown red-nosed Pit Bull.
I look like I could crush a cannonball in my jaws.
But I couldn’t do any of those things.
Did you know that, due to selective breeding of the American Pitbull Terrier for the last 160 years, that they are LESS inclined to be aggressive towards people??? Fighting dogs that would go after spectators, handlers, or trainers, were labeled as “man eaters” and were immediately put down. Human aggression was not tolerated. Gentleness and a strong desire to be handled by people were traits that were EMPHASIZED when breeding. Makes sense, doesnt it? As a handler, you would need total control of your dog and have his devoted loyalty while in such a volatile and dangerous environment. Even today, the eagerness to PLEASE their people is what drives them to fight, not an inherent hatred of other dogs. In fact, breeders who are looking for a “good fighting dog” may have to wait several litters before finding a good candidate. This is one of the reasons you see so many stray pitbulls in high crime areas where dog fighting is a problem. A dog that wont fight is of little use and is easily discarded to the streets (if not killed by its people).
And one last thought about pitbulls being aggressive with other dogs…. In rescue, we see a lot of dogs get into scuffles with other dogs. It doesn’t matter the breed, they all do it. Fighting is usually due to hormones from not being spayed or neutered, being protective over food as a result of not having enough in the past, and lacking social skills with other dogs. All of these factors are NOT breed specific and do not affect a pitbull type dog more than any other dog. Some of our biggest fighters have been the tiniest of terrors taking on the most gentle of giants.
I encourage you to not judge based on a reputation. In fact, try to not judge at all, dog or man. We each have our own unique set of circumstances that have made us who we are today, for the good and the bad. Instead, look to see how you can be part of solutions and help your community move forward. Its just a thought.
Please feel free to spray me with a water bottle if I ever do these things…..
- Yelling at people to get off my lawn. No one likes “that guy”.
- Being afraid of the vacuum cleaner. It should be my best friend, especially with all the dog hair.
- Not respecting and destroying other people’s things. That’s just not cool.
- Binge eating just because I can get away with it. There is no “win” there.
- Coming on too strong. I shouldn’t be kissing people on the face I barely know.
- Avoiding taking a bath when I need it. (oh come on, we all skip now and then, just admit it).
- Being afraid of a little rain. I wont melt.
- Staring at people eating something you want. That’s not the way to get them to share.
- Not having a job and sleeping all day. Don’t be a free loader.
- Having gas with no shame or embarrassment. That wont win you many friends.
The hardest part of fostering can be the attachment you make to these sweet souls. You will bond more with some over others, and that is normal and healthy. I try to keep in mind the below thoughts for those I have trouble letting go. [Read more…]
I have had two fosters in a row go into adoptive homes and then have aggression/possessiveness over rawhides. Since I do not give out rawhides in my house, I had not had this specific problem before. However, I have had to deal with possessiveness over other things such as toys, food, food-puzzles, people, and territory. These types of issues need to be addressed immediately before they escalate. Here is an email response I gave a prospective adoptive family for a dog that would not give up a very large rawhide bone.
“I think he feels very vulnerable right now and insecure with the change of being in a new home, and since he is a rescue dog and food is his main concern, it is showing in his being possessive over food items. This is very early on as he did not display this behavior at my house at all. To establish you as the alpha leader, you can feed his dinner out of your hand. This will show him that you are the keeper of the food and he will get it only by following your rules. Do not stand directly over him but try to take an angled body position to him while you do this. Feed him from your right or your left side with an open palm. I would not offer any rawhides or food related toys at this time. Food should only be given from you, not dispensed from the kong puzzle. If you want him to drop an item, always offer a higher value item as a reward for releasing what he has. This way, he will not be growling as he has voluntarily released the item. Reward the voluntary releasing behavior of the rawhide for the new item with much praise. Do not reward a growling dog with a higher value treat as that would only reinforce the bad behavior. I hope this helps.”
The family did go on to adopt this dog and did not have any further aggression issues. Establishing the alpha position from the very beginning was critical in being able to train and and properly care for their dog.