Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beyond the Latest Wave

Lostine got past her colic, and Midge is doing much better after I put my son on speakerphone and let her sit in my lap while my son and I talked.  Hopefully, my diagnosis of doggie depression was correct and she doesn't have any physical ailment that will come back to bite us. 

I've decided to take a break from walking dogs at the animal shelter.  The time that is convenient for me to go is no longer working out for me, because other volunteers beat me to the afternoon walks and intentionally leave the most difficult dogs for me.  I've taken several dog training courses, but these dogs are just more of a challenge than I have the energy to work with.

They are both very young, untrained Pit Bulls.  Their behaviors are identical.  They sit in their kennels looking cute and acting polite until you step inside.  Then they start jumping on you and scratching your arms up with their claws while you try to put the choke chain over their heads.  If you don't walk them out the door and keep walking as fast as you can, they'll start jumping up and biting your arms.

With one of the dogs I was able to get into the dog yard right away and play ball with him, which helped burn off all that excess energy.  Then once the dog started to settle down, I was able to work on basic commands like "heel" and "sit".  He did really well and received a lot of praise and a doggie biscuit for his hard work.

The other Pit Bull was a different story.  Someone was in the dog yard and I had to wait.  Waiting is bad.  Waiting results in a bored dog, which results in the dog jumping all over me and biting whatever body part he can wrap his powerful jaws around.  This dog was literally trying to bite my face off, so I kneed him each time he jumped up and said, "OFF!"

The woman in the dog yard was just watching me get attacked and not doing anything to help.  I started getting angrier and angrier, probably because her behavior reminded me of my nosy neighbor, and I yelled at her to give me the dog yard now, before I lose my face.  She skedaddled out of there, and I cut that hyper Pit Bull loose to run around.

When it was time to go back in, I tried a little bit of the "heel" and "sit" commands, but this dog interpreted every word as "Let's play!"  He jumped all over me, clawing my skin and wrapping his teeth around my arm.  They say not to turn your side or back to a dog when it does that, because those are submissive poses.  So, I faced the dog and kneed him each time he jumped up while saying "OFF!", but he just kept getting more and more aggressive.

I realized that things had crossed over from puppy play to this dog attacking me.  He bit into the flesh beneath my upper arm, and I scrambled to get through a gate before he mauled me.  Now I was locked into a dog kennel, and this Pit Bull was pacing at the gate preventing me from getting out.  I thought about using my mobile phone to call the front desk at the animal shelter and ask somebody to come get this dog away from me, but I knew that would be the dog's death sentence.  We have a no kill shelter, but that doesn't mean they won't ship him off to a kill shelter.

I assessed my wounds and saw that there were only red marks and the dog didn't break any skin or make me bleed.  He was just a puppy and didn't know any better.  I decided to give him another chance, and came out of the kennel, picked up his leash, and started walking.  He followed obediently and did not jump on me anymore.  I realized that separating myself from him by locking myself into the kennel was probably the best thing I could have done, because I taught the dog that I don't want to be around him when he jumps on me.  I praised him as he walked next to me all the way back to his kennel and handed him a biscuit once he sat quietly and let me remove his choke chain.

Despite the incident ending on a positive note, I've decided to take a break from this volunteer job, because this is the second time that I've come home feeling beat up.  It takes a special person to work with Pit Bulls, and I just don't have enough experience with the breed to understand how to head these aggressive behaviors off at the pass.  I've had better luck working with wolves.

It was nice to get home to my little Chiweenie and Corgi who sweetly sit next to me and give me kisses.  Who says older dogs don't make good new additions to families?  We adopted Scrappy at the estimated age of 10, and he has been the best dog we've ever owned.  My husband calls him "the cutest dog in the world".  When Scrappy runs, he looks like he's got a load in his pants, but he doesn't.  He hasn't soiled our carpet once in the last year we've owned him.  He just looks really cute when he runs.  It reminds us of a baby in a diaper. 


Crystal said...

Glad to hear things quieting down, and maybe its a good idea to take a break from the shelter they dont seem to appreciate help and you need more time, perfect!

Mary said...

I'm picturing Scrappy running, that's funny!
I don't think I would be up to puppy pit bull behavior like that either. They aren't bad dogs I don't think, I just think they require extra training and time to learn no means no and not lets play somemore, that would be hard for anyone. I hope he makes it, but he sounds like a tough one.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

When John and I first got married I volunteered for the ASPCA in Annapolis, MD. My job was to socialize, walk, play and groom the dogs. We didn't own any animals then, so I had plenty of time and energy to devote to helping out.
I rarely ever worked with the large dogs, though, because, like you, they were just a huge handful and I've never liked when dogs jump up on people. We did end up adopting a 1 yr old female German Shepherd when I worked there, but she was very polite, timid and well behaved. We had to put her to sleep when she was 12 yrs old due to severe hip displasia and we still miss that girl.

The German Shepherd we have now, John bought as a puppy just a week before Christmas 4 years ago. It's taken a long time to get her trained to calm down, come when called, and not jump up. She still gets hyper sometimes and forgets her manners.

Then there's Dobbie. *smile* She's 4 yrs old now. I adopted her when she was 2 years old. I'm always amazed at how well behaved she is and how willing to try new things. When I remember that she spent the first 2 yrs of her life stuck in a cage churning out puppies for a backyard breeder, it's even more impresssive. They say that abused and neglected dogs who have been given a second chance are the best dogs to have because they appreciate their new lives. And I concur.
And like your Scrappy, Dobbie also has that crazy butt waggling swagger that always makes me smile.

Anyway, it takes a special person to work with one of those large breed dogs, especially when the dogs have never had any training or have been abused. I say, leave it to the professionals. You've got enough on your full plate already. Enjoy your sweet pups at home...and enjoy a walk with them instead. :)


fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like the right choice, volunteer work , should not be painful or so frustrating it upsets or stresses you . But I do have to say Yay for you for hanging in there and making your last visit a positve outcome

achieve1dream said...

Hehe that's exactly what I was going to suggest. Separating yourself from him. I think taking a break is probably a good idea since it's stressing you out. When you do decide to go back if you have a dog like that again the best thing you can do is start in his kennel. If he knows to sit, ask him to and then start to open the gate. If he gets up, close it and ask for a sit again. Keep doing that until you can get into the kennel and put his leash on without him ever breaking the sit. If he doesn't know sit yet you can do it the same way, but instead of the sit just close the door/leave the kennel (if you don't trust him to turn your back just back out of the kennel) if his front feet come off the ground like he's going to jump. Eventually he learns all four feet have to be on the floor to get attention and play time in the yard. Once he's doing that you can teach him to sit and work on that too. It works really well, but you have to have the time and patience and I know you definitely don't have the time. :) I hope he finds a really nice home and doesn't escalate until he's dangerous and ends up euthanized.

I'm so glad Lostine and Midge are okay. I was worried about them.