My wife and I attended a party this weekend at a friend’s house. My friend has two dogs that I’ve cared for in the past. They’re good dogs. They have their issues, what dog doesn’t, but in all, they’re good pups and I love spending time with them. I was looking forward to the party because my friend makes a hell of a smoked pork and she told me that there’d be plenty of it. My mouth watered immediately when she told me and I couldn’t wait. Plus, I get to see her puppies so it’s a win-win! I’m all about pork and puppies.
When we got to her place, we noticed a third dog sitting calmly on her porch. Sweet as can be. She greeted us right away with a tail wag and a dog smile. She didn’t bark or anything. She just welcomed us as if she already knew us. So before we even greeted or met anyone new, we met this dog first and gave her a ton of attention.
Our friend’s dogs came over all excited to see us, and of course, I had to greet them too. You just cannot ignore an excited dog. At least I can’t.
After greeting all of the dogs we thought we shouldn’t be rude so we went to greet everyone else. Although, if I’m being honest, I could had spend the whole night with these three dogs and been happy. A night with three dogs, now that’s a party I can get into.
We met everybody and exchanged pleasantries. In the back of my mind, all I wanted to do was to meet the fourth dog that was barking from behind the house. My friend probably recognized the look of curiosity on my face and told me to go ahead and meet the puppy who was barking. But just before I went, the dog’s owner told me to be careful with him because he can be a little aggressive when tied up. I appreciated the warning, but I’ve already recognized the barking and it was not an aggressive bark at all.
I can’t say it enough, it is so important to understand your dog’s communication because bad things can happen when you don’t. In this case, she was mistaken about the dog being aggressive, he was just super excited, but it could have been the reverse. The dog could have been the quiet type and she could have told me that he’s not aggressive. And when I went to see her/him, I could have gotten bitten because of miscommunication. Luckily, I understand a little about dog behavior and communication, but the point here is that most people don’t.
This poor dog was tied to a tree out back because it had gotten into a fight with one of my friend’s dogs. So, as punishment, they tied him up for a timeout. Here’s what I have to say about timeouts. If you don’t do it right, they’re as useful as trying to reason with the animal. Which, coincidentally, the owners of the dog also did.
These people, as well-meaning as they were, were treating this dog as a young child with putting him on timeout and having a talk with him without realizing that their efforts were moot. So as I approached the dog I stood with my back to him so that he could get a sense of me. So that he could sniff me, but this dog was so out of control that all he did was bark and bark. The owner, tired of the barking, comes to let him lose, but before he did that he has a verbal conversation with the dog to behave. I wish I were kidding. I stood there shocked. I’m looking at this dog, tail straight up, chest puffed out, tense posture, this man has zero control of this dog, but he lets him loose.
So this dog is not aggressive. I recognized it right away, but he has no dog manners. His excitement level is off the charts. When dogs are excited like that, they don’t listen, they just wiggle, and it’s like they have no control over themselves. And that makes them incredibly rude to other dogs and people. Unfortunately, his parents unknowingly have encouraged it. Which means the dog will push other dog’s buttons until there’s a fight. And I knew another fight was inevitable, but the owner was convinced that the dog learned his lesson after the first incident and the talking to. We agreed to disagree, but I stayed on guard because I knew what was going to happen.
Sure enough, after a few minutes, the dog mounts my friend’s dog and there was another fight. This time, I got to see the owner’s reaction and how they handled it. Now the fight wasn’t anything terrible. It was just a bunch of noise. I know my friend’s dog and I know that he’s not the aggressive type. He just doesn’t like to be mounted. I had just met this dog, but I knew that he was just all talk also. It wasn’t so much of a fight, but a loud argument. It sounds ugly. Lots of noise, growling, and teeth, but no biting. There was no blood and no one was injured, thank god. It could have been worse especially after seeing how the owners handled the situation.
When the arguing was over, the owners of this dog yelled at him angrily. This is very typical. When a dog does something we don’t like we normally react with anger. It’s just human nature. The bad news is that angry reactions are week energy for dogs and they do not follow week energy. Dogs do not respect people who express anger. They might fear it, but they do not respect it and you get nowhere with them.
Dogs can’t rationalize. When you’re angry at your dog all she/he knows is that you’re angry, but he/she doesn’t know why. It leaves them confused and concerned which drives a wedge between you and your dog. Angry emotions aren’t viewed favorably by dogs and what ends up happening is that you have a dog who may love you, but he/she doesn’t trust you and therefore you can’t lead.
This situation could have easily been handled with proper leadership. Leadership means persistent rules and consequences for breaking those rules. The consequences are not punishments, it’s a reaction to unwanted behavior to let the animal know that you disagree with the behavior. Dogs want to please you, so when he/she understands that his/her behavior is unwanted they will not repeat it. But first, you must communicate that clearly to your dog in a way they understand. And the only way they understand is through calm assertive discipline. Not punishment. Punishment is yelling, it’s angry, and it can be abusive. Discipline is assertive, calm, and productive. You’re not angry at the animal, but you are letting her/him know, in a way that they understand, that what they’re doing is not allowed. If you have a good relationship with your dog, they will get it.
It’s all about forming a bond with your pet. Once you have that bond and he/she respects you as her/his pack leader then you will have a dog that is well-balanced and will listen to you. That bond is formed through walks, feeding ritual, rules, discipline, and love. There are no shortcuts. It takes work and commitment, but the rewards are boundless and worth it. Learn to be a good pack leader for your dog and you’ll be rewarded with a loyal friend for life.