We just got back from our holiday in Italy where we were participating in Communication Classes at Gentle Team. I was extremely excited to spend 7 days filled with observing dog behaviour and it was great to meet old friends and see how my dogs have changed within the last year.
Since we got back I’m continuously thinking about the things I’ve learned and how much more there is to know about dog communication. I will slowly try to write as much as possible about our holiday but it will take some time, I have over 500 pictures of interactions and loads of films to go through. And of course everyday life to take care of.
A little sneak peak:
Weekend is almost over and I have to wait for 5 days before I can take Chili to our park again(it gets dark before I get home).
We had really nice walks full of good dog to dog interactions and little bit of training (sit and stay, changing positions on a picnic table). I’m too tired to write about it though 🙂
So there will be just few pictures from the weekend.
Oh I love spending time with my dogs so so much!
Salma’s behavior has been worrying me for some time now. She started to be more aggressive towards other dogs. And by aggressive I mean that she stares intently at other dogs, and approaches some dogs with her tail very high combined with tense body. I don’t like it, not even a bit.
She went through a lot of different phases when it comes to communicating with other dogs. She was terrified of all dogs as a puppy, she was crazy drown to dogs after that (that’s how I interpreted at the moment but thinking about it now it was just a coping strategy because I didn’t give her enough support), then she became very sweet. Confident but not pushy. She loved puppies and respected fearful dogs but would let other dogs push her around. Now I think she is behaving to aggressive in certain situations. Some dogs hide behind their owners when she looks at them. She started stopping and staring at dogs while she is on the leash. For me it is a huge red light, a sign of something worse to come (if we dont do anything). Yesterday she was pulling me towards a Swiss shepherd. We were leaving Vondel Park and the other dog was running after a ball. And Salma just started pulling in his direction. I was very surprised because normally she Di ignore other dogs while being on the leash.
Now I’m trying to understand why this changed happened. Is it caused by the unpleasant experiences she had few months ago? (in one week we were attacked twice. Nothing happened but it wasn’t nice). Is she changing because of Chili? Is it caused by not enough off leash contact with other dogs?
This worries me greatly.
After yesterday I decided to avoid her meeting dogs while she is on the leash. I would already do it but I wasn’t always strict. Now I really want to avoid those situations at any cost. I’m thinking that maybe she needs to learn again that she can be safe on the leash, and it’s my job to convince her.
Oh man if I could know right now exactly why this change happened.
I recently read an article titled The Control Myth. It’s about our human need to control everything and it ends with a nice quote that even the most out of control dogs have a place in our lives. I used to be a big time control freak when it comes to my dogs. And it became especially salient with Salma. She started to go completely mad about rabbits and trains and I in turn begone to control her every move, including looking in a direction that could trigger her. Such as bushes in Vondelpark. She would listen but she was still aroused and tense and I was tense because trying desperately to stay in control at all times is hard work. And at some point I let go. I’ve accepted Salma just the way she is (and she is a wonderful dog, but also a god with a drive) and it was as if magic happened. More I trust her and let her be herself the more she chooses to be with me. We used to struggle and now we are a team. Today we had an interesting interaction in Vondelpark. As we approached a field where a group of dogs was standing close to their owners, Salma didn’t want to go through the group so we went around. As we were already going through the field male American bulldog saw us. He came closer and stopped 10 steps from us. Both me and Salme where standing laterally to him. He looked first at Salma then at me and at Salma again. Salma didn’t show interest in meeting him. He decided to walk up to me. He wasn’t tense but more curious. At the same time as he got next to me Salma appeared behind my back. She looked at him from behind me (they were close to each other) and she pushed my thigh with her nose. It is time to go she was saying. We went our way (slowly and relaxed) and the bulldog went back to his group. I liked this because it really felt that me and Salma are a family group and that our communication goes both ways. I listen to her and she listens to me. A lot of people would say that I’m crazy but now instead of stopping Salma from going into the bushes (where she starts running like a maniac) I encourage her to go and praise her as she runs. Sometimes I join her in her adventure. And she loves and and she stays closer. Because now I k ow that even when she is at a full speed (and she is fast!) she does pay attention to me and does listen so in fact she is not out of control she is just having fun. And I’m enjoying myself seeing her to free and out of control 😉
Somehow I Couldn’t find time or energy to write in a couple of days. I lot has been gong on, not only with the dogs, and my mind was wondering far away from the blog. Chili is 8 months old (tomorrow to be precise) and if she will continue to be such a pain in the butt she may not leave to see her adulthood. Seriously, I don’t know how parents of teenagers do it. At least she can talk back to me. Though she is very expressive with the looks she gives me when I don’t want to play with her. She also became more annoying towards other dogs. She is still afraid of a lot of them but on the other hand she started to bark at the rest when they don’t want to interact with her. Today two dogs gave her a strong lesson on why she should be more polite. Both older females, and both very good with communication. When Chili didn’t respond to their calming signals, and warning signals they chased her away but only as long as it was necessary. Chili was a slow learner but she finally realized that she should respect their personal space.
Salma on the other hand is doing ok but she had some bad experience with dogs recently. First with a very aggressive Yorkshire terrier, and then with a young Belgian shepherd. In both situations the owners were total d***heads, and could be responsible for a serious tragedy. Poor Salma did very good but she was stressed with those situations.
I finally managed to take Salma for a proper long walk in a park. It was wonderful to be just with her and see how much she enjoys running. I really love how she can ignore dogs that are barking at her. We even met a little female dog that ran straight at Salma while growling, and Salma just waited for her to come close and sniff her. It made the little dog calm down immediately.
There was one moment when Salma seemed to be too interested in bushes close by so I took her on a leash (just in case she would get a stupid idea). She was pulling me so I switched the leash from harness to collar. When Salma was small I spend a lot of time teaching her not to pull on collar and at the same time she was allowed to pull on the harness. Later I got more lazy and switched all together to the harness. Now I use the collar when Salma gets too excited. Over three years past but she still knows not to pull on the collar. After she calmed down (and we walked to a big field) I let her off again. I wanted to get tension out of her so we played tag of war with a stick.
She had an ok interactions with dogs but could see that she does have a problem with communicating to young dogs that she doesn’t want to interact with them or that they are getting too intense. She tried laying down and turning her head away and when it didn’t work she started running like crazy. She makes big circles in those situations and that usually gets her far away from the dog that was bugging her. I was very proud of her when we where in a cafe, getting coffee and someone pushed in tense female dalmatian. We where standing in a narrow part of the bar and the poor dalmatian found herself really close to Salma without a way out (there where suddenly a lot of people in the cafe standing by the door). Salma gave the dalmatian a soft eye and waved her tail slowly at the height of her back but not raising it over. It was nice to see the other dog relaxing her body. Fortunately, someone opened the door and she could go outside. I think it’s sad that so many owners don’t even know that they are putting their dog in a difficult situation. Many probably don’t even notice when their dog feels stressed.
The rest of the walk went great and yet again I realized how much I enjoy spending time with my dogs. It really makes me happy 🙂
This is a picture from last year
On Sunday I could finally take Salma for a long walk in a park. Unfortunately, the weather is getting better which means that a lot of people decide to hang out in the park. I personally like it the most in winter or when it’s raining and free from tourists, junkies and children. We managed to have a good walk, but next time I will try to be there before 9, and hopefully it won’t be as busy. .I love walking Salma, I feel that we really understand each other and most of the time I know what to expect from her. For example I know that if she has a bit more stress she will run like a lunatic for the first minutes off leash and now I take it into consideration. After letting her go I always through her a ball or a stick so she can direct her energy at something. Otherwise she runs really fast around me, and sometimes gets lost in the bushes. Two weeks ago Salma, was really going crazy for the first minutes of the walk, and yesterday she was very good. I hope that it means she is less stressed now. She exchanged greetings with some dogs, but mostly ignore them. As we reached the big field where dog owners meet, I saw a group of people standing in the middle with their dogs. Even from far you could feel the tension. I walked around them, and Salma followed (she usually won’t approach a group of dogs unless I will walk towards them). I noticed a young female American Staffordshire terrier in the group, we met her a week ago and she was very pushy. Salma managed to out run her and when she came at her again and tried to displace her, Salma nicely stopped her and came to me for support. I didn’t want to meet this dog again. Just as we were walking away from the field I heard an explosion of growling and barking. I turned around I saw the female amstaff running over a much smaller dog, a female husky (a pretty strong dog) went to separate them, but by then amstaff’s owner grabbed her and lifted her off the small dog. I ‘m happy we weren’t anywhere close to that. The rest of our walk was fun and relaxed. Chili on the other hand was really annoying last night. She was all over the place, and I even took her for an extra walk (which I usually wouldn’t do because I don’t want her to get used to too much exercise).
This morning I unfortunately met a cat with Salma. I’m getting sloppy, I used to see cats long before they would see us, and today he surprised me. I had to put Salma on a collar instead of a harness, and we took a minute to cool down. Fortunately, she can calm down a lot faster than before, which means we can continue walking without her flying on the leash. Chili’s morning walk was nice. She met a very well behaved male Husky, and they actually manage to run together. I really need to find her a strong adult dog to teach her some manners. I think she will be pretty strong when she grows up and I don’t want her to bully other dogs. What I found very nice again was the fact that she definitely, knows that we go for walks together. She will run off with another dog, but she doesn’t forget about me, and If I walk away she follows. I hope this won’t disappear completely during her puberty.