dog behaviour

One of those days

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I woke up with a painful throat which pissed me off, I don’t have time to get sick (and after 10 months since my last cold I though I was invincible). I had to finish my essay in behavioral problems in dogs and horses even though I felt like sleeping the whole day. And yes I had to walk Chili in the morning. If walking in a heavy rain and wind wasn’t bad enough she rolled in something very dead. I had to wash her as soon as we got home, I didn’t even take my shoes off. Even Salma was repulsed by Chili’s new fragrance. But well, too bad those things happen. Stupid enough I decided to walk both dogs together in the afternoon. I was even very proud of myself how well it was going. I lost my voice but still my girls behaved well… Till I decided to go home that is. Chili disappeared in the bushes and I could call her I tried but sound coming out of my mouth were disappointing. She did appear a minute later holding the biggest and dirtiest rabbit I’ve ever seen. I walked away, I knew I cannot catch her and that for her in that moment this rabbit is so important that I cannot compete with it with my stupid treats. She didn’t follow me and Salma so I came back to see that a woman with a pit bull is watching Chili eat. Nice. By that time Chili had only ears (and I guess a bit of head) left and was running after me and Salma but keeping safe distance. If I wasn’t vegetarian already this would put me of off meat for a long time. I was pissed at her but at the same time it’s not fair towards her. Let’s forget about our human expectations for a while. We had a good time walking all together and then Chili’s time got even better. She followed her nose and found a tasty dead rabbit. That’s what dogs have been selected for generations: to scavenge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her behavior, she is an opportunistic scavenger and I’m the one who is crazy wanting her to just leave her treasure behind.
On a more serious note: I gave her a medicine for her stomach as a precaution and I will de warm her in two days (I want all the rabbit to go out first). I wonder though how she manages to eat a whole rabbit with the bones and fur.

Little balloon

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Chili woke me up today at 5 a.m. She was crying so I thought she might have an upset stomach (as she never cries at night I take it seriously). I took her out, and she kept on shaking her head from left to write so strong her ears were flopping around. In a light I also noticed that her left eye is almost fully shut. Left side of her face and both of her ears were swollen! I immidiately called emergency vet, but the earliest open spot was at 9 (they asked if she has problems with breathing and if she is eating and drinking). I managed to calm her down enough to fall asleep and we slept next to each other on the couch. Once I got up to get ready for the vet I’ve noticed that her eye is worse, and she was so annoyed with the itchiness.

As I thought it is a allergic reaction to something but we don’t know to what (as she didn’t eat anything new yesterday, we also don’t have new plants or detergents). She got an injection against swelling and itching. Now she is sleeping it off and her face is slowly starting to look normal.

On the other hand I had to take her to a new clinic she doesn’t know and she had to go through very unpleasant examination. It broke my heart to see how she was trying to turn away from the vet when she was looking into her eyes. Chili saying (in capitals) that she doesn’t want to be touched and still she had to be checked. I did ask the vet not to touch her or talk to her in the beginning to give her chance to explore the office on her own terms. Again another vet must think I’m crazy because I grabbed her hand when she tried to pet Chili on a head and told her “Please don’t pet her from the top”. It was a very stressful experience for her and I need to start taking her for training visits to our regular vet ASAP. The vet kept on saying that she did very good, but again the fact that dog is not growling during the examination doesn’t mean it is doing good. On a plus side Chili did eat a treat from the vet at the end.

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Chili trying to make new (female) “friends”

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Let’s talk about my weird choice for the title. First of all I put information about the gender of Chili’s new social contacts. For a while I was in a camp that believes that it’s silly to pay attention to gender of the dogs. Now even as I type this I think it’s a ridiculous statement. How could gender not play a role? Of course I’m not saying now that female dogs hate other females same goes for the males (I encountered this view). But I am saying that a gender of a dog plays a role in interspecies interactions. And in Chili’s case she doesn’t have female friend yet. She can have proper interactions with other females but I haven’t seen something that I would call friendship or sympathy. It’s more in terms of either Chili being afraid of other female (and she is often picked on by them) or being neutral. Salma on the other hand likes female dogs most of her dear friends were medium sized females. She is not to keen on uncastrated males on the other hand (and Chili loves them!).

So, let’s move to the other part of the title, I put word friends in these “”. I did that because it’s difficult for me to describe what Chili did today in one word. Simply said I think she was trying to have a social interaction with two other dogs but was not going about it too succesfully (whats new? 😉 ).

We’ve met two female dogs, one golden retriever 1,5 years old and a village dog from Greece, 4,5 years old. Chili tried activating the retriever, doing her most annoying high pitched bark. I stopped her when she tried that. Why? Because, retriever female was a very soft and low in aggressiveness, and in my opinion she did send enough signals to Chili telling her she doesn’t want this kind of interaction. I used a word first (“ee”) and when it didn’t worked I took Chili on leash. Every time, I also verbally rewarded her whenever she passed by retriever or looked at her but didn’t bark. She was getting the message, but it took few times.

On the other hand when there was a moment when Chili and the other dog got excited by one of the owners and it turned into a disagreement between them I didn’t interfere. I didn’t even though it was loud and full of growling and showing teeth, but I was confident the other female will not get hurt by Chili, she was stronger and more stable than my monster. And also she responded only as strong as necessary, she didn’t escalate the situation but was stopping Chili.

There were also a lot of calm moments between them, just waling together, getting into the water, drinking, sniffing.

I know there is still a long road ahead of me and Chili, and I can only hope that her social skills will get better and she will get more secure without getting aggressive or becoming a bully.

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Salma, long line and rabbits

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Today I took Salma and a 10 meters long line to the park. It used to be impossible to take Salma there even on a normal leash. At first we couldn’t even go to the industrial part of the park and now I can take her to the part for dogs where rabbits are at large and we manage. She still is mostly focused on searching for rabbits but she started doing normal dog things too, which is a good sign. She sniffs, marks, greets other dogs and today she even split two males that had a bit of an argument (one was trying to copulate with the other and he really didn’t like it). And this tells me that there is some part of her brain not focused on rabbits. And in the beginning this wasn’t the case, she looked stoned and she was not able to focus on anything else. We even had a close encounter with a rabbit and she recovered (also not possible before). She was 3 meters away from me, and she suddenly jumped in the bushes so I hoisted her back on the line, I am not naive to expect her to return when called in this situation, she is not ready for that and I will only spoil our recall by calling her. Once she was next to me I asked her to sit, which she while looking at the bushes. I know that she can sit and still be absent minded. So I asked her to target my hand. I used this exercise before. I put my fist next to her head but in a way that she needs to turn away from the stimuli (rabbit in this case) in order to touch it. This seems to do the trick. I had special sausage with me, so I can reward her in more difficult moments. And then we walked away. She was still a bit excited for a minute or so but managed to relax for remaining part of the walk. Again before this would be not possible and I would have to get out of the park as fast as possible dragging her behind.

It is a slow process and sometimes I feel like giving up. And I have given up few times, just avoiding places where there are rabbits (but there is not many of those where we live). But not slowly but steadily we are going in the right direction. I am realistic and I don’t expect her to ever be in this place of leash (a chance that I will not take with train trucks so close) and I am very happy with what we achieved so far. We went from not being able to walk in this park with Salma at all to walking her there on a long line.

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Early separation form the mother

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“There is also some evidence that taking puppies out out of their litters before eight weeks of age predisposes them to become fearful of other dogs…” 

In Defence of Dogs. John Bradshaw

Oh how I wish people working in rescues will take more time learning about dogs. Chili and her siblings were separated from their mother at 6 weeks of age, and they were put in foster homes, even though their mother stayed in a dog hotel for another year.  And many litter of puppies were dealt with in the same way after and before Chili. Salma and her siblings were placed in a metal cage in a shelter cellar with cats, they didn’t have day light most of the day and didn’t meet any adult dogs. After we managed to get all of them out of there, there were many more puppies in the same situation. 

I know that working in shelters, helping rescue dogs is a very hard work, I know because I did it. However, with more knowledge it is easier to avoid simple mistakes and some of them can make a difference for the rest of dog’s life. I went through hell with Chili, and I will work on her for the rest of her life. I absolutely adore her but my heart breaks when I think what kind of dog she could have been if she had a chance to stay with her mom and siblings longer. I love rescue dogs but they have enough issues as it is and it is unnecessary to add more. 

 

On the picture Salma (right) and her sister Katya (left) minutes after I brought them home. They were 4 weeks old and Katya was very sick, but she made it 🙂

Salma and Katya, our first day

 

Tuesday with Star

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It was our second walk together today and I decided not to take Chili. I want to established a relationship with Star, show him that he can trust me and we can have a lot of fun together. I want to be able to commit my undivided attention to him so I can get to know him better. He is a really good boy, I absolutely adore him. 

I don’t have many expectations at the beginning, because I want to first create a bond between me and the dog. But there are few things I start from the first walk: Calm greeting, he was very very excited to see me and I waited for him to calm down a bit (stop jumping at me and whining) and asked him to sit. I don’t think sit is necessary but in his case I though that a bit of guidance will help and make it easier for him. Another thing is pulling on the leash, I use very simple and well known methods for a loose leash, in Star’s case it was just a matter of stopping every time he pulled and rewarding him for walking on a loose lead. He is a very bright boy and he learns with ease. I also ask the dogs to sit before we cross the street or are waiting at the lights, it’s a matter of safety. And a last thing I do is to reinforce recall with some great treats. People have different ways of calling their dogs and I want show the dog that it pays to come to me when I say their name. I start simple in moments when their attention is not focused on something really interesting. Those are the simple rules I start with and then we go from there. The rest depends on the dog. 

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I hate being a stupid owner

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I made a mistake today. I wish I never made stupid mistakes when it comes to dogs, but I’m only human. But man this one was really stupid. I cant even understand why I would do something like it. Chili has been a bit restless lately, I’m not exactly sure why but I have been feeding her more lately (as she lost more weight) and we did go to holiday where she had more exercise. She is also urinating more, marking after other dogs more. Something is definitely up (and yes we are checking if it is not medical). Because she has been restless I decided to take her for a bike ride in the morning. Nothing really crazy, just an of leash run through the park. And that’s where my mistakes takes place. As we were going downhill I saw two dogs in front of us. We’ve met them once before and they rushed at Chili barking and growling. But as we were walking away Chili gained confidence and chased the bigger dog back to its owner, doing a wide bow at the end. Knowing this alone I should turn at all costs. But no, I decided to just past them by, which put Chili in a very bad situation. I forced her to approach them, and they did go for her again (they are a small pinscher and a medium pinscher). And she first got a bit scared but then she got angry, and she run them back to their owner, barked at them and did wide bows in front of them. I had to call her away. She didn’t behave wrong in this situation, but she did behave intensely because she doesn’t have skill do deal with this. And I should never put her in this situation, I set her up to fail, and man it will take time to fix.

Soon enough I realised what will be the immediate consequences. We were walking past by a medium female dog, and Chili stayed next to me and ignored the other dog. But as I turned and got on my back Chili rushed at that dog (that was on the other side of a path) and barked at her. I called her back, immediately. I don’t rise my voice at my dogs but I did use a low tone of voice. She was next to me in a second so I asked her to sit, so I can gather my thoughts. Ok, so walking by dogs is ok but when I’m biking it’s not. My conclusion? Because of the situation with the pinschers earlier she associated me biking and her meeting dogs with a conflict situation or a situation where she is not able to NOT interact with dogs. And I spend months to teach her that she can be safe around other dogs. First of all I made sure I was not on the bike when we saw any dogs, and yes it worked, Chili behaved normally. There was one moment when she saw a dog below a hill and her shoulder blades tensed so I called her to me and asked her to heel. 

We did have another incident but not so negative, surprisingly. As we were heading home, I saw a woman with a young puppy on a path below the hill, but we were moving fast and we were on top so I though we wont meet them. But seconds later puppy was running at us. I managed to get Chili on the leash, she is not very good with puppies, she doesn’t know how to stop them. For a moment I thought the puppy will follow it’s owner and we will be ok, but he was more interested in us them his owner. So I let Chili off leash. Why? Because I don’t think it’s fair to keep her on a leash while another dog is jumping all over her body and her face. And I literally mean jumping. I did say to the owner that they are not playing and that Chili is not good with puppies. But she didn’t walk away. So I sad down. Of course I wouldn’t do this if I thought that Chili can actually hurt the puppy or really scare him. She was displacing him, and trying to get him back to the owner. And she also would stop whenever he stopped. She did get him back to the owner and the owner put him on leash so I called her back. And we waited a bit so the puppy can walk away. But as we continued on our way home I saw that the woman with the puppy is walking back, straight at us. She saw us, and she didn’t put the puppy on leash. I had Chili walking next to me but the puppy run straight at us. And again we Chili went into displacing him, growling (a growl I see often adults dogs do towards puppies), trying to get him back to his owner. She again would stop when he did, and wouldn’t start chasing him. She only replied whenever he jumped at her. And I think that she did very well. As soon as the puppy went to the owner and didn’t chase Chili she walked away. And as we were walking away I saw the puppy running up to other dogs and being growled at some more.

I wish I didn’t make that mistake with the bike today, and many many others. But I will do my best to stay positive, and focus on ways to work on it. Chili is still work in progress and I’m still learning who she is, and she is learning too. Trying out different strategies, testing her environment. I feel like we are getting into yet another phase, a phase where she is more confident and more independent. Fair enough she haven’t really gone through a typical puberty so I guess I deserve this now 😉