Friday, September 11, 2015

Aggressive Behavior

A lot of people I meet on walks need to be educated in dog behavior, they think their dog is scared when it's showing play behavior, barking and jumping away suddenly. A scared dog will freeze up and growl, or lunge suddenly, ears forward, face hard. Lady Claire used to give other dogs the cold shoulder because she was rather nervous, ignoring and avoiding them, but has never attacked another dog. Originally she would bark and snap quite vocally in a "How dare you, sir! Unhand me" fashion when someone got their nose round her buttocks. Lately with Nobunaga's benign influence, having experienced meet and greets in all kind of situations with dogs big and small, her socialization skills have expanded: she has even got used to butt sniffing, and has also realized with Luna's jostling that a crowd of other dogs milling around and bumping into her is not dangerous or scary.
 The only time I've seen Nobunaga bite is the evening he came, when he was scared witless, vomiting and weak from the car ride. We put him in his cage for him to settle while we talked, and he felt so scared, he attacked the cage door and got his incisors caught in the bars so he couldn't close his mouth or move his jaw...quick-thinking parent saved the day, clipping the metal with a metal cutter from the toolbox, so his tooth could slide out and he was free. I spent the night sleeping beside him next to the cage so he didn't feel lonely and scared. He will also actively play bite with me, but has learned to nip gently and it's more boisterous than aggressive:setters have a very gentle, sensitive mouth, since they're supposed to carry game whole for the roast on the table. In that way tug of war and catch the peeping toy from behind my back are not really ideal games to play with a setter, because they're straining the jaw, clamping down, and snapping...I confess I do play those games quite happily with Nobunaga, since he's not working as a bird dog. 
And finally Luna, well, from time to time she will snarl and yarl when a dog gets invasive round her little privates, but it's like a toothless half hearted sort of protest, not really scary at all...Fortunately it's enough to get the message across, and she gets on with her ditzy life...I could see she was a little scared of Nobu and Claire in the initial days, but she had her safe place in her cage and she never ever growled or got angry, she's quite a positive wee dog great at coping in an upbeat way. The other day I reached into her mouth to clean out some poops she was eating, and she let me wipe and swipe with my fingers, which is most generous of her, since she's ever so fond of her food...
It seems to me a happy balanced healthy dog who feels safe is not aggressive...when Claire has been attacked (she was once by a horrible shiba trailing a leash running free in the woods) she ran squealing behind me for safety! I never thought I'd be the more courageous of us two facing an unknown dog, but motherhood brings out strengths you never knew you owned, I faced down the dog, body square and leaning forward menacingly, stepped on the leash and got it to back off to its owner who came blithely down the hill...nasty person, letting a vicious dog run free. Poor wee Claire was shivering and whimpering, shocked and frightened, so I cuddled her in my arms and gently checked out her leg and shoulder for bite marks and bruising, and we both calmed down and she decided she was okay and we could go on walking... I gave the owner a piece of my mind, but you could see it was pointless. Meanwhile I cannot thank Dodo sensei, my dog trainer, enough, along with many Ian Dunbar videos and Patricia McConnel's books, including "The other end of the Leash" for teaching me how to watch my dogs and learn about them and what they say, and how to say things clearly for them to understand me and what I want. 

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