5/12/19: Power, Leashed and Unleashed       

Joe, Bryn and I enjoy long hikes through lovely forested areas in and near Traverse City. Two weeks ago we hitched her to my bike using the BTL (Bike Tow Leash, a marvelous invention) to traverse the trail that winds part way around Boardman Lake. As the temperature remained firmly in the 50s, with smatterings of rain, not many folks had ventured out, so she was released from the BTL and allowed to run free near us. We generally move at a trot’s pace so she can pause to sniff and still catch up easily. 
Somewhere along the way, though, she put a front paw down wrong, resulting in a sprain.    

Noticing that she was lagging behind, we stopped. She trotted over to offer the sore paw to Joe, who found no tenderness or obvious injury. Nevertheless, we took our time going home, allowing Bryn to set the pace. She trotted the pretty path, frequently stopping to inspect a spot, showing only her cheerful aspect.  
But there was that small limp.     

Arriving home we agreed that rest was best; we’d walk everywhere for a week or three to allow her foot to recover. Our sojourns since then have been mostly along Grand View Parkway, following paths that border Grand Traverse Bay and its spectacular views.  

Yesterday, though, discovering that no dogs were in the Garfield Recreational Area’s dog park we hiked along a small portion of Silver Lake’s meandering, wild shoreline, then popped up again to walk the .7 mile long paved trail.  
But Bryn saw, in the distance, that three dogs were in the dog park now. She bumped my leg to catch my attention, and I followed her gaze. 
Ha! Time to socialize!   

I was fine with the long walk across the meadow to that place, and she entered the park to gleeful barks from three other canines. They dashed about while I chatted with their owners, laughing when two Australian shepherds and Bryn tried to outrun each other.  
It was a draw.  
A few minutes later, though, I noticed Bryn sitting by my side watching the fray, but not joining in.  
“Hey, girl; why sit it out? Are you tired so soon?’ 
She looked up at me, raised her paw, held it in a protective position, and kept her eyes locked on mine.  
“Oh... it’s bothering you again? Poor Brynnie...Let me look.”   

I moved it around and pressed her pads; she gave no sign of distress. But still... 
I suggested that we leave and she wagged her tail once. “Yes, Boss; it still hurts a little...”   

The other owners were quiet. Bryn had just ‘talked’ with me. One woman said, “THAT was pretty clear! Wow. Did she hurt her paw recently?” 
I explained, and we four decided that Bryn’s supercharged rush around the area had probably re-irritated her recent injury.   

“Let’s head for the car,” I suggested. Your paw needs more rest, so we’ll take it easy for a few more days...”  
Bryn wagged once and followed me toward the gate.    

Another owner commented, “I wish my dog was as easy as yours to work with; I took Pirate to a trainer because he’s so boisterous, and the guy worked hard on him for months, but he still doesn’t listen to me.” She shrugged and sighed. 

Ahh- I linked her now to the very large, beautiful adolescent golden doodle who had rushed up behind me at the far gate where I was slowly walking to search for and collect Bryn’s poo.  
How can I describe this... He’d slammed into my back and completely encircled me from behind, using his front legs like arms. He weighed at least 85-90 pounds. I would have been flattened had he not clasped me tightly. It was shocking, and weird!  
After a struggle, I’d managed to dislodge his paw ‘arms’ and steady myself.   

This sort of misbehavior is a most serious breach of protocol. That big dog had literally tackled (some would say ‘mounted’) me, not respecting my space, or his place in the hierarchy. (The first rule Bryn learned was never to jump up on any human.) This dog had looked surprised when I’d peeled him off (which wasn’t easy) and firmly reprimanded him. Unaware of his ‘trespass’ he’d cheerfully bounded away, leaving me unnerved and angry. I’d nearly been brought down. I could have been seriously injured. His forever leader hadn’t reinforced the FIRST RULE: 

Never overwhelm (jump on, slam into) humans, whether little or large. 

All humans are Alphas for dogs. One special human, though, is a dog’s pack leader, as well.  
A dog trainer can’t successfully teach important behavioral rules when a dog owner doesn’t consistently enforce them. Trainers are temporary Alphas. Dogs understand this. But. Their personal human, the essential soul who provides a home, regular food and water, and a bed, and lots of affection, is with them forever.   

But he/she often doesn’t lead. 

Off lead, a dog gets lost. 

Here’s the thing: Pirate has quite reasonably decided that He is Alpha. Here we have a two-to-three-year-old (in human intelligence terms) who’s found himself ‘in charge,’ in a largely incomprehensible world.  

Pirate, at sea now, innocently thinks: 
Cool! I’m the leader! 
But he’s barely three years old- a toddler. 

Most dogs are at once unnerved and intrigued by the realization that because their Alpha has abdicated, they rule the roost. Loved, secure, but ignorant of, or unimpressed with, rules that have no teeth, they become too bold. Too confident. Often aggressive when their position is challenged. 
Without knowledge of, or respect for, normal social ‘fences,’ or of the larger world’s complicated operating manual, they bump into Trouble with a capital T.  
The results are predictable.   

On a brighter note: 
I was cleaning Menesson’s roomy stall yesterday when he quietly came up behind me to nuzzle my hair and neck. We canoodled for a minute before I resumed gathering up some hay that had been scattered by his hooves as he’d walked from his hay pile to his water bucket to dunk a big mouthful into it. (Menesson likes to moisten hay before eating it. Hay is expensive, so I try to retrieve what he drops or inadvertently drags along.)   
He watched as I reunited these yummy dribs and drabs with the rest of his hay pile.    

Then, another bit of magic happened.   
He carefully collected a big, loose mouthful, turned toward me and – I kid you not- flung those dry sheaves straight at me with a firm toss of his beautiful head!  
He was playing!  
I stood there, openmouthed, dripping hay.  Oh, Lord, here’s another mental photograph to treasure forever... 
I snatched away some bits clinging crazily to my unruly thatch and tossed them back at him, laughing. Menesson shook out his mane and resumed eating while keeping one eye on me.  I saw amusement there.   

This wonderful horse lowers his head when I ask, tries to keep his shod feet where they belong, and is so very gentle when little children are placed on his back. He always strives to please. Most stallions, full of testosterone, have to be handled with great care, skill and total attention. They can be unpredictable, and even dangerous, in inattentive hands. Menesson, though, is truly exceptional, the soul of propriety. Aware of his own immense power, he always keeps it in check. He knows the rules, and loves, trusts and respects his human Alphas, who love, trust and respect him, their Alpha horse, right back.  

Having consistent, responsible leaders to depend on in a confusing world is immensely reassuring. 
It’s a Fine thing when he, and we, measure up. 




P.S. There are many ways to stop jumping-on-people behavior. I offer a few inexpensive suggestions: 

Buy a $3 hand-held vibrating buzzer, sold at jokester shops or on the web, used to rattle/startle people one shakes hands with (a very popular practical joke item in the ‘50s.) Wind it up, put the looped cord over your middle finger, palm it, and then press it against the dog’s nose or any part of his face while shouting “NO!” when he jumps on you. The gadget’s utterly harmless vibration, along with the sound it makes, is quite disconcerting. Doggie’s horrified. Then, cautious. Once or twice is usually enough. I recommend buying 3 or 4 to pass around to friends, so he doesn’t think it’s only you that he must avoid leaping on. Set up the situation, then solve the problem. (Oh- don’t purchase the one-buck ones. They’ll fall apart almost immediately.)   

Or, buy super-cheap teeny-tiny balloons (at party stores); fill with a bit of cold water; hold between your fingers, untied. Make it ‘pee’ on the dog’s nose and face when he jumps on you, or on friends. (Do this trick outside.) The objectionable behavior will quickly extinguish, saving potentially huge lawsuit ‘bites’ to your wallet when your dog eventually knocks down and inadvertently injures a child (or old duffer, like me) who might decide to sue for medical expenses for that broken hip. ‘An ounce of prevention...’ 

Or, for the more agile, knee the offender in the chest, or step on his toes. Every time. Always shout “NO!” while the behavior is happening.  
Or, snap his nose with your thumb and middle finger. A dog’s nose is his whole life. He’s very protective of it.  
Snapping stings. 
The objectionable behavior will disappear. Use on any dog, especially YOUNG ones.  
Nip the behavior in the bud.

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