Bred for Pulling – and for Sociability

Bred to do a job

Nowadays too many dogs are effectively square pegs in round holes.

When I was young (years and years ago) many women didn’t work. Dogs weren’t left alone for long. There was little traffic outside the bigger towns so dogs had a lot more freedom. Few were bred for anything in particular. As I remember it, there were many more cross-breeds (mongrels).

Bred to pull and for sociabilityToday people choose their pedigree dog too often purely based on what the dog looks like and fashion. Many of these dogs are bred to do a job. Both men and women go out to work. What do we have?

We have a dog – in this case a Malamute – who due to the couple’s change in work circumstances is now left alone for eleven hours a day. However much they try to compensate when they get home, this is simply too much time for a dog, bred to be a sociable creature, to be all by herself.

Husky-type dogs are in fashion at the moment and visually you can see why. Stunning to look at.

Siberian Huskies and Malamutes are bred for pulling heavy things and for endurance.

Another thing that attracts people to Malamutes is that they are noted for being friendly.

So with the dog I went to yesterday we have dog that is bred for being friendly that is left alone for eleven hours a day; a dog that is bred to work with humans for hours, pulling things over many miles, taken for two lead walks a day.

Two-year-old Evie is absolutely delightful. She is also like a fluffly ball of built-up frustration and excitement that bursts out from time to time.

The couple do their very best. Things don’t always turn out as expected, do they. There are many Husky type dogs now in shelters because people just haven’t done the research into what they have taken on. The really lucky ones, to quote Wikipeadia, are used in sledding, also known as mushing, as well as for skijoring, bikejoring, carting, and canicross

Beautiful Evie is walked for an hour at 5.30 am before work (which is testament to how they are doing their very best) and has another walk in the evening when the lady gets home. After a long and busy day, Evie’s young humans are tired.

About a week ago, instead of simply being over-excited when she saw another dog on a walk, her hackles went up and she snarled at it. In quick succession this past week there have been four further incidents which were all noise and show, nothing else. Then a couple of days ago, with terrible timing, an off-lead Staffie they met in an alleyway went for Evie.

Evie retaliated and a fight ensued. The man kicked both dogs.

The young lady was extremely distressed as you can imagine. To make matters worse and as is so often the way, the owner of the out-of-control off-lead dog shouted abuse at the person whose dog was on lead!

BriceEvie2Why did Evie’s behaviour suddenly change a week ago? At my suggestion they have had her checked at the vet and she seems to be 100% healthy. The trigger may be that the young lady was particularly stressed at the time. Evie may well have picked up on her owner’s mood.

They will be looking for a daily dog walker to break up the time that Evie spends alone. They now know how to work on her behaviour with other dogs.  Fortunately it’s only been happening for a week so won’t be too much of a habit yet.

How frustrating must a walk always on lead be, particularly on a Flexilead where there is constant tension, to a dog that has so little ‘happening’? They will now use a loose long line so she can at least feel some freedom. They will work very hard at her recall so perhaps, one day, she will be trusted off lead.

They now have a list of activities to choose from that will give Evie stimulation and a chance to unwind during the evening – things for her to chew and do – training activities including some clicker training. (The young lady who had never used a clicker before was a natural. She totally got it). Clicker will help Evie to use her good brain.

A big thing they will now do their best to stop – is saying NO. I suggested a ‘swear box’, a pound every ‘No’. Poor Evie is constantly being corrected. Now they will be getting her to earn some of her food – giving it to her whenever she does something ‘good’ like watching their cat and before she starts to chase it, like when a dog comes on TV and before she begins to bark at it or if she settles.

Food will mean YES.

Although they will never be able to fully give Evie what she was bred for, they will be able to give her a much more fulfilling life. She will be less frustrated and have more self-control which will inevitability affect her general behaviour with other dogs.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Evie and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Bad Start with New Rescue Dog

Malamute Alaska injured new rescue Shar-pei's faceShar-pei Yoko had been in her new home for one day when she received a bad injury to her face from Malamute Alaska, requiring many stitches. But it wasn’t a fight as such.

What a sad situation. It had started so well. Both dogs had been walked together several times before bringing Yoko home and they had got on well.

What the lady hadn’t been told was that not only did Yoko have a bad ear infection, but in addition to a skin problem she was also in season. So, here was a very stressed dog trying to adapt to home life after nine months in rescue with physical problems as well.

Alaska, the most polite and confident dog with people who you can imagine, was only castrated recently. Yoko presented herself to him and he started to do what male dogs do. Unfortunately he has a bad hip problem and he will have been in pain also. Things were stacked up against them.

Anyway, the outcome was a sudden angry response from Yoko as she tried to escape, followed by the same from Alaska and at the same time he must have grabbed her face. There is a big discrepancy in the two dogs’ size and possibly because of her baggy skin, what may otherwise have been a puncture wound was a tear, probably caused when they were pulled apart. She has a good number of stitches.

The lady has a £400 vet bill and got off to a very bad start with her new rescue dog.

The final really sad thing about this is that the lady, a very conscientious and caring person who chose the two dogs specifically for their seemingly calm temperament in the kennels and not their breed, worries that she may never be able to trust them together again. She is now so anxious that she keeps the dogs apart unless Alaska is muzzled.

So this is the situation I arrived to. Should she or should she not keep Yoko?Alaska  is accepting of the muzz.e

Alaska himself had been in rescue for over a year before she adopted him last year. He has a few problems which we will work on, including marking in certain parts of the house and being a bit of a bully with off-lead dogs.

There are some very positive things also.

Because she has two children, the young lady has always played very safe. She gradually taught Alaska to welcome wearing a muzzle just in case it was ever needed  – it’s a bit too big and he looked so comical I had to take the photo.

She is a gentle person and the household is calm. Alaska is a quietly confident dog. When I arrived he was lying in the hall and I simply walked past him.

Both dogs showed no animosity to one another and although they are now let outside separately, they walk past each other with no reaction.

New rescue Sharpei,unknown when they fetched, is pregnant

Yoko

At the moment Yoko is very uptight.  Understandably.  When she joined us and a muzzled Alaska in the sitting room, she l ay with her back to us for much of the time.  I then suggested we put Alaska on lead and removed the muzzle. When Yoko was walking about, the only sign of any trouble between the two was when Alaska sniffed her bum and she growled softly.

When the three guinea pigs that are kept in a large cage in the kitchen got active, Yoko became extremely agitated. She began to pace, cry and stress. It takes her a long time to calm down again.

The eleven-year-old daughter did some great calming work with Yoko that I showed her, reinforcing her whenever she sat, lay down or settled.

Whether or not Yoko stays will depend upon how she turns out when she settles in and what behaviours come to the fore. She has so many new things to adjust to.

Whether or not she stays will depend upon how the two dogs get on once her season is over and her body healed.

Whether or not she stays will also depend upon whether the young lady, who lives alone with the two children, ever feels she can relax again and leave the two dogs together – her house is quite small.  She got another dog to be company for Alaska.

If Yoko can’t stay, she won’t be abandoned back to the rescue. The young lady, bless her, has already decided she will get their permission to find the dog she already loves a good home – but not until she is fully healed and is in much better physical condition.

A week later it became apparent that Yoko was already pregnant. She had two puppies and the story goes on. The lady has managed the situation with Yoko and Alaska beautifully and they get on fine. However, she couldn’t find homes with people she felt she could trust for the two puppies so she still has them. Life is hard but she is doing her very best in difficult circumstances.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Yoko and Alaska, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).