Now that we don’t have kids at home, we have dogs.
These are the first ones we’ve owned. While the kids were growing up, my thinking was I didn’t need yet another being to clean up after. Especially after our kids were potty trained. That and the recollection of the dogs my family had growing up was cleaning shit out of the yard, and having to walk the dog when I didn’t want.
But while I was laid up with therapy, I watched tons of Dog Whisperer and got it in my head that life’s too short, why not get a dog?
Our first, we named Jethro. We happened upon a family that had puppies and was going to take the lot to the pound. He was six weeks old. Not nearly old enough to be away from momma.
To say he had a few nights of separation anxiety would be understatement. But soon enough, we got along and he became part of the family. He also got big. He tips in at about 80 lbs these days.
He’s an honest to god lab/shepherd. His mom was a standard issue Shepherd, his dad a yellow lab. And he’s all black and looks like the “Grim” from Harry Potter. Only goofier.
I learned a lot raising a puppy. And a lot of what Cesar Milan talks about is absolutely true. Except the “schssst” sound he makes. That doesn’t appear to work. But they most certainly respond to energy level, and authority.
We ended up moving, and decided to get another dog. They are, after all, pack animals. And our thinking was that they’d keep themselves busy while I worked, which they mostly do.
We found a rescue dog that was fostered, from a puppy, in our neighborhood. We didn’t realize that until we went to meet and the foster said “OMIGOD! I KNOW THAT DOG!”. She’d seen me walking Jet. I’d seen her with their dog and this one. For whatever reason they named her “Aria”, which, since she was a year when we got her, she knows as her name. Not worth renaming her. Although she responds to “Girlfriend”. As in “Jethro’s crazy girlfriend.”
We don’t know what she is. All the puppies were different. She, and her mom, look like cattle dogs (or are at least built like them).
She’s high energy, and you’d think she was the boss, the way the two of them interact. But Jet is most certainly the Alpha. When she’s being annoying, he has this incredible deep bass growl, which causes her to immediately submit.
Both are extremely protective and territorial. I’ve learned that if I invite someone inside, they’ll test the person, but then accept them. Surprise them, and it’s game-on. Take the mailman for instance. He walks through the front yard every day, and every day they bark at him. Yet, we met on the street, and they sat there, docile as lambs, while we talked. He said “ahh, they’re OK, they wouldn’t bite”, to which I told him they absolutely would if he crossed that fence. They are OK, as long as you aren’t on their turf or in my personal space. Twice, Aria wanted a piece of someone, one a jogger and the second a faux-gansta construction dude, that looked like they were going to run into me. The other day, I grabbed Jet by the scruff of the neck for being an out of control dork, and he went to nip me. Aria wore him out all over the back yard for attempting to bite the hand that feeds them.
Where am I going with this?
Every so often I run into people who do dumb things around these two dogs. This is mostly because they don’t understand dogs, and think every dog is like Lassie. Either that or they think they are some sort of dog whisperer.
These two absolutely hate when someone they don’t know walks up to them and tries to pet them, even kids. Even worse is when that person kneels to get to their level, which is spectacularly dumb with a big dog you don’t know. That’s problem one.
Problem two is the odd person that comes up to the gate to try and quiet the dogs, who are going nuts because there’s a stranger at their gate. I was sitting on the patio..uh..celebrating, when they started going apeshit at the gate. I waddle around, and there’s some imbecile, on his knees, with his hand in the gate. “What in the fuck are you doing?” I ask. “Oh..I just don’t like dogs barking at me”. So I tell him “Well, you’re doing two things they absolutely hate – On their level, sticking your hand in their space”
You don’t need to be a dog person to know sticking your mitts at a dog that’s agitated is a super bad move. I learned that with my neighbors cattle dogs when I lived in VA. They were barking up a storm, so I thought I’d introduce myself and went to pet them over the chain link fence.
And they bit me. Hard.
I told my neighbor and she explained the territorial thing. Sure enough, when we all were out front, the dogs were calm as could be and wanted to be petted.
I had another incident (where it may have been the same dude, an idiot) walk up to the gate, ignore the “beware of dogs” sign, and try to calm the dogs, like Crocodile Dundee. My wife went to see why he was doing that and he walked away.
Here’s where it’s important, at least around here. You do that, you violate their space, and you are now “Enemy for Life”. Period. They go berserk every time that dude walks down the street.
It’s happened with my neighbor (who I invited in to meet them properly – he declined) and probably his daughter, judging from their reaction when she pulls up. Think about it on human terms. What if I came up to your window and gurned at you while baby talking. Wouldn’t you go nuts the next time I rocked up to the window? Hell, around here, you’d probably get shot.
These dogs have a job to do. One that they take seriously. We live on a corner lot, next to a busy street. They make sure no one is going to screw with our house, or us. In the whole time we’ve lived here, nothing has happened. I can’t even imagine what would happen if some nob climbed the fence to get at the cars, or the garage.
If dogs are barking at you, move on. Don’t take it personally.