Sunday, September 30, 2012

When I'm Wrong, I'm Very Very Wrong...

But I'm not afraid to admit it, learn from my mistake and do what I can to correct the problem.

For how many months have I been struggling with Malcolm pulling on the leash and lunging at other dogs?  Just a minute and I'll go and look at my old posts, so that I can tell you.   .....It looks like I've been writing about it since August of 2011.  Let's see.  This is September of 2012 -- so a year.  Good grief!  It seems a lot longer than that!  Well, so as not to bore you with regurgitating a whole year's worth of posts, I'll try to list some of the highlights of things I've tried that I thought would keep him from doing it.

Nessie, Malcolm and McKenzie
Masters of all they survey.

As you know, I'm involved in a Dog Training Club where I live.  We've been in classes and around other dogs of all shapes and sizes from the time Malcolm and McKenzie were done with their puppy shots.  All 3 of my dogs (though Nessie's classes were years ago) have passed at least 2 levels of obedience and have taken some other extra classes such as Rally, and Agility.  None of the trainers at the Club are professional dog trainers.  But they've been around dogs (many of them) for longer than even I have been alive.  And I'm pretty old!  All the teachers and trainers are volunteers at the club and each person is there to train his/her own dog(s).  We all can learn from each other's experiences though.

So when I started having these issues with Malcolm, I was freely given advice by others.  Some of the advice conflicted.  I sorted through what people were saying and I tried to pick what I thought was reasonable and go with it.  After all, that's all anyone can do right?  I also did a lot of research.  I read lots of books related to the subject of dog behavior and dog training.  I even hired a professional trainer way back in the beginning who gave me some good advice.  I put all this stuff together and came up with a plan that until now, I would have told you was working.

As I've posted previously, Malcolm is now suffering from fear.  He is afraid of going into any new place.  He loves the Dog Club but hates Pets Mart.  He trembles in fear at Lowes.  He cowers and hides if a person he doesn't know wants to pet him.  This is my big tough guy!  It's terrible to see him like this!  I took him to the Doggie Psychiatrist the other day.  No.  I'm not kidding.  She's worked with my dogs before.  She's the lady I called early on in Malcolm's history.  She has a Diploma of Canine Behavior Counseling from American College of Applied Science. She studied Biology and Psychology at Oklahoma State University.  So I was again, given advice from members of the Dog Club about how to desensitize Malcolm to new situations.  But this time, I thought I'd call in the experts.

I made an appointment with Tiffany and she promised to bring along a dog.  She observed him for a while and we talked.  She asks a lot of questions.  And she can really really read dog body language and translate it!  Remember that book I read once?  I'll have to re-read.  But she was saying everything that I had read about in that book by Turid Rugraas called 
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals.  She really knows what she's talking about and with much questioning and answering, I realized just how sensitive poor wee Malcolm is.  He's big and tough looking and very very strong.  He doesn't pay much attention to a mild correction and if I let him get away with mis-behavior, he could really K.O. me or some one else.  And I don't know what he might do to a poor wee little fluff ball dog if he ever got there.  So I've corrected him.  And I've corrected him hard.  And he's translated that correction to mean that strange people are really really bad.

You see, it all happened that day that we met Piper his first girlfriend, at the dog park.  I don't usually like dog parks but we went of a morning and no one was there. ..... for a while.  It was Malcolm's first and last experience in a dog park.  Some idiot let 3 mini schnauzers come barreling into the big dog section and they ganged up and charged Malcolm.  He put his tail down, tucked his head and ran away.  It was Piper that came to the rescue.  She intervened and herded the schnauzers off in a different direction and told them to leave her bo' alone.

Malcolm and Piper that terrible day.

That was what caused Malcolm to start lunging at small dogs.  I just never put it together.  And I've punished him for it when it was them that scared him.  So now, I have new tools (too long and drawn out to tell you here).  But I will say that homemade chunks of chicken will be involved!  I'm not allowed to correct Malcolm.  I have to withdraw or block the other dog and let him know that I'll protect him.  And when he calms himself down, he gets the chicken.

Needless to say, I'm sorry I laughed at him when he ran from those 3 little dogs.  I'm also sorry I laughed when it was meek wee Piper that saved his butt.  I'm sorry I've corrected him inappropriately and sometimes harshly.  I've made a mess of the situation and I take full responsibility.  But, I tell you right now.....if I made this mess, I'm gonna fix it!  Malcolm is a great dog and I thought he was rough and tough and hard headed.  Truth be told, he can be those things, but he's also sensitive and insecure and uncertain in some situations.  I need to step it up and be more what he needs me to be.  His protector.  His mentor.  His side-kick and buddy.  I need to be a better friend and I promise to start right now.

I will let you know how things progress.

1 comment:

Casey said...

I hope that you've worked out what's wrong with Malcolm and are able to fix the problem now! Just move on ahead and don't dwell on the past -- we doggies don't!