September 02, 2003

Alpha Male ~ Day Care Blues

In order to travel to North Carolina to see our two-legged puppy in pigtails and her mom this past weekend, we had to leave Tsuga with strangers after two weeks of building his trust, letting him know we were not going to abandon him, and establishing a relationship that did not require him to gain the upper hand by biting, as nature has equipped him to do in dealing with his litter mates. This was his first visit to the kennel... a trip that Buster used to love, and would come home having been smothered with attention and full of wonderful and exotic olfactory memories.

The experience was not so wonderful, obviously, for young Tsuga. Essentially crated on a concrete floor for a day and a half (including, we were told, frolicking in his own poop requiring an unplanned bath and I am afraid, resulting in a case of PTSD (Puppy Turned Stinky Dog) has made him forget anything his two weeks with us might have taught him. In fact, it is my belief that instead of our dear puppy Tsuga, we were given his evil twin, Chewga. Chewga curls his lip and bites hard, barks wildly while running circles around the dining room table, and has forgotten how to 'sit' or 'use a soft mouth' or relax while his tummy is rubbed. We took in a kindly cute canine to the kennel on Saturday and brought home Cujo on Sunday. Yes, Tsuga got back in touch with his 'inner wolf' in this short regrettable stay at the vet. How quickly our pets and our kids revert to their feral stages without and sometimes in spite of a constant flow of attention, allowances, and the keys to the family car.

The problem seemed especially to do with the dominance issue between us guys. He was not terribly mean to Ann, but seemed determined (as he was during his first several days with us) to show me how tough he is and I, in turn, was determined in like manner. He'd lunge and I'd deflect him gently out of the way, over and over again; he'd latch his teeth onto my forearm and I would restrain him 'gently but firmly' until he acquiesced; or pinch his own cheek lightly between his upper and lower teeth as he tried to bite to provide some aversive reinforcement. Any form of physical defense would only incite him to more aggression. I would cut off 'play' when he got too rough, which was immediately after I would kneel or sit down in his domain. The only thing that seemed to snap him out of Kill Mode was the Dreaded Can. This trick was left over from Buster's much more tractable education, and it seems to get White Fang's attention here as well. If I bring the can down into the arena, he backs off from his aggressiveness, even though I have only shaken the rocks inside HARD once or twice. He will behave (and he knows, obviously, what parts of his behavior are being punished) with the threat of the can. I have also tried to reinforce (the accidental and infrequent) good behavior with lots of praise and tiny treats.

But now, here it is, later in the morning of his second day home with us, and the kinder, gentler Tsuga is back.. still playful but not the Demon Dog we brought home from Puppy Prison. And I can't help thinking how much more effective we could have been as parents had we only known about the soup can with the rocks in it when the kids were coming along. Maybe it's not too late. But then, Ann would wonder if it worked on husbands, too, so a smart man would just let the matter drop right there.

Alpha Male ~ Previous Installments
Posted by fred1st at September 2, 2003 04:39 AM | TrackBack

What is the theory behind the can with rocks? Not knowing much about canines, the only thing that comes to mind is an association with the sound of a rattle snake that may be instinctual in dogs by now.

Posted by: Cop Car at September 2, 2003 07:46 AM

Nothing works on husbands. It only takes 30-40 years for wives to figure that out.*G*

Posted by: feste at September 2, 2003 05:30 PM

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