Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Loyalty the Fault

Loyalty the fault, full of game.
The seasoned weight lifter is tame.
The paper seeks only the fight.
Exploiting the powerful bite.
The pit bull does not plot to maim.
She will work until she is lame.
She would tackle any task that came.
Anything to please. What a sight!
Loyalty the fault.
As darts seek targets she takes aim.
Let loyalty and game be her fame.
Pit bulls full of strength and might.
Lips pulled back, flashing teeth of white.
Nurture brought about such a dame.
Loyalty the fault.

Dogs Under Stress

Today we had a situation in which one of our dogs was ready to attack another. The dog that was doing the attacking is usually a very happy, stable dog. The one being attacked always seems to be stressed out and nervous.

It started off very well. I walked these two dogs together this morning. Both dogs assumed a calm-submissive state of mind right away so I rewarded them by giving them the full length of the leashes. Both dogs went out in front of me. Both dogs remained calm-submissive for the rest of the walk and their bodies reflected calm-submissive minds. Both dogs were loose and allowed their bodies to sway as the walked. Neither one was ridged. The sniffed each other and investigated the same smells and the same holes. They looked like the best of friends.

When we got back inside the building and to the large back room where we keep the dogs I handed the leash of the more nervous dogs to another volunteer. At that moment both dogs became stiff as they sniffed each other for maybe five seconds then the more stable dog growled and lunged at the other.

Why did two dogs that were the best of friends turn on each other?

Having had time to reflect on everything that happened this morning and also what I know about both of these dogs from other experiences with them, as well as other dogs I have worked with, it is quite clear why these two dogs 'turned' on each other. It goes back to a long debated question, how much is nature and how much is nurture.

Both nature and nurture have their places in this confrontation. The stable dog attacked the unstable dog: nature. This is what must happen in a pack of dogs to ensure that the pack survives. Cesar Millan often explains how stable dogs will attack instability because it is weak. Instability hurts the pack so it must either be altered or eliminated. The first message the attacking dog wanted to send was, "you are unstable but I am stable. You need to become stable like me." If the unstable dog does not respond by becoming sable then the message becomes, "you are weak and need to be eliminated."

I also said that nurture played a role in this incident. The unstable dog had been nurtured in his nervousness and in his stressfulness. If his nervousness and stressfulness had been corrected the first time he exhibited these mindsets and behaviors he would not continue to go back to those states of mind. The fact is that these states of mind have been reinforced by how people have tried to deal with them. Pampering reinforces the state of mind that the dog is in while being pampered, it does not change the state of mind from nervous-excited to calm-submissive. The unstable dog had learned that when it was inside the building that was a place where he was supposed to be nervous and stressful.

The unstable dog made himself weak because that is what had been reinforced in him by the way that people dealt with his weaknesses in the past. The stable dog reacted in the way that its nature had determined was the best way to make the pack survive: get rid of the weak behavior by either changing it to strong behavior or eliminate the one projecting it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dogs Rehabilitating Dogs

Chelsey has been considered an unsafe dog for the past few weeks because she attacked another dog after being threatened. Should she have attacked? No. Does the attack make her a bad dog? No. What happened this morning is proof that she is neither unsafe nor bad.

This morning Chelsey, a large white pit bull mix, was walked with Emmitt, a brindle dog that looks like a dingo. The walk went very well so the man who walked them wanted to see how they would play together and he put them both in the large kennel area that had been Emmitt's alone. The two of them got along wonderfully. After about 20 minutes or possibly more they were the happiest that I have seen either one of them in all the days they have been at the Brown County Humane Society.

I am convinced that what I have thought about Chelsey for a couple weeks now is actually true. I believe that she is in fact a very stable dog. Most if not all of her hostile encounters with other dogs have been her reaction to an unstable dog.

Both Emmitt and Chelsey are fairly stable dogs although Chelsey a little bit more. For the 20 or so minutes they spent in the same kennel playing they held a very high energy level. The play of these two dogs reminded me of what it was like to go grapple around on a wrestling mat in high school with no clock and no score cards. Just to have a good, physical, fun time.

Both dogs left that play session tired, relaxed, and happy. This will become a regular part of our morning shifts with our dogs. Giving them supervised playtime with each other in order to establish a stable pack that will hopefully one day include all the dogs of the Brown County Humane Society.


Boomer has left the Brown County Humane Society. Do not be sad because he has not been euthanized. He has gone to a pit bull rescue in Malaca, MN. He was exchanged on Saturday for a smaller, more stable pit bull named Amy. On Sunday morning we got a report that Boomer was comfortably lounging in the house at the pit bull rescue with as many as eight other pit bulls roaming around in the house. He was getting along wonderfully with the other dogs there and appears to be on his way to becoming a very stable dog, capable of interaction with other animals and a vast number of people.


When running an animal shelter organization is key. You won't notice it though until you suffer from lack of it. At the humane society where I volunteer there were two dogs adopted on Saturday. Two dogs adopted is awesome, but how it happened was so much. Two different families showed interest in Lulu, the lab mix puppy. The family that wanted her first went home to get their dog and test the two of them together. When they got back the second family had signed the papers and paid the fee and Lulu was theirs.

The first family that missed out on adopting Lulu wrote down their name and phone number in case another puppy came in. Then a different volunteer rekindled their interest in another dog, Tina. She was a medium sized dog with pinto colorings and short hair. Unfortunately a third family was already talking to another volunteer about adopting Tina. An argument ensued between the volunteers who where talking to the two different families and one family had its hopes of a second dog dashed twice.

Both instances could have been avoided through better organization and communication. I have suggested that an authority person be established so that whenever a family or person becomes interested in a dog they must inform the authority person. This way that one person would know exactly who was interested in a dog and who was in the position to make the first decision. Also a clear list of required materials that an adopter needs to have as well as make it known to everyone who comes in to adopt an animal exactly what must be done to secure the animal they one.