2007-12-17

A Christmas Doggy Miracle

I've got a Christmas Miracle on my hands and it came in the form of a Dog Whisperer DVD rental on Saturday evening.

I can't believe the change in my dog - it truly is a miracle.

Pre-Cesar, Rosie was living on the edge of losing her mind, kind of at all times. She is a small dog, about 22 pounds. She's a rat terrier/heeler mix so she's a really high energy dog. Twice the weekly exercise that my friends give their dogs was not enough to make Rosie chill out with me and be a trainable, obedient dog. She a great personality and a fun, communicative animal but a classically good dog?
Not so much.

I would take her to the park for 30 minutes of ball everyday, or for a long walk around the neighborhood, or even to the dog park, thinking that if I could get her to have an enormous amount of exercise all the time, she would be tired ergo a naturally good (or sleeping) dog.
Also not so much.

If I took her to one of the parks in my neighborhood, or for a long walk, she'd run her heart out and smell every corner of the park or of the walking route. She'd seem pretty thirsty for some water but not particularly satisfied or more relaxed for getting the energy out. Even throwing her beloved tennis ball for 45 minutes at the park was never enough.

We'd come home and she would demand to play indoor Frisbee for three more hours, after she'd jumped the cat and totaled a nicely-made bed.

She'd get more worn out if I took her to the dog park but there, she was kind of hit-and-miss, behaviorally-speaking. If a dog got too close to her or to me, she'd alpha and chase it off with a snarl. Any dog who might have appeared to want to play with Her Royal Highness of Terrier was officially given the Royal Highness of Terrier Kiss-My-Ass Warning Bark.

It was embarrassing.
I actually didn't take her to the dog park that much, except for like, at 6:30 in the morning sometimes.

With my dog sitter soon becoming unavailable and my mother possibly visiting soon, I needed to figure out how to get Rosie to a point where she might be able to be kenneled, should I not find another dog sitter. My little dog would never have been excepted by any decent kennel as she was.

And my mother?
The thought of her visiting and having my dog be a good live-version of the Tasmanian Deveil was mortifying. My mother is such a great animal trainer that she taught her CAT to drive an eighteen wheeler.
There's no way I could have passed Rosie off as the good dog I know that she is deep down, to a woman whose fucking cat has a commercial drivers' license and makes more money than I do in a year.

I really needed to pick up the pace on making my small smart dog a good dog.

So rented up the DVD with sort of a "meh" attitude and had a horrible experience that I'll tell some other time.
But the humiliation of a couple of loser video store clerks was worth what I learned from that modern-day Saint, Cesar Millan.

Oh
My
God.

I am now a calm-assertive pack leader.
She is a calm-submissive dog.
My home is genuinely calm-happy for the first time since the Advent of Dog.

The lessons I took from the video really carved out a major, major change in me and in my dog. I could not be more thrilled that I will be able to ask someone to pet sit her without sweating it, or that she can be kenneled and enjoy herself, knowing how to be a part of a real pack!

Obviously, a hyper, high-energy, alpha dog isn't the worst kind of dog in the world.
And I think that if any dog owner watches enough Dog Whisperer, she'll begin to see her own dog as a dog needing rehab. That guy is seriously part-canine. Dogs just BOW to this dude, like dogs to a..... master.

He also makes learning really super-easy. I got what he was saying. On the other hand, I really wanted to get it. I was searching for how to bring my ADHD dog in line. I knew she was a great dog and that there had to be some different things I could be doing do to teach my dog how to be the dog of my dreams.
I knew there was a problem and I really believed I could figure out how to fix it.

The worst is people who think they have a good dog.
I have friends like this, who shall remain nameless (hint: John the Baptist)

I pride myself on being 100% aware that Rosie had some problems. I knew that something needed to be tended to and fostered in her but I wasn't sure what until I learned about communicating with a dog from Cesar Millan.

I've tried obedience school. The Viking taught me how to roll her to show my dominance. Another friend taught me to have a stand-off with her and wait for her to do the job she's been assigned to do. I give her TONS of exercise, which won't change because...... Exercise, Obedience, and Affection in that order, according to Cesar. In fact, since she is so high energy, I can get her a little doggy backpack and she can carry all my shit around while we walk. It's a perfectly Cesar-approved way to beef up your hyper dog's exercise. And I could like, maybe start a neighborhood tamale business or something.

Choke chains and bark collars have been suggested but I mean... come on. She's a hyper-active rat terrier, not a red-zone, lunging dog. She isn't dangerous and she definitely was trying to be a good dog. She was just tyring to be Top Dog and too bad for her, I am Top Dog.

As for the bark collars, that was a weird suggestion because honestly, she only barks when strangers are in the courtyard. Given the whole break-in from last year, I wouldn't want to begrudge her the instinct to be protective.

What I do want, is for her to stop when I call her off and THAT is what was not happening. She was sort of like an asshole roomie, not my dog.

I learned to communicate better with my little alpha ball of energy. Since I didn't really know how to effectively call her off and be the pack leader, obedience training was like if I was a Greek lady speaking my own second language of Toureg to her and trying to teach her to obey me.
Right.

Cesar has given me the gift of communication with my dog. Since my dog is only 2.5 years, I am seriously excited about having this delightful little moppet for the next 10-12 years as the dog I dreamed of having when I got a dog in the first place.

As of this weekend, she is acting the dog and loving it.
She hasn't jumped the cat once.
She sits when I stop while we're on a walk.
She doesn't expect me to be her toy and by Sunday night, she had quit bringing things to me, demanding playtime. She used to make demands on me, especially for attention, because she assumed she was the boss.
It was annoying.
It was distracting.
It's been fixed.

What I love is that with the new attention to her pack sense, I can really see the exercise she's getting IS enough. The demands for constant attention were about something other than pent-up energy. Like I said, as an alpha dog, she felt like she was the pack leader in my house - she thought that SHE could make the demands.

She was wrong.
I was wrong to let her be wrong for so long.

Cesar Millan is my hero for showing me how to show my dog how to be right.

Now, watch, I am going to become one of those super-annoying self-righteous jerks who is all "Cesar says…..."

"Is that voice you're using reflective of calm-assertive leadership? I would call it calm-aggressive."

"Wow, your dog is just not in a calm-submissive mind-state right now."

"Why is your dog jumping on me? Don't you know how to be a pack leader! Gawd, your dog is SO not a balanced dog!!!!"

arizonasarah at 10:31 a.m.

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