Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Watching Dog Whisperer Isn't Enough

To keep myself from crying I've been watching video podcasts of The Dog Whisperer. They're too short to be really instructive but I had to do something.

Tonight I'm taking P-dog to meet a new trainer and I've vowed to do whatever she says. For life. And I mean it.

When I briefed her on the situation over the phone she said, "This has been building for years." And I believe she's right. And it reminded me of all those studies of violent behavior when at first people say [any given menace] was "always quiet and polite and kept to himself" when in fact if you traced his history you'd see the awful incident was part of a larger pattern of behavior.

Well that's where we are.

At least no one's maimed yet.

But the dogs' behavior is now out of control. Last week they got in another scuffle in which B-dog clamped down on P-dog's ear and pierced it. I pulled them apart again but I have trouble visualizing them halting the fight on their own. This morning they got into it again by the backdoor and this time apparently P-dog punctured B's paw pad.

These are such dear dogs. I'm terrified for them both. Especially P. She spends most of her time beneath a bed and avoids crossing B's path. But when the fights begin I believe she's the one initiating them.

So now I'm having to keep them separated in their crates, letting one out at a time for exercise. It breaks my heart but I don't know what else to do. I mean I know lots of things to do; I've read dozens of dog books. I know I need to walk them an hour each day to exhaust them physically (Cesar Millan) and be a calm-assertive leader (Patricia McConnell) and treat them like dogs not people (Monks of New Skete) and so forth. But right at this moment, on a hundred-degree summer day, with two very tense dogs, I don't know what next steps to take to begin making everything all right.

I've begun walking them on short leads, and I intend to build up to an hour each morning per dog but that is going to mean getting up at 5 every day. An unrealistic goal? Yes. But it's too hot to do anything else. And of course we could walk shorter distances, blahblahblah, but the point is I've begun taking steps too late. At the rate I'm going I may not be able to curb things before a more serious injury.

And school begins in a few weeks so I won't have as much flexible time. Sigh.

And I realize a major part of this is behaving like a Calm. Assertive. Pack Leader. I am none of those things. I'm tense and anxious. I'm nervous and confrontation-avoidant. I'm exhausted and weak and want to just wander around the house doing whatever I want without setting an example for anyone.

Granted, none of the above traits are desirable. I need to change them no matter what. But I guess I figured I'd have more time to gradually evolve into a Phenomenal Woman. I've mostly been a Tired Woman.

And my dogs have been suffering the consequences. I'm so sorry.

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