Monday, January 4, 2010

Banish the Bully!

A gazillion dogs pack the fairly small dog park in Aloha, OR.

Good? No. Not good. Because one or both of my two Standard Poodles, Joshua and
Jacob, inevitably misbehaves in a crowd. Both boys play sheriff --
they insist on nosing into other dogs' rows. And Jacob picks out the
youngest pup on the lot to bully. Shame on you, Jacob!

I stop several yards from the gate. And assess. There are Pits,
Boxers, Labs (one a puppy), two big furry things, a little barkie
thing, some bird dogs, Huskies and lots of happy guys (one a puppy).
They play at the front of the lot.

OK. My guys last saw freedom a week ago. They need to run.

Against all logic, we go in. And walk away from the crowd toward the
back of the lot.

Everything's great, smooth, no problem. Oh, a few riffs here and
there beckon my sheriffs, who do little more than bark before the
quarrel's settled. I relax. Even enjoy a little social time with the
dog park's people.

But no. Oh, no. Jacob catches sight of the happy puppy, a little red
guy wearing a tan halter. Jacob lunges, and Happy Puppy instantly goes
down and rolls over. Jacob dances in a circle around the pup, his nose
to the baby's belly, his barking incessant.

"Jacob, Jacob!" I probably sound as awful as he does. "Stop it! Stop
it!" Was I shrill?

I grab Jacob's collar and haul him away; all the while he continues
to bark bark bark.

I'm so embarrassed.

"Jacob is a good dog." I turn toward these wonderful, almost
whispered words. I see a Hispanic man, sort of rotund, kinda tall,
with gentle eyes and that peaceful voice. "Some dogs just like to
teach the younger ones how to behave."

But, but, I say. Teaching is one thing. Bullying is another. Jacob
won't give up once he's targeted a puppy, for whatever reason,
teaching or tormenting. He won't give up so I have to yank him away.

But, no, this peaceful man speaks softly: "Do not yank him. Be
peaceful, yet stern with him.

"I learned when I was a security guard, that if I was rough with
people, I'd get decked." To demonstrate, he pinches my shirtsleeve,
jerks it and barks "LET'S GO." Startles me; angers me.

"But if I was calm, people were cooperative." He pokes my shoulder
gently, only once, and suggests "Come on."

Nicer, much nicer.

But, but but. I'm a person. Jacob's a dog.

"How can I STOP Jacob when he insists on bullying this dog?"

"You body block him. And if he tries to break through the block, you
poke him gently and say 'No.' Calmly."

OK. I can see it now. Me poking Jacob all afternoon. But, I'll give
it a try.

I situate myself between Jacob and Happy Puppy. Jacob tries to pass
me. I poke and say, calmly, "No." Jake tries to go the other way. I
body block, he tries to pass, I poke. He's confused.

He makes eye contact with me, questioningly. He cocks his head.
He goes for a third pass. Block, Poke. He gets it. And goes on to
play with someone else.

No more bully!

This man is a miracle worker. A dog trainer extraordinaire.

My husband Allen strolls by and I pull him in to meet the man who
helped turn Jacob around.

"Honey, I'd like you to meet, um, um," I turn to this magical man.
"What's you name?"

"Cesar," he says.

No. Not Cesar Millan, THE Dog Whisperer.

Someone even better: OUR Dog Whisperer.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Isn't it amazing how seldom we stop to think if a different way would work better? I'm glad you found Cesar to teach you this one and I suspect Jacob is, too.