Yes, this brown canine demon made me reconsider a second date with who is now my husband. I'll be honest, I didn't like Rudy for a while, he was just too much. I have had dogs in the past but nothing like whatever the hell he was. I never wanted him gone, it wasn't a matter of "me or the dog." I knew that my husband and that crazy ass dog were a package deal. I just wish his dog would calm the fuck down.
The one thing the dog had going for him then and now- he loves Matt. He loves Matt so unbelievably much, he is his whole world. Back then he would spend all day laying at the front door waiting to hear Matt’s car come down the road after he got off of work. If Matt went to the store Rudy planted himself in a window and watched everything that moved in hopes that it was his daddy coming back. If Matt was gone, his whole brown life came to a halt.
4 months into our relationship I informed Matt that I was going to train Rudy. I couldn’t stand that dog but I didn't want to keep hating him as much as I did. I was never mean or cruel but he was "Matt's dog" and "Matt's problem." I didn't know anything about dog training but I knew a dog shouldn't act like that. I'll admit, I didn't start attempting to train him for his benefit- he was literally driving me crazy and no animal is going to chew the crotch out of my underwear, pee on my shoes, and try to bite me without meeting resistance. Plus, I liked his owner a whole lot.
I may not have known anything about dog training but I did know that you don't fight aggression with aggression. Dominance doesn’t mean the who’s the winner, it means who’s earned the respect to be the boss.
Long before I met Rudy, or even had a dog, I was a huge fan of The Dog Whisperer show, not because of dogs, but because I always liked Cesar Milan's message about having calm and assertive energy. I always felt like that's the kind of energy I have whenever my disorder isn’t fucking up my emotions. If I was manic then I was queen of the world and people should do what I say, when I say it, and how I say it. That’s aggression. When depressed I'm afraid to speak up for myself and hole myself in my house. That’s avoidance submissive. Who I am naturally, the woman without the mood swings, is calm assertive. Calm assertive. I love that.
I watched his shows, read his books, and bought his pack leader DVD series. I also didn't learn a damn thing about dogs, but for a good reason. I didn’t have one. He was another form of therapy for myself, I never thought about applying all his dog psychology to actual dogs. He helped me deal with my mental problems but I never bit anyone or tried to kill the FedEx guy. Thanks to Cesar Milan I had a good place to start when the time came to actually work with a dog.
*DISCLAIMER* I know a ton of people and professional dog trainers disagree with or hate Cesar Millan. I'll probably get more messages and comments about how terrible he is than any other subject on this blog, ironically. That being said, I pulled from hundreds of other dog training and behavioral sources during this process. I took the time to research each issue and new ones that popped up until I found what worked. He never taught me how to make a dog sit, he taught me where my mind should be in order to help the dog be able to learn how to sit, to understand where the dog is at mentally in order to train him during the right moments. Caesar once said that there really isn't a such thing as a bad dog and I wanted to look at Rudy like that because all I saw was a rotten shit head of a bad dog. Hate “The Dog Whisperer” all you want but he's helped with my psychological issues and has helped out this stupid brown lump you see next to me. I think he’s great (Caesar, not Rudy.)
Very first order of business, I taught him to sit, stay, and not to beg. It took me about a week for sit, 2 weeks for stay, and about 6 months to stop begging. That's not normal, dogs don't take that long to learn simple concepts like that. The dog was stupid. He was so very stupid. He would randomly forget everything I taught him. Four months after learning to sit, if commanded to do so, he would stark barking frantically as he ran room to room until he finally settled onto a nervous swan dive under the couch
I decided to keep working with him until I saw some kind of progress, even though that felt like it was impossible. He still maintained a high level of anxiety and continued to be as dumb as ever but his aggression decreased. When it was meal time he would jump around, howl, scream, and whine until his bowl hit the floor. He also had a speed eating issue to where he would choke on his food and growl at anyone who came into the kitchen to make sure he was ok. I hadn’t done any research on this particular issue but I was not going to let it go on any longer.
I was so fucking stupid for doing this but it made sense at the time. Cesar said it’s about making dogs understand that #1) everything belongs to the human, I have control over everything at all times. It isn’t dominance as people usually see it. It isn't a bad thing, the dog isn't suffering if done right. Quite the opposite, it’s about letting the dog know “you don’t have to defend yourself, I am in charge and you are safe.” #2) We are a pack. We rely on each other (if it was in the wild) for survival. We are on the same team.
I have no idea where I got the idea for this, I didn’t even have anything to base it off of, but one day I took his bowl, filled it with his food, made him sit and wait, sat my ass on the floor with his bowl in my lap and made him come to me and I fed him by hand. Handful after handful of food out of my palm. Want to eat? Then this is how it’s done, you brown mother fucker.
I would never recommend that to anyone. I did not know what I was doing, I should not have tried to feed an aggressive dog that is known to bite, I should have obeyed the number one golden rule, “never mess with a dog while it’s eating.”
But it worked.
He obeyed the #1 golden rule- never mess with a bipolar woman who has your food. I understand more now about what was at play and as puppies if you do what I did it helps with food guarding. Felt pretty good knowing that I had some positive intuition in the situation.
I also learned what bite inhibition was, the hard way. He would bite my hand during meal time. It wasn’t an act of aggression, he just didn't understand how to use his teeth unless it was eating at lightning speed for fear of his food being stolen or for attacking other animals. That was the painful process of putting his food in my hand, closing my fist, and presenting it to him. If if he bit too hard I would yelp "OW!" really loud, pull my hand back, and give him 10 seconds of no attention to let him figure out that teeth on skin = no food. I had to do this every time. Every day. Every meal. Every treat.
Only 1 out of every 10 times did he not bite too hard in the first several weeks of teaching him this. It reminded me of the Helen Keller “water scene" except my Helen Keller was a bloodthirsty jack ass who was learning that biting people is not ok.
Good news is that it worked. Bad news is I still have scars on my hands today. It sucked so bad during the process, and I often had to take 5 to 7 day breaks in-between days of using this method because my hands would be so sore, but I knew if I was going to train him any further then he had to know how to take food properly. I feel lucky I still have fingers to type this all out with. Once again, it was stupid of me to go into that situation blindly and I absolutely do not recommend it.
Over time he calmed down a lot but was still such a pain in the ass that I didn't really work with him on anything new much after that. I would say “sit” and he would roll over, spin, or do some other trick that was nothing close to what I asked him to do. Drove me crazy. I still went over the 10 or so tricks I taught him periodically, and I did get him to stop jumping on people for attention. He also stopped trying to kill things as long as they didn’t get too close. He was more of a “bro, hold me back” kind of dog than he was a “lunge and try to rip your throat out” kind of dog. The main reason my attention shifted because I got a puppy. I got a dog for myself and she was a sweet, impressionable 4 month old American Pit Bull Terrier and named her Dovahkiin (and if you get that reference then you rock).
Rudy never messed with her because I let it be known on day one that she is mine. That clueless brown dog could never figure out much on his own but when I walked in the door with that puppy in my hand and he looked up at her, only to find himself locking eyes with me, he suddenly figured out that this dog, despite all others he had tried to kill, was not be touched. I never had to say or do anything to keep him away from her, whenever he looked at her he knew I was watching him and that he didn’t want to die that day. Not once did he ever bother her, not even during meal time. After letting him gnaw my hand to shreds and come back for more I think he realized he'd been out crazed.
She’s a terrorist now but back then she was a sweet puppy who didn’t understand the psychological circus she was being tossed into. I wanted to apply everything I had worked on with Rudy and use that to train her properly. If I could make Rudy less of a threat to society then a puppy shouldn’t be overly difficult. I was going to train her my way and she was going to be well behaved and perfect.
I VERY quickly learned what worked for the idiot brown dog was not going to work for her. I trained her somewhat well, simple obedience and tricks but not much more. It was too frustrating. I also learned that I have no idea what I was doing with dogs, despite already knowing I don’t know anything about dogs.
The one area that I completely failed as a dog mom is walking on leashes. I tried EVERYTHING I could find on the internet but nothing worked. So I stopped trying. I was doing everything Cesar told me not to as far as body language and verbal commands, I just couldn't get it together. I could not get them to cooperate. It was overwhelming and with no progress after 2 months I stopped taking them for walks. Dovahkiin had too much excitement that kept her from paying attention to anything, especially me. I tried exercising her first thing in the morning but even after 2 hours of fetch she wouldn’t calm down on a walk. Idiot Rudy would pull so hard he would choke himself and it became a situation where he was doing himself physical harm and to continue would be abuse. I tried every harness, collar, and different forms of psychological warfare on the market. Nothing worked.
I took Dovahkiin to the dog park for a while but I ended up with an injury and couldn’t walk around much. 6 months went by and the next time I took her she displayed bizarre behaviors towards other dogs so I stopped taking her. I do remember Caesar saying that dog parks are for balanced, healthy dogs, not every dog. I didn’t want to bring a problem dog to the park so I stopped trying.
Then life got in the way and there were no more parks or walks at all. I still played fetch 4 to 6 days a week with Dovahkiin but there would be a week or two or 3 at a time that I would just stop, never giving her the routine she needed. Bipolar disorder makes routine very very difficult. I knew deep down it wasn’t enough but there weren’t any really bad behaviors so I justified it as not a necessity. My dogs seemed fine but Cesar emphasized exercise as the number one need of a dog so I knew I was falling short, even if I lied to myself about it. I can’t live a life without exercise so I understood. Then it hit me.
Bicycle + Dog
I would have my dog on a leash and run her through the neighborhood. She’s a pit bull, but it’s the other word people forget- terrier. She’s a terrier and that kind of exercise is her thing. I found it tired her out, but only in the beginning week or two. After a while it became a source of anxiety for her. When running, if there was another dog, she would run even faster and I would pedal harder so we’re both ramping up our speed and flying down the road like crazy. That’s perfect, right? More excitement = more energy burned, right? No. It taught her anxiety to escalate ever worse with certain triggers. She would enter what I called “terror terrier mode.” Body and ears stiff and perked up, hyper, barking, and ready to chase and kill anything that moves (not actually kill, she’s never had aggression problems.)
It made everything worse. The common spots her and I would go faster would set off “terror terrier mode” even when not on the bike. If she anticipated that we would be traveling by those spots she started to get frantic. I can’t walk my dog, I can ride with my dog, and fetch was so wishy washy.
I also got the bright idea to try this with Rudy. Hopped on the bike, started him off slow, he seemed to get it, picked up the pace a bit more, and things seemed to be working. And then he spotted another dog and bolted. Fuck this ass hole. I had to do this miraculous dismount/dog grab maneuver in order to save the other dog’s life. He saw red and I did too realizing I had to leave my bike where it was and walk him home, not knowing if it will be there when I get back. I never attempted anything bicycle related with him again.
The guilt about not being able to solve my dog’s problems, something other dog owners seem to accomplish without any problem, became overwhelming. I loved Dovahkiin, she was my puppy. I didn’t love Rudy but didn’t hate him as much anymore.
Fast forward to late November this year. I got another dog. I have no idea why, I didn’t need, nor was I looking for a new dog, I had already established that I was a half assed dog mom. The day we got her I was terrified that I might be hypomanic because I just got another dog when I know I haven’t been taking full physical and psychological care of my current two.
The moment I saw new dog I had to have her. I don’t love instantly, but I loved her right away. My husband and I put a hold on new dog and would be picking her up the following day. I was so excited! How was I going to be able to wait for the next 24 hours knowing my sweet, little, butterball, bucket of frenchie, mush face, monster head was coming home the next day?!
And then I heard the most horrific words come out of one of the staff member’s mouth, “oh, and bring your other dogs so we can see how all three do together.”
I can’t bring my other 2 dogs in! They would call CPS and report how we’ve stunted their psychological growth over the past 2 years. Rudy and Dovahkiin will expose us for what we were- no walk giving, wishy washy fetch playing, half assed dog parents. Rudy was never trained or socialized as a puppy and I didn’t start working with him until he was 4 years old. He still couldn’t be around other dogs and my dog was a neurotic spaz who had developed bad behaviors like running up to another dog barking at them in small, intense explosions. It wasn’t aggressive but I knew it wasn’t friendly. Neither one of them could go to the pound on a busy Saturday to meet a dog they don’t know. That was going to be a nightmare. How the hell do people survive this kind of event? I was going to have to pull out the Hannibal Lecter suits, dolly included, in order to prevent a nightmare of vet bills for any party involved. They were going to think we were wrecks as far as dog parents go.
Knowing what I know now, they would have been right.
We weren't technically bad dog owners, our dogs were loved, fed, safe, attended to, showered with affection, and far from neglected. No abuse what so ever, in fact my dog had her own Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and a following. They were just flawed at a genetic level, right? Our dog troubles were because of their personality, right?
We didn’t do anything wrong, it’s what we didn’t do that was the problem.
After 24 hours of nail biting anxiety, we brought in our two resident nut jobs and the staff put new dog into a fenced-in area and our dogs were going to meet her one at a time. First up- Rudy. I didn’t sleep that night because I knew Rudy was going to fuck this whole thing up. I got him calm enough to live with but in public, around strangers, and hundreds of other dogs? A complete nuclear fallout nightmare.… Except it wasn’t. Surprisingly, Rudy, who I was convinced was going to blow the whole operation by ripping the guts out of a 9 month old puppy, couldn’t give 2 shits about new dog. He was more interested in all the spots of dog urine scattered about the enclosure, he didn’t even bother looking up at her. He just waddled his overweight ass across the yard to revel in more piss smells. He acted like she didn’t exist.
Dovahkiin? She has bad habits but nothing like Rudy. If his violent, psychotic, bloodlust urges weren't activated by the current situation then my dog will be a (dog) walk in the park.
The woman from the shelter told us right away that she had a bad habit of being bossy. Well yeah, aren’t all strong women bossy sometimes, girl dogs included? She’s never bitten anyone or anything so it can’t be but so bad.
“Bossy.” That’s the word they used. They explained that the way she was barking at dogs was her telling them how to play, when to start playing, when to stop playing, how not to play, when they should stop but not all the way stop playing, they were playing in the wrong spot and need to move, they shouldn’t be moving and need to stop but not stop too much, and a laundry list of impossible demands. Dovahkiin was a brat. She wasn’t playing with new dog, she was trying to control her.
She had done those same behaviors with Rudy because we never saw them as a problem. Whenever Rudy barks at something she runs up and barks at him to stop barking at whatever it was because she decided it was her thing to bark at. I always thought that was hilarious. She was just a jerk, it's who she was, right?
The staff were honest. I asked them how bad it was and she gave me a polite, but firm look that said, “I don’t have words to express how bad you’ve completely fucked this situation.” It was so bad that new dog was cowering from her. Very very bad sign. My sweet puppy wasn’t a healthy, balanced dog. That’s what Cesar always talked about wanting to create in a dog- happiness and balance, and it’s what I’m always looking for in myself so I want my dogs to experience life that way. Dovahkiin was overly territorial and unable to play or be around other dogs. She was miserable. She didn’t just guard her toys or food at home, she thought everything was hers- the ground she was currently sitting on, the ground over there, the bird shit on the sidewalk, the cloud the sky that looks like bird shit on the sidewalk- everything.
I could tell the lady who was helping us didn’t want to deny new dog a forever home and could see we weren’t bad people and that our current dogs were well taken care of. I asked her straight up, is this a good idea, in her opinion. She told me that she doesn’t think it was a good idea. The recourse guarding that Dovahkiin exhibits can lead to fights and the other dogs around her might not be safe.
I decided I wanted new dog right then and there. Not despite what the woman had said, but because as soon as she labeled my dog’s bad behavior I knew I could correct it. As long as I am pointed in the right direction I can get anything done. The problem could be fixed, no matter how difficult. How did I know I could accomplish this, even with a professional disagreeing and rightfully suggesting that I don’t take this task on?
Because I was just given its name.
I spent 30 years dealing with a problem I couldn’t see that left me living a shell of a life. I saw the symptoms but thought the source was my personality. I saw the symptoms in Dovahkiin but thought it was just who she is. But once the behavior is separated from the individual you gain the ability to start fighting back. I knew who my enemy was- bipolar disorder. I had lived with and misread the symptoms but then had discovered the source. My dog’s problem had been identified, I had seen and misread the symptoms for some time now but I just discovered the source.
I knew in that moment that this 3 dog trio will work. I was going to make sure it worked for new dog, my dog, and my husband’s dog. We all had names for what is wrong with us. I was going to take care of all of us.
We were probably a 20% yes, 80% no as far as the shelter’s confidence about us filling out the paperwork for new dog. They work hard with these creatures, the amount of good dogs they’ve seen ruined for going to the wrong home must be astronomically high. Taking a dog back has to be devastating for these people and putting one down must be traumatizing. Their whole job is taking care of what some human couldn’t, not all cases are bad I’m sure, but I have a feeling the bad ones far outweigh the good ones. I absolutely feel that the shelter’s employee was justified in everything she said to us, how she emphasized Dovahkiin’s problems, and how she didn’t think there was a high success rate of fixing Dovahkiin’s situation.
The only thing that got us new dog is the fact that I asked the right questions about correcting my dog’s behavior. I didn’t just *want* new dog, I wanted a 3 dog, 1 rat, 2 human pack and new dog was the missing link. I promised not to fuck up new dog’s life and that I will make this my first priority in the household. I would not disappoint any party involved. If I can get Rudy to ignore a dog on a busy Saturday at the city pound, I felt like I could get anything done with a dog as long as I kept at it.
She made no illusions about its difficulty- this kind of thing isn’t training, it’s rewiring their brain. I believed her when she hinted around at the idea that I had no idea what I was doing. I believed she was in the right when she hinted that my dog is an absolute social terror. I believed her lack of confidence in me was justified. Her biggest piece of advice? It’s going to get worse before it gets better. A lot worse.
I believed her. I took her words, and the ones she didn’t but probably wanted to say, very seriously. I knew I was doing something stupid but I also know my determination when it comes to correcting psychological behaviors. Once the source is discovered, BAM, I’ve got it. I know how tough it can be, and for my grey little she beast, I would do anything to make her happy, even if it meant making her unhappy for a little while.
3 days after bringing home new dog I went on a two week medical leave from work (before being fired, check that story out her.) I spent as much time as possible researching about dog behavior, body language, how to establish a pack, and I especially hit the research hard for Dovahkiin’s issues, resource guarding and separation anxiety. After only a couple of days it was apparent that the woman was right- my dog is an absolute psychological nightmare. I had no idea what I had been doing. I had been cultivating certain bad behaviours and now had to try and reverse 2.5 years of said behaviour. There is something about dogs that I don’t understand- everything.
I’m not a natural animal person, I’m just not, but I want to be an animal person. I always thought it’s because I have bonding issues (which I did and still kind of do) but if I eventually found ways to bond with human animals then I must be able to bond with a living, breathing, shit machine called “man's best friend.” I knew how to love a pet and take care of them but I didn’t know all of the layers that were involved, physically and psychologically, just like humans. I really had no previous way of understanding how complex something that is afraid of its own farts can be.
And then comes my knight in shining brown armor. Rudy.
I taught him how to learn in those early days when I still hated him. This big brown doofus not only did the tricks required of him but he figured out that people required certain things from him. He learned how I put out information in order to communicate what humans wanted from him. He figured me out long before I did him. Just 3 weeks ago he finally taught me how he receives information.
I taught him the physical cues along with the verbal cues for everything. After he learned both I kept using the verbal cues more than the physical or combination of the two. He was still all over the place with being told what to do and what he actually did. I thought for a while he had eyesight issues due to small weird things we would do. I started using mostly auditory cues because of his eyes. I thought I was helping.
After taking such a long break dealing with him and starting to hit my research hard again, I watched an episode of Cesar 911 where he says humans have to be able to read dogs’ body language and understand it.
Scratch to go outside = I want to go outside. Duh. See? I obviously understood dog body language already.
Then there was a revolutionary training session with Rudy. As I looked at his dumb little face with his weird ass stare I realized something. He wasn’t staring at me blankly like an ass hole when I gave him commands- he was staring at me because he was waiting for my body to give the cues. I saw that he stared like that because he was trying to make sure he was being as receptive as possible for visual commands. He relies on his eyes more than his ears to figure out what I want from him. The idiot doesn’t place any value in auditory cues. His stupid brown eye holes work just fine.
That’s when something kicked in- I need to listen to what the dogs are telling me instead of just trying to see if their behaviour lines up with something I read. If I tell Rudy what to do with my voice he stares at me and 5 out of 10 times might get it right. If I stop speaking but start waving my hands around instead- the commands got done. Simple as that. I tell him to do something and he ignores me or gives me a confused look. He understand the auditory commands but that’s not how he processes information. I look at it as writing the instructions down. I’m ADHD, you can tell me something you need done a thousand times but there’s a 99% chance you’ll get whatever it is you want done if you write it down for me. Rudy just needs instructions written down for him.
In the past month he has taught me “The 16th time you say ‘sit’ is not the magical number that magically commands my brown ass to hit the ground.” This whole time he wasn’t being stubborn, he was just working with what he’s got. It was a huge lesson that I needed. He taught me that if it isn’t working then the dog itself isn’t the problem. Dogs don’t write blogs or plan holiday parties in the wild. It’s all body language like Cesar has always said. Rudy's body wasn't doing anything so I assumed nothing was going on upstairs, when in fact there very much was. Body language doesn't just mean where his toes or shoulders are, I should have picked up on everything sooner. He taught me that I can bring his life into balance by speaking and understanding his language.
Teaching new dog has been rough due to my mental state, getting fired for having bipolar disorder, and severe fanatical stress doesn’t help the whole calm assertive thing. I taught both other dogs new tricks before, I can do it with new dog, right? Especially with my new found understanding of dogs, right?
New dog isn’t like the other two. She doesn’t look at me or try to figure out what she’s being asked to do like the other two did. When she does look at me she has the same bug eyed frenchie stare. She’s not an idiot, she’s far from it. The dog is smart as shit which makes it worse because her body language isn’t as easy to see. Rudy communicates that he’s scared, nervous, or excited. Dovahkiin expresses being alert, excited, or startled. New dog? She looks at you like you’re wasting her time. I can wave my arms around all day trying to give physical and verbal commands and she thinks it’s the best show she’s ever seen in her life. I’m not telling her what to do- I’m her favorite comedy show. Only problem is she’s laughing at me.
Me: “Annie, sit.”
Annie: *no response*
Me: “Annie, SIT.”
Annie: *bug eyed frenchie stare*
It was maddening and with my instability I had to walk away from training sessions often. I couldn’t make any headway with her. That was until that brown bastard walked into the room.
I started doing training sessions with all of them in the same room purely for the sake of time. Annie (new dog) would watch what I did with the other 2 dogs very closely. It’s the only time she ever betrayed her “better than you” stance was when she was watching the other dogs do something interesting. Rudy was so good at his commands now and his constant ability to stay calm and collected was impressive. Because of this I saw that Annie watched him the most.
There was a snow pea I had dropped on the floor and for an hour both girl dogs sniffed and then ignored it. Rudy will eat anything so when he passed through the kitchen he chewed and swallowed it up without missing a beat. Annie stared at him in disbelief while he did so. That thing was food this whole time? I put a snow pea on the ground and watched her spend 10 minutes fighting with knowing it must be food because she saw Rudy eat it, and the fact that her taste buds were very clearly telling her that this thing is not classified as food.
Annie never barks, at the pound she was the only dog not barking. We didn’t hear her bark for the first 4 days we had her. But when Rudy would bark at something I noticed Annie would try and figure out what he was barking at. Was it inside? Was it outside? Was it a person? Was it a ghost? She eventually started barking whenever Rudy did and ditched the investigation beforehand to see if it was worth barking at. Oh, that brown guy is barking? Must be legit, I better start barking with him or else the demons will get us. If Rudy did a trick I asked for, she was watching him.
I tried to get her to follow or learn new commands but I could grab her paw a thousand times, give her a treat, and say “paw” and she would not get it or take me seriously. The only dog I’ve ever known that can shoot a look and let you know she thinks you’re a complete idiot. I need to balance taking care of new dog’s training and Dovahkiin’s issues but I was drowning in the difficulty of both. New dog thinks I rode my clown car to pick her out of the shelter and my terrier terrorist was going to start attacking the other two over door ways. Her resource guarding was going to be a threat if not addressed as soon as possible.
Then I got a crazy idea, just like when I took control over Rudy’s food bowl. I pulled Rudy in front of Annie and did the “paw” trick 3 times with him. Then I turned to her and said the command. The very next second I had this fat, fumbly, frenchie paw in resting in my hand.
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t fucking believe that just worked. I had previously tried to teach her “down” but she thought that meant “gnaw on new mama ladies’ wrist, pee on her a bit, and try to jump on her back.” Then I tried it again. But this time I brought Rudy to the front of the class and had him lay down 3 times. I turned to Annie and as soon as I said and motioned the command, her fat frenchie belly was on the ground.
I still couldn’t believe it.
Rudy’s greatest accomplishment has been on walks. He was absolutely impossible to walk previously. Dovahkiin did good about 50-60% of the time but things like squirrels, a car door closing, or a fart could send her into a frenzy. Rudy couldn’t get out of the yard with out pulling, snarling, or trying to attack everything that moves. Cesar taught me to interpret his behavior appropriately. I can’t think emotionally or be emotional when the a dog is acting like this. In DBT language, I have to use my wise mind.
What did I find? Rudy wasn’t aggressive or trying to be stubborn.
He was scared.
He was scared of everything. After I broke down the wall of aggression it was easy to see what had been behind most of his bad behavior- he was still a frightened, unsocialized puppy on the inside. I started walking all the dogs separately because they needed exercise and I wasn’t going to crap out on them as an owner anymore. They were mine to take care of and I had to really stick to my dedication of handling them. I could work closely with the Rude Dude to figure out how to help his fear.
It was only possible if they were walked individually. It fucking sucked taking each psychologically damaged dog on a 30-60 min walk everyday, if the weather was nice they got one in the morning and one in the evening. The high dose of lithium I was on might have actually been working then for all I know, but the stress of trying to walk a serial killer, a coked up dominatrix, and a bumbling narcissist around the neighborhood twice a day is what would destroy any attempt I had at sanity. It was painful but I worked with each dog individually, trying really hard to figure out what their issues were and how to address them. My homework was to make sure the frustration didn't get to me. Calm assertive, calm assertive, calm assertive...
Rudy? He was afraid of his own shadow. I couldn’t walk him if the sun was down because if the wind blew anything around he would bolt one way or the other. If another dog was around I could snap him out of growling or lunging but that exposed him for what he really was- he was terrified of everything that wasn’t his house or backyard. I finally started to have sympathy for Rudy. It only took 2.5 years but hey, better late than never. Seeing his tail tuck between his legs, ears pinned back as he tried to back up into a safe place that didn’t exist, got to me. I didn’t want to keep him in the state of mind. What can I do? I had to put together my research notes and come up with a plan.
Notes I gathered:
Never reward a dog in that state of mind with treats. Never reward treats on a walk- the walk itself is a treat. Don’t use treats on walks as lures because your dog can become dependent on them and not actually learn how you want them to behave. Treats just distract a dog from learning good behavior. You don’t want to become too treat reliant, they won’t listen to you without them.
All of that was the popular consensus for just about all methods of dog training I was able to find on the matter. A million things you can do, but treats on a walk are not good.
I closed my notes, chucked my rock climbing chalk bag into the washing machine, bought a huge bag of diet dog food, and a gentle lead face harness. I filled my chalk bag up with the diet food as treats, slapped on his harness, and walked his brown ass out the door. I knew what I was doing is highly frowned upon but I knew how his stupid brain worked now. I figured him out and was going to use that to his advantage.
It worked. Cost a lot of treats but it worked. It was all about snapping him out of his own mind and distracting him before he acts on the impulse. As he got better I would randomly tap the side or top of his head, something that usually freaked him out, and pop a treat in his mouth. There’s one thing I got incredibly lucky with him- he’s food driven. He’d kill his own mother to lick an empty cupcake wrapper. He would look at me every once in awhile to see if a treat was coming his way and 20% of the time he got one but after a while I kept him guessing. The amount of time in between each head tap got longer and longer. He was paying attention to my hand and to me. That’s what I wanted.
If a car was coming by, something that scares the shit out of him, I would ball up my fist with 3 or more treats in it and put it in front of his face, making him nudge my fist for a bit in order to get to it. By the time he got the treat the car was gone. Other dogs barking at him? Same technique worked. Cat run by? Same thing worked.
On one walk we were passing a parked car when, I shit you not, a cat walked out in front of him with a dead mole in its mouth and just stopped and stared. My lungs fell into my stomach. They stared at eat other for what felt like minutes. My dogs about to go away to prison for life because this stupid cat. Wrong place, wrong time, that’s what’s about to kill this feline. In Rudy’s mind the cat was a snack holding another snack, like a chocolate covered peanut. This catastrophe was easily within lunging distance, Rudy would have her dead and her limp mole friend twice as dead before I could grab him or have a chance to save the cat’s life.
As I went to react to what will surely be a bloodbath, Rudy’s stupid little face turned to me, ears perked up, curly tail wagging in a circle, making his whole butt move around, and did nothing. He sat down.
He fucking sat down.
The cat dropped it’s victim (nothing anyone could do for him at that point, I’ve never seen a deader mole in my life) and took off. Rudy looked at the mole on the ground and looked back at me like, “huh, strange, that guy forgot his food.”
I gave him my entire chalk bag full of treats. He ate out of it like a horse feed bag. A leopard printed horse feed bag stuck to my born idiot’s face. He was the happiest and most calm I had ever seen him in what was the perfect storm, and only 1 month ago would have been a horrific scene. I’m glad I avoided the whole “Merry Christmas, neighbor kid. My dog slaughtered your cat.”
He’s less scared on walks now, I meet him halfway by not taking him out at night or during overcast or rainy days when it’s windy. The wind still gets to him but it’s getting better. He whines more now than he does cower, which is a huge improvement and shows me that I’m headed in the right direction.
He no longer jumps on the counters. He doesn’t chew on anything he’s not supposed to, he doesn’t get on the furniture unless invited, he waits for his food and I can stick my hand in the bowl and he doesn’t care. I could clean his teeth and gums while he ate breakfast and wouldn’t even notice. I play a game I call “gimme that” and it’s where I fill and freeze a Kong full of his favorite garbage- oatmeal with tuna fish juice, scrambled eggs, peanut butter, fresh rotisserie chicken, rice made with beef broth- and while he eats it I will gently take it from him while he’s enjoying it and then give it back to him 15-60 seconds later, over and over again for about 5 minutes and then I’ll let him eat the rest in peace. He knows he’s safe and that his treat being taken away does not mean it’s forever. He no longer annoys people for affection, if he wants to be pet he will walk up and plop his ass on the floor next to you, no hand nudging, barking, or acting out if he doesn’t get it.
The best part? He’s teaching the other 2 dogs how to walk properly. They will start pulling and freaking out (usually over wearing a gentle lead harness) and Rudy just keeps his calm demeanor and they eventually fall in line with him and he’s just following my direction so it’s like a blissful domino effect. Whenever I give the command for “turn” when we need to turn during our walk, I put one hand out to indicate which direction and he checks to see where it’s pointing and will turn with me, helping the little shit heads know where to go.
He’s my goddamn assistant. That’s crazy. He’s the worst dog I had ever met. I trained him for my own selfish purposes, so he would stop eating the crotch out of my underwear every time I came to his dad’s house for “date night.” This stupid, hopeless, wreck of a dog is now my star pupil and is helping me lead the pack.
He helps me train Annie, the new dog. Training with her has been ten times easier once I realized he was the key. He knows it, too. He helps me with her and letting me know if Dovahkiin is in a bad state and I need to take control over her. He’s the shit.
They all need to go sit in certain spots to eat or do tricks but the little two run around like it’s their first day on the planet. Rudy will go sit in his spot and that somehow triggers the other two to sit in their spots. He’s like my interpreter for the other 2.
“Hey dogs, do this thing I’ve spent a lot of time teaching you and I know that you know it.”
Dovahkiin & Annie: “what? where? here? no? there? no? now? no? smell this? no? where? what? huh? but why? now? not now? go here? eat your shoe? jump? chew on the floor? huh?”
Rudy: *sits down on his mat*
Other 2: “Oh! I get it! ‘Place’ time!”
I have never seen anything like it, nor was it a goal of mine. My only goal was to not get him arrested again (another story for another day). I wanted to train my dog when I got her as a puppy so she wouldn’t have any bad behaviors like Rudy did. I wanted to nip that in the bud. I now live in a house with a resource guarding psychopath that has really bad separation anxiety, a puppy still trying to figure out what, if anything, she can get away with, and a 4 legged brown sidekick who is making my life with these 3 dogs easier than I ever thought it could be. He’s giving me more time to focus on Dovahkiin.
That brown assed sack of nervous fur went from me hating him (I really did not like him), to becoming the most well respected dog I’ve ever dealt with.
My husband took the picture at the very top of this post a couple of mornings ago and it’s amazing because this dog and I don’t cuddle together. We’re affectionate but the other two smother me in cuddles and Rudy lives for Matt. He appreciates what I do for him, just like I appreciate he doesn’t chew my stuff up anymore, but I wouldn’t ever call us close.
But then I woke up to my husband showing me this picture, saying that Rudy was the one who cuddled up next to me (after being given permission to hop on the bed, of course.)
It’s amazing how much we’ve helped each other and I didn’t realize it until now.
I was recently fired because my boss found my blog and YouTube channel and decided he doesn't want someone like that working at the shop. Despite my outstanding job performance the owner fired me after coming back from a 2 week medical leave due to bipolar medication complication. I'm still dealing with a lot but now I'm doing it with no income. If you could please help it would mean the difference between success and failure for me right now. I'm about to lose my license due to lapsed insurance and my country taxes on my car hadn't been paid (medication issues over 6 months made remembering simple things difficult), I need new tires put on my car in order to pass inspection, and I pretty much need my car and license for getting any other job. It's causing me to slip into a depression which can sabotage any progress I've made if it gets worse.
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