Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dogs are Much Easier for Me to Understand Than People

From the time I was born, to the time I was about 16, my family always had at least one dog in the home. I’ve talked about Suki the Pug, but my family had two other dogs at various times, and sometimes overlapping. Katie, a Shetland Sheepdog, which is more commonly known a “Sheltie” or “Miniature Collie”, because they look just like a standard Collie, but are about half the weight.

 I used to joke that she was about 25 pounds, and about half of that was fur. In later years, my family had a dog that was Yellow Lab and Chow, named Rose. She looked almost exactly like a lab, but acted like a Chow, which is a bad combination.

She was 75 pounds (I have noticed that when other large breed dogs are crossed with a Chow, the resulting dog ends up becoming larger), was very tall, if you measured her height when she was standing on her back legs, she would have been somewhere between 4’6 to 4’9

She was a massive dog, larger than an average Lab, which most people assumed she was fully Lab, and when she would jump up on the fence facing the sidewalk (my parents still live in that house on the corner), the 4 foot fence would only come up to her chest, and she would let her legs dangle over the fence. When people would walk by, she would bark, and wag her tail, and when people would see her sheer size, and hear that deep bark, they would walk across the street, rather than pass by her.

The cruel irony of it (at least for Rose), was that she enjoyed having random people pet her, but very few people were willing to do so. She loved people, especially children, but with having a typical Chow personality, she was very territorial, I remember my neighboring having a pit bull that both he and his now ex-wife pampered, she was the happiest dog around, and Rose returning her high pitched pit bull yelp with a vicious growling that convinced me that she would kill her if ever given the opportunity.

She could also get violent if you tried to force her to do something she didn’t want to do (which is why my family ended up giving her away, we warned the new owners about that), or when she would get scared.

 Trying to take her to the veterinarian to get her toenails clipped was an experience. The vet’s office tried simply restraining her, which involved 5 people, a gauze tourniquet and muzzle on her mouth, and 5 people. I’m not kidding, she was as strong, if not stronger than a pit bull, and even restrained like this, she still tried to fight. When she took the side of her head, and slapped a vet tech in the face, the vet declared that enough was enough, and the next time, decided to give her Valium to calm her down. It still took 2-3 people to hold her down, and it was funny to see her in the car on the ride home, she looked dazed and mellow, sitting there panting, she looked like she had just been smoking pot.

Chows are definitely not the kind of dog you want to have around children, and it has always baffled me why they don’t get the bad reputation that pit bulls often do, like I said, I had a neighbor that had a spoiled pit bull, and she was a happy dog (and still is), and the only truly violent ones I have ever encountered were ones that the owners had abused them or trained them to be violent. More people are starting to disbelieve the media hype of pit bulls as being naturally vicious monsters, and even President Obama has spoken out against what is known as “breed specific legislation”, ordinances in some US cities and counties outlawing pit bulls and some other large breed dogs.

I was at my mechanic’s office recently, and there was a man there, waiting on his vehicle with his son, who had brought in a brown and white pit bull that apparently had pups quite recently (the mechanic didn’t mind, he is a pit bull enthusiast himself, he has a brindle pit bull pup that he brings to the office sometimes). The dog ran right up to me, and I started petting it.

The father had said that he had just gotten her that week from a shelter, and she was actually due to be put down the next day due to overcrowding. He said that the shelter had told him that the people who had brought her to the shelter had convince the owner to give her up to them, the man that owned her was running an amateur/small scale "puppy mill" operation, and since she already had quite a few pups, they were worried about what would happen to her (some puppy mill operators kill female dogs that have had too many pups since they are now “useless” to them).

She was about 60 pounds, and a typical pit bull is around 90-100, she hadn’t been fed well, and having so many puppies took a toll on her health as well. The father said that she had been eating constantly since he got her a week ago. From the way she acted, she was starved for attention as well, so happy to see anyone who would pay attention to her and pet her after several years of being ignored and being treated like something to be used, like a piece of furniture, perhaps she was even beaten as well.

It made me angry that such a beautiful, loving dog could be treated in such a way. It really shows someone’s lack of character and well, humanity, when they abuse an animal, or people they have power over. I’ve always been able to empathize with dogs quite a bit, and generally, they react quite well to me. I seem to understand dogs and their natural instincts better than most people. Many people make the mistake of either being fearful of dogs, or acting like they are some sort of human-animal hybrid, and expect them to act almost like they are human.

Dogs do not react very well to fear, and even if they weren’t planning to be aggressive, they soon will be in most cases. Dogs respect calm, confident people, and seem to respect large men more than other people (I suppose that helps when I am dealing with dogs, I’m 5’9, 265 pounds, and appear taller than I am because of the steel toe shoes that I often wear).

I have even had very little problems with loose dogs running about, even the ones that want to bark and growl at me. When a dog is away from it’s home, it’s actually insecure, and scared of anyone approaching it, there’s been many times where I have just told the dog to “move along”, and it takes off, or simply say nothing, and walk right past it, and it will either keep barking, but do nothing, or quietly watch as I pass by. Sometimes, a dog puts on the biggest act of pretending to be aggressive when it’s actually scared, but doesn’t want to show that. I’ve even had people act rather shocked when their dog, which doesn’t normally trust people, or can be aggressive, runs right up to me, and wants me to pet it. It’s all about knowing the natural instincts and behavior of a dog, and how to read their reactions, most of which can be easily judged by their body language, or the situation.

I actually understand dogs far better than I understand people, but that sense of knowing how to deal with dogs doesn’t always apply to small dogs (other than pugs), which I often call “yappers”. They remind me of many neurotypical people, temperamental, unpredictable, can be insecure about who they are (and overcompensate because of it), and can change their opinion of you quickly. Sometimes my normal habits of dealing with dogs just don’t work with them as well, as sometimes not at all.

I remember dealing with my sister’s Chihuahua when I went to see her in northern Indiana. Chihuahuas are the most temperamental of all small dogs, and this one especially didn’t like most people, and was very territorial, didn’t like people getting close to my two nieces and my nephew. It decided it didn’t like me, and kept running after me every time I would walk through the house (though it was scared enough me to know better than to try and bite my leg like it does to some people).

It’s bark was more of a obnoxious screaming style noise, and it kept screaming at me every time it saw me, no matter what I was doing. I kept ignoring it, assuming that like most dogs, it would understand it was a waste of energy to try, since I didn’t care what it thought of me. I never figured that out, and kept making noise.

I was on her couch, and the Chihuahua was on the opposite end, keeping up it’s screaming routine, when I turned to look it at. It suddenly stopped, and looked at me like I knew it was going to say something important. In frustration with the constant noise, I told it “You may hate me, but you’re ugly, and shouldn’t even be considered a dog”. From that point on, he rarely barked at me, and acted like we were best friends.

What has been your experience with dogs? Do you understand them well, or are you afraid of them? Have you had dogs try to attack you?


  1. “You may hate me, but you’re ugly, and shouldn’t even be considered a dog”


    Most dogs like me and will happily accept petting and treats from me. I have met a few stubborn ones, however.

    First, a friend owned an elderly rat terrier/yorkie mix named Trixie, who had the demeanor of a cranky old woman. When I first met Trixie, I held out my hand so she could sniff me. Instead, she looked me up and down as if to say, "What the hell do YOU want?" and walked away. Fortunately, after two years of getting to know me, she'd sit with me on the sofa and let me pet her.

    Another friend hires me to dogsit her four dachshunds when she's out of town. They're the most willfull creatures on the planet. The first time I dogsat, they ran around the house, hid behind furniture, refused to eat, and at least one lost bladder control. I had to do a lot of dominance displays to get them to behave, but I'm convinced the oldest male dachshund wants me dead.

    1. I have always thought that teacup Chihuahuas looked more like rats than dogs. :)

      The only good Chihuahua I have known was a miniature that a friend of mine owned, it was a happy little dog. The woman who owned her was the Wiccan music store owner I talk about in my interview at You, Me and Religion:

      You stories of dog sitting remind me of when I tried to do that for an elderly woman my mom was taking care of at the time. She had a male/female pair of white Schnauzers, and her boyfriend's dog, a black and white hound mix that was about 20 pounds.

      The dogs all knew me well, but they were rather skittish, and having me come in the house when no one else was there scared them, the female Schnauzer would listen for the most part when I tried to get her to go outside, but the male Schnauzer and the hound would scatter and hide. I would have to chase them out the front door, or find them and carry them outside (the hound was good at hiding in closets and behind furniture).

  2. I'm with you 100%, and I'll take dogs over people any day. I always had one growing up, I have two now, and it is often tough to imagine ever being without at least one. Most of my experiences with dogs have been positive, although I do remember being chased multiple times and bitten a couple times as a child.

    1. Children are bitten the most often, usually because they haven't learned yet how to deal with dogs. Usually, if a dog is just mildly irritated like that, it will give a slight snap of a bite to the hands or the leg, and won't clamp down. It's more of a warning bite.

      The miniature collie, Katie, I mentioned, my family had her from the time I was 2 to about 12/13, she would do that when I was very young, sometimes shouldn't even actually bite, but would snap her mouth like she was going to bite, just to give you the idea to back off.

    2. One of the times I was bitten, it was totally my fault and I deserved it completely. It was exactly the sort of bite you describe (i.e., a leave-me-alone bite). The other time I remember, I was actually on a bicycle desperately trying to get away from a dog that had come out of its yard to chase me down the street as I rode by. That one was scary, but fortunately it barely got my leg. Next time I was prepared to go faster by that house.

    3. You should have had your parents tell the people that their dog was loose, or had them call city/county animal control to warn them about it.

      Collies and any other kind of herding dog, like an Australian or German Shepherd will often snap at people's ankles, it's an ingrained instinct from generations of being sheep/cattle dogs, they used to snap at the ankles of the animals they were herding to get their attention, and to push them to keep moving.

  3. In SE Asia, dogs roam free, even in the cities. Even though there is the risk of being bit, I like it better that way. I think a better policy is to ask people who have dogs who bite to keep them indoors, and if they do not, send the animal control to their door to discuss it. Making vacines available for the poor might also be a good idea.

    1. Do they ever have problems with rabid dogs over there?

  4. I am not good with people, pets, or plants.....don't have patience with people, pets run away, and plants die on me!!!

    but....observing is fun......the birds in my backyard make a cacophony in the early morning, then flit about in the grass, likely looking for breakfast....sometimes they make holes in the patches without grass to have a sand bath. There are 3 squirrels who jump about from branch to branch, running around, always in a hurry. The stray cats prowl about on the fence....there are fishes and frogs in the backyard pond....even a turtle once...don't see him around anymore.....don't know where he came from or where he went........

    My library is on the 2nd floor and overlooks the backyard on one side and a side street on the other side. The side street is connected to the main street opposite of which is the weekend market. Families, groups of friends, or loners descend on my street every weekend to buy, meet and see, or eat and drink at the market. The loudspeaker blares of lost children and bad parking......the guard who is supposed to be directing traffic doses off in the shade by my front gate.....traffic moves at a snails pace and children run about, their screaming parents not far behind loaded down with purchases. Old ladies slowly navigate the streets with their adult sons in tow........a group of chattering girls pass by a group of posturing boys....impatient, irritated husbands wait by their cars calling their wives on the phone to hurry up.......people come, people go...the earlier arrivals replaced by new arrivals.........


    1. Sounds like a constant bustle of people. :)

      You don't get that in most places in the US, except for large cities that have extensive transit systems, like New York City, anywhere else, people hardly walk or bike anywhere, and there are few people on the sidewalks, except for children playing occasionally, and people walking short distances, like to a neighbor's house.

  5. Sheldon you summed up my problems and no problems with dogs perfectly. I love bigger dogs and get along well with them, we even had a St. Bernard who was more like a steam roller. But little dogs are just too unpredictable, I have had my fair share of nips from these sneaky ones.

    I have a Labrador whom I absolutely love, and I don’t think I could ever have another breed of dog after she passes. The most caring, gentle and loyal dog I have ever met. She lets children do anything to her and just enjoys playing, but if someone threatens you she becomes the most aggressive dog you will meet.

    1. I had a friend that had a St. Bernard, they are massive, but they are the most gentle dogs.


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