Sunday, August 21, 2011


Once in a while Tommy surprises me with an impressive zen attitude, like when he lounges on the patio ignoring Italia, the neighbor’s German shepherd, barking through the hole in the fence—a hole, I might add, that she created.

Unfortunately, Italia is a trigger that sets off an aggressive response in Louise.

Hear that whining? That's Louise on a leash by my side.

A few weeks ago, when Italia stuck her snout through that hole and roared, Louise flew over the patio fence and shot straight up into her face in two seconds flat. They fought a quick, fierce battle through that hole, tearing into each other with terrifying sounds. I thought Louise was going to climb through that hole and wreak havoc in my neighbor's yard.

Somehow the fight ended and I got Louise into the house. She was back to her sweet self, but my view of her changed slightly. Holy moly, she's got a bit of the Tasmanian Devil in her. She's not really alpha, but she's extremely reactive to any provocation from another dog.

The dogs stayed at Starcrest in side-by-side kennels while I was out of town. I picked them up yesterday, and Louise cowered when she saw me, trembling outside my car just as she had at the shelter. She warmed up as soon as we got home, but her distrust of people is another issue.

Next Saturday, I have a training session at my house with Jenina Schutter from Smart Paws Dog Training. When I described the problems, she said it sounded like Tommy was an insecure leader, "the worst kind of leader, same as with people." What an astute point.

So, we have a house full of issues. I wonder if I should go back to therapy.


  1. Uh-oh. Thank heavens Louise and Italia were physically unscathed, if not emotionally so. All the best with Jenina. How are Frieda and Ramona managing? I hope you have a large couch, dear Susan.

  2. Oh the joys of training behavior modification training


  3. Oh Tommy, butch up.

    These classes are going to be very interesting. I hope you share all the details with us. Shoot me an email if you want some walking help this week.

  4. You sound discouraged. I'm sorry it's been tough going. If I can help in some way let me know. I still owe Bellis that cake. Maybe we can all get together and eat it.

  5. Chick is an insecure leader also. I don't think it's entirely uncommon. With him, it has helped for us to reinforce him as leader among dogs but also be firm with him when he exhibits inappropriate behavior in leadership. I can't wait to hear how it goes with the trainer. It's certainly worth a shot to see if you can work things out for the two of them together.

  6. Shell, Tommy continues to terrorize Frieda and Ramona so life is pretty much the same for them. And I'm still searching for that large couch. Or, were you referring to the therapist's couch?! I need a large one for that too.

    Kari, it's a lot of work, isn't it?

    Hiker, you crack me up. Thanks, I'll take you up on that offer.

    Thank you, Margaret. I'm trying to be positive, but I'm tired. But it'll get better. And I'd love for all of us to get together and eat cake. Maybe at my place Labor Day weekend?

    loveandleash, I love learning what's helped you with Chick. Your photos show the amazing results of all your work with him. Major kudos to you - and thanks for all the tips.

  7. I think that dogs fight would be very scary...
    I saw that the hole is big and tall.
    Why Louise distrust of people? Does she had a traumatic childhood?

    PS: Btw, it's beautiful all the green trees in your garden.

  8. Hi Sue:
    Oh girl how I so enjoy your story.

    OK, so at the end of the day, dogs are so worth the intensive and grueling hard work. Finney took me down like no other ever has, had or will (I could be wrong too). So I hear ya on the tired thing.

    Also, Tommy the insecure leader. This speaks volumes about corporate america, schools and our government at the moment (I don't mean President Obama either). How do we raise and nurture powerful, calm and assertive dogs and children?

    Let's hear it for the Pits though, they do keep you/us going.

    Love you til the cows come home. God bless Frida, Ramona, Louise and Tom Tom.


    PS It was dreamy to spend time with you while you were home.

  9. Wow, that's a tough one. I also will be very interested to hear what the trainer says. My limited experience guess would be to practice a lot of easy things to boost both dogs' confidence, like sit, find it, touch, take it.

    What is it with German shepherds? We're fostering one right now, and she can be a barker. She's also tentative and fearful at times. Your description of Louise, "reactive to any provocation from another dog", is so Kira.

    I hope you can do something nice for yourself to recharge. Rooting for you, Susan!

  10. sonia, Louise's early life is a mystery but her fear leads me to believe she was mistreated. Thanks for noticing the green trees in my yard instead of the junk on the patio.

    Kristen, I'm thinking about Finney's velvet stomach. You're doing such a great job with him - and the little man, Brady!

    Mimi and CC Cabana, we pass three German shepherds on our regular walks, and every one of them barks ferociously at us. I think people encourage the guard dog mentality, although my neighbor isn't like that. He's struggling with Italia's issues as well.

    I just got back from a two-day trip to Oakland and had to board the dogs again, so I got a little break. Last night I watched TV and got room service. I was in heaven. Isn't that pathetic?

    Thank you all for the support. It means so much to me.

  11. Even Abby, who is such a sweet dog with humans and other dogs on the trail, picks fights through the fence with neighborhood dogs when we walk. I know what you mean when they go at each other through a gap, it sounds terrifying. There's one dog on a nearby street who always yells insults at her, and when Abby sees him in the Arroyo, she races over to attack. Though I don't think she'd bite - just try to dominate. Once when that dog was locked out the house, he came over to Abby and me for help, and the two dogs didn't fight at all. I think if we let them sort it out themselves, there'd be a little skirmish, a few cuts,and then they'd know who was top dog. I can lend you Temple Grandin's book where she discusses this, and how dog fights are worse nowadays because we don't let the dogs run free around the neighborhood to sort out the hierarchy like they used to.

    This isn't to say it's not a huge problem for the owner(s) nowadays. The aggression and barking of the dog next door to us stopped when we paid a lot of dollars for a new fence to be put up so it couldn't look over the top any more. Could you get together with the neighbor to repair that hole?

    Margaret, I'd love some chocolate cake, any time, any where. Haven't seen either of you for ages.

  12. It's said that good fences make for good neighbors, unless someone does this:

    Fence Window

    I suppose there are sillier ideas...but then, maybe not.

  13. You called Jeninia!! Cool, tell her I said hello. I hope it all goes well. Remember it is a process and takes time. Daisy will be 6 this year, I called Jenina when she was 1. Can't wait to hear all about it.

  14. Boz and Sprocket fought it out. It terrified me, but they get along fine.

    Boz was originally the alpha, but as Sprocket grew from puppy to mature dog, he decided to change that.


  15. Hello Sue,
    Sorry I missed seeing you on your last trip back. I think those lucky dogs are all the therapy you will ever need!
    Love you, Cindy

  16. Bellis, which Temple Grandin book is it? I would love to borrow it. Thank you. My fear with Louise is that it's more than just jockeying for top dog position. I think it borders on aggression, and I'm afraid she'd do some real damage to another dog. But perhaps I'm being overly cautious.

    Paula, that's hilarious! Very silly but brilliant too. Maybe I'll run it by my neighbor.

    Daisy Dog, I told Jenina you referred me. She commended you on all the work you've done with Daisy. And she emphasized the amount of work I have ahead of me. I know that from the training I did with Tommy, and yet, I was still hoping for some easy fixes. Not going to happen.

    Sprocket? Who's Sprocket?

    Yes, cake. Labor Day brunch at my place?

    Cindy, it was a shame I got sick back east. I think I'm allergic to NY. Why don't you come out and visit California? As for therapy, I'm not sure I agree but the dogs take all my time and money so there's nothing left for therapy even if I wanted to go. At least I get my daily exercise - and then some.

  17. Doesn't sound like anybody really wants to eat cake. I'll take the cake then if that's the case.

  18. I don't know about cat people switching allegiances. When it came to the kitty girls did you ever have to have employ a language with terms such as alpha or hesitant leader? did you have to hire a trainer, bone up on kitty modification techniques....or hire a therapist? Being betwix pets right now, I'm kind of taking all this in.

    btw: I see you have an outdoor fireplace. How cool is that?

  19. Sorry. Sprocket is Boz's oldest and dearest frienemy. He came over today and they were thrilled to see each other. Then they proceeded to ignore each other all afternoon.

  20. Cafe, if you're really nice to Margaret and Bellis, I bet they'll give you some cake.

    PA, I'm so curious about why you're thinking of getting a dog. When are you coming over to walk Louise so you can tell me all about it?

    That mastiff is a gentle giant. Tommy would've swallowed that chichi whole.

    Petrea, it's a good day when Tommy ignores a frienemy.

  21. Yes please. I'll bring the book.

  22. Sprocket died 2 years ago. He and Daisy did not get along, he was old and crotchety.

  23. Bellis, I may have to backpedal on the cake at my house invitation for Labor Day weekend. Could we do it the following weekend? I'm sinking...

    Oh, Daisy Dog. I never knew you had a Sprocket. It must have been hard to have an old and crotchety pooch with a young, energetic pit bull.

  24. Louise sounds like my Téa a little bit. Téa is extremely comfortable with the people she meets but she's uber-choosey about her canine friends and will definitely take up the challenge when one is offered (which includes a dog just existing nearby, sometimes). While Louise may have the beginnings of some issues, I think you'll find that your trainer can help you get them in hand before they become too big for either of you. I will also say that since Toni has relinquished her alpha role to Strut she's been able to relax a great deal. She was a terrible, neurotic leader who panicked more often than she helped. She's a great mother, but not a great leader. If we had figured that out sooner, maybe we could have helped her more. Good luck!

  25. my dogs will fence-fight when the unneutered dog next door makes his VERY rare appearance near the shared fence. I bought a 4 foot tall x-pen and opened it up and make basically a 2nd fence layer so my dogs can't get near the spot in the fence where they can see each was a cheap fix, since i rent and am not about to pay to fix the fence problem (which isn't a hole, it's just a spot where they can sort of visually see each other.....maybe that's a possible solution for you....???