Thursday, February 17, 2011

Face hugs & the head mare

Yesterday I took Stella with me to pick up our friend Walter. We went from his house to get some coffee and then on to the downtown library. Stella couldn't go in these places and Walter is somewhat disabled so I left them both in the car a couple of times and Walter (when he wasn't spilling coffee in my floorboard) noted that when I went into a place Stella never took her eyes off the door until I came back through it. I asked him if she cried or whined. He said "No, she just stands with her front feet on the console and looks through the windshield."

Normally, if we don't have any passengers, when I return to the car, she and I have what I call a face hug. I reach under her chin and pull her her head to mine from the outside. Her left cheek pressed against my right one (with her still standing on the console) the two of us thank our lucky stars that I made it back and that she was there when I did. As soon as I let go, I tell her to back up and she returns to the back seat planting herself next to a window. On rare occasions we manage to charm some nice person who happens to witness this little ritual from a nearby car proving yet again that warm fuzzy dog love is in fact, contagious.

Dog park update: I mentioned at the end of January that Stella had a bad day at the dog park, a bad day in that she was a bully to the other dogs for the first time since her puppyhood. We returned a day later and she did great. This past Tuesday we tried again and Stella ran all the big dogs and their owners out of the park with her loud vicious growling and bullying behavior. There was no biting but it was so pushy and mean, you wouldn't know she was trying to play; even the dogs were intimidated. Once the big dogs were gone and she was left with the little ones, she was happy as a clam. My friend Christine calls it wanting to be the "head mare" but according to the literature, one doesn't get to be the head mare via tyranny in fact, quite the opposite, so darling Stella has a ways to go. I tried taking her back yesterday (different park) and the same thing happened only this time the owners were a little more forgiving. I disciplined her by putting her on the leash and making her sit but I'm not sure she got the message until I actually caught her by the scruff of the neck once as she was tearing by me. She promptly fell down on her back and showed me the goods. I probably wouldn't have chosen the alpha roll myself but she was so busy being a menace and since she did it herself, I decided it was better than nothing. I definitely had her attention. So we had a quiet little chat right there in the dirt. All the other dogs (the ones she'd been roughing up) came by and smelled her up as well and once I let her up and brushed her off, she was a more polite version of herself. As of today, we're ramping up our exercise program and looking for big brave dogs to hang out with who will not put up with her nonsense. If anyone has any other suggestions or stories about your own dominant/ trouble-making/ bully dog I'd love to hear them. I'm not sure I'd use the word aggressive yet but she's definitely running the offense (despite the innocent pinup girl pose shown above).


Two Pitties in the City said...

Miss M makes that same awful noise when trying to play, that many people misinterpret as an evil growl.I wonder if it's a girl bully thing? We would give a lot of positive reinforcement for good playing behavior, and timeouts for bad bully behavior. We actually don't go to the park much anymore, or we go to our 'secret dog park' when we know other dogs won't be there. She still goes to daycare, which is bully friendly and they tell us she's fine.

giantspeckledchihuahua said...

I.' thinking along the same lines as Two Pitties. Some dogs are noisier when playing and some dogs (like Stumpy) are freaked out by that.

And yeah, how could that poster pittie in the picutes up there ^ be a bully!

We got our calendar yesterday! It cracked the postal workers up, that itwas VIP Dog Stuff. they ere very impressed with the photos and the dogs. As was I! thanks!

Happy tails!
Stumpy and me

Kari in WeHo said...

oh i just love those photos! My pups also make that nasty play noise!


susan said...

I'm glad to know she's not the only one. I've heard other dogs growl (including Stella) but lately she's been crossing the line.
Two Pitties: secret dog park? I like the sound of that :)

GSC: So glad your calendar arrived. Not you & Stumpy can plan your adventures far in advance.

Thanks Kari, we followed you too btw!

Beverly said...

Stephen's Rotts sounded VICIOUS when they were challenging (playing) one another. Scared me, but it was nothing.

Lindsay said...

Love the pics of Stella, as always. I love how pitties stick their back legs out straight like that. It really seems to be a pitbull thing.

I've taken certain dogs to the dog park that just get way too excited and run around growling and causing every dog to be on edge (you can just feel the energy change). The two that come to mind are female pit mixes. Their behavior seems to be really excited, rough playing, but I don't like it or approve of it because it does lead to fights when confronted with the wrong dogs.

I think increasing Stella's exercise and letting her socialize with one or two big dogs at a time will help. And making her sit at your side when she does get too rough, like you did.

One thing I do is take the dog for a long walk before we go to the dog park, then once we get to the dog park, walk some more, around the outside fence of the park for 20 mins or so and then enter the park. If the dog is too excited, she gets leashed and must sit at my side. If she still can't calm down, we leave. This is not a punishment, it just means we will try again another day. Better to be safe than sorry.

susan said...

I totally agree Lindsay, thanks for the tips too. I also never go if it's crowded. I'm hoping she'll take after Ace and just ignore the dogs that act like that. If she becomes that dog, we'll have to stop going.

Elizabeth said...

Take copies of that pin-up photo of Stella along when you go to the park. Well, maybe not, but it just shows to go you that pretty girls can sometimes be a little scary, too.

I was visiting friends recently near Ft. Myers who have a big, goofy-sweet Weimaraner, Maggie Moo. She must be near-sighted. She and I would get to be great friends, but then every time I left and showed up again (I mean even to leave the room) she would bark ferociously at me, then stop, push her nose way out toward me like maybe I smelled familiar, and then we would be friends again.

Sounds like Stella's on a power trip -- a true diva.