Friday, July 20, 2007

Think like a dog...

The Making of a Pack

When we were first married , we brought home an Australian Shephard cross puppy. We had all kinds of puppy problems with Charky, but we took him to obedience classes and he turned into a well mannered, attentive companion. He clearly recognized Husband as leader. A year or so later, during a time when Husband was on a temp assignment in another state, I decided Charky needed a canine companion and adopted a 9 month old dog, Bosco. Charky established himself as alpha dog and took it upon himself to keep Bosco in line. A few years later, we started a family. The dogs were great with the kids. Can't explain what I was thinking exactly, but one day I brought home another dog, Boots (Well, he needed a home and how much harder could it be to take care of three dogs when you already have two?). Boots established himself in the middle of the pack and Bosco was happy at the bottom. A few years after that, I decided a cat would be great and brought home Mitts ended up second in authority because Boots was afraid of him. Mitts and Bosco were great buddies. Are you keeping up? At this point the Pack contained two human adults, two human children, three dogs, and one cat.

One sad day, at age 14, Charky's lifetime was over. Within a year, we added a second cat. Cookie didn't care for the dogs, but Boots was afraid of her and Bosco just wasn't interested and all was well. A few years later, Bosco passed away peacefully in the back yard at age 16. This left poor Boots as the lone dog in a house with the two cats. We said our last goodbye to Boots this past November.

Starting Over

We weren't sure we wanted to start over with that whole thing because the ending is so difficult. But after a few months, we agreed to bring a new dog into the family. To be more accurate, Husband agreed that I could get a new dog. And that is how Bandit found his way out of an animal shelter, and into our home earlier this year.

I absolutely love this dog, but he also came to us with what turned into a growing list of undesirable behaviors:
- Marking (aka peeing on stuff in the house)
- Demanding attention
- Jumping
- Separation anxiety
- Stealing food
- Won't come when called
- Pulling/leading on the leash
- Chaser of all things small and fast*
- Bolting out the door

I have been intending to enroll him in some sort of obedience class, but with my busy life, it hadn't happened.

A few weeks ago, my Husband intended to sit on the sofa, unwind, and watch a Cubs game. First problem was that the corner of the sofa has been marked and needed to be cleaned up. He grumbled and took care of that then sat down. Bandit ran over and started nudging and barking and demanding attention. He grumbled that he didn't want to play right now. Something was wrong with the TV. After fiddling with a few connections he realized that Bandit had shorted out the cable box** by 'marking' it as well.

That was the last straw. Husband wasn't at all happy with my dog, he wasn't happy with me, and the tension in the house was thick.

Think Like a Dog

On the advice of a few trusted friends, I decided to enlist Bark Busters for help. I liked the idea of them working with us in the home. They believe that most of Bandit's issues come from his view of the pack and where he fits in. He hasn't acknowledged us as leaders and is trying to assume that role. This makes a lot of sense to me. We've seen how dogs behave and establish a pack.

They spent about three hours with us during the first visit, and we noticed improvement in most of the problem areas right away.

We've learned how to communicate with Bandit in a way that he understands. Husband's relationship with Bandit is better (phew!). They left us with homework, tips/tools/techniques, their phone number, and scheduled a follow-up visit in 2 weeks. I'm encouraged. I'll let you know how it goes.

* I have included photos of a few of the small and fast things that Bandit enjoys chasing. As it turns ot, at least two of them do not enjoy being chased and can draw blood from the nose of a dog when provoked.

** Looking back, it is somewhat funny that Bandit killed the cable box by peeing on it, but no humor was found at that exact moment


  1. I'm intereseted to see how the Bark Busters works. I've been tempted to call them a couple of times over issues with Nala and Rocco, but they've always managed to work them out. Good luck with Bandit.

  2. Wow - that's a tough little hound you have.... and I mean tough in terms of what you guys are coping with!! I'm sure he can be trained to realise he's not boss - and let's hope with that comes less marking (just eugh to that!!!!!)

    oh and it's stopped raining ;o)

  3. As long as you guys keep after it I bet what Bark Busters teaches will continue to help. Maddie has DH as the alpha and I am no where near that. It's so funny because as soon as DH leaves for work Maddie tears into the garbage and other no-nos that she won't even think of when he is home. Anyway, I hope it all keeps working out!

  4. I am sure it will work - he's a pretty young dog and they're a smart breed. You are so kind bringing homeless dogs into your family (too funny about the tv mwahahaha don't tell your husband I said that)

  5. I got four dogs. My male dog has the same issues. Except he uses my bike tire, my sofa, my chairs. Hmmmm. I've heard Lhasa's are always masters of the their house. I wonder if I should take over that role now :-)

  6. Awwhhh Lisa you're so cute with all these animals. Dang, I couldn't do it. At least not now anyway LOL. Having another "child" in the house would probably drive me absolutely mad. I do want one though . . .eventually.

    Hopefully your little pup will be in line in no time :-)

  7. Ah... a kindred spirit - an animal lover. They are interesting. And trying!

  8. What I thought was funny was the cable box being the last straw. Okay, so, I'm a man: I don't care if you pee on my couch or my carpet or my other stuff BUT DUDE DON'T YOU DATE TOUCH THE TV STUFF!!!!

  9. Sounds like you're getting things under control with Bandit! Wish something like this had been available back when we had Joey the Wonderdog (who I would dare say had Bandit beat on his bad behavior!) You sound like my sister with her menagerie!

  10. Your story reminds me of the pets I had growing up. We had two dogs and three cats. Tippy, the "problem dog" was agressive with the cats and Jessie would mark everything, including my first boyfriend's backpack. When I got my first dog she and I went to obedience school and she was such a good girl. I took Kozmo too...I actually think he is too smart for the whole thing. He enjoyed putting on a show at school and then when we got home it was a free for all. I might have to try the in-home obedience with him!

    Take Care

  11. What a family and what a story, you told it good Lisa....