Chix-a-Lot Friday: Nobody’s Perfect

Well hello there, my loves. I’m flattered to know I’ve developed such a reputation around here– not only for being a hearthrob, but also for being such a well-mannered dog and a big-hearted foster brother. I believe I heard mama mentioning that somebody even referred to me as “Mr. Perfect.” Well aww, shucks.  I hate to risk you thinking less of me, but mama says I have to come clean. So here we go: even dogs who look like perfect angels have dark, dirty secrets. And I’m not just talking about my great love for the culinary pleasures of cat poo.

You see, I seem perfectly well-behaved, but I have my weaknesses. In fact, mama and dad have done A WHOLE LOT of training with me to make me into the near-perfect gentleman that I am today. When mama adopted me about 7 years ago in Austin, I was a wild man. I had no manners, couldn’t concentrate even for a squilli-second, and I was a real conspiracy-theorist when it came to other dogs. I thought they were all out to get me and my people, and I had to protect myself and my family! It was the least I could do to thank my mama and dad for springing me out of the slammer that cold November day and bringing me home to live with them in the land of soft dog beds and chew toys. That’s what a good dog does . . . right?? So as soon as I saw another dog, I would go totally bonkers. Mama would kind of freak out, act embarassed, sometimes yell at me, and drag me away. I didn’t understand why she didn’t appreciate my gallantry, and she didn’t understand why I was being so gallant. It was the perfect recipe for what I call “just being a dog” and what I think you humans call “a behavioral issue.” Big, loaded words were thrown around like “aggressive” and “hate.” She and dad just didn’t understand.

So we tried taking a basic class at the big box pet store and I learned a great “sit,” but it didn’t help so much to make me calm and friendly when other dogs came around. Mama was so overwhelmed that for a long time she thought that I would never be able to be around other dogs — ever, at all. Can you imagine? My life would be so sad without my best bud Tex the lab, good ol’ Pancho Villa the pointerish, and even young Keebler the poodle.

After a while, we discovered the greatest dog trainer that ever was, and he taught me and my people (but mostly my people) about how us dogs think, and how to explain to us what is ok in the human world and what is not ok. He taught my mama that I am not aggressive, hateful, or mean, I just feel a little helpless when a dog rushes me on my leash, and I react in the only way I know how, trying to tell him or her to go away. Lee Mannix taught us how to “set me up for success” and how to meet other dogs in a positive way. If not for Lee, I might never have been able to foster the six dogs I have fostered so far, and perhaps most tragically of all, I might never have had my love affair with Gonzo Bunny-Ears:

We have come a long way since then, but even now, I begrudgingly admit that I am still not perfect. When we bring new dogs into our house, we go S-L-O-W in letting them meet me, since that works best for me. I don’t get to sniff with other dogs on walks, and if we are ever out and about and see a dog running around off leash, we immediately turn around and start heading in the opposite direction, and mama reaches for the hot dogs. It may seem kind of persnickety, but it works for us.

Lee Mannix taught us a lot of valuable lessons, but looking back on it all, I think I have taught my mama some valuable lessons too. From me, she learned never to think the worst of a dog, but instead to try to understand its perspective and find a positive way to communicate with it. She learned that the dogs who some people consider to be a “problem” can actually be a real treasure. And she learned that judging a dog based on its current behavior — rather than thinking about its potential and how we might work together as a team — can be a real mistake.

Without all of those valuable lessons, mama might have given up on me. And wouldn’t that have been such a loss?

37 responses

  1. Chick has the same “I’m only tolerating this type of cuddling because I love her so much, but I would rather be over there” look on his face that my Ollie has when I snuggle him without his consent. I love it!

  2. I sent this to the woman who took Joey (our old foster) so she could read it. 🙂

    And guess what! I am picking up my first foster dog today from the Florida Little Dog Rescue. The hubs and I realized that our place is WAY too small for a pitty, so we’re going to ease our (and our cats’) way into fostering by going through the FL Little Dog Rescue until we get a bigger place. They take dogs from Animal Control on the last day before they’re going to be euthanized. I’m really excited, and will hopefully learn a lot before we move on to bigger dogs. Let’s hope I don’t get too attached!! Thanks for inspiring me. 🙂

  3. That is a great post–and who knew an awesome trainer could come in a package like Lee Mannix. He sounds like he was an amazing person.

    Its so great to see how someone who once seemed “troubled” could have come such a long way. And especially wonderful that Chick has allowed you–even helped you–to rescue and foster so many others. Yay!

  4. I loved this!! And it’s so timely, Chick, since I’m picking up my new pit/lab mix (I think that’s what she is) on Sunday. By the way, you and your mama sure make a cute couple!! Thank you again for the advice.

  5. We could definitely learn a few things from Chick! One of our dogs goes nuts when he sees new dogs out on walks. He will bark and jump and howl until we go up and say hello, and his manners are rather lacking at that point by shoving his rear in their face or nipping at their ears, trying to get them to play. Once he meets the same dog a few times, he’s polite, says hello and continues on his way, but it would be so nice to have calm walks when a new dog is spotted. Cheers to you!

    • Hey Laura, it’s hard, isn’t it? You want to just let them say hi, but by doing that, you are actually reinforcing the barking, jumping, and howling. Your dog has learned that if he acts like a crazy-man, he gets what he wants– to go say hello. You can fix this behavior, but will need a lot of cheese, hot dogs, patience, and consistency. Let me know if you want to talk more about it 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing a behind-the-scenes view of Chick’s seemingly perfect behavior! This is very encouraging to those of us working every day with our dogs to improve their attention and leash manners! Sometimes it can get frustrating and it is sometimes easy to assume that other, well-behaved dogs didn’t have to work just as hard to get there. It’s a good reminder of what is possible and also to be patient.

  7. Ah-ha! Now I know the secret: hot dogs. Reggie had a lot of the same issues that Chick had when I first got him. He’ll act as if he wants to meet another dog – he approaches in a calm manner, tail wagging, nose sniffing, but then when we get close, he starts a low growl. This isn’t all the time just certain dogs and I never know which ones. I do cross the street if we see another dog, but then I wonder if we always avoid other dogs, like Lee said, it will reinforce Reggie’s thinking that other dog must be bad/scary/trouble.

    He does “tolerate” my mom’s dogs though. 🙂 I’ve worked really hard to help him be more comfortable with other dogs, but I don’t think he’s come as far as Sir Chick. Keep up the good work, Chick!

  8. Dear Chick,
    I know nobody’s perfect, but what makes you perfect to me is the way you have taught your mama (and people like me who read this blog) to think differently about dogs who need special training, special homes, and extra time to show their true colors. I for one, know its extremely hard for resident dogs to share their home and their people with fosters, so I can see you have really come a long way in learning to tolerate other pooches!! Its no wonder you have inspired your mama to go on and do incredible things for misunderstood dogs. Oh, and that picture of you and Gonzo makes me want to fly to MD and crawl in that pet pocket and schnoogle with you! You are perfectly imperfect to me.

    Aleksandra, thank you for sharing how your hard work and patience has paid of with this amazing boy! He has really changed your life and the lives of others. What more could you ask for? I suppose it doesn’t hurt that he is SO incredibly handsome…

  9. Aww Chick you are still perfect and very handsome! Sophie also had the same issues on leash. We have put in a lot of time, effort and cheese into working with her. I agree with your mom that you need to try to see things from different perspectives and not label a dog. Sophie has opened up my world much like it sounds you did for your mom.

  10. Chick, we just adore you! Congrats to you and your moma on all of your hard work. We would never have guessed that you were a reactive fellow. We’ve just been following you for a few months (mom fell hard for Stevie Wonder) and the fact that you help other doggies to learn to live in a family is truly a gift. Keep up the good work!

    -Gizmo, Bart and Ruby (who’ve always been perfect and have never had a trainer out to the house or misbehaved even once…BOL!!)

  11. Yea, same here dude. Although I may be a handsome perfect dog in blogville, I’ve done a lot of training with my parents, and I’m still working on some things. It’s okay though… you’re still perfect!

  12. I didn’t know much about leash reactivity, but lately I’ve been working with more dogs from the rescue and I just had the worst experience trying to walk one of the leash reactive dogs; I had no idea what these owners go through. We would love to read more about your experiences, especially knowing how amazing your trainer is. One of the dogs in our dog group is severely reactive and she has been doing such a great job in the group and walking very close to many dogs. Her mom is also going to guest post about her experiences.

  13. This is a good reminder for me with my foster dog Cosmo who tends to growl and bark at other dogs we meet. He does it because he is insecure. He seems to really like other dogs, but he is unsure at first, so he gets defensive. It’s always a work in progress!

  14. Dear Chick…Momma said I needed to read today’s blog about you… something about it being funny. But, I read it over and over and really don’t see what’s so funny. You were ONLY trying to protect your people and ONLY from really dangerous things like STRANGE dogs on leashes. I try to do the same kinds of things. Once there was a vicious jacket hanging on the door that I saved momma from. Another time a lady at the dog park smelled so funny I knew I needed to warn mom away each and every time she came near…. Momma said something about it being a friend she’d known for 15 years who liked to wear perfume but I’m pretty sure there was something just horribly wrong with her. …………..Do you know what “going round the bend” means..I don’t but momma kept muttering it to herself all last winter when I was going thru what she called my terrible twos. I would get so many compliments on my behavior at the dog park each and every time I went….you’d think that would be enough! But when I tried to play with the cats or with her at home….she would get mad and put me in the laundry room for something she called the “time out”. She said, unlike me, she didn’t have fur to keep my play bites from hurting and leaving bruises! Can you imagine not wanting to PLAY? Finally, she talked to a dog behavior person and decided to take me to this place called Dogtown where I could play all day. I still don’t understand why she wouldn’t rather play with me instead of going to “work” but when I come home at night I’ve played so much it doesn’t matter, and she seems happy just walking me or throwing a ball instead of wrestling. You know Chick, I’ve figured out that she loves me even if she doesn’t understand everything I’m trying to say. Sometimes she doesn’t make sense either (like when all of my toys have to be put in one place) but all in all it’s not bad to have a large soft pillow, a few bones, some squeak toys, and an occasional tummy rub. Life could be worse.
    Jake (“he’s such a well behaved little dog”) the Catahoula

    PS. (yep, you can tell from my name, I’m what they call a “bully breed” too…just that not as many people know the breed…mom laughs and says I am a lot of things…but NOT a bully).

  15. Hi, I’m new here… via another blog… I can’t remember it’s name… French… something. Either way – ADORABLE post… and cute doggies. I have a misbehaving Chihuahua that we had to learn to understand also.

  16. That’s so great, Chick. I am so glad your stort turned out so well and your human found your trainer when she did. It sounds like he was the perfect person to understand you and to relate what you were experiencing to her. My dog Shiva had a lot of the same issues, the barking, the lunging, the horrified looks from strangers, the growling, the wondering if the dog was ever going to be able to walk down the street without freaking out. But then, we also were lucky enough to find a fantastic trainer who has now become a close family friend. We couldn’t have done it without her.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. When we first adopted Shiva, I felt like there was no hope. Hopefully someone who is feeling the same way right now will see this post and realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

  17. Bigwig didn’t try to kill a kid riding by the house on his bike today….he was preoccupied going to the bathroom at the time…. but I made sure to give him a lot of praise just in case!

  18. Love this post. We are still working on Rufus when it comes to leash aggression and greeting new dogs in general. He lets out a growl almost always when approaching a new dog. Even if he does nothing after the growl, the other dog often reacts defensively (and rightly so!), and Mr. Rufus gets himself in a whole lotta trouble.

    There are no perfect dogs, but patient people willing to work with and understand all types quirks that come with loving a pup.

  19. Oh My Gosh, Chick! This sounds exactly like me and my mama. I could have written that second paragraph. My mama gets really freaked out when I do my yodeling/whining/Mr. Gruff voice around other dogs. I also do my best to get in front of her in case the other bad dog tries to get too close (which is anywhere within about 50 feet of us). It doesn’t seem to bother me so much after I see the same doggie several times, except the little yappy dachsund around the corner. He’s a scary protector of his people if you ask me. I wish we had access to “the greatest dog trainer there ever was” because my mama needs lots of help (and reassurance, if you know what I mean *wink, wink*). My mama does know all about that “turn and go the other way thing” when there’s a dog on the loose and she always has a bag of treats on her hip.

    We have been working hard and I have learned to be very well-mannered most of the time but it’s still difficult for me to be around other dogs, especially when I’m on a leash. My people did bring home 3 beautiful little foster pittie puppies today and I really, really liked playing with them. We played and played and played and all got really tired. I think my mama will be taking pictures tomorrow and posting them on my blog.

    Anyway, thanks Chick for sharing some of your story. My mama is afraid I’m never going to be good around other dogs, ever, at all, just like your mama but after she read your post she realized that I’m still a work in progress and not to be too discouraged. They want to foster dogs, just like your mama and papa, but agree that I need more work before that can happen. I only just turned 2 so maybe by the time I’m a wise 7 year old like you, I’ll be a proud foster papa too.

  20. They change so much, don’t they??? Finding the right trainer can be very hard, and I’m glad Chick had life turned around by someone who understood! Makes me think that maybe, one day, we can consider fostering again!

  21. Yumbo and I just decided that most humans are loving and kind but they are clueless when it comes to understanding pet canines. While we understand when they tell us to “sit”, “jump”, “stay”, “come” and much more; those poor human creatures just can’t seem to learn our language and interpret every bark as aggressive.

    For instance, we bark our little heads off when the postman comes to our front porch to deliver the mail and our mommy get very angry. All we are trying to do is say a hardy “hello” that’s loud enough for him to hear and respond.

    Another instance, when the neighborhood stray cat walks into our line of vision, we try to make a mad dash for him. No, not to attack but to play. Again, our mommy gets angry and holds us back.

    Udi and Yumbo
    Hanna’s Shih Tzu Boys.

  22. Thank you for this post. I really needed to read Chicks testimonial this week. It is encouraging to hear that great dogs come from not so perfect behavior pasts. We have two bully-mixes with some behavior issues I have just not been able to work out. Reading books and taking advice can only go so far. I realize that I do not possess the knowledge or tools to get to the bottom of our problems and I want everyone we encounter to believe the same thing I do about our babies…they are amazing! I have found a behaviorist here in town and we are going to start working this week!

    • I will be interested to hear how it goes with the behaviorist, will you let me know how things go? Some dogs need more work than others and many dogs will never become 100% dog social, but with most dogs you can at least get to a point of comfortably managing your dog’s issues and knowing what situations are ok and what situations are trouble. Thanks for sharing your situation! Aleksandra

  23. Great, great post. It’s so easy when reading all of the adorable, fun, happy ending posts to forget that we probably all put a lot of work into helping our dogs be their best selves. Nearly every shelter/rescue dog is going to come with some issues. Some seem manageable and others seem overwhelming – which is why it’s so helpful to learn that we’re not alone. Our Téa, who used to go to adoption events all of the time with no problem, developed serious, serious leash aggression after she settled into our home. Not only that, but if she couldn’t get close enough to the other dog to vent her frustration, she would try to practice on Toni. What a sight – 5-foot-tall me with a snarling pit bull dangling out of each hand as an indignant puggle owner glared at us and stomped away. I don’t miss those days at all – even if they made for good blog posts.

  24. How did I miss this post? I’ve learned so much about myself through my relationship with Tommy. We both grew and changed through the challenges. That might sound weird but it’s true. I still have work to do with him, particularly now with Louise, but it’s much better. But I have to agree with Pit Bull Addict: I don’t miss those early trials one bit.
    Love the Chick close-up! He’s got pink on his snout, just like Louise.

  25. Pingback: Five phases of reactive dog ownership « Love and a Six-Foot Leash

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  27. Love this! you just explained my girls life, our “perfect dog”, and the reason I became a trainer. And as a trainer ” I shouldn’t have a dog like this”…this a of course stated by the unknowing…not realizing just how much training and work has gone on, and how far she has come…making her a better dog than most in my eyes. She even has a best poodle friend. It’s always nice to know that there are understanding “real” dog people, as I call them, out there. Good work on your boy he’s is adorable and then again thats the other thing that got me, he looks just like our new little guy. Love your blog, so well spoken!

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