Thursday, February 7, 2013

Puppies and Preachers and Parks, Oh My!

Yesterday evening, Bugs and Bruno accompanied me on a walk through downtown Lowell. It amazes me to see Bugsy's behavior, as young as she is, and to see her behaving in the manner for which she was bred. She is incredibly discerning about new people, and once in a great while, when she meets someone who makes her nervous, she places herself physically between me and that person. It's a subtle move that she accomplishes with a single step.

Our walk was very calm. Lowell wasn't busy, so we didn't meet very many people - some joggers, people walking in and out of restaurants. We met a woman with a blue heeler puppy, maybe 12 weeks old tops. Both dogs wanted to play rough and I did have some difficulty controlling them in that situation.

We walked near the grain mill, and the dogs weren't too keen on the sounds. There was lots of nosy grinding and high pitched repetitive sounds. They both maintained a good loose walk, but their body language told me that they were uncomfortable. Near the mill we saw a man near a semi truck, and Bugs pricked her ears and watched him hard. She almost imperceptibly put herself between me and him, but continued walking, and once we were past, she went back into a heel without being asked.

And then we encountered the scariest thing of all - street preachers!

I made sure to give them a wide berth because they were shouting through a megaphone and using lots of large arm movements. Bugs was clearly uncomfortable with these people. Although we were a good fifty yards away, she moved between us and out to the front, not in a menacing way, but with clear intentions of protection. It is almost impossible for me to describe the difference in her behavior. The protection behavior is 180 degrees different from interest or excitement. It's VERY subtle, with no pulling on the leash or other bad manners. I suppose the only ones who would understand what I mean are people who are familiar with the behavior. It is my understanding that this behavior doesn't generally kick in until dogs are more mature, but I'm glad that she's doing it, because it's a great learning opportunity for her.

After about an hour of walking we decided to see what was up at the dog park. There were two large friendly dogs in the big dog area - a black lab and a black standard poodle. We went into the small dog area, just in case my dogs acted up.

Bugs was GREAT and displayed all the normal dog greeting behaviors through the fence - sniffing, play bows, etc. But Bruno was not well behaved and barked and barked at the other dogs through the fence. He displayed slight aggression that could have quickly escalated, so after only a minute or two I decided to leave. I didn't see anything in the other dogs' behavior to set him off, but I was paying more attention to my dogs so there may well have been something there that I didn't pick up.

As we left, a little boy and his dad were bringing their chihuahua in. I asked the little boy to hold the dog so mine wouldn't go after it - they have a high prey drive and I don't think they would hurt a small dog on purpose, but could easily injure it in excitement. Bugs did very well - she did pull the lead and wanted to sniff the chihuahua, but was otherwise fine. Bruno went into "red zone" and pulled terribly, barking and snarling. I need to find better ways to socialize him, perhaps with people who understand the behavior. He has great bite inhibition, so even though he has tried to fight with other dogs, there have never been any injuries. But I want him to be with people who understand this and won't go into panic mode if a tussle ensues.

After the dog park we headed home and Bugs kept trying to drive. Silly gal - we haven't worked on that yet! LOL. We came home and Buggles enjoyed dinner and a good brushing, and before we knew it, it was bedtime.

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