Vizsladogs, Ltd.

EXCUSING BAD BEHAVIOR


I have a new Vizsla puppy a year old. He is a delightful pup and I brag about him constantly. My desk at work is covered with pictures of Rover, many of the pictures were taken at Fort Funston, a park located in San Francisco, California. Fort Funston is lovely, it has sand dune trails along the Pacific ocean and also allow off-leash dog walking. Dog walkers share the area with hang-gliders, horse riders, and other who skate and hike to enjoy the outdoors. The only catch for us dog owners is, we need to have our dogs either under voice control or the dog must be on leash. I, like many people, feel that my dog is under control.

Redefining bad into good: One weekend I invite some fellow dog owners from work to come over to my house so we can all go to Fort Funston together. Everyone is dying to meet my little Rover -- the greatest pup you’ll ever meet I’ve told them – mainly because I always tell them wonderful stories of how cute and good he is. My friends walk into my house and are greeted with my usual comment "Boy, my dog must really like you!" as they are flattened by Rover. "He really enjoys people, isn’t that great?" I ask my horizontal friends.

If I can’t control, give up: By the time the last car of friends arrive I’ve given up and acknowledge that Rover has won by opening the door just a crack and saying to the unsuspecting person waiting on my porch to "protect yourself -- you’re on your own -- Rover is a little excited," as they enter the house. Needless to say, by the time everyone arrives I wished I had vacuumed better — everyone had been knocked down by my good and cute little boy.

The behavior’s not bad, he’s just being cute: As my friends and I are starting to leave the house, Rover first mouths my arm, and then bites it. Since the dog has grown tremendously over the past few months, the biting seriously hurts! What do I say when my friends ask about my red, teary eyed face and the indentations in my arms? "Oh its only Rover playing like puppies are suppose to, he’ll grow out of it. He’s so excited about the walk he wants me to hurry. Isn’t he a cutey?" By now they are shaking their heads in polite agreement, but some are starting to openly doubt my sanity.

Justify by blaming victims: We are finally out of the house and I’m walking Rover to the car on leash. He’s prancing everywhere, pulling me in a zigzag manner to the vehicle. I’m aware that my friends are watching. Partly to show off, I drop the leash for a second to open the door and say "kennel." Instead of entering the car like he did just yesterday, he runs up to Tom my neighbor and the greeting results in a nip. (And man did not bite dog this time around!) What could I say to my bitten neighbor? With a very huffy demeanor I walk over, grab my dogs leash and tell Tom that "My dog does not bite, except to protect himself, your greeting was too rough for him."

It’s just a bad situation: Finally we’re at Fort Funston walking as a group, when Rover sees a horse for the first time. He takes off barking and nipping at the horse’s heels while I run in the sand dunes after him screaming "COME". A very irate horse rider starts yelling at me about my @#$#@ dog. I respond first by being apologetic, "My dog has never met a horse before. He thought it was a big dog waiting to play with him. Really he never acts this way, it’s just an unusual situation."

It’s process not behavior: Rover has left that particular horse and runs ahead to chase other horses. I’m right behind, with shoes full of sand, still yelling "COME COME COME". Now, not only horse riders but other strangers are looking at me with contempt. I yell a lie to them "Rover is only starting to learn obedience and hasn’t really learned COME yet. That’s next week."

If I can’t defend, offend: Of course, now the comments from the horse riders are getting pretty violent. I respond in kind yelling about their horses trying to kick my dog. "Can’t you keep your @#$#@ horses under control?" Clearing my name by placing blame: Rover tires of the horses, he turns and runs down to the beach grabbing some kids tennis ball along the way. I’m now chasing Rover and the ball, and the kids are close behind, followed by one persistently irate horse rider. The people along the beach are looking to me for an explanation for the scene -- a dog being chased by me being chased by kids, being chased by a horse, sort of a John Waters take on a fairy tale. I do an over-exaggerated shrug and yell, "He isn’t my dog, he belongs to Babs and Bob, I’m only walking him as a favor."

If I can’t control, abuse: I give up tr ying to run down Rover, besides, the kids are close to catching me. I decide to quickly return to the parking lot, running from tree to tree so none of the folks who are after me can follow. As I approach the lot I hear loud hysterical voices from the hang-glider area. "Oh no." I run over there to find Rover has not only returned to the lot before me, but he’s bothering the hang gliders. A group of people are pointing to a large wet spot on one of the glider wings. These angry men look at me with the killer eyes of an opposing football team. I admit, that did it. I loose it and start yelling at Rover. All the while I hope others will see how irate I am and take my emotional explosion as proof that I have a strong desire to have a well trained dog. Of course, for all my yelling, Rover is not about to come to me. I chase him across the parking lot yelling obscenities.

If I don’t win, I lose: Finally, out of breath from all the running, and very embarrassed, I open my car door and plead with Rover to get in. He looks at me from 20 feet away and decides I had enough. He then confidently walks toward the car and up into the front seat. He sits there satisfied. I shut the door and turn to talk to my friends who are now returning from their walk. However, they’re all avoiding my eyes. Their dogs, all returning to them on command, are so different from my dog I wonder out loud "what’s the secret?"

A woman walks by with a Vizsla just like mine. She stops and looks at me with sincerity, "The difference is those people have taken the time to get themselves and their dogs trained. It’s no different than kids. If you want a well mannered child you first need to know what behavior can be expected, and then you need to teach the child proper behavior – by example and training." She hands me a business card, "Call these folks when you’ve had enough and they will help you with obedience training." She then smiles, "But please do this before you start to abuse the dog,"

I look at her like she’s crazy. "I don’t abuse my dog," I argue. "No," she smiles again, "Not yet. But eventually your dog’s going to hurt someone seriously, even you. You may not have a choice but to give him up. Or, you may find yourself lashing out at him for his bad behavior -- perhaps hitting him. Or perhaps locking him up to a chain in the back yard cause he’s so out of control. Or never taking him for walks because he can’t behave." She shakes her head, "Eventually, you may find you no longer love your dog and you are either forced to, or will willingly give it up." She looks at me with the sad eyes of someone who has worked on Vizsla Rescue. "Before those things happen, consider training your dog. Move from excuses to fixes." She then walks to her car with her off-leashed dog walking at her heel.

I stand there mouth open, incredulous that some stranger would come up to me and talk to me that way. How dare she!

But I watch her. She stops at her car and makes a hand motion, the dog sits by the door. She opens the door to retrieve a water dish and the dog remains sitting. She says a word and the dog stands and drinks water and with tail wagging. When done, it follows her command to kennel as it jumps into a crate in the back of the car. She drives off, with a wave of hopeful encouragement to me.

I turn and look at my dog, he’s sitting in the drivers seat ready to take off without me. I look again at the card and vow to call as soon as I get home.

[Anonymous is really Patty Mead and this is a reworking of an article that she first wrote about in VCNC’s 1993 newsletter and revised for a June 1997 reissue.].


Vizsladogs, Ltd.
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Last updated 02
/06/06