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
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 youll ever meet
Ive 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, isnt that great?" I ask
my horizontal friends.
If I cant control, give up: By the time
the last car of friends arrive Ive 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 -- youre 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 behaviors not bad, hes 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, hell grow out of it.
Hes so excited about the walk he wants me to hurry.
Isnt he a cutey?" By now they are shaking their heads
in polite agreement, but some are starting to openly doubt my
Justify by blaming victims: We are finally
out of the house and Im walking Rover to the car on leash.
Hes prancing everywhere, pulling me in a zigzag manner to
the vehicle. Im 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."
Its just a bad situation: Finally
were at Fort Funston walking as a group, when Rover sees a
horse for the first time. He takes off barking and nipping at the
horses heels while I run in the sand dunes after him
screaming "COME". A very irate horse rider starts
yelling at me about my @#$#@ dog. I respond first by being
apologetic, "My dog has never met a horse before. He thought
it was a big dog waiting to play with him. Really he never acts
this way, its just an unusual situation."
Its process not behavior: Rover has
left that particular horse and runs ahead to chase other horses.
Im right behind, with shoes full of sand, still yelling
"COME COME COME". Now, not only horse riders but other
strangers are looking at me with contempt. I yell a lie to them
"Rover is only starting to learn obedience and hasnt
really learned COME yet. Thats next week."
If I cant defend, offend: Of course,
now the comments from the horse riders are getting pretty
violent. I respond in kind yelling about their horses trying to
kick my dog. "Cant you keep your @#$#@ 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. Im 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 isnt my dog, he belongs to Babs
and Bob, Im only walking him as a favor."
If I cant 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 hes
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
If I dont 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, theyre all avoiding my
eyes. Their dogs, all returning to them on command, are so
different from my dog I wonder out loud "whats the
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.
Its 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 youve 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 shes crazy. "I dont abuse
my dog," I argue. "No," she smiles again,
"Not yet. But eventually your dogs 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 hes so out of control. Or
never taking him for walks because he cant 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, hes 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 VCNCs 1993
newsletter and revised for a June 1997 reissue.].