June 7, 2008

Enough Already

If you see me and want to be friends then please do not ask what kind of dog we have. And if you feel you need to ask make sure your reaction comes with a smile.

I am serious.

So as you know from a post a little while back Denver was pre-judged because of his breed. The simple mention of this would send people into a face screwing advice giving frenzy – all of which was completely un-necessary.

We have been attending puppy classes now for 4 weeks and he is slowly getting better, although I feel this is linked to the work I do at home with him. The classes are good but as Denver needs a little more work and attention I find us spending most of our time stood on the sidelines.

Denver can sit, lie down and even roll over on command. He can walk on the lead perfectly and can ‘fetch’ and drop. He is compassionate, gentle and just wants cuddles most of the time.

He is 98% perfect.

The 2% problem is his play biting. He is very mouthy and likes to chew (as all puppies do) but his main problem is that he is confused by what he should be chewing. This can range from our clothes to the furniture, then if he isn’t happy with that he can move to your hands. At the minute it’s not too bad as he has little teeth – but of course this needs addressing before he gets bigger!

So far we have had some major conflicting and confusing advice, with one trainer at our school saying one thing and then another one rubbishing their advice and saying something different.

4 different methods have been used so far: pinning down until calm, spraying with water, swapping his choice of chew ‘toy’ and finally distraction with rewards – non of which have worked. And some we have been informed should have never been used in the first place. I have even had some amazing advice from my friend Caroline who lives all the way in Dubai which has made more sense than I have had here!

I took Denver to the vets the other day and he had his last jab, I asked the Vet about it and although she said it was normal for a puppy his age, if we were worried she recommended calling one of the most respected and professional trainers in Wellington. So I did.

I called a lady with the initials KS who has a local business where their motto is ‘(our company) prides themselves on offering animals and support services for unique and challenging projects’, and explained the problem, how old he was, and how amazing he is. She then asked what kind of dog he was and where we got him from. When I said a Bullmastiff cross and the SPCA in the same sentence she made this horrible noise, and along came the her words of wisdom. Are you ready for them??


Yes she said that! She said we were ‘asking for trouble’ with a dog like that. That the SPCA would have lied about his cross breed and he is more likely mixed with a Pit Bull and so very dangerous and he could never be trained!!!

I stumbled in pure confusion and madness at what I had just heard. I was utterly speechless – well apart from the bit where I told her that was the most pathetic and unhelpful advice I had ever heard, concluding with ‘are you sure you are a professional trainer’??!

After that I called the SPCA to tell them what this lady had said and they were just as shocked as I was. They re-home hundreds of dogs a year and have not once had a problem with any that could not be trained and have been taken back!

Like a friends of mine said when I told her about how flabbergasted I was: ‘oh my child isn’t behaving how I want them to, better push it back in’.

Today I went to the hairdressers and was again greeted with wrinkled faces and ‘advice’ that these types of dogs have a certain mentality. This has happened at least 5 times this week already and normally from strangers. Seems then that ‘these types of dogs’ also have something in common with these humans too!!

We were given a number of a lady called Julia Maiden and I have just had a wonderful inspirational uplifting chat. Julia is a professional trainer who not only has her own business but works beside the SPCA and at Paws In The City. Being able to talk to someone positive about Denver was amazing, we both agreed that if I had mentioned Denver was a Poodle we wouldn’t have had all this silly negativeness!

At the end of the day the real problem is us. Denver is doing what he should do and we are the ones flaring around without a clue needing some guidance. However it seems we may have finally found someone who understands our concerns, knows of our feeling of abandonment and can see our pure love and 110% devotion for our new dog.

To be continued….

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  • Mam Lee

    June 7, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    How unbelievable!! I had the very same reaction the other day when some one was asking about you and I told them you had a dog now, if I had said you had a poodle or some other sort of furry little creature I would have been greeted with a awwwww how cute.
    As you say its the ignorance of people that have made these dogs the way they are today. x

  • Dil

    June 7, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Hi there, just caught up with your blog after a few weeks absence!!! You sound really busy and loving life -fantastic !
    Life here is hectic as always, but we do think of you often Smile
    love to you all xxxxxxxx

  • Anonymous

    June 7, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Oh dear I do feel for you. I must say I am wary of any dog, not just certain types so I can understand people being passive, yet not at that level! Rochelle :}}

  • Anonymous

    June 7, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Well as you know we had a Rotty for years and we suffered similar negative feedback, yet we were living in the UK so I do not know if Kiwi’s are more worry warts (don’t you love my queens english!).

    Ron Beswich

  • Craig

    June 8, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Hi Marrisa, I know that people have (mis)conecptions of certain breeds of dogs. I can’t comment on Denver as I don’t know him – We only really intimately know German Shepherds. When I first met Rach their family bred German Shepherds – Amazing pedigrees that were homed all over the world – winning many hearts and contests. Rach and I became quite quite ‘expert’ around that breed after dozens of litters and training..

    Now many people may consider Shepherds a dangerous breed. I have to say that they are amazing loyal and great family dogs – only (BIG caveat) if they are raised properly – I have come across many dangerous Shepherds – bitten by one – that were obviously allowed to rule the roost. Some dog breeds seem to respond to family hierarchy more than others – With Shepherds, we found unless they firmly knew their place – a the bottom of the foot chain.. There will be trouble. I love German Shepherds – but If I met one out and about there would be no way I would let Myles within a 100m. The same would go for any dog I didn’t full know.

    I think this is where people’s fear comes from. It’s not the dogs that are the problem – though admittedly some breeds do have some personality issues that need a lot of work. It useless, irresponsible owners.

    I think you have a difficult situation on your hands. I am sure that you’ll train him well and he’ll become a great family dog. But I think peoples reactions will take more time to tame.

    Also we have found that the parentage and breeding lines of the Shepherds made a huge difference in the personalities of the dogs – even with the same raising. Some were great family dogs – some went into the forces.

    So it’s a tricky one. Your great, responsible folks and will do a great job raising him – and in all likely hood he will turn out to be a well balanced bundle of joy.

    Don’t know what to say about peoples reactions to you – other than there are some misconceptions about the breed – and some examples of serious injury and personality disorders due to breeding / raising issues. It’s not black and white.

    Any advice from our dog breeding days? – Feed him last and really make sure he knows his place.

    It’s so great that you’ve met someone who can support your – shame the initial ‘expert’ advice was so negative, even if she did have some experience in the breed.

    We look forward to meeting Denver anyway!

    Craig & Rach x

  • Caroline

    June 8, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    *gasp* I’m shocked and from a so-called professional.

    Recently found a great website of people who work with Pits (full-on ones and ones that may or may not have actually fought). Check it out BAd-Rap blogspot (I think the address is off the top of my head).

    You are doing great – Denver’s progress will go up and down. Like any kind of learning it is not a straightforward upward slope – he’ll slip up but that is a great chance for you to be able to reinforce stuff.

    You’ve got a lovely boy and you are doing everything you can to be a responsible owner. I get frustrated with the scare-mongering with certain breeds.

    Certainly one needs to go into it with one’s eyes open but you can not, should not, must not write off a whole breed (or group of people !!!??) based on overly hyped media stories.

    You stick with it honey – you doing great by the sound of things. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned that the improvements were supplemented with what you are doing at home rather than just the classes!!


  • Domestic Executive

    June 9, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Denver is a puppy and biting is what puppies do. My two soppy bassets have had a “biting problem”. It’s natural and their way of communicating with you.

    It hurts and is not acceptable so a firm no and withdrawal is all you need. Denver will in time learn that no means no. It’s the same with furniture etc as soon as he has done something you don’t want him to do tell him no and distract him to do something else.

    Every day I constantly repeat “no bitey bitey” as either of the boys tries to eat me or my clothes. It is getting less frequent but not gone yet.

    Keep up with the training – it does pay off in the end!

  • Helen Leggatt

    June 11, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Awww, Denver looks like a gorgeous pup – glad you’re not giving up on him. It really upsets me to hear the breed getting the blame – ultimately it’s the owners!! You only have to look at the environment where the majority of these so-called “dangerous dogs” are kept (outside with no shelter/water, tied up with no decent length of rope, excluded from the family pack and fed crap and treated like dirt) to see why they are so disfunctional around humans… grrrr, rant over!!

    Re biting – I’ve found a sharp and loud retort such as AH AH (and i mean loud and bark-like) words a treat on most dogs – also, pinching their ears when they bite too hard is a good way of letting them know it’s too hard – it’s what their mothers would have done – we had great success with this method with Amber, our youngest(and most boisterous) Huntaway/Rottie – the most recent of our spca acquisitions!)

    Looking forward to hearing his progress!!


  • Prin

    June 12, 2008 at 8:57 am

    I’m more of a corrector for the biting. I stop moving completely (if I’m the object of the bitey affections) and correct with a firm “no”, and if he’s really ADD, then do the swapping after the correction.

    If I’m not the object of the biting, I’d tend to grab the muzzle and correct, but a lot of people don’t trust their authority or their dog enough for that… (And I tend to be more aggressive and hands on than a lot of people too, just because I live in such a dog hatey city that my dogs HAVE to know not to even pretend to bite…)

    Whatever method you use, just be very consistent with it.

    As for the bully stereotyping, it sucks. Just say Lab. lol Chocolate lab. People that ignorant don’t know anyway. Grin