Sunday, August 09, 2009


Back in March a little pimple of a problem grew to boil size, festered and finally broke open. Sanity forced me to pull her from working in public because I could no longer trust her to behave in an appropriate manner when rude children were around.

Wrap left us in April. At this time Sanity was not a yard boss. She was more a riot inciter and would be more likely to be a reason for a squabble to break out than the reason why it stopped. Anything, everything, nothing would send her off into wild frenzies of barking that nothing could stop other than my enforcing a "give me 20" rule. Having to do 20 dog style push ups did help to take the edge off the frenzy.

Ellie arrived in May. Sanity viewed her a a nuisance and something to be ignored to the point of stepping on her rather than over her. However, by the end of May Sanity and Ellie were starting to develop an interesting relationship. It consisted mostly of Ellie following Sanity around everywhere and doing her level best to copy everything she saw Sanity doing.

In June I switched Sanity over to a raw meat and bones diet that includes green tripe and some cooked veggies or fresh fruit that happens to be hanging around. The first week was almost the last week of this experiment since I pretty much couldn't get her to eat much of anything. She was very happy to lick the bones for a time, but then would look at me and seem to ask, "so when are you going to put the food down?" I just continued to tell her that was the food.

By the beginning of the second week of this new diet something clicked in her brain. She started eating and eating with gusto! Of course, there was no more worry about her inhaling her food. Can't do that when you have to chew and chew and chew, just to get one bite you can swallow.

In July, I thought I was seeing some changes in Sanity's behavior both out in the yard and in the house. For starters, I was rarely having to call for 20 push-ups to help her come back to her senses. Then I thought I was noticing some of the very desirable "yard boss" behavior starting to show up every now and again. The most interesting thing was the change in her behavior after she finishes her dinner. She is calm. She is quiet. She is mellow and relaxed.

I'm finally writing about this because other people have begun to notice the very same things I've been noticing. That means it is really happening and not just wishful thinking on my part. It started with little things like her saving Ellie from the dog killer Golden by running between them and then cutting the Golden off. This gave Ellie time to make it back to the house and for the rest of us to put the yard back to rights with the Golden back in jail. I thought it was just a fluke or maybe I just imagined it.

That was the first time I actually thought I was seeing proper yard boss behavior, but didn't want to trust myself on the subject. Since that first time I have seen the same behavior almost daily. Squabbles are becoming less and less. And while that is true it is also true that Sanity is more and more willing to go retrieve string wearing dogs who are not coming when called.

All this makes me wonder if she was just waiting for Wrap to be gone before she finished her growing. And that leads me back to the kids problem.

Starting in June I finally managed to have a few students here who have either children or grandchildren of exactly the right size and age. It means I have been able to stage training problems and actually work on her attitude towards children of a certain height and behavior. Little by little, even this problem is resolving itself in a way that is going to get her back to working in public again. No rush, best to take things slowly and steadily rather than to rush and end up back sliding.

All in all this summer has been full of some pretty important changes and ones that sure have given me lots to think about.


  1. I'm very glad Sanity is taking well to a change in diet, that you've got more desensitizing and distraction work in with children of the appropriate range, and that Sanity is finally starting to fill some very large pawprints in the yard boss department. Finding kids of the right size, with dog savvy parents (or who's parents trust your dog knowledge) is usually the hardest part of working a dog who dislikes or fears children. I'm so glad you have clients with the right sort of children for whittling down Sanity's reactions. I do hope she gets back into public work again, but even if she doesn't, it's got to be nice to see an improvement in her attitude toward children.

    I'm also happy to see a nice posting about Sanity. As important as the AR alerts and BSL postings are, it's nice to get a peek into the dog yard every so often.

    I do have questions about what a "yard boss" does to break things up before it gets nasty- do they step between the would-be-combatants, distract them, or alert you so you can defuse the situation (or do whichever as needed)? Have you ever seen a lower ranked, obviously willing to give way to every other dog in the place temperament step up and sit between two snarly animals, all the while looking up and away in the same manner as when confronted by someone trying to steal a toy? Duncan never used to break up fights until he started working full time, and now it's as though he can't just sit there and wait for me to notice to tell the morons to knock it off, and will go do it himself so I don't have to. Perhaps I'm interpreting it completely wrong, but I do believe it's the closest thing to sitting down in the middle and asking "Can't we all just get along?" The damnedest thing is it seems to work!

    I hope Sanity keeps up her forward progress, and I look forward to the next posting (especially since I only recently finished re-reading the archives and miss being able to hit the "next post" link).

  2. My post didn't go through yesterday. I wanted to thank you for your posting about Sanity, and hope that she returns to her more reliable self around the rude children:)

    I also wanted to ask what inappropriate behaviors she was displaying?