It’s Not Cute, Damn it.

Yep, it’s another month, another installment of “Better Humaning Through Dogs.”

Generally, I try to write about the positive elements of dog companionship – or at least, the interesting ones. And generally, people who love or work with dogs understand the psychology of these animals, or are willing to learn.

But sometimes, I swear to dog, er, god, media makes education difficult, and I just have to scream.

Recently I saw a People magazine article, one of those clickbait headlines squibs, about a puppy so protective of a new family member, it wouldn’t even let the baby‘s mama touch baby. And it was, as these things always are reported, done up in a sweetly twee, isn’t it cute! tone.  Isn’t that a good dog?

No, it’s not cute. At that level, it’s called resource guarding, and it’s not something you should be encouraging in your dogs, OK? (Or your cats, for that matter.)  Yes, dogs are excellent guardians, and are often very careful and watchful around the younger members of their pack, four or two-legged.

But when the family dog gets upset when anyone else comes near the baby, to the point of growling or showing teeth, Rover or Fluffy isn’t being protective over your offspring. Rover or Fluffy is claiming them as their property, their territory.  That’s a version of resource guarding, and it’s not a healthy situation, much less “cute.”

Resource guarding, within context, isn’t a bad thing.  Between dogs, it’s annoyingly common – I’ve seen this play out more times than I like, working with shelter dogs, with friend’s dogs, with my own dog. Between dogs, its a way of laying down boundaries: this is mine and I will share it, this is mine and I will not. Most dogs will recognize and accept those boundaries, and back down (when they don’t, that’s when you get dog fights).

But humans, for the most part, are clueless about the warning signs, and very bad about backing off.  And no, you can’t count on your dog recognizing you, and knowing that you are to be trusted.  Not in the instant of reaction, anyway.  To the resource guarding dog’s mind, everything is a potential threat to their possession of the beloved object.  Even another pack member, maybe even alpha pack members.  And they’re not going to sit back and rationally think it out; they’re going to respond the way they’re designed to, quickly, efficiently, and potentially bloodily.

And a dog’s idea of defensive behavior?  Involves teeth.

That means anyone attempting to reach for the child, in the case of this article, or a person in need of medical care, or even a partner attempting to show affection, risks getting bitten.  Maybe badly.

So yeah, articles like the one I saw are the worst kind of narrative, assigning emotions and motives inaccurately, and making it seem like a good thing. A trained guard dog does not behave that way. An untrained guarding dog is a danger to everybody. Including that dog. Because you know what too-often happens to dogs that bite. Even if they’re not at fault.

So yeah, please, please.  If you have a dog that is showing signs of resource guarding against humans, particularly if they’re resource guarding another human, get them (and you) professional help to stop it.

The life you save may be theirs.

for more information, I’d suggest starting here.

I Can Stop Any Time… I just Don’t Want To. Mostly.

My last post, I talked about fostering a puppy (who has since gone on to his furever home, huzzah!).  And I thought, “okay, I’m going to take a break from all that, for a while.”

And then an email landed from the other shelter I volunteer with, and without hesitation I said, “I can take Bella.”

Bella is a six-year-old Pomeranian mix, a delicate little lady with the spine of a dragon (when a friend’s Great Dane pup got too close, she opened her little mouth and showed her little teeth, and told him to get fucked.  He backed down.).  We call her the cat-dog, because all she really wants is to cuddle, ideally and preferably in my lap, but she is perfectly happy to trot alongside Max for nearly an hour on our walks.

(and then she demands to be carried, like the princess she is).

It hasn’t been all snuggles and walks, though.  Her first few days, her tummy was stress-upset, and I spent a lot of time washing shit out of her fur.  Her housebreaking broke (also due to stress) and I spent a lot of time cleaning carpets. And recleaning carpets.  And throwing out soiled pee pads (and keeping Max from eating the fresh ones).  Sweet Bella is demanding of my time, to the point where Max started to get cranky about it.  And god help you when you tried to crate her at night!  Her place was on the bed with you, thank you very much.

(Once she regained her house training, she got to sleep on the bed, yes).

And then she had to have dental surgery, and I spent four days trying to convince her that yes, she did need to take all her meds….  Trying to get a tiny dog to swallow a pill is not like pilling a larger dog.  Their mouths are so tiny and you feel guilty AF for even trying.

But she’s still the sweetest bundle of fierce fluff, and I love her dearly.

I said that in conversation recently, and  got another round of the usual, “I don’t know how you can bear to foster, and then let them go.  I’d end up adopting all of them.”

As I said to that friend: no, you really wouldn’t.  And no, we’re not saints for doing this.  I joke that having a third animal in the house for a short period of time is how I remind myself that one dog and one cat is the perfect balance for this household.  More than that, and chaos is set loose.  Chaos, and exhaustion.  But more than that, the truth is that with animals, as with people, loving someone doesn’t always mean you want to keep them. 

As you read this, I’m bringing her back to the shelter to meet with prospective adopters.  I have all my fingers and toes crossed that they will be a perfect match, and Bella will be going to her furever home, to spend the rest of her life loved and comforted and allowed to sleep on the bed.

And then I’m going to take a break from fostering for a while.

And this time I mean it!

EtA: Bella did in fact charm her potential humans, and their resident dog, and went home with them this evening. <3.

Who Am I and What Have I Done with Me?

Close readers may have noted that I missed last month’s slot.  Close readers may also remember that the month before that, I had just taken in a foster puppy.

Yes, those two things are related.  And I am here to tell you that writing a book, maintaining a Patreon, holding down a part-time office gig, dealing with a pandemic, fighting for democracy AND housebreaking a puppy is exhausting.

But – as everyone expected – I foster-failed, and now the household of two has officially and legally become a household of three. The puppy is four months old and (mostly) housebroken, and Castiel the Cat has learned that if he hisses and swats at her nose, she will stop trying to Make Him Love Her.  So all is well, and I can get back to writing and righting all the wrongs, right?

hey, whatcha doing?

*insert hollow laughter here*
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