Yes, I've now been informed that corn is bad for dogs.
"I'm the boss. I go through every doorway first, walk a bit ahead of you, and eat before you do. I don't acknowledge you immediately upon walking into a room. You must get permission from me before you walk, sit, lay, drink water, greet anyone, or really, do anything."
I've got a homeless pit bull on my hands, and this is how trainers tell me I have to act toward him in order to save his life.
I picked up a dog that had been dumped out of a car. He's sweet and dopey and huge and powerful. I immediately fell in love with his good nature, and, had to admit, was also overwhelmed right from the start. His attempts at play hurt a lot, and covered me in bruises. First step: Training! Socialization! (Well, ok, second, after vetting and neutering.) When you're a pit bull, people "know" you're vicious unless you lick the nose of every child and postal carrier you meet. If you jump and nip or bark at neighbors and pull on the leash, you haven't got a chance.
are the African American men of the dog world: In danger, and always treated with suspicion. Neither have a very good statistical chance
of reaching old age healthy, without having been imprisoned or killed. We've made their lives difficult, and now we don't trust them.
Biscuit's foster family took him to a trainer in their area. The guy put on a bite suit
and a helmet, snuck up on the dog from behind, and, surprise, surprise, got bit when he scared Biscuit half to death. This trainer's recommendation? Put the dog to "sleep", since "he's too much of a liability". Two trainers later, we're working with a woman who wears normal clothes and isn't a bit scared. She has behavioral training, and understands canine body language. Biscuit is responding well, following commands, learning to focus: he is eager to please.
I've been a cat gal for the past 20 years, and know very little about dogs or dog training theories, methods and results. The first pit I fell in love with was a girl. She'd been physically mutilated, used for breeding, and starved. She'd never been out of a cage, and had no concept of what it meant to walk. My time with Tulsa Lee was spent carrying her to sunny spots where she'd stand leaning heavily against me, and gazing at me to be sure I hadn't left her out in the world alone. I learned more about pit bull personalities and health at that time. Now I'm getting a crash course with a rambunctious dog who has no fear, and who people perceive as threatening.
I know that this is a life or death situation for Biscuit. How people perceive him will decide if he is allowed to live, ever run free with other dogs, and everything else that a dog should get to do. Still, all the domination language of trainers bothers me. Yeah, yeah, I've watched Cesar Millan
do some pretty amazing things with dogs. But I get where I want to scream if I hear the term "calm submissive" one more time. The inherently speciesist language of control and domination rubs me really wrong, even in moments when some of the leader-of-the-pack theories
seem to make sense.
I'm doing the best I know how for Biscuit. It is important that he not get in children's faces and walks well on a leash and doesn't terrify people by barking and jumping. It is important that he not hurt anyone, and that he isn't killed out of human fear. But I'd rather understand him and work with him than control him. Biscuit is learning an incredible amount. When I let him off leash in the woods for the first time, heart pounding, I know that I'm learning a whole lot more.