Before we talk about Willy’s demons, I want you to consider this: How many people do you know who are afraid of dogs because one bit them as a child? We don’t even think twice about throwing sympathy to any of these people, do we? Then how can we rationally expect a dog, simply because we ‘rescue’ or ‘adopt’ him to suddenly forget the past? People don’t bite dogs, they usually do much worse.
The behavioral statements made in this Post will refer to how Willy was when he came to us. Some of the issues have been resolved, but all will be covered as I document his … for lack of a better description – transition into a family of his own, something he has never had before.
William came to us
an incessant barker;
aggressive to some of the other dogs at the Ranch;
a biter, especially to The Crabby Man;
a horse chaser, not in a playful way. He wants to hurt them;
if he is sleeping, and a dog or The Crabby Man walks by him, he wakes up and makes aggressive moves;
with absolutely no concept of recognizing any meaning from a human voice, except for shouting, and when a voice is raised, he runs and hides, or gets aggressive or defensive. To his name, old or new, he was oblivious. Actually, any specific attention to him that came with eye contact caused him to get nervous.
Bad dog, right? Is he? What about these issues:
I really question his hearing. He does hear things, but he is completely unreactive to too many specific sounds.
Restraint causes a blind panic.
If you pull a leg, he freaks and will bite.
He is really sensitive to being touched around his flanks or back end. Spend too much time scratching his ribs, he gets antsy.
If you lead him hand to collar, he gets scared.
When attaching him to a tie out, he pees himself.
If you make a move to discipline, he panics. Discipline in our house is usually met with a “what everrrr” by the other dogs. So we can’t be that harsh in the scheme of things.
If you pick something up off the ground suddenly, he screams and runs.
He is covered in scars.
He is 3 years old.
Is Willy a bad dog? Many people would say so. I say he is not. I say he comes with a past and it is up to us to show him the present is different. Notice I am not talking about the future. A dog has no comprehension of the future. He only has the past and the right now.
To expect Willy, or any other dog for that matter, to do an abrupt turnaround immediately is irrational. It will take time. Willy has only been with us a little over 3 months, and already we have seen significant improvement. But history with other dogs shows that for every step forward, there will always be instances of 3 steps back. The trick is, expect it, accept it, and keep to the present.
My guesstimate: 1 year before Willy starts being a real dog. Since I have already told him he must outlive me, what is one year of special effort? A drop in the bucket of our time together. A small investment for years of fun and stories.
This section of the Blog will document what we are doing with Willy. Successes and failures will be reported equally. It is my sincere and absolute hope that in sharing Sweet William’s journey, that I can convince at least one other person not give up on a dog because he has issues with his past.
If, as you are reading the symptoms we are dealing with, you happen to have a suggestion, please comment. The goal is to teach William’s that just being alive isn’t enough. He has to live. And we will do whatever it takes to get it.