Murphy’s Law of Dogs

IMG_2504Murphy’s Law seems to always kick in at some point with any dog during the training process. Usually it is right at the beginning, occurring when I arrive in the owner says “I don’t understand it, she jumps on everybody but she is not jumping on you.” or “Just five minutes ago, I couldn’t get him to stop barking and now he won’t start barking.” I don’t know if it’s just because I carry myself differently, or I can sense any kind of cue the dog is getting before a behavior, but usually it is because I give the dog no feedback at all. And as we all know, if it’s not working for the dog they stop doing it.


Such is the case with Angus, a big American bulldog that was rescued almost a year ago. When he was first rescued, I was volunteering for a local rescue helping to train dogs with the basics so that their adoption would be much more easy on prospective families. Angus came in through a different channel than usual, having been rescued by an individual as opposed to the rescue group itself. When I met Angus, he had a red card attached to his kennel which signified  ”do not handle”. I was told that he had tried to bite one of the volunteers. But he was gorgeous, and I did not see that aggression. What I did see was a dog that did not know how to calm himself down, jumping up against the door of the kennel when he thought he was getting out for some air. I think what happened is that in one of these jumping incidents he startled a volunteer who then reported it as an attempted bite. I felt he was rescuable.


The first few sessions were really about teaching him that he could calm himself down, and indeed would need to calm himself down if he wanted to go for a walk. It took some patience, but I got him to that point. Luckily the woman who had rescued him found another woman who was willing to take Angus in as a foster. She has her own dog, also a large male, more of a shepherd mix. He is a good dog. Due to Angus’ exuberance, she deemed him to be a bit too hyper to be loose with her dog Dudley when she was not around. So when ever she was gone, Dudley was loose and Angus was in his crate. He was getting exercise, but I think that being in the crate was causing him frustration.


I took him to a few adoption events last autumn, but unfortunately I got busy and was only able to go hang out with him about once a month. When the foster went on vacation, I brought Angus here. Again I knew nothing of his frustration because he was not kenneled here, he had the run of the house along with my dogs. I was careful, especially with Jolie my toy poodle, to be vigilant and look for any contention whatsoever. A small spat between Angus and my other dogs might cause some hurt feelings, but a spat between Angus and Jolie may prove fatal to my tiny one.


But Angus gained my trust. In the last three months I have seen Angus hanging out in his yard mainly, this is because my running route generally took me right past his foster’s home. At one point, while running with a friend, we stopped and I called Angus over and my friend watched nervously as this huge American bulldog ran up and started licking my face.


So I was surprised about two weeks ago when I received an email from the foster mom stating that she didn’t know if she could take care of Angus anymore. She said Angus had attacked Dudley  ”out of nowhere”, and that his behavior was becoming unsteady. As soon as I had dogs that I was training in-kennel go home, I went over and got Angus and brought him back here. I was nervous because of what the foster had said about aggression, so I started at the beginning keeping him separated when I couldn’t be watching them. Then when I left the house, I left him with Lucas my Briard and Fred my Basset hound. Then when I came home and all tales were wagging, I brought Jade my Gordon setter into the mix. And again coming home to wagging tails and stress free love I let all the dogs hang out together all the time.


I walk all the big dogs together because we go for long walks. There has been no leash frustration from Angus, there has been no fixation on other dogs we encounter, except for one large unneutered black lab that never gets exercise save running up to the gate screaming at every dog that walks by. So I do not fault Angus for that. He does stare at cats.


And now I have come to the point where I have to wonder is this just Murphy’s Law? How long do I have to observe to see if this is a deviation or the norm? I believe it’s the norm. But I’m going to keep him here for a little while longer just to make sure. I understand the risk – that every day I fall more in love with him than I already am and that he will join my pack. But I am hoping somebody who has an expanse of land sees my posts and falls in love with him as well. I can’t imagine anything that would make him happier than some acres to run on.


I will give Angus the chance to show me what I think I already know, and that is this is no case of Murphy’s Law. He actually is a big lovable smart athletic cuddler.  I just hope I find a home for him before I give him a home.