Friday, May 20, 2011

The Social Question

Elka is a friendly dog.  She loves kids, and is very gentle with them, of her own choosing. She loves adults, and is a little less restrained.  I think she thinks people of a certain size should be able to hold their own.  The hole in her socialization is she doesn't know any dogs, and only rarely encounters cats.

So, still basically friendly, Elka will do her hesitant and clumsy best to figure out what best is confronting her. Unfortunately, most of the dogs we meet are under twenty pounds, which appears to be the cutoff for whether one trains one's dog.  So we're concentrating on walking calmly past other dogs (command "On by", cribbed from dog mushers), since their owners don't appear interested in controlling them.

Also unfortunately, cats don't tend to like dogs.  Cats are fascinating to Elka.  There's one that comes on our porch, a detail that she doesn't like while inside.  There's one that sits on its own porch when we take our walks, and she wants to shove her big pointy head in that cat's face to say hello, tail wiggling.  We use "on by" for that one, too, as you can imagine cats are not happy with that development.
Yesterday on our walk, post-park, Elka and I went by a friend's house to say hi.  Said friend has a two year old, a six month old (I think. Close enough; the kid can sit up on her own), and a cat.  Elka, despite having been slapped (no claws) by this cat before, persists in investigating.  Cats are really sort of magical creatures; Abby is not a large cat, but by means of her ire can appear twice her size.  And she makes funny noises.  

So, Abby held her ground and Elka advanced and retreated, and play bowed and barked, and got cat-growled at for her trouble.  Finally, the two-year-old child wanted to go back inside and my friend agreed.  Abby scuttled up onto the porch and off to the side; to her basket, I thought.  My friend went up the stairs, and I told Elka to go up the stairs.  When she obliged, Abby rushed into her face from hiding, and Elka jumped backwards off of the fourth porch step.  And I caught her.

I sometimes mention in conversation that Elka weighs 77 pounds.  I think most people don't know why I mention such things.  I mention it because since we got Elka, I've picked her up more or less every day, and occasionally carry her from one room to the next, more or less for the heck of it.  It struck me as important to be able to handle my dog in this manner, because of her size, and because of her breed.  A lot of people on the street are dismayed to see a Doberman, and her puppy exuberance is not to be mistaken for anything but what it is.  She used to be fond of jumping, as most dogs are.  So, for her safety (and mine), I can physically handle my dog.

I was, unfortunately, laughing when I caught her.  Neither dog nor cat was hurt, and the situation was so incongruous as to be funny.  Elka knows when we're laughing at her.  She looks kind of embarrassed, poor girl.  She is so big, and said cat is so small.

Abby looks rather pleased with herself, I think.  Smug, even.  I feel bad that Elka tries so hard to interact with her, and Abby wants Elka to go away.  

With dogs, Elka is similar.  If she has the time and the space to end her antics, she will come in, sniff, dart back, play bow, bark some, etc. and then calm down.  We've done it a couple times, once with an elderly and obese beagle at the park, who was clearly a puppy veteran, the other time with a mixed breed that's a dead ringer for a white German Shephard.  Both of these were well-behaved dogs who had been socialized, and they were patient with Elka's energy, and so were the owners.  

I concentrated a lot on people socialization, and not at all on the doggy end of things.  Socializing your dog in all areas is important, and I'm lucky that Elka is at heart very good natured; aggressiveness towards dogs can be hard to overcome.  If we decide to add a second dog to the household, Elka's basic social comfort wil have to be addressed, and I'm sure, as in many things, pork products will have a hand in that.  But until then, we're doing well using "on by" (meaning "go on by") while out on walks, and greeting the rare calm dog that we encounter.

1 comment:

  1. another fab post, elka sounds like such a lovely girl. i really love the look of doberman i especially think the brown ones are very cute xxx

    we have one that lives in the house across from us tho and it is so not looked after properly, they hardly ever walk her and just stick her out in the garden for entertainment and so she just barks at everyone that goes by.

    but like youve said before you cant tell some people or it makes them very defensive.