Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 19, 2012

Bad Doggy Influences

Posted at 03:34PM - Comments: (3)

I’ve fostered a dog or puppy from the shelter six or seven times since I’ve had Otto – and he’s been a huge help in the fostering process. He models good behavior. He responds immediately to cues and in the process, shows the other dogs how to earn rewards. He comes immediately when called, in such an enthusiastic manner, that the other dog comes running toward me, too, just to see what the excitement is all about (and then of course everyone gets treats, which helps install the roots of a nice recall in the foster dog, too). Otto puts up with their playful behavior, plays a bit with them himself, but also enforces polite canine behavior.  He won’t, for example, tolerate a puppy climbing all over him, jumping on him – or even picking on Tito the Chihuahua. He steps in with authority and firmness and says (with an audible growl and some impressive snarling), “No way, Jose. Not on my watch.” And yet, he’s never hurt a single errant pup.

However, something’s gone wrong with my currant foster, a formerly feral pup, an Australian Cattle Dog-mix about 10 to 12 months old. He was brought into my local shelter by county animal control officers on the end of a catch pole, writhing and snapping like the scared-to-death wild animal that he was, along with a human-friendly mother (he looks just like her) and a pup who looked to be about 4 months old who was just as wild as the older pup but still young enough to more quickly accept a human touch. All three had been left abandoned on a ranch owned by a senior gentleman who had passed away. Neighbors called animal control because they saw that no one was feeding the animals; an investigation revealed that the deceased had no relatives.

Consensus at the shelter was that the friendly mom and the young pup were good candidates for adoption. This guy was not, so I took him on as a project. Another volunteer and I spent time with him in a kennel at the shelter every day for a week, until we were able to get a collar on him and get him to accept treats. Then I brought him home, and started socializing him in earnest. He attached himself like glue to Otto’s side, which was pretty much the only way I was able to catch him and put a leash on him every day to pet him and bring him in the house, get him in and out of my car, walk around the neighborhood, and introduce him to friends. The relationship was all good for him, but it’s weird: it’s had the opposite effect on Otto. He’s started doing some naughty things he hasn’t done for years.

For example: Otto doesn’t chase my cats. The foster dog does. When I’m outside with all the animals, I’m able to say, Hey! – interrupting the behavior and diverting his attention with something else (Look! Here’s a ball!) Same thing with my chickens – although it took a squirt of a hose when he was rushing the fence and barking at them in their pen to get him to break off the behavior and “hear” me when I was saying Hey! No! But when I’m in the house, he’ll still take a run at one of the cats; I can see him doing it through the kitchen windows. And here’s the thing: Otto is joining in! I saw the two of them merrily chase one of the cats across the yard (she ran under a shed), and Otto was in the lead.

In the past few days, Otto has also dug a huge hole under one of our orange trees (pup was in the house at the time, he has an alibi!). It used to be that Otto would dig in hot weather, to find a cool place to take a nap, but it’s cold and wet and muddy right now! I also caught Otto chewing one of my shoes out on the deck! He may not have been the one that dragged it outside, but it was in his teeth when I spotted him – and when he saw me, he immediately let it fall out of his mouth like he had just been told it was poison.

My husband’s explanation: “Otto has let having a minion go to his head. It’s turned him evil!”

The good news is, someone who saw a picture of the pup on the shelter website came to meet him yesterday, and is going to the shelter today to apply to adopt him. I think it’s a good home, and he will be leaving my house in a day or so. I’m happy for him – but am curious to see how Otto will respond without his “minion.” Will he go back to being Mr. Perfect? Or will I be taking him back to behavior reform school?

Have you ever had a canine “bad influence” in your home? What happened? What did you do?

Comments (3)

I am a foster mom too and have a great well-behaved 10 yo golden retriever. the fosters usually take up a lot more of our time than our own pets, they already have the rules down. just remember to have one on one time with your pets as well. they can feel left out and neglected. our own pets do pick up bad habits from the foster dogs, they need to be put in check immediately. my foster is a 6 month old lab mix pup and my golden does not like all that jumping and hopping around on her. she at first ignored the pup except to snap at her. now they play my golden's favorite game together, tug o war.

Posted by: Unknown | March 20, 2012 7:29 PM    Report this comment

Interesting article (as always).

Have you considered that some of Otto's acting out could be due to the stress of living with a high-energy misbehaving dog? Since Otto is generally such a good model of appropriate behavior, it's probably stressful for him, as it is for you, to try to keep the puppy in step with the house rules. Otto surely can feel your stress in dealing with the rambunctious puppy as well.

Stress could easily combine with Otto following along with the puppy's naughty but fun activities, to cause his recent issues.

My guess would be that Otto will go back to his usual routines within a few days of the puppy's departure, although he may need a few firm but gentle reminders from you.

Posted by: LINDA F | March 20, 2012 3:26 PM    Report this comment

My husband and I adopted a 6 year old French bulldog, Mac to join our 7 year old Frenchie, Sophie, whom we had rescued a couple of years earlier. Sophie has always been a very calm, well behaved, polite girl. Mac, on the other hand, arrived at our house as very dog aggressive and with few, if any, canine social skills. Mac bonded with Sophie instantly, and Sophie let Mac know when he stepped out of bounds, but outside our house, Mac went berserk at the sight of another dog, cat, squirrel, whatever. And much to our amazement and horror, Sophie joined Mac in these ferocious displays. 15 months later Mac has better social skills (after much work and counter conditioning) and no longer goes berserk on walks. And Sophie is almost, but not quite, back to her quiet, well-behaved self. It's taken time and focus, but we now have 2 adorable Frenchies who are ALMOST a pleasure to walk! A few more months and Mac will be even better, and Sophie will have returned completely to her old self. Totally worth it!

Posted by: Rosalind E | March 20, 2012 1:31 PM    Report this comment

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