Whole Dog Journal's Blog November 18, 2013

Fighting Words

Posted at 09:46AM - Comments: (12)

So, one of my sisters visited recently. She lives out of state, and I loaned her my car to drive for a week, which she was going to spend traveling to see her daughter -- about 6 hours drive from me -- our other sister and a friend about five hours from there, and then come back here. All that happened.

Then when she got back here and was telling me about her travels, and stays in various people’s homes, she kept complaining about everyone’s dogs – how many there were everywhere she went, how they barked, the hair… Meanwhile, Tito my Chihuahua DOES bark and whine when people arrive, and Otto is a veritable dust-bunny-in-the-making 24/7/365. Okay, whatever, let’s try to all get along. Have a hair-roller.

Her last morning here, we go for a walk: just my sister, me, and Otto. (I was keeping Tito at a remove; I didn’t want to hear about his occasional barking!) We head out to a particular trailhead in our local “wildlife area” – imagine a many-thousand-acre gravel pit,  abandoned for the past 40 years and grown over with trees and wildlife, where hunting (in season) is allowed (with shotguns, no rifles). And hardly anyone is out there.

About a quarter mile into our walk, a deer pops up, practically right in front of us. It turns and runs directly away from us down the dirt road/trail we are on, and Otto gives chase. My sister says, “Oh no!” in anticipation that we are going to have to look for Otto for the next few hours.

I said, “No, it’s okay,” and after letting the pair get a good 1,000 feet away from us, I yell, “Otto! OFF! Otto, HERE!” That’s it. Four words. And Otto turns and runs back to us as fast as he ran away. He was pumped up on adrenaline and fun, and as he ran toward us, I cheered him on, “YES! GOOD dog! Atta boy! Woohoo!” I didn’t have any treats on me, as I usually do when walking out there, but I ruffled his fur and patted him the way he likes, and he glowed with pride. “I did good, didn’t I? And I almost got that deer!” (Not even close, he’s not that fast, but whatever.)

My sister, who had been talking before all that happened, went on with her story. Not ONE WORD of praise for my dog.

I had to interrupt her. “Wait a second,” I said, playfully but firmly. “Do you know ANYONE who can call their dog off the heels of a deer at a 1,000 feet and the dog comes right back?!” I was incredulous that she couldn’t bring herself to say at least, “Wow, good dog!”

And she said, “Yeah, good job,” with exactly zero enthusiasm.

I feel like not speaking to her again for a month.

PS: I was walking, a few days later, in another part of this wildlife area, with two of my friends and a total of 7 off-leash dogs. I was telling this story to them. AT THAT MOMENT, Otto flushed a giant jackrabbit and gave chase. I yelled, “Otto OFF! Otto HERE!” and he completely blew me off, chasing the rabbit a good quarter mile before it went under a fence and got safely away. Then he came back, filled with pride . . . and I put his leash on for the next half-mile or so. And then we worked on recalls on and off the whole rest of the walk, and he was perfect again. Well, nobody is perfect, but darn it, my dog is pretty damn good. And if my sister complains about him to anyone, I better not hear about it.

Comments (12)


I agree with Gary M

My comment would have been,"If you can call him off, why did you let him chase the deer in the first place?"

And I might have added, "If you were not 100% sure you could call him off, why were you walking him in a wild-life area off-lead?"

Posted by: Jenny H | November 20, 2013 7:00 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Gail...some people just don't get the DogLove gene, or the CatLove gene...or just all animals in general. It is very difficult for me to understand but makes me appreciate all the more my animal loving friends. We cheer each other on, share the pain when one passes, and just share the love. Good job, Otto! (my Otto is a Border Collie named Gabe).

Posted by: Robin Chaffey | November 19, 2013 2:22 PM    Report this comment

We live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and have a National Forest all around us. My Labs Fatch and Colby were trained NOT to chase anything. I hike with them off leash most of the time unless we are on a well used equestrian trail. (I always carry a 6'leash). They stay about 30' in front of me and on the trail at all times. If they alert on game my command is, "Leave It." We lost Fatch to cancer and now my hiking partner is Colby. Deer, marmots, raccoons,squirrels, skunks, bears, coyotes, mountain lions are just a few that are native to where we hike. Several weeks ago Colby stopped dead in the trail and assumed his alert posture. He also started a low growl. He backed up directly in front of me focused and growling at a creek bed. There, all coiled up was a rattlesnake which took me several minutes to spot. Good dog!
I have been a Wilderness Ranger for the Forest Service and have found several lost dogs that have chased game. Almost all were injured in some way. Tangle with a Raccoon and the dog will loose every time and with huge vet bills. Several times a year hikers will loose their pet and some are never found.
Teach your dog "Leave It" and don't encourage the "Chase". Maybe natural, or fun "You think", but it can also be fatal. Plus chasing or harassing wildlife is a stress the animal does not need and it is also a federal violation where I am and is also on the books in most states.
Enjoy the wilderness with your best friend, be safe and respect those that live there.

Posted by: Gary M | November 19, 2013 12:05 PM    Report this comment

Thats great. Non dog people have no clue how much time and work it takes to train a dog and the satisfaction and pride you get from having a well behaved (civilized )dog and how it makes life with dogs so much more enjoyable.

Posted by: ANNE K | November 19, 2013 11:48 AM    Report this comment

Oh what a great story. You are a fabulous dog Otto and you are a fabulous dog mom....I'm still chuckling.

Posted by: Olivia | November 19, 2013 11:28 AM    Report this comment

My 8 year old dachshund would be off and running (probably to another state) no matter what training he had. He is an avid digger and lives for squirrels and rabbits. My white shepherd on the other hand is as good as Otto.....go figure

Posted by: MarshMelOh | November 19, 2013 11:13 AM    Report this comment

My dogs love hiking trails off-lash and I've worked on their recalls quite extensively. I would estimate 95% of the time they heed the recall immediately but there's that small percentage of time when whatever they're doing [or sniffing] seems to be more important than me. When they do come running back to me however, the praise I give them stems from my own genuine pride. I know how hard I've worked on recalls. My next "trick" is to work on remote "stays" and "downs". In an adverse situation, these commands could save a life. Oh, and I would never expect non-dog owners to understand only because they have no idea about the time and effort it takes to have a well-trained dog.

Posted by: Bob | November 19, 2013 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Otto is a prize and a half!!! Let's appreciate that your sister didn't get the DogLove gene--or even get the dog-appreciation gene. Hard to comprehend but not everyone has it. There are prob other reasons for not "speaking to her for a month" but not being a dog lover isn't one of them. Sisters (indeed family)---they can be hard to understand.

Posted by: Gail M | November 19, 2013 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Yah,that's just because SHE has never (tried to) train a dog that well! Sisters are sisters....but YOU are a good trainer! Never forget that.

Posted by: Diane | November 19, 2013 9:20 AM    Report this comment

So sweet. Countless blessings.

Posted by: Pam English | November 18, 2013 6:32 PM    Report this comment

I SO would have cheered on Otto- seriously, that is a good boy! But I can appreciate your frustration.

Posted by: Janet M | November 18, 2013 6:18 PM    Report this comment

I am so jealous! The dogs & I gotta go work on our recalls!!!

Posted by: ChicagoBeth | November 18, 2013 4:43 PM    Report this comment

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