Angel Marie: Canine Instigator

Yes, my elbows turn out, but I can still strike like a rattlesnake
Here is Angel Marie. (I still marvel how her previous owners could name this dog Angel Marie).  Our sleepy dog  suddenly woke up--and did so  with impunity.  All I need is a sheriff's star, as she seems to think that she is the new sheriff in town.  Her chest is wide enough for 100 sheriffs' stars.

My subliminal mind has been working hard on finding a reason for the front door aggression that we have been experiencing.  I have an alternative theory to my originally posed one.  (That benign body language given by Angel to Daisey regarding front door rights, and ignored by Daisey, was escalated to prove a point.)

My alternative theory is that Angel felt ambushed when my daughter brought her bouncy dog, Blaze,
Angel light and dark....
in without so much as a knock on the door.  She sprang up from a dead sleep to quickly pounce on this interloper.  I've never seen her do it--but we've never had a strange dog come into our home except for Dexter.  The alacrity and swiftness of her pounce was beyond anything that I could have imagined much less forecast.  I awoke with the memory of that day when Angel sprang into action and accosted the brazen boy who had barged in the door and the feeling that this was the seminal moment of this new behavior.

This protectiveness is new. Frankly, she used to just simply lay on her bed and not be bothered by any of the openings and closings of the front door and the parties engaged in such behavior.  Not that I don't appreciate that she is enlivened, but it was darn easy to manage 4 dogs when three of them were benign (Angel, Ella, Angel) and one of them (Dexter!) off the charts.  Now, I have a clutch of canines energized.  Yes, I do long for quieter days.

Truthfully, I realize that 'theories be damned' is an appropriate judgment.  Regardless of the validity of any of my theories, or if there is another righteous one that fits,  Angel is determined that Daisey is a dog that needs some 'special handling', and she is quite intent in providing this service. Last evening Daisey barked at the cat.  Angel went over at a clipped pace to intercede.  She was trailing a lead so I interceded calmly.  My goal is to keep energies escalation, because deescalation comes at a dear price.  (Last week, Daisey's nose).  I'm instructing my other household members to squelch our reflexive heightened voices when responding to these things.

My Matthew Duffy books have been priceless to me.  The mantra that I'm holding to is the following:

For dog training purposes, hostile canine behavior
is best viewed as an emotional fire. Viscerally reacting
to a dog’s aggressive conduct with an equally
emotional response, whether fearful or angry, is only
going to fuel a fire that is already burning out of
control. The most productive way for a handler to
respond to his dog’s inappropriate assertive behavior
is with calm and decisive action. Effectively
controlling the explosive situation without getting
caught up in the emotion is a tall order for new
handlers but that is what this book will help you
achieve. Keep in mind that calm and firm are not
mutually exclusive.

The Eight Faces of Dog Aggression
, Matthew Duffy

I have managed to intercede in these situations calmly as opposed to our reflexive bad habits of yelling.  It has made a huge difference in both my confidence, and in eliciting the response that I'm looking for:  Angel to defer to me.  Daisey to defer to me.  Daisey as much as Angel needs to learn to listen, as she has contributed to these circumstances--both in the initial provocation and in the heat of the moment where she refuses to pay attention and stand down.

I --Duffy's 'team captain' analogy.  We are certainly a team here, and our harmony has been sorely disrupted.  It doesn't matter what the reasons are--I could rationalize any of them.  Nevertheless,   I am determined to be the captain, and I believe that they see me as the captain--mostly.  Over the past 3 days, I have been consistent in my guidance about proper behavior from all team members. I haven't yelled.  I've been calm in the center of any canine storms and squalls, and each of them have responded BETTER to that. Nevertheless, we have a long way to go, and I'm not fooling myself into believing that the problem is solved.  There's too much intention in Angel's actions, as she is 'locking on' Daisey as a target. And I believe that there is a very real possibility of harm being inflicted if the situation is not controlled.  So, I'm not leaving anything to chance, and I'm ensuring that I'm controlling the situation--particularly if I cannot be at home.
Mia in 2008

The only other time I have observed this "locking on" phenomena in canines was during a dog transport run.  My charge was Mia and a host of other dogs.  All of the other dogs were in crates except for Twilla.  She was a sweet, intuitive and smart girl.  You can read about my terrifying transport with Mia here--it was 7 years ago, and I will remember it to my grave. (Mia had scars on her face and front legs that led me to believe that she had been fought). She was going to a family of 5, and I surely hope that they were able to handle her and her dog aggression. 

I highly recommend Duffy's books for any dealing with troubling canines--and who need to reflect on his/her handler reactions. I have both needs....I need as much training as my dogs--and I'm confident that I can out-resolve them.


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