Thursday, March 1, 2007

Help Me, Cesar Milan, You're My Only Hope

Sharp-eyed surfers may have already noticed that the photo to the right contains a fuzzy blob with its head in a dish. That blob is Ginny, and she wants little more from life than to be fed, and walked, and to occasionally chase squirrels, and maybe sing a little Biz Markie. She tries very hard to be a good dog, and for the most part, she succeeds. However, we run into two problems on our twice-daily walks:

1. The Train. The road where we normally walk runs near train tracks, and we get a lot of railroad traffic. Ginny is not a fan of loud noises, so when we hear the train approaching, she begins to pull at the leash (an apparent attempt to move faster, though she's never concerned about whether or not we're actually moving away from the train). When the train goes by, she begins to howl, and really starts fighting the leash. Telling her "no" just leads to more howling. Usually, she settles down after the train is gone, but it's near-impossible to avoid the train traffic in this area.

2. The UPS Truck. Ginny's reaction to the train is a nuisance, but her reaction to Big Brown is... kind of scary. She'll bark at lots of large vehicles (the garbage truck, the school bus, the neighbor's F-350) from the safety of the yard, but on our walks, they don't even get a second glance. Not so the UPS truck, which transforms mild-mannered Ginny into the Fourth Head of Cerberus. She tries to tear the leash out of my hand, alternately lowering her body to get more levarage, and then leaping into the air. Meanwhile, she howls and snarls in a show of anger usually reserved for my mom's dog. Scolding is useless at this point - the ears have been turned off. I'm not worried that she'll hurt me, or even the UPS guy (she lets him scratch her behind the ears, as long as she can keep barking at his truck), but she has on several occasions pulled her collar so tight or gotten so tangled in the leash that she starts choking, and if she does manages to get away from me, she will chase the truck heedlessly into traffic (as she did once when the gate to the backyard was left open).

So, dog whisperers, any ideas? Let's assume that beating the dog is not an option.
Trivia questions later tonight...

1 comment:

Michelle said...

(Dog whisperer by no means...)

A helpful suggestion might be the idea that the best thing to do for a scared or distressed dog is to build up her confidence. So when you're walking and you hear the train coming, you could stop and go through the commands she knows - sit, down, whatever, and give her big treat rewards so that by the time the train's coming by, she is receiving positive feedback in the way of food and your praise. It might distract her, and she might eventually associate the train with sitting, being calm, and getting a milkbone.

My usually happy-go-lucky dog has a distaste for statues, and especially statues of animals. The size doesn't matter. Lions on either side of the driveway entrance? Check. Small cement pig in the garden? Check. Giant decorated cows in Midtown Atlanta? Check. We usually walk over and I pat the statue to show her that it's not real and then she sniffs it and we are able to move on and she ignores them on future encounters. Maybe you could try this with the big brown UPS truck?

Good luck!