Drunken Master IV: Canine Fu

Once again I find myself confessing all my evil dog training sins. But this time I do believe I am on to something.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Work and life have kept me going at Shiva-speed and it hasn’t been easy to relax. So. One night this week I happened to find myself a few alcoholic beverages in before it was time to take Shiva on her evening walk. (Don’t judge. It was after six. And when I say “a few” I mean more like one and a half. It was a school night, after all.) Since I hadn’t the time to eat much that day, said beverages affected me more than they should have.

Was I drunk? No. Maybe just a wee bit over the tipsy line. Just enough to make me a little friendlier than usual. Enough to prevent me from crossing the street when I saw a man approach with three dogs.

This should have been a disaster. Shiva thinks every dog in the world wants to be her best friend forever. As she has zero social skills, she thinks the best way to introduce herself to new dogs is by rushing into their faces, tail wagging high. Basically the dog equivalent of me charging across the street and yelling into another person’s face: “HI! I’M KRISTINE! WANT TO BE MY FRIEND?!” Only more rude. Startlingly, not all dogs mind this wild behaviour. I guess they missed that day of puppy kindergarten too.

But anyway, as I say, for whatever reason, I didn’t bother to cross the street when I saw the three dogs headed our way. With Shiva sniffing the grass beside me, I just kept walking. The man and his dogs also kept walking. We both moved forward at a casual speed until the six of us had completely passed each other. And can you guess what happened at that crucial passing point?

Nothing. Shiva kept sniffing, his dogs kept trotting, and we humans kept walking. There was no lunging, no tugging, no whining, no destruction of social etiquette. I don’t know if Shiva even realized the other dogs were there.

Later on, we also came upon two elderly women on an evening stroll. This is never a huge deal unless they are dog lovers. Which these two particular women were. Shiva stopped to decorate a tree and the women stopped as well. One of them reached out and grabbed her by the muzzle.

“You’re all speckled!” she exclaimed in Shiva’s face.

The other woman also reached out and patted her on the head. It’s not a gesture many dogs appreciate.

What did Shiva do?

Nothing. Her tail straightened a little but she kept four feet on the ground. Her muscles remained relaxed and her ears did not flatten against her skull. She didn’t even attempt to get away.

This has lead me to conclude that I need to be drunk if I want Shiva to behave. I should have spent her first year with us completely intoxicated at all times. If we attempt the Canine Good Neighbour Test again in the fall, I am bringing a bottle of tequila with me.

It doesn’t say anything about booze in the testing room. I checked.

68 thoughts on “Drunken Master IV: Canine Fu

  1. Lol, you’re a badass alright! Sounds like you found just the right dose of relaxation for yourself that went all the way down the lead to Shiva.

    It would be interesting for you to do an experiment, have a couple of drinks and see if you get the same reactions from Shiva tomorrow night. I’m certainly not suggesting you have a few drinks before your morning walk!!

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  2. I think the fact that you were relaxed helped. When you get tense on a walk, that probably communicates to Shiva somehow and then she gets tense. So you’re right, maybe you need to have a drink before you walk her (or else do some other kind of non-alcoholic stress relief).

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  3. LOL!!! I love the connection you made between Shiva’s awesomeness and you being drunk instead of all the work you’ve done with her! I think someone is just looking for an excuse!

    It doesn’t surprise me though, between you being extra relaxed, more “loose” body language probably (typical tipsy sway), and probably less reactive yourself (handlers of reactive dogs often become reactive themselves) she just figured it was no big deal!

    Awesome job!

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    • No really, it was the booze. It’s magic.

      Heh. It felt great to pass those dogs with no problems. It’s not something we’re often able to do and it’s why we failed the CGN. We’ve been working on it more lately, though, and I try not to wimp out too often by crossing the road or turning in another direction. I guess all I needed was a little liquid courage.

      Happy Friday!

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  4. Lol… drunken dog-training – you’ll be the most entertaining of the TV dog trainers. The Thirsty Trainer instead of the Thirsty Traveller, 😛
    I agree with the other comments, though – it might have been because you didn’t react to the sight of other dogs, and to people petting Shiva (though, seriously, who goes up to a strange dog and grabs her by the muzzle? )… but, now that you know that she can be fine, you might be more relaxed without liquid courage 🙂
    Also, instead of comment-reply-replying to yesterday’s post – Shivas name is great and original as well… and really suits her, especially when you talk about her occasional insanity 🙂 I could see her and Gwynn getting along very well with their fail at polite dog greetings. It took me a few months to cure him of the habit of smacking a dog in the face within the first five seconds of being within sniffing range. “BE MY FRIEND!!!!” *FACEPUNCH* … now he bows, which is much more suitable, lol.

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    • OMG, the Thirsty Trainer, you are a genius! You will be my very first guest just for coming up with that brilliant idea. We’re going to be famous! Famous!

      Yeah, I don’t know about the muzzle grabbing thing. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have let them touch her at all and definitely not so rudely. Perhaps this is where drinking has its pitfalls. Sober trainers do not put their dogs in such situations. 😛 In my defence, it all happened very quickly.

      LOL. I love your description of Gwynn’s greeting. How did you get him to bow instead???

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      • I taught him to ‘bow’ as a trick, and for some reason, he decided it is the most awesome thing since squirrels or dead fish, and does it really regularly. He bows to me if I’ve been out of his sight for more than an hour, bows to my family every morning, and, if a dog seems timid, and doesn’t want to come up to him, bows. I guess it gets the reaction he wants – from humans, it’s “Awwwww, puppy!”, and from dogs, it seems to be “OH… you’re harmless.. i’m going to sniff your face and then your bum”

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  5. Oh Kristine, you make me laugh. I love you and your year of bad assery! You have put a lot of work into Shiva and that shows.

    I think when you have a reactive dog (and I do) you tend to be a bit tense; anticipating the reaction. Maybe the alcohol was just enough to take your edge off and Shiva sensed that?

    But I have to say I am APALLED that the lady would walk up to a strange dog and grab their muzzle! WTF?

    One last thing, Sampson was a VERY well socialized puppy and he still thinks every dog and every person is his friend and enthusiastically greets as such.

    Your a great dog mom Kristine.

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    • It’s too bad Shiva and Sampson live so far from each other. They could be best pals!

      One of the pieces of advice our trainer gave us back in the day was to sing a happy song when I felt myself getting tense. I’ve done that and it does help. But rum seems to help even more!

      Thanks for your kindess. I think you are pretty freaking awesome too. You not only handle one crazy dog, but two! You are my hero.

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    • It definitely does. We’re at the point now where the differences in her reactions are a lot more subtle. Even the slightest change can make a difference at this point. Even if it’s only noticeable to me.

      Happy Friday!

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  6. Public drunkeness? It wasn’t even Alexander Keith Day!

    “Her ears didn’t flatten to her skull” — I love that. I know that’s a dog-signal of “Watch your step, buddy,” but for Our Best Friend, it’s the opposite. He flattens his ears when he snuggles up to your knees for loves. Another sign he has no social clue. Maybe he and Shiva were separated at birth!

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    • I know! Has the world gone mad? In Nova Scotia, every day is Alexander Keith Day. As a Quebeker, public drunkeness shoud be par for the course.

      Shiva sometimes does that too, actually. It all depends on the context.
      I’ve love to get them together one day. It would either be awesome or a total disaster!

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    • That’s a different ear set – puppy ears – they resemble each other closely, you have to read the other social clues.

      I worked with a yorkie office dog and two of the ladies I worked with didn’t know dogs. Sid would give them puppy ears, trying to appease them. One of them finally said – I can tell he really doesn’t like me, he’s always doing that with his ears.

      Oh, dear. The many mis-communications between species! And poor Sid, just trying to make friends.

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  7. Bwahaha! Drunk. That’s it! Must share that with hubby. Maybe he should try that before the next hunt test.

    But seriously, trainers always say that dogs can feel tension through a lead. If you are relaxed they will be relaxed and no doubt you were “relaxed”. 😉

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    • You never know… I am seriously contemplating a glass of wine or two before Sunday’s agility match. It’s a little earlier in the day but it’s five o’clock somewhere, right?

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  8. I might have to try drunken walking with Maggie! I know I tense up at the sight of other dogs, which doesn’t help her reactivity at all. Thanks for the tip! 😛

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    • Very true. But how one gets relaxed is the tricky part. Especially with a high-enery nutbar at the other end of the leash. Scotch works just fine for me. 😉

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  9. Ha! I think you are really on to something. A little cocktail to loosen up the mind and body may help quite a few who might get anxious out on a walk. Perhaps a cockTAIL (get it?) book is in your future? Coffee + Baileys (Bailey’s?) for winter walks; perhaps a mojito in the summer or a glass of red wine in the fall…

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    • I love all these terrific ideas people are coming up with CockTAILs sound awesome. I’d buy that book, wouldn’t you? Want to help me write it? Margaritas are going to have to fit in there somewhere…

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  10. I’ve walked the dogs in that “more relaxed” state as well – and had similar results! Perhaps we need to stop buying oodles of dog treats and instead invest in the airplane-sized bottles of liquor!

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    • I think that is a very smart idea. The dog park would be a much happier place I am sure.
      It relieves me to know I am not the only one to experience this! Proof that my theory is completely valid!

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  11. I know that most of the readers of this blog aren`t Cesar Milan fans. One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from his show is that the owners behavior directly affects the dogs behavior. If you tense up when you see a situation you don`t like coming down the road, Shiva WILL pick up on it.

    I suppose that a little booze did the trick to help you relax. Now try to apply that on every walk. If you see something you don`t like, take a breath, relax, say it`s no biggie and see what happens. I guarantee that good things will happen.

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    • While I am no flag-waving Milan groupie, I do agree with the whole “energy” idea. It’s very true that dogs are excellent at picking up on human emotion.

      Case in point: a few weeks ago there was a moth in our living room. I HATE moths, especially when they are inside my house. Naturally, I freaked out and danced around the room in terror. Shiva had been passed out on the couch at the time. When I started dancing around – not making any noise just moving rapidly – she not only woke up but leapt onto the floor and barked at me. Barked! At me! Clearly my emotional response was bothering her and she didn’t know how to handle it.

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  12. I am giggling uncontrollably now! I think you might be on to something. Perhaps you should carry a bottle along with you on your next walk and test the theory out…

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  13. Now that sounds like the life!! I appreciate the giggles. What I would give to have a couple of drinks before I walked the dogs to help loosen me up. But I’d probably make a complete spectacle of myself while the dogs would bound on down the street. Yup, there goes that crazy dog lady…again!!

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  14. I can’t stop laughing! OMG Kristine! Funniest post ever!
    I actually was thinking perhaps the alcohol had relaxed you enough that Shiva didn’t pick up on your normal anxiety about running into other dogs. I just never concluded you should be drunk while walking or testing her. Hmmm… Perhaps there is something all of us could learn here. I am going to be giggling about this all night now. LOL!

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  15. Just discovered your blog and laughed, then laughed some more! I adopted a aussie/shepard x catahoula x border collie in Dec and am loving every moment with her – even the hard ones. Yes energy and yes smart – I’m the dumb one but she is patient with me. She picks up on new things faster then I can think of them and I am loving clicker training with her. Oh they humble us with their wisdom!
    Kate

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  16. Oooo! Maybe Shiva dipped into your alcoholic beverage when you weren’t looking. 😉

    when this happens with my Bizzle, I secretly wish I knew what the magic potion was to make everything happen just right. I would give all the moola in the world to understand it.

    But if I were you, I’d just go with the “get buzzed before every public outing” rule of thumb. 😉

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  21. this is GREAT! and it makes a lot of sense. i actually have used this method before going skiing (i love to ski but am terrified of it), and it really works. if you’re tense and scared, you’re going to be unsure and get yourself hurt. there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work with the dog. i must give it a try.

    also, we have an indoor dog park nearby that hosts wine tastings on friday evenings. i keep saying we need to go to that and now i feel like it is, frankly, irresponsible not to.

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