Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The New Life: I've got a piece of american cheese in my pocket

I pushed fairly hard for a dog, and I was super excited when we were heading down to get Jammer. Nervous, but excited. I knew that all of the struggles of having a new dog would completely fade away in the shadow of my love for him, my complete joy in having a darling puppy in my life. I imagined myself waking up every morning, gleefully hopping out of bed to run over to my puppy and shower him with kisses.

I was wrong. As much joy as Jammer has brought us, he's also brought a lot of stress and some fear and even some regret. That last has been the most painful.

Things like peeing in the house or not walking well on the leash - those things I can relax about. We'll get there. We'll figure that stuff out. But the resource guarding has been really, really hard for me. When I was explaining it to my mom she asked is resource guarding just a yuppie term for biting?

I explained that it's a dog trainer term and that it's sort of a sub-set of aggression. He's not a generally aggressive dog. He hasn't been aggressive with other dogs, and he's not aggressive with us generally. He just gets a little aggressive about his favorite toys and treats. Let's be clear - he hasn't bitten either of us. Or anyone else that we know of. But he makes aggressive moves. He'll get very still, put his paw on his toy and then look up at you like did you think you were going to take this away from me? If we have to, we coax him away with a little special treat. That's now after we've started working with a trainer. In the beginning, before we realized what was going on, he snapped at us a few times.

The first time he snapped at me, my feelings were hurt. I know - he's a dog. I'm not saying it's rational, but all I could think was we rescued you. we're feeding you and loving you, and you're going to try to bite me?! I realize now that it's a normal dog action (not an acceptable one, but a normal one), but somehow I can't help allowing it to affect my relationship with him. This little bit of fear and hurt and disappointment keeps seeping in.

Between that and the kleptomania (which leads to resource guarding) and the separation anxiety (if that's really what it is - there's some question about it), there have been moments where I have wondered if we made a bad choice - Is he not the right dog for us? And then I feel overcome with guilt - this is OUR dog! We love him! I think back to this Dog Whisperer episode that I saw where the woman's dog was aggressive with strangers and had even bitten HER MOM twice, and she was all I guess this is just the life I'm going to have to lead. I mean, that's devotion to your dog.

A moment of clarification again - Jammer is our dog. We love him. That's not going to change.

But this dog ownership business is filled with so many more emotions than I had anticipated. Perhaps that's affected by our close proximity to finals, and perhaps things will settle down a bit afterwards, and perhaps working with our trainer will solve all of these dilemmas. But whatever happens, the last month has definitely been an enormous learning experience - about the difference between expectations and reality and what it means to truly accept another being into your life, faults and all.


Virgin In The Volcano said...

My dog has bitten me several times, once even during obedience class. He'll let you kill him before he'll let you take one of his toys. It's just how it goes sometimes. Don't sweat it with Jammer. And for godsakes, don't take his toys!

Juliet said...

Aw, he's beautiful! I have no doubt that you'll work out the kinks. It may take time, so try not to get impatient. I've found that the personalities of adopted animals often develop over a full year or two once they come into your family. Be patient, and during this time, be safe.

Snuffleupagus said...

You're careful to remind yourself that Jammer is your dog and that you love him. Don't forget that he loves you back. He might be instinctively protective of his toys, but it's just instinct. He loves you and appreciates you (as much as a dog can appreciate) and he's excited and happy to be in his new happy home.

(In)Sanity Gal said...

Virgin - I'm not sure if that makes me feel better or worse, but I'm going to go with better. I have seen a number of shows, other dogs, etc that make me feel like this is much more common than I realized (after growing up with the ever-calm golden retrievers)

Thanks Juliet! Patience, always patience. :)

Snuffle - It's a good point. Thanks for reminding me - you're a good friend.

Pril said...

i guess having pit bull types has made me super sensitive to any sort of aggression, and on that note...

those toys aren't jammer's--their yours!

oh, and it took (and i'm not even joking) about 3 years for some of the things we worked on everyday to settle with rhoda. you're so beyond right about what it means to truly accept another being. really a growing experience. hang in there!

Pril said...

just realized i misused their. that's what you get for turning 30. they are yours. ;)

(In)Sanity Gal said...

Pril -
Ha! I didn't even notice - maybe that's cause 30's just around the corner for me. ;)

As for the toys, I know - and that's obviously what I here when I'm watching Cesar Millan. My struggle is that his show always says something like "Do not try this at home without a professional" or something like that. And all of the trainers that I've found in the area all use positive reinforcement training with treats - not the kind of stuff that Cesar Millan does.

I think the treats are working for a lot of things, but I do worry about the toy possessiveness (over our toys) :). Did you ever have that problem with Rhoda? Or other aggressiveness issues? I've read some other stuff that says you should be careful about challenging them because you might escalate the aggression. It's so hard to know what's the right thing to do.

Virgin In The Volcano said...

Btw, a friend of mine who knows Caesar says he had dog fights all the time that the cameras never show. Don't let him fool you. Most dogs (and their owners) have mild to moderate behavioral problems and the world does not end. Not every neurosis must be fixed, you know what I mean?

Pril said...

neurosis, yes.
mild behavior problems, yes.
lord knows my dogs have plenty.
attacking me by biting and growling...

HELL no.

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