Tag Archives: personal trainer

Fighting?

There are some big misconceptions, things humans don’t seem to understand about us dogs. I wrote about misconception number one: dominance. There is another big one: fighting.

Let me tell you about something that happened on the beach, lately. I was playing with another dog – a dog looking a bit like me, being ultrafast. We ran like hell, chasing each other. We had great fun. Her human had just told M that her dog was scared of practically anything, but I did not recognize that. She was a bit nervous, yes, but not scared. Anyway, we played rough. That is how I like it: bumping into each other, chasing each other, sometimes biting each other in the legs to invite the other dog to run even faster.

So we were racing on the beach, me chasing the other dog and biting in her hind legs to tease her. She did not like that, stopped, turned around and snapped at me. This happens sometimes. I don’t mind, it is only a clear signal that my motivation technique is not appreciated. In that case I stop, we pause for a while and usually we start our play all over again. But this time the human of this so-called scared dog got very hysterical. She shouted ‘oh no, they are fighting, I don’t want this! Go away!’. So M called me and we went on together.

I thought this very strange. The human obviously did not understand the difference between playing and fighting. I admit I was a bit rough on her dog, but we weren’t fighting. When we walked about a hundred meters she released her dog and it came running towards me to resume our play. But M did not feel like an argument with this hysterical human, so she told me to get along with her and I said goodbye to the dog.

Maybe one of the reasons why humans can’t  see the difference between playing and fighting, is that we dogs often play rough. We sometimes bark and even growl, we show our teeth. This is because playing is also a way of testing how strong we are, compared to each other. We do this with our humans, too! What do you think we are doing when we are playing a pulling game with you? We like the fun, but we are also testing if you are still strong. It is all in the game for us.

So this is playing, something very different from fighting. When are dogs fighting? I can tell you this: seldom. I mean really fighting, with the purpose to seriously hurt the other dog, not the barking and growling and biting-in-the-fur stuff that is playing rough. We hardly ever really fight because the risks are very high. When we city dogs get hurt in a fight we are taken to the vet, but when you are a stray dog, you could die. No dog will take such a risk if it is not really worth it.

For a real fight the stake must be very high. Such a stake could be a territory a dog defends. Or a pretty willing female, in that case a male dog will fight with another strong male dog who wants the same female. All the other things, like food, are not worth a real fight. If you look carefully how dogs behave in this situation, you will see a lot of snarling and growling and sometimes even an attack, but the dogs usually back off quickly. No one gets seriously hurt. We are pretty fast in determining which one of us is stronger and the strongest one gets the food.

Humans are not very good at really noticing what is going on, so I’ll help you out a bit here. How to tell the difference between playing rough and fighting? This is something Nicoline, my personal trainer, tells the humans she trains. She says that as long as dogs make a lot of noise, they are not really fighting. If they start snapping and showing teeth without making a noise, than the going gets though. When this happens with the group of dogs she walks with, she intervenes – she is a tough cookie, did I tell you that? She is brave. I would never intervene in a dog fight, I would just run. Which is a very sensible reaction, by the way.

Sorry for this long blog, it takes a lot of words to explain something that is not difficult to see for us dogs, but apparently it is for humans. I hope you will understand it now. A little test, to make sure you get it. Look at this picture. Is this fighting?

Fighting

Maybe it is a hard question to answer, because it is a picture and you cannot hear the noise.  This is me with my German Shepherd friend Sem. And no, it is not fighting (we made a lot of noise). Me and Sem like to measure forces when we meet each other. As you can see, we show our teeth, although in this picture Sem is not paying much attention to me anymore, because another dog was approaching. Sem is not very well mannered, he doesn’t know how to behave with a lady like me. Ha! I’ll show him next time I meet him.

Dominance?

Humans and dogs have lived together for ages, but still there are a lot of things humans don’t understand about us. For instance: humans categorize dogs in being ‘dominant’ or ‘submissive’. A dog that is bossy they call dominant. They say it is his character, they believe he will always be a dominant dog. But that is not true, because every dog is dominant, now and then. It is not his character, it is the situation that matters, and the way we interact in this situation.

Maybe humans think their dog is dominant because he behaves in a bossy way when he is with them. For instance: there is a little dog living on the other side of our street – she is a mix chihuahua / Jack Russell. She usually goes out with her female human, barking all the time and snapping at other dogs. But last time I met her, she was walking with her male human. She was as sweet as a cheesecake, walking next to him, not barking and not even once pulling the leash. Does she have a dominant character? No, of course not. She is only bossy when her female human is with her. She reacts on the situation.

If you want to learn more about dogs, just look how they behave when they are with other dogs. When a dog is well balanced and social, you will see that sometimes she is bossy and sometimes she is not. Me, I grew up in a shelter amidst a large pack of dogs. One learns how to behave in such an environment, believe me! I am not a very submissive dog, I can be really bossy sometimes. But not all the time. When I meet a dog that is friendly and playful, I am friendly too. With my Staffordshire friend, for instance:

Social 1

Sometimes, when I meet a dog who behaves a bit bossy, I like to challenge him. I don’t care how big he is (this one for instance is huge, but when I stand on my long hind legs I can be very tall!), it is the energy that counts. By the way: some humans think this looks like fighting, but it isn’t. It is only measuring forces.

Social 3

And sometimes I meet a dog whose energy of that moment tells me to show respect:

Social 2

Humans will say he is more dominant than I am, but this is not true. He is more dominant in this situation. If he would walk into my house, or try to steal my food, I would certainly fight him and chase him away. Like I said: it is the situation that matters and the way we interact in this situation. This includes the humans that are around. Did you ever wonder why every dog gets calm and submissive when Cesar Millan is near? Because his energy is very clear. Only dumb stubborn dogs challenge him and we all know what happens to them!  Same with my personal trainer, Nicoline. She walks with a lot of dogs and we all respect her. There are some dogs in our pack that humans would call dominant, but with her none of us is.

It is true that some dogs are more bossy than others. But no dog is bossy all the time. This whole idea of dominant dogs that will always be dominant in any situation is a huge misconception. Don’t believe it.

Totems

I just received a very cool picture of me and my friends. It was made some time ago, by Nicoline, my personal trainer. You know, the Dutch Dog Whisperer I told you about earlier.

Friends

In this picture, you see my friends and Nicoline’s own dog, Fiesta. She is the shepherd dog on the left. Fiesta is no longer with us, at least, not in her old, physical form. Humans don’t seem to notice, but we dogs do – of course! Our senses are so much better. If your deceased dog was truly your friend, he or she is still with you, looking after you. If you weren’t good to your dog, he probably is with you too and causing you a lot of distress. In case you are wondering where the hell all this misery is coming from all of sudden – now you know why!

Fiesta was a grand dog and she really loved Nicoline. And vice versa. I think she will do some good things to Nicoline in the coming years. Like… making her win the biggest price in a contest (a living rabbit!) and having the sun shining when she goes out. Important things like that.

Me and Fiesta did not get along very well, I must admit. She was the alpha bitch of the pack. Of course I challenged her, I am not a very shy dog, you know. But she gave me a hard time. I did manage to sleep in her bed once, oh sweet victory. But my successes with her were, well, limited.

Anyway, I won’t challenge her now. Not anymore. You cannot challenge totems, in case you didn’t know.