On my calendar today I’ve got an appointment with a client I worked with years ago. I got a panicked call last weekend from her that there had been a dog fight in her household, and it was a serious one with blood, stitches, and all that bad stuff. The odd part was that the owners weren’t home at the time and that makes several alarm bells go off in my head.
It turns out that the recipient of all the abuse has turned 15 years old recently and has been really slowing down. This is a scenario I see quite a bit actually. The old dog starts to decline in health a bit and the young ones start to “move up” the ladder. I had it happen in my house several years ago with my beloved schnauzer Hallie. When we got the puppy 13 years ago things didn’t go smoothly at all and a couple of years later the picking on behavior was in clear evidence. It was painful to watch but difficult to curb as it was happening when I was away or out of sight.
There are a LOT of things to do about this bullying behavior but none of them are completely effective. It’s best to just increase the level of general obedience required by the younger one and to mind any situation that might elicit bullying (treats, special toys…) when you are leaving the house. But all in all, I fear this behavior is a bit of the more Animal side of the “animal kingdom” that shows up in our well ordered living rooms and kitchens. And it makes us uncomfortable.
On another note regarding old dogs, my 13 year old spaniel Gwennie has, as of this weekend completely lost her hearing. She’s a great old dog, but on trail walks recently I noticed she simply could not hear my “come” commands any longer. This gets a bit dicey because she’s never been good around cars and now she’ll just bolt out in the street when she doesn’t hear me give her a reminder.
So, out comes the vibration collar and a bit of remedial training for old Gwennie.
I put the collar on her and started showing her to look for me when she felt it vibrate. Since she’s super food motivated, this wasn’t that difficult just vibrate the collar and when she looks my way, get her a treat quickly. This took about 10 minutes with her.
Next, I started making her come over to me for the treats when the vibration happened. Basically I was a vibrating slot machine that ALWAYS paid out! It worked like a charm. Then we were set and out we went on a hike. That old dog came over to me every time I vibrated the collar and was thrilled to be out and about again in the woods without me chasing after her. Success!!! and JOY!
As I work with clients longer and longer I’m starting to get some of the dogs I trained 10 and 12 years ago as clients again for issues that come up with the elderly ones. Things are different for sure with them but I do get the feeling that some of them may remember me from the old days and just maybe are happy that I can help them a bit as they slow down. Not to mention that seeing these dogs again makes me happy and makes me realize just how many thousands of dog’s I’ve worked with over the years.
Austin Dog Trainer
Fidelio Dog Works