I was inspired to write this while sitting on a friend’s porch this evening whom I’m dog/house sitting for and watching Ghost and the two other pups interact. The other two dogs are miniature pincers who weigh about twelve pounds a piece. Ghost is a muscular sixty lbs.
I had given all three pups a treat and watched as the pincers finished theirs and then investigated Ghost who was laying in the grass with his, slowly enjoying it.. They licked around his mouth, pushed against it maybe trying to get a little piece. All the while Ghost remained calm. He did not nip at the others, growl or even get up. Eventually he finished his treat perhaps losing a few nibbles here and there and got up to play with the other two.
I started thinking about the why. Why does Ghost act this way? He could easily bark loud enough or growl or even become aggressive enough to scare the others away but he doesn’t. I came to the conclusion that his actions are a reflection of how he has been raised.
Now, before you think I am patting myself on the back read on.
The last time I had a dog, I was a teenager. Admittedly I was not a good dog dad at that time. I spent little time with him, although I did love him. My mother doted on him, loved him, gave up vacations as to not leave him alone and made sure she was home to feed him every night no matter what. He was her dog and she was his human. When I decided to bring another dog into my life two things directed the way I wanted my dog to be raised, the way my mother treated Hooch, my childhood dog (A Rhodesian Ridgeback) and the way she raised me.
At his largest, Hooch weighed about one hundred and twenty or so pounds. He could stand on his hind legs and throw his forepaws over my shoulders. He was protective of my mother to the point where if she and I got into an argument, he would bark and snarl at me. Hooch ended quite a few arguments between my mother and I just by his presence. A gentle giant, Hooch was a house dog. He didn’t get out with other dogs much but if you were human and you had permission to be in the house, you were ok by him. My mother never hit Hooch, she rarely raised her voice to him and he never missed a meal. My mother’s care of Hooch taught me both what I did want to do; have a large breed dog who knew his size and respected what he could do with it but never used it in the wrong way; and what I did not want; a dog who was not social with other dogs and who did not get regular exercise. Mom loved Hooch but Hooch didn’t get out of the back yard much. This was going to be the hard part. My schedule is insane and I must be too for thinking about bringing a dog into my life. I worked it out (in about ten seconds after I met Ghost) and decided it could be done with some sacrifice. If you consider putting in less hours at work a sacrifice. 🙂
The second influence I mentioned was how my mother raised me. I was raised in an all female house as my father had passed on when I was very young. We had plenty of issues, plenty of arguments but there was plenty of love and while I didn’t show it often as a teen, much respect for my mother. She taught me many things, and one of them was how to treat other people.
I was an extremely shy kid in school. Yes. Really. I had a core group of friends but outside of them, I said little to anyone and kept my head down. I never went to a dance with a date and I never picked fights. The only advantage I had, which I didn’t really realize, was I was a pretty stout kid. My shoulders were broad and my build strong. I tolerated kids making fun of me, even physically attacking me because it was in my blood to be tolerant. For the most part. One thing I did not tolerate was my friends being picked on when I could do something about it. When the time came, I bowed up my size to run off those who I thought would hurt my friends who at that time were mostly Journalism/Photo/Computer geeks like myself who were not blessed with my build. To quote a terrible cliche; I had learned somewhere down the road to “Be nice until it was time to not be nice.” This is what I hoped for in Ghost.
Back to the present. As I’ve raised Ghost these past six months, I have not consciously said “I want my dog to defend other dogs.” or stated “I want Ghost to be tolerant of other dogs taking things from his mouth.” and so on. I had a few things I wanted him to strive for, being social with both dogs and humans among them. I believe the rest he has gotten by the positive reenforcement he gets at home and the positive and negative social experiences he has had. In essence I believe he has figured out for himself who he wants to be based on his upbringing. A stretch? Perhaps but perhaps not. I’ve witnessed many dogs of whom I know their background display behavior directly associated with how they are raised. Pitbulls are a huge example. I know of a Pit who tolerates and mothers baby cotton tail rabbits who climb all over him and snuggle into him for warmth. I know another Pit who would just as soon eat you and the rabbits. One was raised in a loving home with children and foster pets and the other rescued from a fighting ring and who is currently being rehabilitated. Both exhibit traits of their upbringing.
As I watched Ghost tonight I started realizing that he is growing into a dog who knows his size and will use it when wants to, for example when he plays with Kal-El, another large breed dog. These two can play fight full throttle throwing each other around like rag dolls. By contrast, he carefully minuets around two pound toy breeds like a ballerina. Ghost will defend his friends to his ability and he has even shown respect for the fairer sex as most evidenced by how he interacts with Bella, an adorable Vizsla female. When Ghost plays with Emma, a Corgie who can handle her business, he plays to her level of roughness but he carries and uses his weight differently than with Kal. Dogs can sense other dog’s personalities. If brought up correctly, I believe they will use this to make decisions in a social situation and act accordingly.
I hope Ghost grows into a “good example” large breed dog and I will do everything in my power to make that happen. I want to thank everyone who has allowed Ghost to befriend their own dog kids and everyone who has answered my unending stream of questions (My sister chief among them).
Ghost is throwing toys at me now and mentioned something about using my phone to FaceTime Bella if I don’t hurry up and finish.. Better go!