I Gotta Bone To Pick With You

Remove facebox and go away now plz.  Kthxbai.

We were recently gifted with a box of rawhide bones.  I don’t feed these things to my dogs, as I prefer to give them healthier, raw bones to snack on, but I figured what the heck … they’d come in handy for those super shitty weather days, or the odd occasion after work where I am just too tired to go out in the dark for another walk.

I put this latter theory to the test on Wednesday night.  Dexter made short work of his, as did Tweed.  TWooie and West have both apparently never seen a rawhide, did not recognize them as food and abandoned theirs immediately.  Piper sat on hers, atop a dog bed, and growled at everydog who so much as looked in her direction.  And Wootie carried his around the house crying, because he wanted to take it outside and bury it and I wouldn’t let him.

Rawhide: 60% fail rate.

The uneaten rawhide sticks have been floating around the house for the last couple of days.  I keep picking them up and Wootie keeps finding my hiding places, and taking them away, just to carry them around whimpering.  Because Wootie has more fortitude than me, I eventually gave in and let him take one outside today on our afternoon walk.  I then asked him if he would like to give it to me for safe keeping.

Not hardly, woman.

But Woo … I have cookies.  And I will trade you one for the rawhide.

But if I put it down, someone will take it from me.

I better just run away and hide it.

Smart decision Woo … cuz the Red Tide Of Rawhide Death is coming for you!

Eventually we worked out a swap, and a game!  He would give me the rawhide, I would give him a cookie, and then I would throw the rawhide as far as I could and he would race frantically after his flying treasure.  Since Mr. Woo has now almost entirely abandoned playing fetch with me in favour of hunting wabbits, the game was fun for both of us.  Well, at least for me.  Maybe for him it was rather stressful ;-)

TWooie was also interested in the rawhide, maybe because it was pre-gnawed and therefore more resembled something he could eat.  As I have so far not been even slightly successful in interesting the TWoo in toy games, I thought this could be a good opportunity to transition him to something interactive.  I threw the rawhide for him and he actually ran after it!  So far, so good.  And then he tried to go bury it (and someone said they didn’t think the WooTWoo are related??) so I was once again forced to playing the cookie-swap game.

What I forgot is that TWooie takes his treasures very, very seriously.  When he released the rawhide for the cookie, it did indeed get stolen from under his feet, and this caused him no end of trauma.

I could have sworn I left it right here.  Where the f*ck is it?  Which one of you f*ckers stole my thingie?

And then he took it out on an innocent bystander.  Yes, that is a long strand of West hair in his mouth!

You suck, TWoo.

Actually, YOU suck, West.

Say whaaat?

He doesn’t *totally* suck.  Like most dogs with issues, things are bound to get somewhat worse before they get better.  Things like car-sickness.  I found the Gravol minimized the puking, but did nothing to stop the endless stream of copious drool that leaked out of his clenched teeth in the car, so I stocked up on towels and stepped up the laundry.  It got so bad that he would start drooling in the house when he knew it was getting close to time to leave for work, and then it got SO bad that he would start drooling when he saw me whip out the Gravol box TWO HOURS before we left, and fought me like crazy when I tried to get them down his throat.

So imagine my surprise when, while driving to agility class last night, I glanced over my shoulder and found that rather than hunched over tensely in his crate creating another one of the world’s biggest oceans, West was fast asleep in his crate, almost totally DROOL-FREE!  That was a rather sudden switch, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  I have bigger things to worry about.

West’s stranger-danger issues are becoming rapidly more pronounced.  On Tuesday we went for a walk at Bridgeman after work with a friend and West did quite a nice job of ignoring most people we encountered, which was a lot of people.  He was far too busy trying to keep an eye on Dexter, who is his most favouritest thing in the whole world.

He even sat down periodically next to women he deemed “safe” and let them scritch his ears.  Although to be completely honest, I’m not totally convinced he realized those “safe” women were not, in fact, me when he did it.  He had one minor freak out at a man who stopped dead on the trails in front of West, put his hands on his hips, leaned over and boomed “Well aren’t you are a nice looking little dog?” but he called off real fast.  So far so good.

At class last night though, different story altogether.  He has decided that The Sadist is a NO GOOD VERY BAD THING and while he would go through my “say hi!” routine with great reluctance and even take a cookie from him, there were conditions: the Sadist had to be crouched down, turned sideways, not looking at him and holding a cookie backward.  While it warms my heart to see my evil teacher in such an uncomfortable and compromising position (payback is a bitch!) it nevertheless concerns me that as soon as The Sadist stood up and squared up to West, West lost his shit.  Lots of growling and barking.  When The Sadist walked away, West went after him from behind.  This, I do not care for.  The more personal confidence West achieves, the bolder his Go Away signals are becoming.

A week ago I would have said that West’s chances of safe placement were 80% in his favour.  I’ve now downgraded him to more like 50%.  I need him to choose retreat over aggress, or he’s not going to be adoptable :(

Recently, someone who doesn’t like dogs told me that I can’t control 6 dogs.  And that someone is, sadly, right.  I mean, I CAN control 6 dogs and have done so successfully many times in the past.  But I cannot control *these* 6 dogs.  I cannot work on TWooie’s dog aggression and West’s stranger dangers at the same time.  My puppy is gettin’ the shaft, and we need to work on some impulse control and buffing up some commands that he knows, but is now lazy about following. The WooTWoo have basically given up all pretense of obedience.   But there’s just too much going on.  What West needs is a foster home who can focus on him, because I don’t want to be the reason he fails.

And that’s the un-fun of being The Rescue Lady.  I have to step up when nobody else will.  Sometimes, it just makes me want to kick something.

So I did.  I booted the soccer ball clear across the river!

Well that was exciting!  Now what?

Fool me once:

Dex went in after it the first time.  He’s still a high-swimmer!

The second time, he totally refused, so Piper had to do the deed.

Perhaps you are blithely unaware that this river is, in fact, cold.  Perhaps you’d like to come over here and let me show you how cold it is.

I can take a hint.  I stopped kicking it into the river after that.

Our walk was very leisurely, as Tweed did not want to go anywhere.  He wanted to lie down right here and eat the rawhide he’d pinched offa Wootie.

Or right here works too.

Tell you what, why don’t you just go on ahead without me?

I guess I will spend this weekend thinking about ways to help West overcome his hurdles.

Over hurdles?  I can jump over hurdles!

But if there is anyone out there in dogland who is experienced with dogs with stranger danger problems and thinks they could do a better job than me, don’t hesitate to offer!  I want West to have the best possible chance at becoming a safe canine citizen that he can.  If someone else can do what I just do not have the time to do, I’m completely comfortable handing him over.  If you think you can help West, please contact me.  I won’t be offended!!

And don’t forget that this weekend is the live broadcast of the National Sheepdog Finals!


  1. Oh, I do so hope that West can overcome his issues! What are the options for you/him if he doesn’t? Don’t say it, don’t say it…

  2. Oh dear…..entreaties to doG that someone will come forward who can help West with what he needs! And curses on the 2 legged ones who harmed him!

  3. I hope things work out for West. He’s a nice-looking boy and deserves a chance. I only have three dogs, but I know what you mean–sometimes that’s too many to really give everyone all the attention they deserve.

  4. Poor old West. He sounds a lot like my Maya, or at least like she used to be. I guess before we brought her home, Maya lived only in a yard and missed out on some important learning opportunities. Like ‘houses: what are they?’ and ‘everything: is it dangerous?’

    She was also violently car sick, and learned to collapse into a crying heap at the merest sight of our vehicle. Not noise-sensitive, but reactive to anything that moved (and a great deal that didn’t). Absolutely awful with other dogs. Unable to deal with strangers. She had that same reaction to people walking away from her, and I felt just like you say above — like my efforts to build her confidence were resulting in an increasingly dangerous dog. Not fun at all.

    Just one Maya is a ton of work…I cannot even wrap my mind around the idea of one dog like Maya, plus five more dogs! I hope the right foster home comes along. Underneath all that awfulness (and god, there was so much awfulness), Maya is a really stable, stupendous, boundlessly cheerful sort of dog. Things got worse for a while, then they got better, then they just kept getting better. I want that for West too, and hope someone comes through for him soon.

  5. No help with West, but it’s nice to know that it’s not just Hoot who has impulse control troubles :)

    Hey, Hoot is going back to BC for sheepdog starting next week. He’ll be there for 6-8 weeks. You could send me Dex for a while. He might come back a stockdog, though :)

  6. I hope someone can foster West and work with him. You have a lot on your plate, with the new job and working with Twoo and Dex.

    Love the photos of my handsome Tweed!

  7. As Slynx said, dogs like West require so much one on one that it is hard to imagine dealing with him and five other dogs – one a puppy who needs attention and one who has issues of his own. And what about the good guys who don’t have issues but still need and deserve attention? I hope you find another willing and capable foster home but if you don’t maybe just going more slowly with him will help – let him develop confidence in a safe environment and then expand his world. Whatever you do, keep us posted. We all love your dogs and and root for them – and you.

  8. You already know this…but it’s going to take lots of time and desensitization and probably years to get West to get over this…my aussie cross has the precisely same issues, and I am happy now that I have finally got her in a place where I can intro her to strangers in a very controlled environment without fear of panic induced fear aggression. But she’s still one I have to watch like a hawk. Always. Wouldn’t trade her in for the world though…she’s the best little dog. I hope you can find someone who has lots of time to sit with West. What helped my girl was sitting in parks hour after hour after hour waiting for people to go by to help desensitive her, knowing when to not push her/flood her (feeling horrible when I did), and in the end, accepting my dog for who she is. I know you can find that person.

  9. I also have a dog that I have to watch like a hawk. One of those that when people ask to pat the dogs, I usually say, those two yes, that one, no.
    I’m wondering if you are expecting too much too fast from West, well especially with men.
    To drag out an old favourite, the Look at that Game, so he associates seeing men with something good, but isn’t pushed beyond where he feels safe with them.
    I hope you can work something out with him. He is a cutey, and I’d be interested if we didn’t already have three dogs.

  10. The Food Lady says:

    Ok folks, let’s be clear about some stuff – I have done this before. I have worked with very problem dogs before. I lived with one for 11 years, and I am no stranger to behavioural modification. I’m not pushing him, flooding him or otherwise expecting anything extraordinary from him. But I have exceptional circumstances – I am responsible for an entire rescue of dogs, present and future, and I cannot put them in jeopardy by adopting out a dog that will bite someone. I have to go to work, and I cannot leave him alone for 13 hours a day in a crate. I have FIVE OTHER DOGS who need me just as much as West does, and whose lives I will not compromise for a foster dog’s needs.

    Tonight I walked out of my house, on my own property, for an evening walk. Unfortunately, and unusually, my property neighbours had company – male company, standing in their driveway, with 3 loose dogs. Let’s talk about a clusterf*ck! I’ve got TWooie running around trying to kill the strange dogs, and West going off his nut freaking out at the men, 9 riled up dogs, I can’t catch West and it was just absolutely chaos. And that’s just me trying to go for a quiet walk on my own private property!! I was ambushed in my own yard.

    All this did was impress upon me how wrong this environment is for West and how little *I* can do for him given the limitations of my life, and my own dogs. It’s not a lack of skill, or practical realism on my part, it’s a lack of resources. There is only one me, and I can’t give him what he needs. I am not too proud to admit it. I *want*West to succeed, and he can’t if I can’t help him do it. I am not lacking skill, I’m lacking the lifestyle that he needs, and all I will end up doing to leaving him in limbo, and my other dogs too!

    I dunno – what’s the point of saving him if I can’t help him? This dog deserves to learn that life is good, and there’s got to be someone out there who can help him learn it. I wish it was me, but I know my limits, and it’s not fair to make those his limits too :(

  11. I too have a fearful, HA dog…I’ve successfully turned her around. But I just turned my foster back over to the rescue because I found that she wasn’t making progress in *MY* house. I was also having to crate/rotate with one of my dogs because of her…which wasn’t fair. So yeah, I feel your pain…I’ve worked with dogs like her in the past, but things have changed in my life and my pack…and she wasn’t working here.

    Hope you can find a good solution for West…

  12. I can really feel your pain and frustration in trying to find the best help for West. Please realize how much you’ve already done for him.

    I hope your plea for help is heard by the right person.

  13. You know I feel your pain. I am sending hopeful thoughts for you, your pack and West. Someone will hear you, and West will get the help that he deserves.

  14. That’s so hard on all of you. I totally understand and hope you find someone out there that will take West and turn the fear aggression around.

  15. Wow. Poor West must have had some really bad experiences with men. And poor you, who clearly have your hands too full. It takes a very wise and mature person to be able to face up to reality since I know you want the very best for West and all your other dogs.

    Rosie gets strangely aggressive with only some strange men, and I’ve been told that some medications (anti-depressants, methadone, etc) can cause changes in body chemistry that shift scent emitted. I haven’t bothered to ask the strangers being barked at whether they are on medication, though, so no independent confirmation. And in any case, West’s issues seem to be much less narrowly focused.

    I am wishing for your sake that some nice person expresses interest in taking West on. He is a beautiful pup.

  16. Gah, it’s like whenever my parents had to sit me down and say to me, “You know, you can’t save the world, you just can’t save /every body/.”

    It’s unfortunately and heartbreakingly true, really. We may have all the knowledge, skills, determination and drive…but in the end, sometimes too much is just too much, and trying to juggle too many things usually just ends up in dropping /all/ of the balls.

    I, too, send you sincerest hopes and wishes that someone else stands up to help out West, because like you’ve said, it’s really not for a lack of trying – just that the environment you have to offer isn’t working for him, and you have your hands full already. Honestly, I think even if you had all the world’s knowledge on stranger-danger pups to help West out, it’d still be too difficult considering everything else you’ve got on your plate.

    Don’t beat yourself up or anything over it though, kay? You’re such a hero to so many dogs already, and you are genuinely still trying to help West, which is obviously something to be admired. You’re still just as much of a hero even if you have to step down every once in a while.

    Here’s to wishing the best for all the pups.

  17. Like many of us who follow you, FL, you are awe-inspiring. You give so much that it’s no wonder that there are some shitty weeks! Given your years of experience, I have no advice to give you about dog training, but Ben’s offer sounds worthy of consideration, at least until you are able to find an alternative foster for Mr. West. The work you have already done with TWoo is nothing short of amazing, and that photo you posted a while back of him extending his little paw to you totally made me cry (for whatever THAT is worth!)

  18. Do the photographs of Tweed remind anyone else of Winston Churchill with his famous cigar?!

  19. Forgot to add, that we’re sending positive vibes to you and West. We absolutely adore him already.

    We know it will take lots of time, patience and love but hope he can be helped with his various anxieties.

    Fingers and paws crossed.

  20. Awww West. Let us hope he improves!

    You should be very proud of these dogs, you are giving them so much and I am sure they love their food lady. :) Love and patience is key.

    Many hugs to all!

  21. Catherine, I think Ben was offering to take Dexter not West.

    Food Lady, we are pulling for you and West. It takes gumption and smarts to know when you are fighting a losing battle – not because of ability but because of resources and commitments to the rest of your crew. Please keep us posted and know we are sending vibes for a guardian angel to come to West’s rescue.

  22. Oy, that is rough. I wish I could help, but my own older boy has those same issues. We’ve spent a lot of time with him, but unfortunately, there are very few places/people that I can trust to work in/with. He isn’t one of those reactive dogs who can be worked at the park or store. We have had some success with intro’ing people in very specific contexts, but he can’t usually handle seeing someone approach from a distance (so that knocks out c/ting when we see strangers coming and going). It’s tough.

    Sometimes I regret that we ever adopted our second BC, because I know it takes away some of his training time. Especially since #2 is incredibly intense, and must be challenged mentally a lot every day. Besides that, he also resource guards from other dogs and is a bit of bully when it comes to other dogs. I love them both, so it is worth it, but I do sometimes wish I only had to deal with one issue at a time. :P

    I cannot even imagine dealing with as many dogs as you do.

    “Ok folks, let’s be clear about some stuff – I have done this before. I have worked with very problem dogs before. I lived with one for 11 years, and I am no stranger to behavioural modification.”

    I was just thinking that. You’ve definitely dealt with this before.

    “Do the photographs of Tweed remind anyone else of Winston Churchill with his famous cigar?!”

    YES! That was my first thought too.

  23. wyldvetwyo says:

    I wasn’t implying you didn’t know how to care for or manage fearful dogs or dogs with behavior issues. Sounds to me like you have a lot of experience, and you’re being honest about your limitations and what you can handle. I feel sorry for you, I would hate to be in your situation. I was just commenting on my own personal journey with my dog; how I have hit so many roadblocks, learned so much (unfortunately, sometimes after I screwed up horrendously), and yet still managed to make my dog better than she was. I had no intention of implying anything otherwise than just commenting on my experiences. I hope you can find a good situation for West, and bring some peace to your household. I really admire you for at the very least giving him a chance.


  1. […] place in the universe), posts beautiful photos of her Border Collies and Woo (a mystery BC mix?). In this post, she tells of the challenges of helping her foster dog West become less reactive to strangers while […]

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