Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not So Social, Pt 2: Being a Dog

Now that I've laid out Mac's story in gruesome (and I hope adorable) detail, I have a little more to add. In Deborah Flick's piece about Turid Rugaas, she recalls Rugaas mentioning that she "did too much" with her project dog, and that she needed to slow down and listen to her dog.

This is one of the hardest things about having a "not social" dog (I hope I clarified in my last post that Mac actually is an extremely social dog, a social butterfly loveslut whore, actually, in many many cases, but that I'm using this in the sense of one of Flick's commenters: "social dog envy.") I've talked here before about how we ask too much of our dogs, especially in the city. I believe that, and the blog about Rugaas reminded me really how much I ask of Mac, my not-so-social-all-the-time dog. I ask him to behave appropriately, and for him, that's extra hard, given his "shortfalls." They aren't really shortfalls- he's a dog with quirks, a dog for who city life up to Perfect Pit Bull standards is hard: he's supposed to have prey drive as humans have bred him for a bajillion generations. He wasn't properly socialized before I got him, to what degree I don't know, but to a degree. This is not meant as an excuse for his poor behavior, but as a statement of some understanding of his personality/temperament/behavior- I mean, humans go to therapy to understand this stuff, right? And I'm sure his parents weren't superb examples of solid dog temperament (I've seen enough East Bay pit bulls and pit bull mixes to make a very educated guess on this matter.)

So I do the responsible thing and manage him, and give him the best life that we can have together. Sometimes it's very small, and safe for him: my room, my house, my small yard, small walks in the neighborhood. Sometimes it's a little bigger- trips in the car with his buddies (Mac loves the car!), walks in semi-abandoned areas, walks to quiet neighborhood stores that he knows, and to my parents house on the beach. But Mac rarely gets to Be A Dog. I don't let him off leash because off leash areas are great areas for encounters with other dogs that he doesn't like, and I don't like to take him off leash in on-leash areas. I have been known to let him trail a long line, like, 5 times a year. This means he doesn't get to run. He doesn't ask to run, but he's a dog! He wants to run, whether the lazy dog asks to run or not. I think my dog is happy. I think Rugaas is right: a lot of dog people with project dogs "do too much" with their dogs, for the sake of safety, for the sake of management, for the sake of keeping their dogs under threshold, for the sake of their own peace of mind. I do the best I can to listen to Mac, to work together with him. We're a constant work in progress.

And another token Mac picture, this time from an urban exploring spot- that dog was practically pulling me into buildings- I think this is one of the times when Mac is at his best- being a dog. (A fake search and rescue dog?!)

partner in crime