Monday, January 11, 2010

Fence grazers and Pepper the fearful and anxious dog

I am furious this morning. Furious at my neighbors and furious with myself. Pepper, our big chicken shepherd, set off out into the yard this morning and spotted our dog-hating neighbor(s) across the fence and started her scary dog tactics.

I don't approve of Pepper terrorizing fence grazers, no matter how much they dislike her, so I immediately went to retrieve her. Instead of being very stern with her, yelling "No! No!" I've started getting her interested in coming to me, saying "nah-ah," and then playfully "come on, come here" as if to say "hey, these hugs are more fun than barking at them." Usually it works and in general works much better, but it took me maybe half of a minute to get her back to me. In the meantime, my neighbor, with full awareness of me trying to retrieve my dog, is throwing tree limbs at the fence. Of course this makes her more fearful and protective. I have also seen them squirt her with a hose...again while I am trying to call her back. This morning I had to say something, simply stating "don't throw things at her" with my "what is WRONG with you" face. I was merely met with a grimace. I was almost to her when he did this and I got her by the collar and said "c'mon, let's go back inside..." I had her sit and calm down in the process and got her back in.

Pepper will get used to people who want to be her friend (it takes a few visits), but she sees our neighbors as unfriendly intruders (unfriendly for sure) and so she throws her hackles up and does her best to look vicious. She does a good job.

So, I'm mad at my neighbors for being so rude and dog-stupid, and mad at myself for not doing a better job of socializing Pepper. I guess that makes me dog-stupid, too. She needs much more socialization than a normal dog. She is the most fearful dog I have ever met, but also one of the sweetest and smartest. I think that's why my little scared shepherd transport on Saturday got to me so badly. I could see a sweet, smart dog in there, but he was petrified.

Inside with us or outside sans fence grazers, she's a real joy. Pepper's real nature is obedient, sweet, gentle, and extremely smart. But she is very fearful and very hypervigilant (which vigilance is already a shepherd trait) and has been since being abandoned in a parking lot with her littermates. She's a little food/toy protective, but only toward our beagle Petey, and only vocally. I can imagine she remembers being very hungry as the runt of that litter of shepherds. We got her when she was 5 months old. She was afraid of stairs, doorways, strangers, everything, but I knew her true nature when she (covered in mud) bounded into my arms as soon as she had room to run at the rescue the day we met her. The only time she has growled at us is when we accidently scratched a tender spot too hard on her chest and she said "hey, quit that!" She never growls at us over having food or toys taken away. In general she's a big chicken. I've just now gotten her to the point where she won't pee when I try to get her into the bathtub for a bath! Thankfully she is so active that I don't have to trim her nails too often, because she goes off the deep end when you try to do that. We are going to have to have them trimmed when she gets her teeth cleaned next month!

So, I could have done better. I am a homebody and when I get home I'm in my castle with my beloved pets. My New Year's resolution is socialization, socialization, socialization. I don't know many people who love their pets more, but I'm not a perfect pet owner by any stretch of the imagination. I share this because if you're a homebody like me you HAVE to get your dogs out more. I've done my sweet Pepper a serious disservice in this way and I hate that other people see only her frightened (and frightening) side when her "territory" is encroached upon. I don't know that I can train this out of her, but I at least want her to feel secure when I tell her to ignore the neighbors or other frightening fence-grazers such as meter people or delivery peeps.

And while I have been feverishly writing this post about my neighbor's transgressions as dog-haters, and my own transgressions as a lazy dog owner, the slurping sounds did not register in my brain...Pepper has just eaten a big piece of cat crap out of the litter box. Nice.


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