2004 Articles

Where’s The Cheese?

Where’s The Cheese?

Roxanne, my rescue Samoyed whom I have had for just over 2 years, and I live in a large apartment in a dog friendly complex. She gets to run in the woods in back and join the other dogs chasing tennis balls on the tennis court, so she is not “housebound.” She also attends a doggie daycare and has a wonderful sitter that takes her out when I go to work. Roxanne has been to obedience and is actually well trained. We have so many dogs in the complex, that we have the rule that the dogs have to be on leash and not causing a nuisance.

Roxanne was recently reported for causing a nuisance by barking all day and it was said that she was a vicious dog. Roxanne does not bark, but she does howl occasionally at the sirens from a nearby fire station, but otherwise, just an occasional “woo woo.”

I had some concern about Roxanne from the beginning because every dog that she met from the day I met her was growled at. I decided that after my previous “Puppy the Terrible” I could handle anything in the way of dominant behavior. Roxanne was 99% wonderful, cuddly, cute and smart. She is submissive to people and just loves everyone. I can handle a bit of grouchiness, dominance, protectiveness or whatever-it-isother dogs.

I did try to keep her at a distance from other dogs, but people in the complex want to let their dogs run free. When dogs in her face, she objected. The off leash people ganged up on me and kept reporting her to the manager. One night, one woman, completely hysterical, started yelling at me at 11:00PM about Roxanne being mean. Of course, I yelled back because I was so insulted at her slandering Roxanne. Roxanne is sweet, not mean. The off leash people had responsibility to control their animals too.

The manager had been called at one point and said that she had come over and heard Roxanne barking. Not true. The barker belongs to a man who lives downstairs. Because of the complaints and the manager’s observation, I was sent a 10 day notice to vacate. As you can imagine, I was so upset, I called anyone I thought might be of help. Through these calls I found out that with a vicious dog, King County gives a warning, a letter and then can put the dog down. Roxanne was in danger.

I called my vet who referred me to Suzi Moore, Positive Approach Dog training. (253)627-4275. She came up from Tacoma to evaluate Roxanne.

Suzi was amazing. She is certified to testify in court in dog cases. She brought a “test dog,” analyzed Roxanne’s behavior step by step, and we set up different situations outside to see how Roxanne would behave. It was incredible. Suzi would say “we will do this” and the “dogs will do that.” It was like they were following a script. Roxanne passed with flying colors. The behaviors that others were seeing as aggressive were appropriate dog displays. Suzi wrote a 5 page “dog psychiatric evaluation” complete with objectives, treatment and follow ups. Basically it said that Roxanne was insecure when approached by another dog.

Cheese is the answer. Suzi recommended that Roxanne needed to be distracted from her fear of the approaching dog. She recommended that we use cheese for this distraction. The minute another dog approaches and Roxanne’s ears point towards it, we start stuffing her mouth with shredded cheese bits to interrupt the chain of behavior that results in the “growly” display. I feel like the village idiot going around exclaiming “It’s a dog, it’s a dog, Roxanne, how wonderful,” but it is a whole lot easier than staring her down or doing a rollover. The goal is to make every dog experience a wonderful thing for Roxanne. It works wonders. Roxanne is making little doggy friends all over the place.

The end result of all this is that several other neighbors stood up for Roxanne and we got our new lease and our pet agreement. Roxanne does not have to move and her reputation is restored.

What I learned from this is that we have to stand up for our dog and use resources that are available resources. We usually know our dog better than anyone else and can usually analyze their temperament, although we might not be able to determine what might be affecting their behavior. We sometimes need help and should not hesitate to ask for it. This is just one of the responsibilities we take on with these dogs, whether it be a rescue dog or a dog we have raised from a puppy. Contact your mentor, your breeder, your veterinarian, and any other source you think might help. Do your best to calmly explain the problem so that they can make some recommendations.

Submitted by: Karen Sue Braddock and Roxanne the Magnificent