Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
As much as I write about the importance of training, as much as I work with my own dogs in a “continuing education” sort of way, and pride myself on well-behaved they are, every now and then one of them just isn’t having any part of following the rules they’ve been taught. Yesterday was one of those days.
Jackson was a hard sell on loose-leash walking as a young dog and was not easy to train, but eventually I was able to teach him that if he’s pulling, we aren’t walking. We’ve since earned his Canine Good Citizen and he and I now have a nice mind-meld when we are walking that is one of my favorite things about having dogs as companions. All of this stopped yesterday when he discovered his love of goose poop.
This is the dog who I often tell, “Jax, be a dog, do dog things, live a little!” because he does so few gross dog things. He has zero prey drive, doesn’t have a taste for gross things, avoids mud and puddles and only rarely scents himself on yucky things. Trust me, I don’t mind that he is not the type of dog to ever bring me dead animals or smell bad, but sometimes I wonder if he’s missing out on some part of life as a dog.
Apparently he took my words to heart this spring, because out of nowhere my neat, tidy, non-disgusting dog is obsessed with eating goose poop. Not just mildly interested or sneakily trying to get to some. He is straight up obsessed.
In the park by our house where we take our walks there is no end to this disgusting dog delicacy. Last night Jackson lost his mind over the piles of goose poop everywhere and yanked and pulled with all his might, putting all 70 muscular pounds of force into his efforts. Not one to give up easily, I decided to proceed with the walk and work on correcting his behavior. It did not go well and our walk was horrible.
I finally gave up and turned around on the trail, cutting our walk short, but we still had to go back the way we had come and it turned into frustrating comedy of errors: Jackson lunging and trying to pull me, (even with a short leash in a heeling position) followed by me holding firm and stopping my forward progress until he sat next to me. We would walk nicely for a few steps, he smelled more goose poop, lunged again, I corrected him again.
“JACKSON, NO! OFF!” I exclaimed loudly to him. Not one to yell at my dogs, I raised my voice intentionally, hoping that maybe because I don’t yell, that the unexpected sound would get through to his goose poop obsessed brain, as he was not paying the slightest bit of attention to me every time he smelled or saw another pile.
I came across another dog owner and her dog (who trotted along quite nicely next to her) as she watched me holding back 70 pounds of lunging, desperate dog with one arm as he dove toward the poop with all four paws dug into the ground for leverage. Of course it was at that same time that Tink, who had trotted along happily next to me while I dealt with her brother, decided to see what Jax was so interested in and wrapped her leash around a nearby tree.
“You’ve got your hands full with those two,” she said.
“Yeah, not normally! He’s obsessed with eating this damn goose poop, normally we walk along quite nicely” I answered, completely embarrassed that my dog appeared to be so bad on the leash that she would say something.
Finally we got out of the part of the park where the geese had been and Jax immediately turned back into my well-mannered boy. I am sure he could sense the negative energy coming from me as we headed for home, but he turned and looked up at me with his beautiful head and a huge doggie smile on his face as if saying, “You love me, Momma, you can’t stay mad at me!”
“You are quite pleased with yourself, aren’t you?” I asked him, some of my annoyance fading as I looked at this face I loved so much. Of course I was upset and frustrated, embarrassed to be a dog blogger and writer with my beloved boy acting like a crazy beast, but more than anything I was scared for his health because of all of the germs and diseases that can be spread through goose poop.
Since he was worn out from all of the goose poop lunging and pulling from the first part of our walk and because there didn’t seem to be any of it where we were walking, I gave him a bit more leash and he trotted along next to Tinkerbell, both of them about a foot in front of me with plenty of slack in their leashes.
“See, look at her, she walks both of her big dogs at the same time and they are so good!” I heard a neighbor say to someone as we walked by her yard.
“Oh, you missed the first part of our walk,” I thought to myself, “Jax is just worn out now!”
As we arrived home and I removed the harnesses and leashes from the dogs, my husband greeted me in the kitchen as I went to fill the paw washing buckets. “How was your walk?” he asked.
“Horrific! Do not accept any kisses from YOUR dog, he has a mouth full of goose poop ” I said.
“Uh, oh, Jax, it’s not good when she calls you my dog,” he said to Jax.
With paws washed, faces wiped down and their post-walk game of zoomies complete, both dogs crashed on the tile kitchen floor with their tongues happily lolling out of their mouths, and my stress from the walk started to fade. I picked up their food bowls and mixed a probiotic powder with water to give their immune systems a little boost and try to proactively thwart any upset stomach that Jax might get from his goose poop buffet.
Today is a brand new day and I’ve decided that while the geese are around I simply cannot walk both dogs through the park at the same time. I will walk them together elsewhere or I will walk them one at a time through the park.
At the end of the day, Jax is a dog, doing gross dog things. Of course it is my job to protect him from some of those dog instincts and figure out how to handle the situation better next time, but I shouldn’t be embarrassed because he went into some weird dog brain zone and stopped listening and following my rules.
No matter how much training you do, no matter how experienced of a dog owner you are, sometimes they just are going to do things in line with their instincts instead of their training. Jackson is most definitely amazing dog, in fact he is one of the best behaved dogs I have ever known. He is insanely smart with a beautiful disposition that I love unconditionally. If I wanted a perfect dog I could have bought a stuffed animal; good dogs can be the best dogs in the world without being perfect dogs.