'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73
On February 15th 2004, just ten days after my eleventh birthday, I was taken out of school, on the pretense of having a dentist appointment, and taken to the then-local animal shelter (Stubbington RSPCA). After all my wheedling and whining, I was finally allowed a dog. Because of a few factors (time constraints, my age, wanting to help, etc) I had decided on getting an adult shelter dog rather than a puppy.
I saw Jess in the first run, and I fell in love with her. She was quiet and watchful, rather than barking and running around like many of the other dogs there (which, I now know, just showed her stress even more). I poked my fingers through the bars of the run and she licked them. That was it. She looked like a 'mini border collie' (my favourite breed, then and now) mixed with an 'overgrown jack russell' (another favourite breed), and she liked to lick strangers' hands.
There, the tale could have ended, as another family had arrived the previous day at the same time as my mum and her then-husband, who had been looking for dogs to see if they thought there was one that would take my fancy. My mum identified Jess at the same time as the other family was speaking to a member of staff about adopting her. However she was strictly not allowed to go to a home that had cats, due to her intense 'love' for them--and the other family had cats. Mum put a deposit down on Jess, and it paid off when, the next day, I too wanted her.
We took her for a walk, and she pulled a little, but mostly she was happy to walk and bounce around with us. Looking back now, I can understand why: J is one of the most people-loving dogs I know, and she was only not pulling because we were strangers desperately in need of licking. Within a couple of weeks, we'd had the home visit, Jess had been spayed, and then my brand new four year old girl was coming to her forever home.
When she got home, she stayed under the kitchen table for a day or so, hesitant about her new surroundings, but as soon as she adjusted she began showing her real colours: cuddly with people, reactive with other dogs when on-lead but fine off-lead (then, that is). Also, incredibly ignorant (hound/terrier deafness, of course) when something more interesting was going on--or she just couldn't be bothered to move from where she was.
She slowly became more dog-selective as she grew older - first she was testy with other females, then small dogs, then just small female dogs, then anything but big male dogs, then big, bouncy, young male dogs, and then, finally, with many dogs, not really caring about gender, age or size. She's never bitten another dog, and has only ever nipped at one that continually harrassed her. She usually runs at other dogs, barking in their faces, and will then proceed to either let them sniff or get stiff and snarl and air-snap. Obviously, she looks aggressive; and perhaps that is why she's been bitten a couple of times (once by a Staffie that ran at us before we even saw it, which punctured her neck; various little nips that haven't broken skin; and once by a collie-cross, near where we live, which punctured her leg/back when she was laid down watching it with the intent to run up and bark).
If I could change one thing about her, it would be her selective dog grumpiness. Some dogs (like most of my friends' dogs) are allowed to play, even allowed to sniff for extended periods of time. Others aren't allowed within five metres of her, or she will air-snap and shove them away. But Jess is Jess, I suppose; working with her on-leash reactivity with Look At That has made that better--and so has careful and active management whilst out--but she's always been the same when off-lead. So, from now on, she will be staying on a long line, and reeled in around other dogs unless she knows and likes them.
She's eleven now, and more than ever I don't want her (or anyone else) getting hurt.