(Originally posted on Aug 2, 2010)
Pit bulls are a wonderful breed: loyal, courageous, smart, handsome dogs. Dogs who occasionally like to eat other dogs. It's embarrassing to have a reactive dog. You can feel the stares when your dog flips out over the little dog in it's yard a block away. Or when your dog tries attacks the dog next to her in training class. Or when he rips through the window screen to get to the dog walking by outside. You see other people walking their dogs and think, What's wrong with my dog? Or even, What's wrong with me? It's lonely and humiliating and a little scary to be at the other end of that leash. But you're not alone.
Hello. My name is Laura, and I have a reactive dog.
Actually, I have two reactive dogs. Many of you have heard about Maus, but the story of his reactivity is in its final chapters (I hope). I want to document for those of you with reactive dogs the tale of Rubi and me. I'm skeptical that it's possible to "cure" dog reactivity or aggression, but I know it can be managed to the point that no one but you and your dog know the truth. This diary is not a training guide. I'm not telling you what you should be doing. This is the diary of Rubi and me: what works for us and what doesn't, our bad days and our good days, and how the story ends. So, without further rambling, here's the cast of characters:
Rollin' Rubi Tuesday
Like many owners of rescue dogs, I don't know what happened in Rubi's past. Here's what I think I know: Rubi spent the first year and a half of her life on a chain in someone's back yard. I don't know where, I don't know why, I don't know under what conditions, and I don't know what that person was thinking. I'm sure Rubi caused all kinds of trouble for her "owner," probably stemming from a lack of stimulation and socialization. Whatever happened, Rubi ended up in rescue at a foster home. She got a roof over her head, more than adequate food, fresh water,companionship, love, and - from what I've been told - not a whole lot more. I'm not in anyway criticizing her former foster; we each give all that we can. Rubi lived there for two years, and as things ended up, outliving the director of that rescue.
This is when A Rotta Love Plus (ARLP) got involved. We listed Rubi (then Baby) on the website, and after only a few months she was adopted. What can I say about the woman who adopted her? She tried very hard to make it work, and she failed. I got involved at this point: I found a typical wild, untrained, unruly, impressively reactive pit bull who had zero trust in her owner and a frustrated, unhappy, upset owner with zero trust in her dog. It didn't work out. When Rubi came back to the rescue, they asked me to take her in. I said no. She went to live with Brit (thanks Brit! ), where for probably the first time in her life, she had rules and expectations. She went to Rott 'n' Pit Ed. She was having a grand ol' time of it, until M (Brit's dog) needed surgery. Rachel asked me again to take Rubi in. Thanks to pressure from my husband, I caved. I think you can guess the rest.
Crazy Dog Geek
I'm from Wisconsin, so right off you know I'm a little weird. I started training dogs for therapy work when I was twelve. When I was fifteen, I got my first job at the local animal shelter. I used the money to take dog training classes. By the time I stopped working at the animal shelter, I was the kennel manager and did animal control three days (and nights) a week. I moved to Duluth for college where I fostered behavior cases and medical cases (often the same dog). And I started competing in obedience. I began teaching classes when I was twenty-two, and I start assisting with the Reactive Rover class at Twin Cities Obedience Club (TCOTC) about six months ago. I'm not going to tell you how old I am now. I've been with ARLP for over two years now. I have a husband I've known for more than a decade, four cats, four cockatiels, a fish tank, a house in the 'burbs, a few dogs, and the American Dream. And that's enough about me.