Before we got Lenny, someone sent me a link to the Doggelganger.
Using the Doggelganger, you upload a picture of your face and they use highly scientific software to determine your exact canine match out of a pool of homeless dogs. I was pleased to see that my match was a cute staffordshire mix.
Fastforward several months later. We adopted little Lenny – can you believe how tiny & scrawny she is in this picture? I can’t believe how little she was!
When we first got her, I immediately emailed Two Pitties in the City to ask what we needed to prepare for with a pit bull. What answers did we need to come up with in response to questions about her? Should I admit she’s a pit bull? They had a great post with some of their suggestions.
Honestly, we didn’t really run into any problems with Lenny for months. She loves everyone, and runs up to dogs and people wagging her whole body. She is just thrilled to be alive. The only thing she seems not to like is a dog down the street that barks occasionally, and Lenny barks back.
Well, this past week, everything changed. Lenny, I guess, has grown into a real, live, nearly-adult pit bull. She’s still small, a little larger than a big cocker spaniel, but she’s got more of an adult dog head and body than before. She’s nearing 11 months, so I guess we’re right on schedule.
The thing is, I have been preparing myself for comments. Things like, “Is that a pit bull?” or “Keep your dog away!” What I was not prepared for were the people who simply react with disgust or even downright aggression.
To keep a long story relatively short, last week the dogs and I were out hiking in the woods near where I work. Dogs are allowed off-leash there, and we haven’t had any issues with other dogs or people there before. It’s a great place to go because afterwards, my otherwise-rambunctious dogs look like this:
Anyway, Lenny sees a dog around the corner and goes flying over to meet it. The dog snaps at her, and Daph is immediately all, “OH, you want some of THIS!” Scary looking but totally not serious canine tussle ensues. I get control of both my dogs, and the man grabs Len’s collar and holds her up in the air a la Cesar M*lan. The Dog Wh*sperer must have some impressive PR people because I have seen him do this on his show and cannot find a single image of it on Google search. I suppose we should be grateful for that.
I look at him and say, “I have her.” He does not let go, just stares me in the eye while holding her off the ground by her collar. Finally he lets go.
To review: friendly pit puppy runs up to his dog. His dog snarls, so my hound dog jumps in and very mild fighting ensues. Man grabs the single friendly dog in the situation and hangs her. Seriously?!
Two days later, we are at a different park – because hello PTSD! – where dogs are allowed off-leash. We go there less since I got bit by a Goldendoodle a couple of months ago.
So Lenny and I go to the woods, leaving Daphne at home, since she’s clearly going to leap to Lenny’s defense and I don’t need more of that. Well, three border collies come running up and pounce on Lenny. She tries to run away, gets caught, rolls over and shows her belly, and tries to run away again. I catch her and chase the dogs away. The woman apologizes, and I explained that this was the second time this had happened in a matter of days, and Lenny was behaving appropriate. She then proceeded to explain to me that, no, Lenny was not being appropriate, and that’s why her dog was forced to flip my dog, and that my dog should probably never be exposed to other dogs again, since she’ll now be “iffy” for the rest of her life.
The thing about it is that I don’t think anyone would have said or done these things to Daphne. Maybe part of the reason for that is that Daphne would never allow a strange man to grab her collar, where Lenny’s all, “Hi strange man! You seem nice! I love having all of my feet off the ground! Let’s be best friends!” But I suspect that it’s more because she is growing into her pittieness. She’s not a wiggly puppy anymore; she’s a wiggly dog.
Also last week, I was out running with her and we stopped at a stoplight. There was a huge guy standing next to me, and he made eye contact with Len. She immediately started wagging, and he took a step away. “You should be careful with that dog,” he said gruffly. “She might be dangerous.” I laughed and then the light changed… and then I realized he wasn’t kidding. He looked totally nervous. He was terrified of my 40-pound wiggly puppy.
My solution to all of this? There are a few things:
- No more off-leash work anywhere but our yard. This takes out the issue of people misinterpreting or grabbing at my dog altogether. I’m sad to not be able to go play in the woods, but we’re going running and hopefully she’ll have a stellar recall in the next couple months and we can return to dog-friendly spaces.
- Cute tricks! She already has some basics: “sit”, “down”, and a stellar “stay”. We are improving her army crawl (adorable!) and teaching her to wave in response to “say hi!”
- Increasing cuteness: it’s getting warm so no more hoodies, but hopefully we’ll have a few bows for her soon!
- Visibility & training: we are working every day on loose leash walking and Lenny is going everywhere with me. The more people who see a friendly, well-behaved pittie, the better!
I’m not at all regretting the decision to adopt a pit bull; in fact, I’m proud that we got such a good one who is turning into such a great spokesdog! But I do have to admit that some days it takes a lot out of me to have people yell that I am a bad person or tell me that my dog is vicious simply because of what she looks like.
Have you had to deal with these kinds of responses? What would you do? If you are nervous about dogs, what would help? Any words of wisdom or thoughts about how I’m not the worst dog owner ever would be greatly appreciated.
Note: there are some good articles and videos on “dominance” in dogs and using the “alpha roll” technique here and here. Check them out! I love the comparison of Cesar M*lan’s dog grooming tehcnique and Sophia Yin’s. Short version: 1. Dogs do not roll each other, they offer their bellies and that’s it. 2. Dominance training sucks. Aaaand done.