My Doggelganger & the pain and suffering she brings on us all

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.

my doggelganger

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.

how can you resist such an adorable pup?

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:

totally not posed. note the empty bed behind them. they are in love!

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.

this is from literally 2 months ago and I still have a mark on my leg.

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.

What?!

stupid mean people make Lenny sad

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!”
  3. Increasing cuteness: it’s getting warm so no more hoodies, but hopefully we’ll have a few bows for her soon!
  4. 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.

13 Comments

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13 Responses to My Doggelganger & the pain and suffering she brings on us all

  1. Wow, so much to say here!
    A) I cannot believe how awful that dog bite is! Two months later and it looks like that!? And a goldendoodle….imagine if Lenny had done that (which she never would’ve).
    B) I’ve had someone do the SAME thing to Zoe! He grabbed her and held her up in the air in the middle of a huge dog park. Of course, all the dogs started going nuts and jumping at her, and she was terrified. I went up to the man and asked him what he was doing, and he said that “she wasn’t displaying proper behavior [she was doing the same flipping on her back thing!] and the dogs needed to smell her this way.” It was ridiculous. He was a big man and I was afraid to get into it with him. We have not gone back to a dog park since.
    C) We follow the same policies you listed above. It’s just not worth the risk. And the cuteness factor is fun!

    So sorry you’ve had such negative experiences. Know what you’re doing the right thing!

  2. JanS

    Every time I see a pit bull, I smile at the owner (overcompensating for all who snarl instead) and think of this article: http://www.ywgrossman.com/photoblog/?p=676

    Keep doing what you’re doing!

  3. pit bulls are so misunderstood; it breaks my heart. their natures are obedient and loyal, and it’s so sad that those traits, coupled with their strength, make them targets of such fierce abuse. i could do violent things to people who train dogs to be violent.

    when my neighbor moved in next door, i immediately baby-talked her beautiful pit bull, and she was so relieved i wasn’t scared. so unfair. (although, i have to admit…i saw a jack russell viciously attack a nearby dog, totally unprovoked, and sink his teeth into the owner’s arm as she tried to protect her dog. i have to admit i’m very leery of that breed now. one bad apple, i remind myself.)

    anyway, keep doing what you’re doing! i also use my pup as a spokesdog. one of the most common questions i get is: how old is he? i always answer: betweeen 4-6; we’re not sure because he’s a rescue. (subtext: yes, this sweet, beautiful dog is a rescue, and everyone should rescue dogs too.)

  4. Wiley

    Omg, so many thoughts:

    1. Thank you for writing this. unfortunately, owning a “dangerous” breed isn’t as easy as owning any other kind because people are uneducated and obtuse.
    2. As someone who’s probably going to be adopting a bully breed in the next few years, this is good info to know.
    3. I’m sure bully breeds in particular get this a lot more, but when I dogwalked a Tibetean Terrier (http://www.pupsforsale.net/tibetan_terrier_01_puppies_for_sale.jpg) with an impolite habit of charging other people and dogs (although totally out of excitement, he was just obnoxiously friendly), people reacted very poorly to him. People are just not rational about dogs sometimes. I’ve never had someone suspend him in the air though–yeesh, what an awful thing to do.

  5. Heather

    Some asshole picked up your dog by her collar?! That is so unacceptable on so many levels. That would totally make me want to bring a container of mace, but I wouldn’t be willing to risk getting any on the dog.

  6. Meredith

    I can’t believe that happened to you! :( I would think as any responsible dog owner, we should all know that there can be drawbacks to any breed. Not just the pit bull! Lenny is too freaking cute and one look from her and I could tell she’s a good pup. Mine on the other hand, I wouldn’t trust. He’s a crazy jack russell mix and I love him, but he has his moments. If anything were to happen and there was any sort or scuffle with another dog, the responsible thing to do is get control of your OWN dog!! I would never touch anyone else’s dog. Not cool!

  7. Benny & Lily

    some humans should be in cages
    Benny & Lily

  8. Ugh, I’m so sorry you’ve had so many negative experiences lately. People can be so ridiculous. Corey and I were just discussing how the next time we get a dog we’d like to seriously consider a pit bull, and it makes me so sad to see that so many people are still so biased against them!

  9. Whaaat!? You’re not a bad dog owner. In fact, I’d bet in a single week, you put much more thought and caring into your dogs’ behavior than other owners do in their entire life. I’m sorry you have to put up with that crap from people who don’t know their ass from their elbow from their dog’s behavior. That you restrained yourself from physically attacking the asshole who grabbed Lenny off the ground is commendable!

  10. Lenny is one of the most well-behaved dogs I’ve ever met. She is also tiny. Read: NOT SCARY, apparently except to people who are so breed-prejudiced that they cannot see the actual dog in front of them. It is both aggravating and terrifying that people have treated you and Lenny like that. You definitely handled the situation in the woods well. Staying calm and not escalating was probably your best bet for preventing him from harming your dogs further.

  11. This happens with us and our sweet little Virgil. He’s small, too, about fifty pounds depending on how much lunch he ate. We never take him to offleash parks because If another dog growls/snaps/lunges at him and he reacts in any way other than dropping dead immediately of fright, he’s an EVIL PITBULL. You know, never mind that he’s a mix of mostly non-pit things that happens to look like a pit. Once, we were walking him in our neighbor hood, and a large, offleash female hound came from a whole block away charging and attacking him. The owners were furious at US, calling us irresponsible when it was their dog who was off leash, unattended, and not up-to-date with her vaccines.
    Oh man, this comment was longer than I meant it to be.

  12. Listen, you have to have faith in what you are doing. You know a lot about dogs, you are doing the absolute best that anyone ever in the history of the world could possibly be doing. Stop worrying about what other people think so much! Also, maybe try to see where these people are coming from. According to the CDC, 800,000 people are bit by a dog each year. You know what that means? Sh*t load of trauma. People see a pitbull and get scared- they probs read some article about a pitbull biting and killing a baby this morning- in reality, they are more likely to get a nasty bite from a terrible labradoodle (looks so bad!) than your pitbull. It’s kind of like how women don’t walk along the esplanade at night for fear of rapists when in reality they are more likely to be assaulted by a friend or a partner. Anyways, what i’m trying to say is that the reaction you are getting doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you as an owner or even Lenny as a dog. Pitbulls get some bad press, and even though I love me some dogs, I’m even scared of them. I mean, let’s be real, if Lenny bit me, it would effing hurt, maybe even maim or kill. Right? She won’t- and I know that, and you know that, but these other people don’t know that. They don’t know her and they don’t know you. It sounds like, just like a lot of things, building relationships with your fellow park goers could go a long way. maybe avoiding that park is the wrong approach but going back and giving people time to see that your baby isn’t a monster would actually help your case more than cutesy bows and tricks- you know? I think keeping her on the leash in public is great- if people give you crap for having your adorable dog on a leash it’s not about you- it’s about them. Sorry you had a bad week. xoxo.

    http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Dog-Bites/dogbite-factsheet.html

  13. pamaloo

    am i the only one who would seriously consider hauling off and smacking these people? seriously, you touch my dog, you lose a testicle. end of story. my pit bull may be the sweetest thing on the planet, but his mama has anger issues, so watch it world.

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