One of the things I actively detest is when my dog gets fearful. That she does on occasion, particularly when it comes to the dog run at Bishan Park.
This article is a continuation to – Dog Socialisation 1 – What do you think of when you hear the word “socialisation”?
An off-leash JRT that approached Donna during our walk at the park.
We brought our dog Donna to a Dog Daycare Centre for a temperament assessment a few weeks back. We realised, as we watched Donna trying to blend into the wall in that room full of other dogs at the Dog Daycare Centre, that she does not get to play with other dogs enough to know how to deal with this sort of situation.
After that she further showed us how true that thought was when she started to show a tendency to mount the dog she was playing with when the dog run was over crowded with dogs. She gets too excited and humps the dog she is playing with. And the over-arousal makes her less responsive to recall and other cues we try to distract her from the obsession with trying to gyrate against another dog.
That is a big word, isn’t it? And one that is not particularly intuitive either.
Just a couple of weeks ago, we took Donna for
an audition a temperament assessment with a Dog Daycare Center. Before that, the owner had asked me over email, “what breed is your dog”. And when I replied mongrel, I was asked – “Is your dog socialised?”
To say I got my hackles up was an understatement. I got the underlying implication that mongrels are likely to be trouble-makers, and further conversation with the owner of the daycare center confirmed the truth of my suspicions. The owner said that the few times they had a mongrel, it had caused them problems.
Do we look like problems to you?
The other day my mom wanted to visit me but I was taking Donna out to the dog run.
And what does she do there, my mother wanted to know.
Oh, she runs around with the other dogs… you chase me… I chase you … like children.
There is a rather child-like quality about dogs that gets endearing, isn’t there?
This white husky looks bigger than Donna but she is only 7 mths old to Donna’s 4 years :P
So we go for a walk. A walk is when you put one foot in front of the other continuously and that movement carries you away to some place else.
Lately, she has decided that a walk also requires you to stay in place for a long time. A loooonnng time. Donna decidedly enjoys just standing in one spot, sniffing the air, listening and observing passerbys.
Rooted in the same spot, observing the world go by.
This is the cute, happy face you see if you are walking towards us.
Considering Donna had a pretty dull time the later part of our visit to III Cafe, we decided to stop by the Bishan Dog Run which was on the way home.
We haven’t been inside for quite some time since Donna had gotten fearful of the place the last couple of times she was chased by dogs there. Subsequently, I did take her to the park so that we practice staying calm while walking past the fenced-in doggy area. She did not appear averse to entering that day, so we thought we’d try bringing her in and hanging around the area where there were less dogs… except that three dogs immediately lopped towards our area to check her out.
While Donna did not jump for joy, she was not as fearful as she was previously as well. What she did was to duck under the park bench when she got uncomfortable with the attention and then make exploratory forays from there. In, out, in, out until she was comfortable with her new friends.
I didn’t start taking any pictures until later when I was assured that she was having fun with the other dogs.
If this brown dog had some spots, he would look like Scooby-doo! :P Looking at this picture, I think I start to get why Ruby’s human thinks that Ruby’s black coat looks too dense in colour. Donna’s black coat does stand out but does not look as nice as the brown dog’s softer tones against the surroundings.
Checking out the white dog who preferred the fence to them. :P
Is that a border collie? I’m not good at identifying breeds. Still that’s a lot of hair!!
We limited her to 15 minutes of play time in the dog run so that we could leave on a very positive note for her. She was so dog-tired, she didn’t even blink an eyelid at the close up shot at home. :P
If you are interested, Dr Sophia Yin has a great poster on Dog Park Etiquette that can be downloaded for free as well as tips how to train a dog to prevent him from being part of any unhappy situation that may escalate in a dog park in the dog park. Southslope.org has a nice Dog Park Etiquette Poster with lots of useful tips for adults and for parents with children on how we can help make the dog park an enjoyable place for all humans and dogs and also what to do, if a fight breaks out.
Ever since I decided to take Donna down three times a day for her morning walk and two pee breaks, to cut down on the cleaning and disinfecting I need to do at home, I get out of the house more often.
But going down just for the dog to inspect the grass can get boring. Although I’m sure the dog will disagree on that point. I mean, look at it.
That’s the, “It’s opening. It’s opening….oh, it’s not opening…. quick open the door so we can go out” look.
Anyway, once out of the door I start to plan the route we’re going to take because going down the same path all the time is really boring. But pee breaks are really short, and the path can’t differ all that much. That’s when we started to get creative and try to include doing errands on pee breaks.
Some nights, I dropped used and rinsed drink and dog food cans into the recycling bin that is a mere 3 minutes walk away. Or paper into the paper recycling bin which is just by our development. Drop the mail into the postbox. Go withdraw money at the ATM. Anything, as long as it is outdoors and accessible for a person with a dog. It’s really how creative we can get with the limitations that we experience living in a highly urbanised environment which may not be as dog friendly as some countries in the west.
The other night we drove out with the dog to the town hub. One of us goes to buy takeaway while the other walks and sits with the dog so that she also gets to be in a place with more strangers walking about their business. And Donna is getting good at sitting and staying for longer periods if the human is attached to the leash. She doesn’t react when people walk pass her. And she seem to be happy enough to sit and stare at groups of people, the man pushing the trolley in the distance, etc, etc. And mostly people just ignore her presence, except for kids who may go “woof, woof” at her.
Yesterday night we met a trio of kids that made me laugh.
Kid 1: Is it a girl? (referring to the dog)
Kid 2: Will she bite?
Kid 3: Of course she won’t bite, she’s a girl!
Heated discussion among themselves start.
But yes, I learnt something new that night, girl-dogs don’t bite! : D
At some point in my short dog-walking life I have learn that some dogs pay no heed when Donna and I walked pass them. But sometimes, the dog reacts quite vocally. We had something like a German Shepard bark at us before. We met two small chihuahuas, one was curious but the other one in the owner’s arm started to cry like we are murdering it. It’s not about the size of the dog, not really. The biggest dog we ever walked past on the same park path looked more interested than aggressive, and Donna was certainly even more interested as well the way she was staring and tugging.
But nowadays more often than not, we just continue walking past the other dogs, whether they yelp at us or no. One reason being Donna’s mild kennel cough symptoms, which we wouldn’t want to expose other dogs to. The other being, I would prefer Donna to stay focused on the walk rather than get accustomed to stopping to check out every friendly or fierce dog on the way. It had never occurred to me to do it but when I read on this blog (which I have taken to stalking, omg~) that if there was already a dog on the sidewalk, they would cross the road to other side, I thought that’s probably a good thing to follow when necessary. (They are prolific posters so I can’t find the exact blog post :P).
We live in a flat situated in one of four apartment blocks that are connected on the second floor by a common carpark rooftop garden. Donna and I have been taking our short 10min walks here. We don’t see other dogs every time we are here, but when we do, it was always a toy or a small dog because these are HDB-approved. This morning there was a small brown dog with his owner. We saw them across the children’s playground in the middle of the garden so we stopped to see which side they would take. They went left, so we went right and arc-ed around the playground in the middle. The nice man gave us a smile and neither of us made to interact more than that or for our dogs to meet.
The garden is a pleasant place, especially when it is not dirtied by random late night parties where people leave trash all over and if you choose to ignore the small yellow puddles of dog pee on the wall, by the drains, by the corners of the stone seats. I really hate that so I always make Donna pee on the grass only. Although sometimes Donna will get overwhelmed by the other dogs’ scent and pee on the pavement quickly before I can stop her. And when I do catch her, she is already in mid-pee and I’ll overreact and immediately pull her towards the grass. So yes, it would look like a mad woman hauling a dog with pee drops flying in an arc as they flee towards the grass! I am so sorry fellow residents for the pee spray :( I always feel sorry afterwards for Donna’s poor neck too. Nowadays, once she starts to fixate on sniffing the concrete, I just make her sit. Though Mr P prefers to be mobile so he would shift her collar up her neck and shorten the leash so that Donna had no choice but to walk with her head up in the air rather than with her nose vacuuming the ground. So with time and between us, maybe we will slowly have a dog that as a way of life pee and poop only on the grass and can sit for a time with patience regardless of the distractions all around.
We had just walked past the playground when Donna’s nose started hoovering the pavement again, so I made her sit. I looked up to find an old gardener further up the path looking at us.
“That’s a mongrel,” he remarked. Yes, I agreed.
“She is local? A Singapore dog?”
“Yes” Online, people have called dogs like Donna the Singapore Special.
In the world of casual acquaintanceship, you can always strike up a conversation with some random stranger without ever knowing their names. You may even know their dogs’ names, but the humans, they rarely offer theirs and I never think to ask or identify myself.
That was how it was with this man, whom we shall henceforth call Uncle Gardener. It is common to see Indian workers clearing weeds, trash and basically doing all those cleaning and maintenance duties that our town councils have employed them for. Uncle Gardener is a true blue Singaporean, who tells me how he used to have a dog like Donna with sibuk or four eyes (if you count the distinctive tan spots above her eyes as eyes!). But his was a local short legged dog and smaller than Donna. They used to have so many dogs in the kampong (traditional village), called Johnny, Bobby, etc.
“Wait a minute, why do these dogs have English names?” I asked, “Didn’t they have names like Ah-Fu (Good Fortune) or Ah-Wang (Prosperity).”
Oh yes, he replied, Ah Fu, Ah Wang, Ah Or (Black), Or-Or (Black-Black).
I kept making Donna sit every time she stands up.
“What is her name?”
“Oh, Donna,” he proceeds to call her, “Donna, Donna, Johnny, Donny, Ah Or…”
Donna looks everywhere, distracted.
Uncle Gardener starts to tell me about the community cats that go to him to be fed in the morning. He thought they must have been abandoned, they were all neutered. He fed him with kibble, $8 a bag. No fish, he says, it’s too dirty if they leave the fish half eaten. They finish up all the dry kibble when they are hungry.
I remarked that Donna is a picky eater and wouldn’t eat kibble by itself.
In those days in the kampong, we don’t feed them in the morning or afternoon, Uncle Gardener said. We only feed them at night. They are hungry by then, they eat anything. All the day’s leftover food is slopped into a pail and all the dogs and cats go at it.
“What? Wouldn’t the dogs and cats fight if they have to all eat from the same pail?” I asked.
No, the dogs give way to the cats, said Uncle Gardener. At night the cats crawl into the dogs and snuggle against them to go to sleep. The dogs give way, raise their legs, adjust their bodies and sometimes they end up rolled over by the cat!
I was tickled and wondered how Donna would react if we got a cat.
“I used to have a dog just like her,” Uncle Gardener repeated, “but then the government relocated us to live in the flat. And I was told that it is illegal to take my dog with me. I had to leave it in the kampong and they rounded all the dogs up and took them away. I never saw it again.”
I felt bad for Uncle Gardener and didn’t know what to say.
She is a good dog, he said. These mongrels learn very fast and they are very obedient. Can you shake hand?
I walked Donna over and got her to offer him her paw to shake.
“She don’t know ‘shake hand’? ‘Paw’, what language is that?” he asked.
I explained that Donna was taught at the shelter to respond to ‘paw’. It means her foot.
“Oh, paw, paw…”
After sitting for so long Donna was restive so we said goodbye.
“She is a good dog, not like our neighbour’s dogs, always fighting and noisy.”
And so we part ways, but maybe we will meet again downstairs at the garden. Or maybe, we will make other casual acquaintances with their own story to tell.