Just as I think I understand this little dog, I learn something new. Bits of evidence click together and prove past assumptions incorrect. Or a reason emerges for ‘inexplicable’ behaviour. What once seemed very silly appears remarkably sensible. And what I thought of as ‘erratic’ suddenly clicks into place as a perfectly logical part of a pattern.
Good examples are: putting her collar around her neck; attaching her lead; securing her in her harness.
The problem with these procedures, as I have explained before, is that they can quickly descend into growling, snapping and very aggressive foot biting.
I tried to respond in exactly the same way to her ‘silliness’: she would sit still until the collar/lead/harness was on. It didn’t work. She became extremely irritable. So did I. It always ended in a self-attacking spin. Walking off in disgust didn’t work either. There was no food to engage her. She could happily play that game for ever.
In time, I was able to differentiate among her different responses. Putting her collar round her neck demanded the same sort of skills as the church fête game which requires you to thread a metal ring round twisty electrically charged wire without touching it. Those skills are not available to me in the morning. But slowly, I realised that the vigorous head shaking and low yuffing are playful, morning greeting behaviour.
Now I join in, cuddling her and wiggling the collar. Often, when she has played enough, she sits of her own accord. Sometimes, I indicate ‘enough’ and she sits. We’re both happy.
Having her lead put on to go into the garden is another potentially explosive scenario. We’re in quite a confined space and she’s about to be restrained. She hates being touched by a bit of dangling lead, or being held back so that she doesn’t bang her head on the edge of the door. When she tries to rush out she’s squeezed against my legs. Any of these mishaps frustrate her into a self-attacking spin.
Now, each time we go through the steps in exactly the same order. Open the back door. Clip on lead while administering comforting rub. Quickly into garden at same time as subverting a spin. Talking comfortingly to her all the time. For whether or not she hears me, she may pick up the tone, the undulations in my voice.
Walk in the offing? Grab two bits of jerky. Undo latch of front door. Isis sits demurely on mat. On with lead. Straight out of the door. Reward her with a piece of jerky. Put her in car. Back in house for harness, coat, gloves etc.
Put down jerky on back seat of car – out of her reach, of course. She sits or lies down. On with harness and safety strap. Reward with second piece of jerky. And off we go.
And today I realise that there are ‘happy’ spins as well as aggressive ones. Isis comes up before seven to wake me to let her out. Duty done, she gets a charcoal biscuit. I get a coffee. We return to bed.
But I overdo the lie-in. At nine Isis gets up. It’s definitely time for a walk. I deserve punishment and I get it. While I try to scramble into my clothes, she spins and spins. I stick out a leg now and then to slow her down. Not easy when you’ve only got one leg in your trousers or you’re pulling a jumper over your head. But we manage. I’m quite athletic.
What strikes me is that she is not growling. Although she is tail chasing, she is not attacking herself. Hmmm. I guess that although she is impatient, she is not frustrated.
Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.com