My Dog Molly: The Paradox

A girl's discovery about her dog and herself.

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friends and favours

I haven’t written much at all in the last few months; nothing in fact. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been working on Molly’s behaviour, it just means it’s been slow and, thankfully, uneventful.

Back in November we met with a new trainer who got to observe Molly’s actions. It wasn’t an easy afternoon and I’ll be honest and say there were a few tears on my part. But there was hope and guidance. Unfortunately, I live an hour and a half from this trainer and with winter it meant regular training sessions with her would be limited. She is available via email though and that, in itself, is helpful.

For many reasons some of the trainer’s recommendations weren’t working for us…it’s tough to schedule friends to come over to expose Molly safely to new people around Christmas time, and I’m afraid to admit I was nervous inviting just anyone over. It was a combination of fear of what she’d do and my issue of being judged as a ‘bad owner’. I’ve read too many newspaper articles about dogs attacking people and the comments about how it’s the ‘bad owners’. I know I shouldn’t let others opinions impact me but sometimes they do and that’s an unfortunate reality. But, in order for Molly to learn proper manners, and me to learn to be more assertive, I had to get over that fear.

So for the last few months we’ve focused on the leash. I stopped running so we could do the proper training; ensuring Molly stays by my side and not ahead of me. She hasn’t pulled for well over a year now but she is challenged by the idea of walking beside or behind me. Our walks take longer and can get frustrating (every time she gets ahead of me I quietly change directions…this can lead to a lot of back and forth given her stubbornness) but she’s gotten so much better.

Then, this weekend, was the big test. Two of my very dear friends were coming out for a visit. Part of me was tempted to put Molly in the kennel as I knew she’d be a challenge but I couldn’t do that, I knew I shouldn’t do that. So I emailed our trainer and asked her advice–she gave me lots of tips on how to handle the whole situation, and how to help my friends handle Molly…and that’s the thing, Molly has to learn to work for others, not just me.

It began as I expected, Molly barking, growling, and lunging at both of them. They were careful not to make eye contact with her or try to pet her. They listened to all my instructions and ignored her completely. It was awkward at first but Molly quickly calmed down. When she would quietly approach them and sniff then walk away they would respond with “good girl.” Soon, she was comfortable with them both. In fact, she would approach one of them often and lay her head on her lap for a pet–my friend would then ask for Molly’s paw, or ask her to sit before petting

Molly had a more challenging time with my other friend but that will come. I had this friend make Molly work a bit more for any rewards. I cut up some carrots and she would ask Molly to sit and then throw them away so she’d have to come back and ask for more. This seemed to go well and Molly calmed towards her but still wouldn’t let any petting happen. That’s okay though. It will come. We just need to keep working.

OES, dog behavior, aggressive, fear aggression

Molly getting a scratch from my friend, J. We were all pretty happy.


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work it, girl

The number one rule Molly and I live by is she has to work for everything.

You want a scratch behind the ear? Sit pretty.

Expecting a belly rub? Roll over.

Want me to throw that ball to continue our game of fetch? Give paw.
Well, you asked for it, you got it. This is Molly giving paw with cold like eyes like no other dog gave paw before…


Progress on everything else has slowed though. We just can’t seem to get past that hurdle of her aggression to other dogs and the occasional person. Her behaviourist has actually recommended that perhaps Molly would benefit from meeting her mentor. So, we made the appointment and will make the trip to the big city in a week and a bit. I’m kind of excited…I wonder if Molly will be too?

In the meantime, I need to get my girl in to the vet for her annual visit. I’m a little nervous about how she’ll react as the last visit wasn’t so great (a bit of snapping happened). As a preventative measure I bought a cloth muzzle. I never, ever thought I’d put one on my puppy but I have to just to be safe. Over the last couple weeks we’ve been practicing putting it on and leaving it on for longer periods of time. She doesn’t like but she doesn’t fight it. A bit of a necessary evil I guess.

Hopefully, all will go well with this new trainer we might be able to ease away from some having to use tools like the muzzle.



i am rubber and you are glue…

For the last two weeks I got to enjoy family, friends, the ocean, seafood, hiking, and camping. The only thing missing was M. Because I had to fly for nine hours it was best that she stay at the kennel with people she knew and care about her. I try to tell myself she has fun there but she always comes back exhausted and longing for peace. This time she came back with kennel cough, or rather, Bordetella.

Yes, she was vaccinated but like the human flu vaccine it doesn’t protect against all strains. The owner of the kennel was upfront about the whole thing and already had the vet up to visit her and start antibiotics. She’s already on the mend but I can sense it is tiring her out a little. To sweeten the healing a little I’m also giving her some unpasteurized local honey to sooth the throat. She seems to like it.

We start back with the socialization training this week but instead of involving another dog and risking it getting infected we are just going to do a few walks and see how she interacts with the world. It’s a little less controlled but so too are our walks. And after last night’s walk I’m learning that sometimes people are more vicious than dogs.

Everything started out perfect. Molly was by my side the whole way just enjoying the world around her. Because of the heat I decided to take her on a lower pathway that was well sheltered by trees. I tend to avoid this path as it can make for some tight quarters should another dog come along and I don’t want to set M up for failure. But it was a quiet day and I thought I’d take my chances.

We were almost through the trail when I noticed a lovely little Boarder Collie coming towards us off leash…note…this is NOT an off leash area, I avoid those for M’s sake. I saw the owner and yelled out calmly, “my dog can be reactive, please call your dog back to you.” He didn’t respond so I yelled out again. Finally, he called his dog but she didn’t respond and kept coming towards us. It wasn’t until the dog was about five feet in front of us did M react, and not pleasantly. I proceeded to pull her into the shrubs and put myself between her and the approaching dog. Finally, the owner grabbed his dog’s collar and muttered something unintelligible. Frustrated I said to him, “You realize this is not an off leash park.”

Well, that set him off on a nasty, rude tangent calling me a variety of names and trying to insult me. Then he proceeded to say he was going to call the police because my dog should be muzzled. Now this confused me because I now had control over her and she was calmly sitting behind me as he continued to berate me with insults. I tried to engage him in an adult conversation but he seemed to only want to rant, yell, and scream obscenities. It was horrible. Even his dog was cowering…which concerned me especially if that interaction was indicative of his day-to-day temperament.

I did respond back to him and I’m not overly proud of it. Ideally I should have just moved on but I didn’t. I kept trying to get him to calm down and understand what I was trying to say but he would have none of it. Eventually, I did move on…shaken and upset that someone would behave that way. His words directed at me really didn’t hurt, I kept remembering that childhood rhyme “I am rubber and you are glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” What bothered me most was what he was saying about my dog–she handled herself extremely well in this scenario…better than he did!

All I can do is wonder what possesses a grown person to behave in such an awful manner. Perhaps I’m naive but maybe he was having a terrible time of things and I was his trigger and he now regrets his behaviour. One can only hope right?

In the meantime, my little girl is healing and playing quietly with her squirrels. 🙂