Shake It Off.



I think my biggest mistake as a dog owner is holding onto crappy moments long after they’ve passed.  Not only does this not fix the problem, but I think Rufus can pick up that I’m frustrated or irritated which makes him unsure and anxious as well.  And what does this do?  It makes the rest of our walk/hike/adventure/experience a total mess.

For instance: this morning, I was expecting a visit from our maintenance man.  He’s a very sweet guy who is totally cool with Rufus and his weirdo ways. I’m sure he’s a pro due to the fact that most of our neighbors own at least one dog, most of them yappy and untrained.

The first few times he had to come in and fix something, Rufus was very barky and rude.  I leashed him while treating him for being calm, doing tricks, etc.  Since then, he’s been better.  Most of the time he just barks a few times and then goes back to laying on the couch while the dude does his job.

But today totally sucked.  I was in the middle of breakfast when he knocked on the door.  Rufus barked a few times, and then I let him in.  At first, Rufus was actually excited to see him.  He was relaxed with his tail wagging.  Totally great, right?  Well, while I was showing the guy our broken door, Rufus snatched my breakfast off the table!  This is something he never, ever does.  Usually I can leave the room for an extended period of time without having to worry about him devouring my meal.  The only other time he’s done this was the first time the maintenance man came to our door, but that was because I had left dog treats on the coffee table in anticipation for our training experience. Does it make it different if he eats his own food instead of mine?  Probably not, but this time really shocked me.

I didn’t catch him in the act, so I really couldn’t do anything about it.  So my annoyance level went up a few notches. While the guy was in our home, I sat on the couch talking to him while Rufus snoozed by my feet.  And then?  The guy went to leave and Rufus jumped up and nipped at his pant leg.  I have NO CLUE why he would think this was ok to do, but I was so shocked and embarrassed.  I apologized a million times.  Again, the maintenance guy was really understanding, saying “I honestly don’t even think he wanted to bite me – he just gave me a little warning air-nip.”  Of course I was relieved he didn’t make contact, but I’m also concerned about this behavior.  It seems like a herding instinct, but I can’t remember him doing this before, so I have no real answer.

I immediately gave Rufus a time out in his crate.  I didn’t yell or shove him in, but I was fuming inside.  I’m sure Rufus could sense this, but he went in his crate willingly and waited for me to give him the “ok.”  It’s not an ideal lesson to be learned, but at least it’s something.

I try hard to stay upbeat and positive in these negative moments, but it can be so hard when you feel so helpless.  When you’re as connected to your companion animal as I am with Rufus (and I’m sure many of you feel the exact same way), it feels so personal and as if you’ve messed them up.  But I know that Rufus has learned more good than bad since we took him into our home.  It’s just moments like this that can wipe away any progress you’ve made as a team…

Ugh…what a way to start my weekend.




17 thoughts on “Shake It Off.

  1. Deep cleansing breaths! You have not messed Rufus up. Here is the dirty little secret of life, we are all works in progress. I live with two dogs who provided me with endless ‘opportunity’ for training. It does not mean they are bad dogs or that I am a crappy dog owner, it means that there is always more to learn. I know this was scary (I probably would have cried and made my morning coffee and adult version!) but you will (and should) shake it off and just think about how to work on it. Jake nips ankles — sometimes it seems like playing, sometimes not. I find it to be not OK so we are working on ways when visitors are over for him to have spacial boundaries. You are not alone!

    • Thank you for the kind words. I knew there was a reason I wrote this little blog 🙂

      Rufus definitely needs space and boundaries, so this is something we’re going to have to work on inside our home. The fact is that we have a lot less foot traffic now that we live alone and across the country from our friends and family. In Chicago, we had a roommate and regular visitors. Even though he was still cautious, he would often find comfort in staying by my side or going to his own place somewhere in the house. Now our place is smaller and many of the people are strangers and irregular visitors.

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one going through this. I do think his nip was out of fear, unfortunately, and not play. He was most likely protecting me but I’m glad it was minor. Here’s to more training! Forever, haha.

  2. Oh man. So sorry you had to go through this. It can be really surprising when this happens to anyone. The things that stuck out to me – paired with things that you’ve told me about Rufus in general – were: 1) He was sleeping. Rufus isn’t the only dog out there that may hate or retaliate if someone wakes him. 2) He was sleeping near you. I believe you have mentioned before that he sometimes exhibits guarding behavior; could’ve been that the guy walked too close to you or something.

    Anyway, keep a close eye on him anytime the same situation comes up. And forgive yourself and Rufus for not realizing this was a possibility. You’ll be ever more vigilant next time, I know it.

    • I think you are absolutely right – his reaction was a mix of being startled as well as a warning to the guy, “Back up, you’re too close to my person.” He never does that with people he knows well, so it’s got to be nervous behavior.

      I’ve also had time to process why he grabbed food off of my plate. Rufus has reactivity issues, and I think he gets flustered and excitable in these moments and loses any kind of focus to do what’s right. It’s almost impulsive behavior. The food thing only bothered me as much as it did because he is sooooo good about leaving things alone he knows aren’t his, so it shocked me. Ugh..

      Thanks for the support and we will be sure to figure this out and manage this behavior.

  3. Thank goodness you have a maintenance person who respects Rufus and is understanding of body language indicating an uncomfortable dog! Ours tries to pet the dogs while I try to say that they cannot be petted until they sit down and hush up because they are struggling with properly greeting visitors. At least he likes them, though.

  4. I don’t think you’ve messed Rufus up in the least bit! In fact you’ve given him the best gift of all, a loving home with a responsible owner who takes the time to teach him right from wrong. No matter how far along in training we are it seems like there is something that will come up, it’s a work in progress sort of thing. We all have our issues we’re working on!

    I’m glad your maintenance man was understanding and doesn’t feel like anything bad happened.

  5. Oh no! Do not be so hard on yourself! Like you said, you know he has learned more good than bad – don’t discount that! I’ve had my little Maggie for over a year and while she has vastly improved, she is still terrified of men. I completely understand how you can take it personally, because I do too, but jut remind yourself how much good you have done! No one is perfect, and after all, aren’t the quirks our best features?

    • You’re right. I fell for Mr. Rufus because he was a work in progress, a dog I had to work on and one that respects and trusts me 100%. I know this is a learning opportunity we can get through, but it can be so exhausting when you feel like you’ve tried everything.

    • Oh no, you too? I would love to bond over our dog’s poor behavioral issues. We’ve had some ups and downs lately, and I definitely have my moments of hopelessness. Feel free to message me if I don’t get to you first 🙂

  6. Having experienced moments like that and worse, I can completely understand your anxiety. You did the right thing, and I’m glad the maintenance man was understanding. Keep the faith in your Rufus.

  7. I know how this can feel!
    Braylon recently nipped at Jay’s brother’s hand–actually made contact! She used to be super afraid of him and hadn’t seen him in over a year. Well the day prior to the incident she had been around him for several hours, happy, wagging, and over-enthusiastic kissing. The next day he walked in the door and bam…she just ran at him barking and nipped his hand. I was horrified and sick about it and didn’t know what to think–it’s not a people thing with her, it’s a thing she’s had with him forever but it really made me a mess inside.
    You do AMAZING work with Rufus– always nice to see people understand too.

    • Ugh I feel your pain. Even though I have worked with Rufus since day one, I realize he will always have hang-ups I will have to work hard to manage.

      Isn’t it strange when dogs have hang-ups on extremely specific things/people? Rufus will randomly meet a new person and INSTANTLY trust and love him/her. It happens very rarely, but it has happened before! Such weird, wonderful, difficult creatures 😉

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