Eight Facets of Canine Aggression, a guide to assertive behavior management, is in the wrap up stages. White Fang Ventures is going to offer a preview of this detailed work by posting an excerpt a week from each section of the book leading right up to the publishing date. Enjoy!
CHAPTER ONE: MANAGEMENT (Primary Handlers Safety Equipment)
I still remember the very first dog bite I received. I was about six years old and playing with those little, plastic soldiers in the gutter in front of my house; when my best friend Freddy came over with some of his soldiers to play. Taffy, his not so friendly Cocker Spaniel came with him. I never did like that dog, but I did like Freddy so Taffy was part of the deal. Like many of the American Cockers today, Taffy didn’t take much crap and she was known for biting people who boldly walked up to within spitting distance of her house, and I do mean HER house. No one in Freddy’s family was foolish enough to try and take hold of that little, blonde devil as long as she was busy laying down the law with some outsider. On occasion, Freddy’s mom or dad would scream out “Taffy, supper time” and if Taffy were hungry enough or simply board with her task of holding a passerby at bay, she would pull away from her duties of terrorizing the neighborhood and head into the house for some sort of food reward for a job well done. Which job Taffy was being rewarded for, attacking a neighbor or coming home, was never really clear to anyone including Taffy. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t care how they got her in; bribing, fear tactics or a wild animal net, it didn’t matter to me one lick, just get her off the streets.
I made a practice of taking some kind of shield with me when I went over to Freddy’s house to call him out to play, usually my bike, and I would call from the front yard because Taffy didn’t like me on her porch. Sometimes Taffy didn’t like Freddy on her porch either. Believe it or not, back in my child hood days in my old neighborhood, it wasn’t a big deal to have an aggressive Cocker running loose who would occasionally bite someone; besides, I really liked Freddy and his sisters and my parents liked his parents so that meant we had to put up with Taffy. Compared to the litigious, blame everyone, take no responsibility time we live in now, I grew up in a different world.
On this one particular morning Taffy decided she was going to chew on one of my prized army tanks, so I imagine like most six year olds I reacted viscerally and snatched that tank from the devils jaws in the flash of a moment. I think Taffy was actually stunned by my brief display of moxie, because she actually paused for a moment before she punished me for such insolence. And punish she did, she gave me a real bite, right in my little kid belly. I still remember at the time being more upset over my bloody torn shirt than I was over my punctured skin. My dad’s reaction to my tears and torn shirt was indicative of the times; while he cleaned me up and helped with the shirt changing I explained what happened, so on my way back outside my dad’s advice was to leave the dog alone. Like I said, it was a different world then. There were no calls to Freddy’s parents, there was no worry over Taffy’s inoculation status, and there was no call for any action as far as my dad was concerned except for me to leave the dog alone. It may seem like he didn’t care, but that’s not true, in his assessment I was fundamentally sound and dog bites were simply not that big a deal. I’m quite sure if I had suffered from Taffy’s attacks frequently my parents would have taken a different course of action; because they weren’t sadistic people, they just shared a common mind set with our neighbors, that everybody has been bitten by a dog and most of the dogs owned by good people are inoculated against rabies. Besides this shared lackadaisical approach to dog aggression of the day, my parents and I had another reason to be so accepting of dog bites, his name was Kaiser. He was a formidable German shepherd who had on a few occasions jumped his measly four foot high fence to inflict his own justice on some evil doers (as he had labeled them anyway).
One of the evil doers turned out to be, you guessed it, my best friend. Freddy and I used to wrestle all the time, as boys are inclined to do. Since Freddy was a few years older than me, he was considerably bigger and stronger and usually dominated the wrestling match. On one such occasion we were grappling in my side yard and I was in my customary, penned to the ground position, when the fun turned a little serious. I was screaming mad that I couldn’t free myself and Freddy was relentless in his dominance, all the while I could hear in the background my four legged body guard barking furiously. So in a moment of rage I called out for help, “KAISER!” A split second later I heard the rattle of the chain link fence and the first thought that went through my mind as I looked into Freddy’s victorious face, was I’m so glad I’m not you right now! As you can imagine, Kaiser handled my overpowering foe with dispatch. A swift bite to the back and Freddy was now the one on the ground crying. I was only eight or nine years old at the time and really did feel a little bad for my friend, I didn’t like seeing him hurt; but at the same time, it was hard not to swell with pride looking from the ground like a fallen king at his glorious champion. Even in those days, I realized in my dog’s mind he had done no wrong, to the contrary, he lived to battle dragons for his king. After putting Kaiser back in the yard, I remember walking Freddy home thinking that my dog and I were in real trouble for double teaming him, but while Freddy’s mom was looking at the bite marks (they were minimal because of heavy winter clothing) she only had two things to say; “stop crying” and “you boys need to wrestle in a different yard!” This is yet another example of the nineteen sixties mindset of “stupid kids, that’s what dogs do.” The moral of these two stories might be that children shouldn’t have unsupervised access to loaded guns and biting dogs. I don’t know, what do you think?
Jingles was a beautiful, male, rough coated Collie that cruised around my childhood block on occasion. He really did jingle because of all the tags hanging on his collar, so I don’t know if Jingles was his legitimate name or not, that’s just how everyone in the neighborhood referred to him. He was a very friendly sort with people, but when it came to other dogs he just as soon attack them as look at them. It’s funny how certain experiences leave such a lasting impression on the human mind, that’s what the sound of jingles’ tags is to me, a lasting impression.
I can still hear him trotting up the street and remember watching most of the loose neighbor dogs retreat for home, including Taffy. That little cocker was tough but not stupid; she had been mauled by Jingles long ago and never forgot it. Kaiser on the other hand loved to hear those tags jingling up the street, thank goodness he was one of the few dogs in the area who was somewhat confined by a fence. The closer that collie got to our end of the street, the wilder Kaiser became. There were only a few brief moments to get to the house and call Kaiser in, before he would explode over the fence and take the fight right to Jingles.
I remember those two dogs tangling horrifically on a few occasions, each time the end result was the same; the collie was running for his life towards home with Kaiser hot on his heels, and there would always be at least one of us in the family (standing out in the yard for all the world to see) futilely screaming for our dog to come home. Unlike Taffy, Jingles didn’t seem to learn from the agonies of defeat. After one of their encounters, we wouldn’t see him for a long time, but once he healed up, Jingles was always willing to come around for another stab at king of the hill. So like an endless loop, the chaos was bound to repeat itself, because the relentless pursuit of controlling territory is a powerful driving force in some dogs; and when two or more dogs of this type live within the same small neighborhood (factoring in little or no handler control) battles are going to be on going, but like I’ve already stated that seemed to be of little concern to anyone in my childhood environment.