Meet Tiger. He’s an American Staffordshire Terrier and he is also one of my customers.
I first met Tiger about two years ago. I came to the house like I always do, and let myself in the gate, only to be rushed by this new dog I hadn’t met before. Tiger showed some serious territorial behavior and was aggressive toward me. To my advantage, I had a rake and a bucket that I raised up toward him and banged together to scare him away from me. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the best way to deal with him but it was all I knew to do to keep from getting bit.
I tried to win him over by interacting with the other dogs who knew me very well but he was still touch-and-go. We did the same song and dance for several weeks until he and I came to terms. He would leave me alone and I would ignore him. Whether he was happy about me being there, I don’t rightly know, but I had a job to do so I was going to do it whether he liked me or not. That seemed to work.
Last year, after I read Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer Lived Dogs by Ted Kerasote, I was inspired to get Tiger a gift. I went to Sam Russell’s Pet Provisions in Elizabethtown and purchased a Dino Bone (which is really a cow femur). Because I couldn’t neglect the other dogs, I bought them some gifts too.
When I went to clean the yard, I tossed the femur in and Tiger went after it. He kept gnawing on that bone for what seemed like 3 months. All I know is, after I gave him this peace offering, he became my friend. He would eagerly await for me at the gate wagging his tail expecting me to give him something.
Since then, there have still been times where he would get too excited when I would come through the gate. Once, he actually walked up behind me and nipped my pants. He didn’t bite me, he only grabbed the fabric, but I turned around and gave him a stern, “No!” which only excited him even more.
Now, I’m reading How to Raise the Perfect Dog by Cesar Millan. I’ve also resorted to watching The Very Best of the Dog Whisperer on Netflix. I am amazed at Cesar’s wisdom regarding dogs.
So now I know, Tiger has acted the way he does because his breed is the type that likes to challenge. Instead of challenging him back, I’ve been weak and I exude this apprehensive energy because in the back of my mind I always thought, “Gotta watch him. He’s gonna bite me.” He’s picked up on that and has only been a reflection of the energy I’ve displayed.
In the last two weeks, I have tried to employ Cesar’s techniques. Like the show says, don’t attempt these techniques without a trained professional. Well, I am a professional and I can read dogs and I know what I need to do to stop a situation from going bad to worse.
Two weeks ago, I tried to challenge Tiger by moving toward him and owning his space. This didn’t work very well because I realized I was still being apprehensive.
Last week, I stopped midway through the yard and sat down on a step going into the shed. Tiger watched me and stood a few feet away. He bowed toward me and barked a single tenuto bark. Pause. Another bark. Deep baritone. I realized I wasn’t going to get to pet him…not today. So I relaxed and looked around at nature. I paid no attention to his barking.
I concentrated on me and my body. If I felt any tension in any part of my body, I told that part of my body to relax. If I couldn’t relax, I changed my posture to let go of the tension. When I was completely relaxed, I gazed around me and watched as Tiger went further away from me. He sat down and stretched out his front legs and lay down. Not only did my relaxed state get Tiger’s attention, it got the attention of the other dogs as well. All three of them were laying down lined up before me. No barking. No tension. Just calm.
Hopefully, I will be able to get better acquainted with Tiger because I truly want to be his friend. Every dog I work for is an opportunity to make a new friend.