Tag Archives: behaviour

Oh You Little Monkey!

Little Monkey - Always ready for Mischief

Little Monkey – Always ready for Mischief

I always say I won’t adopt a dog that I can’t handle. I have to be able to lift her into, and out of, the car by myself. I have to be strong enough that she won’t pull me down the street, when instinct takes over, all her training goes up in smoke as she goes haring after a cat or squirrel. This is one reason why Mr Spaghetti Legs is smaller than Little Monkey.

However, LM is still giving me a hard time!

The other day I’d walked my dogs most of the way round the block. I’d intended to go a little farther to the park, but the wind was cold and old SL was hobbling, so we kept it short.

I was waiting to cross the road when a car pulled up on the opposite side, and the guy asked for directions to a street nearby. I crossed over and started discussing with him where the road was. It’s a bit of a rabbit warren around our neighbourhood so we were having quite a chat, me with me head in the passenger side window, my dogs waiting patiently at the side.

Next thing LM bounds forwards, barking, and pulls me right off my feet. Fortunately it was a grass verge, but still! There I am, stretched out full length, and scrabbling to my feet, trying to reel her in at the same time, when she lunges forwards and pulls me over again!

I finally get her close enough and shove her into a down.

What caused all this? A neighbour had come round the corner with his small little floor mop dog, and LM freaked out! I mean really? *Still, after all these years? (I’ve had her over eight years.)

Freak over, she’s fine again. And get this, my neighbour is apologising to me! Of course, I apologised back profusely, but people are beginning to realise poor old LM is just anxious and overreacts. Once stopped and given time she’s fine again.

But the end result of all this is that she has wrenched my right wrist quite badly, and also my arm and shoulder. I can feel it all seizing up as I type this!

Next dog I get will have to be a Teacup Yorkie!!


*post script: Why does LM react this way? Before I adopted her, she was unsocialised for the first 18 months of her life. She missed out on all the important things a dog needs to learn, to be sociable and get along with other dogs; such as meeting lots of different dogs (and people) and exploring many different environments. A more balanced, confident dog may have coped with this lack of socislisation in its early life, but LM is an anxious dog, way down the pecking order of the pack, at the Omega end. She will never completely overcome her early upbringing, though we have made huge improvements.

What would LM have done if she had escaped the lead? She’d have run towards the little dog barking, stopped a few metres away, turned and trotted back to me. I think you’ll all agree this is not normal behaviour!

Why does LM freak out? She goes into instant terror when she sees another dog suddenly appear, from round the corner etc. She takes much longer than the average dog to understand that the new dog is not a threat. (Lack of puppy socialisation.)

That being said, she is superb at reading dog energies, and half the problem is that most of the dogs we encounter are not balanced. Their owners think their dogs are fine, but what I see, and what LM certainly sees, is a dog out in front of its owner, pulling on the lead, in the position of pack leader; a dog with high energy, or anxious energy; a dog all over the place and not listening to its owner. The calm, confident dogs we meet on our walks are very few and far between. Mr Spaghetti Legs is one, but of course, Little Monkey is not!


Speak Girl, Speak! Her Master’s Voice

Little Monkey

Little Monkey – Speak Girl!

What a Hullabaloo!

I’d put my three dogs out in the front garden when suddenly I heard the most almighty racket. Lots of barking from Madam and TJ.

I went out the back way and quickly round to the side to see what was going on. Little Monkey met me at the side gate, her eyes as round as saucers, her eyebrows raised so high they were in imminent danger of leaving her forehead altogether!

“Mum! Mum! Come quick!” she said, just like Lassie in any movie. “There’s something going on in the front garden.”

I rushed through the side gate and into the front corner of the garden, where I saw Madam and TJ barking madly at my neighbour’s two small dogs. The little things had come through the railings into our garden; they were that tiny.

Little Monkey looked at me, with her worried eyebrows and oh so expressive face, and said, “See! I don’t know what to do. That’s why I came for you!”

As this was Madam and TJ’s property, they were justifiably territorial about the whole thing, and told these two small dogs exactly what they thought of the trespassing, and to get out of their garden!

Madam - A Rescue Dog

Madam – A Rescue Dog






I told Madam to stop it, and she backed off, though still incensed. TJ was not so easy to placate. He was going for the small dogs again and again! One of them managed to quickly slip back out through the railings to safety, but the other one seemed incapable of doing so. I guess it must have been a bit shocked, because it had certainly fit easily enough, when it had decided to enter our property in the first place.

Well, I got TJ off the second dog and picked it up, planning to take it to the gate and back across the road to its own home. TJ was having none of this! He leapt up in the air repeatedly, trying to nip at the small intruder, even while it was in my arms! He did not try to bite it properly and draw blood or anything. He really just wanted it to go away!

So TJ leapt at the little dog again, till it got a big fright and jumped out of my arms. And there we were, back to square one again!

Eventually, with much shouting at TJ (my voice was hoarse afterwards!) I picked up the little dog, and shoved it back out through the railings, where it ran off home. Neither of the little dogs was harmed, but they were a bit gobbed on!

I was seething by now and really cross at TJ!

I understand a dog being territorial , and wanting to chase an intruder out of his property. But once I was on the scene, the leader of the pack, that should have been it! He should have backed down and listened to me, like Madam did. But no. TJ had kept on at the little dog.

He was like this with most dogs. if they kept their distance there was no problem, but if they approached too close to him, he chased them off. I think that he had been attacked by dogs when he lived on the streets, and had a severely injured leg; a compound fracture, probably by being hit by a car. It had healed in its broken position in a letter T, so he had never been treated at a vets. I can only imagine the pain he must have been in for months while this injury healed. And how vulnerable he would have been to attack by all the other homeless dogs. This left him for the rest of his life with an “Attack is the best form of Defence” attitude. To humans he was the most loving of all my dogs, and in our little pack of three dogs, he fit in fine and never started any fights. see Portrait of a dog #2

So, after all this drama, I went back inside to make myself a cuppa and sooth my scratched throat, sore from all the shouting. When I was sitting down with my coffee and trying to de-stress, I played back through the events in my mind.

It was only then that I realised, LM could not possibly have actually spoken to me! But honestly, her face was so expressive, I heard in my head the message she was trying to convey.

They say “a picture paints a thousand words”, and her face certainly did!


The Triumphant Adventures of Sparky the Squirrel: Part Three

Sparky Triumphant

Sparky Triumphant

This adventure happened a while back when I had three dogs; Madam, TJ and Little Monkey. My daughters and I were out in the back garden, when suddenly there was a commotion at the corner of the house. The three dogs were excitedly going for something on the grass there.

When we got to them we found they had pinned down a little grey squirrel against the wall. The poor thing was small and thin, with long arms and legs in comparison to its body size, and a sparse tail. It was a teenager, that had foolishly wandered down from the safety of the trees, to the domain of the wolves!

I pulled the nearest dog off and handed it to a daughter, then grabbed the next dog. The dogs were so excited, that they kept getting away from my girls’ grasp and launching back into the attack again.

Throughout all this, little Sparky kept fighting for his life. He was on his back, shrieking loudly and striking out at the wolves with his tiny paws. (Sparky strikes back!) But it was enough to keep the wolves mostly at bay, and prevent them from grabbing him in their teeth.

Eventually we managed to get all the dogs under control and frog-march them to the house and shut them in. None of us was bitten by our dogs, nor ever expected to be; it was just instinct on their part to attack prey.

Poor Sparky was a bit soggy round the middle from a few dog mouths, and obviously very shaken, but he had survived to fight another day. He scampered to the corner by the stoep and just froze there.

We put a shelter round him, and gave him water and raw nuts and just left him alone to recover. The next time we checked, he had gone. Hopefully a little wiser for the encounter!

Sparky is invincible!


The Monkey, the Spaghetti and the Mop

Peas in a Pod – SL and LM

Last week, as I was about to open the security gate and leave my property to walk my dogs, two homeless guys passed right in front of the gate. I hung back a bit and waited, as I recognised the one guy, and last time I’d seen him he’d had a medium sized dog with him. Sure enough, a few seconds later the happy little dog, with its long shaggy black coat, went trotting past. This floor Mop is just walking in the zone, and the most balanced dog I have ever seen; and that includes all the hundreds of dogs I’ve come across at dog class over the last eight and a half years.

Why did I hang back? Little Monkey is unbalanced and anxious and needs lots of time and space to deal with any dog she suddenly comes across; especially if they are passing “her” property! (Her previous amazing encounter with this black floor Mop can be found in my post Curiouser )

So, now we could go. When I am tired, and it is about to pour down, I take my dogs on a short walk round the block. It’s less than a kilometre, but at least they have been out. And actually, with Mr SL, it takes us a good 25 minutes anyway, at his top speed of zimmer frame!

We were nearly half way round the block, having done one short side and most of a long side, when I noticed LM had spotted something. Down at the corner of the street was the black floor Mop. It was sniffing the grass, then started running our way, right up the middle of the road.

LM goes into superfreak state. Over the years I have learnt how to deal with most situations. Now, I could see that this homeless dog was only intent on finding its owners, and not bothered about us at all. Mr SL was not reacting either. Just LM. She  was super alert, ears up, eyes locked on the Mop. Then she leapt into the air. This is when I grab her by the scruff of the neck on either side of her throat. Now she is standing on her hind legs (and she is quite tall since she has a long body) and I have her by the neck. But she is now calm – or as calm as she is ever going to get.

(It is hilarious when I have to do this in a narrow alley way, when other people and dogs insist on passing by us in that confined space. I’m like, “Hi, how are you?” They are like, “You’re weird!” And LM is like, “Look at me! I’m standing on my hind legs!” and “DOG!DOG!DOG!”)

Well, there is a car on the other side of the road, but it has stopped, and Mop runs up the road a little, then turns and runs back down and disappears round the corner. The driver in the car asks me if it is my dog. I explain, nope, but LM is anxious and scared and I have to keep my distance from Mop. I also tell her that I saw Mop with its owners a few minutes ago going past my house, so it does have an owner. I just tell you this exchange, because I live in a very nice area, where people will rescue dogs found wandering round the street and take them to their vets, or animal rescue organisation, if they have no collar and disc with phone number on them. (Also, just a day or two previously, another woman stopped her car by me and my dogs to tell me there was a border collie running loose in the road around the corner. I thanked her profusely and turned and went the other way!)

So, OK, we can proceed on our walk. The coast is clear. A few minutes later we are round the corner and about to do the short side of the rectangle, when again I spot Mop at the next corner, sniffing the grass and trying to pick up its owner’s scent. Then it runs off in the direction I was going to go – up the long side of the rectangle.


If I only had Mr SL I could walk where I pleased. Although he is a dominant male, he listens to me, and he will leave another dog alone, if it leaves him alone – which is all I ask for. Well I stood there for a moment, thinking. Then I decided to go back the way we had just come, and so avoid Mop. These are things I have to do with LM, and that is just the way it is.

So we turn round and retrace our steps, but I cross the road so the dogs at least have something different to sniff. Mr SL really doesn’t want to turn round, and drags for a while. He thinks we are going the wrong way, and he just wants to get home and have his supper!! We are a third of the way back up the road, when poor Mop appears again! It is running right up the middle of the street again, but this time keeps on going. I manage to control LM without the whole leap in the air thing, by grabbing her ear, but she is OK. Mop is past her in no time, and clearly not interested in her at all.

I watch as Mop runs away up the road, and find myself holding my breath that he will turn down my road, and in the direction of his owners. Yes, he does! Yay. I am sure he will find them now – and if not, like I said above, someone will take him in.

And I am amazed at his tracking skills! It was a good 15 minutes by now since he and his owners had gone that way, yet he had picked up the scent. Dogs truly are amazing. Even LM and Mr SL!

post script: If you think that “The Monkey, the Spaghetti and the Mop” does not have quite the snap to it that “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” has; mine is in the real world! 

Boys will be Boys

You Talking to Me?

You Talking to Me? – Mr Spaghetti Legs

You talkin’ to me? – Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) in Taxi Driver (1976).

So, it happened again! Some big macho young male came swaggering up to little old Mr Spaghetti Legs, throwing its weight around and challenging the old boy, who was simply minding his own business. OK, he was really only interested in the food he knew I had in my pocket.

What is it with these guys? The owners always say, oh so proudly, that their dog is a dominant male, an alpha male, a boss dog. So? I have had an alpha male in the past (Jack) and I never let him go bothering other dogs. If they came and bothered him then fair enough! They got what they were asking for.

But here am I and my old boy, minding our own business, not challenging the other males at all, but here they come spoiling for a fight. How? They approach forcefully, stand sideways on to Mr SL, and square up, so we can all see how large they are! Yes, we know you are much bigger, younger and stronger than my old boy, so what is the problem here?

This has happened over and over, on walks, on a open field, at dog class. It has been the largest brown lab I have ever seen, another large black lab, a malamute etc. With the same result. The young pushy dog squares off against the old veteran and Mr SL growls at them to get lost. He is not looking for a fight. The owner of the other dog stands there, telling me how macho their dog is, and doing absolutely nothing to control their dog or the situation. It is always me who has to step in. I tell Mr SL to stop that, I’ve got this. I turn the bossy dog’s face away and march him back towards his doting push-over mum. And Mr SL and I walk away. No dog fight.

And they get pulled off by their dominant male on the lookout for the next challenge, because the real problem here is not how bossy their dog is, but how they, the owners, are in no way their dog’s leader.

post script: Fights often occur between dogs of the same sex, age and size, because it is not obvious to the dogs who is the more dominant. But sometimes they simply don’t like each other!


The Teenage Years

The Teenage Years

The Teenage Years

I’m not getting up till the fat bird sings! – My baby has had her breakfast and been outside for her “ablutions”. She has snuggled back in her bed and refuses to get up. At nine years old, she has finally reached the teenage years!

She tells me it is still winter, and she won’t get up until the fat bird sings. I tell her the fat bird sang at 5 am. (An olive thrush with the loudest voice per body size of any bird! It insists on singing in the pitch black, long before dawn.) It is now gone 9am. You are missing the day! OK it is a cold, wet winter’s day, but still!

You Made your Bed – Now Lie in it!

Mr SL makes  his bed

Mr SL makes his bed

I’ve had dogs now for 16 years. By trial and error I found that the best bed for them is a third of an old, large sponge mattress, covered in plastic (for the incontinent) and then old sheets and towels, for easy washing.

This worked well for years – until old Mr Spaghetti Legs joined us. Now, all dogs “make” their bed to some extent or another, but this old boy goes the extra mile. First, he totally shredded all the old sheet covers that had lasted for years, through 5 other dogs. I stitched and re-stitched them till there was nothing left. Then I got the bright idea of using old curtains – much stronger. This was fine for a time, but then he got to work on those one night and managed to rip them too.

I then found better old curtaining; light-weight and sturdy. This has lasted – so far- though I don’t know for how much longer. Every morning when I enter the kitchen, it is to find Mr SL’s mattresses scattered all over the floor. He pushes and pulls at them until he has lifted one off the other, then lies on whichever takes his fancy.

Last night I caught him going at it again. I was totally surprised to see, that apart from scraping away at the bedding with his claws, he also bit into the middle and lifted the whole cover up!

No wonder the beds don’t last long!!


Tie a Yellow Ribbon

Have you heard about the Yellow Dog Project? I hadn’t until recently.

Apparently, if you have an anxious dog, unsocialised dog, one in training, grumpy old man etc, and you tie a yellow ribbon round the lead, it indicates to people you meet on your walks that you are asking them to give you and your dog space.

What a marvellous idea! If you have been following my posts, you will know about *Little Monkey; anxious, unsocialised as a youngster, needing time and plenty of space to deal with other unbalanced or over-friendly dogs.

I think I will tie a HUNDRED yellow ribbons round the old oak tree – oh, I mean lead!

*The relevant Little Monkey posts: Flight or Freak – or save us from the over-friendly retrievers; Curiouser; The Idiot by any other name.

Here are a few links about the yellow ribbon project, if you are interested:




Miss Tinkerbell is down to Eight

I always let my dogs out in the garden at night, before putting them to bed. Every dog I’ve had would quickly relieve themselves and come back in again.

When I first got Little Monkey, I assumed she was doing the same thing; only to find large puddles on the kitchen floor in the morning. As she was such a young dog (only eighteen months) I was rather surprised that she would have a bladder problem, but had her urine checked anyway. It was fine, which meant maybe she had a physical problem, so she was put on oestrogen tablets. This made no difference at all.

I finally realised, that she had no problem what-so-ever. When I let her out to go to the loo, apparently she thought it was a great game, and ran around playing the whole time, till I called her in again; totally missing the point.

One night, I had just let her out, when she made a dash for the bushes. Next thing, she was chasing something along the wall, right on its tail. It was pitch black and I couldn’t see a thing. The scene played out before me in audio only; pattering of paws, crashing through undergrowth.

And I heard the rapid tinkling of the cat bell, as Miss Tinkerbell barely made it to the corner and over the wall to safety. She definitely lost one of her nine lives that night!


Pooh! Glorious Pooh!

What is it with dogs rolling in disgusting stuff? The smellier the better!

Yes, I know; strong scents are irresistible to dogs. They don’t care that it smells bad, just that it smells strong, so that when they walk among the pack, all noses turn towards them.

The other week, I was out with Mr Spaghetti Legs and Little Monkey, walking off-lead by a river and wooded area. Well, when I say walking, Mr SL and I were walking; Little Monkey was running from side to side, looking for squirrels, or anything else exciting. Apparently, she found it, and rolled in it. Pooh!

I had to give her a bath before letting her in the house. Not much fun in winter, even though the sun was shining that day.

The very next day, we are all walking on the local soccer field. I took the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine, and sat on the stands in the middle of the field, while my dogs sniffed around. Next  second, Little Monkey is rolling around with glee, right by the stands. More pooh!

I feel sorry for the kids who play soccer there, as obviously, some dog owner is not picking up after their dog. At least Little Monkey cleared this patch up, saving some poor kid from skidding face first into it.

So, another bath – two days running.

I ask again; what is it with dogs rolling in disgusting stuff?

Post Script: Oops! I did not mean to “Like” my own post! I clicked in error – and don’t know how to un-click!