Tag Archives: unsocialised

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!


Leap of Faith

Little Monkey

Little Monkey

After my two old dogs both died, three weeks apart, I had Little Monkey on her own for a year. It took that long to find a dog of suitable energy to match my poor anxious, unsocialised, unbalanced dog. She chose Mr Spaghetti Legs. He is good enough to put up with most of her nonsense, most of the time, by calmly ignoring it.

So, before he came on the scene, Little Monkey went on lots of walks alone with me. A favourite place, on a sunny day, are the walks along by a river on the green belt. You can meet lots of other dogs there, but mostly they are very well behaved, so it is a good place for LM to go. Also there is plenty of space to pass by other dogs, so she doesn’t have to get too close.

This particular afternoon I had decided to walk on a less-frequented pathway. Once we were away from the road, and there were no dogs approaching, I sat her down, took her lead off and did a long 20 metre stay. When I call her to me, she must come straight to me and sit down; then I know she is listening, If she doesn’t, we do it all over again.

Once she is listening, I pat her twice on the side and say “OK”. And off she runs. Here, there and everywhere, looking for squirrels, or anything interesting. I don’t worry if she is far away, because I know she will always come back. Also, even if I can’t see her, I can usually hear her, crashing through the undergrowth in gay abandon.

We were both having a lovely time, going our own separate ways, just enjoying the birdsong in the trees, and the sun on our backs. After a while I stopped and looked for LM. My path had risen slightly, and I could see out to the right, across an open expanse of grass in a large dip, ending a good 20 metres away in a stone retaining wall, about 2 metres high. Hmm, no sign of LM.

Suddenly, she appeared at the top of the retaining wall. She stood for a moment, like the Monarch of the Glen. Magnificent, strong, healthy, happy dog.

OK, I thought, I’ll just wait for her. She’ll have to go back and round to where the wall is low and she can access the green field part and so reach me.

There was a second when we both looked at each other. Me, waiting for her to go back and round; her – who knows what was going through her head.

Then she jumped. Two metres straight down. Just leaped into space, all four feet out.

She landed with a heavy thump as her legs gave way beneath her and her chest hit the ground.

I’m thinking: “She’s definitely broken a leg. Cannot possibly fall that far and not break something. But it’ll be OK, cos I can carry her. She only weighs 23kg. I can carry her back to the car, if I stop and rest along the way.”

In the second it took me to think the above, she toppled sideways at ninety degrees to the direction of motion.

Now I’m thinking: “She’s broken a leg, and twisted everything. So we’ve got dislocated joints too.”

So here is an action replay. Dog leaps into mid air. Falls flat on chest, crumpling legs underneath. Flops sideways, snapping legs off at joint.

I am still telling myself, it’ll be OK. I’ll carry her to the car – somehow, when up she pops! Starts running down the grassy dip, back up again, and now starts looking for a way to climb the one metre wall that I am standing behind.

“Go round!” I tell her, waving my arm.

She backs up a bit and finds a broken section of the wall, a little lower. It is a stone wall with a 40cm flat top. She leaps at this and gets her front paws on, and hangs there for a moment, claws scraping on the stone as she slowly slips backwards! She tries again, and makes it this time. Runs up to me, all happy, tail wagging, tongue lolling.

I hug my silly, adorable, unbreakable dog!

No-one was around. No-one saw this amazing feat that rivalled anything Lassie ever did! I did not have a camera or phone to record any of it. Just another day in the life of Little Monkey!


How to – with Little Monkey. No1. Exit the House

I suppose you simply switch on the alarm and leave? Let me tell you how it goes with Little Monkey.

First, catch the dog. Little Monkey knows when it is walk time. So she takes the opportunity to hare madly round the garden, rushing up to you every circuit and leaping up to springboard off your body with her feet.

Once I’ve stopped this and got her inside and sitting on her mat, we can progress to the front door. More leaping in the air all four feet off the ground. Sit again. Pick up the lead. Leap. Sit! In the meantime put Mr Spaghetti Leg’s lead on. He is now standing nose to the door ready to go. Finally get the lead on Little Monkey. SIT!

Open the door. Dogs must not move. I get my keys, hat etc Dogs must stay calm, and the Idiot sitting. When I am ready, Little Monkey must look at me, then I nod, and we calmly exit the front door.

Now we face the same procedure at the security gate. Little Moneky knows to instantly sit, and to wait. I unlock the gate, and slowly open it. Dogs must not move. I then close the front door, we calmly exit the security gate and I turn around and lock it. This procedure must happen even if there is a squirrel in the garden, and Little Monkey desperately wants to chase it.

So far so good. We are one metre into our walk.

Next, a slow amble down the garden path. Dogs to the side, No pulling on the lead. Any of that and it is an instant sit and wait all over again. At the little side gate (where there is no gate any more) I go through first. No pulling. Now we are at the garage doors. Little Monkey sits, loose lead, and waits. I let Mr SL stand, since he is old and wobbly and does not pull on the lead anyway.

I open the automatic gate a little. Dogs do not move. When I say so, we walk forward and I go through first (sticking my head out and looking up and down the road for DOGS!). There is a lamp post right outside our house. Instant sit for Little Monkey.

Great! The walk is about to begin. How many sits and stays was that?

This process is repeated throughout the walk. Any time the Idiot freaks out at something, or leaps in the air because she’s seen another dog, I reel her back in, sit her down and pick up my finger that she just broke off – again. The walk can take a very long time. But doing it this way every single time is the only way to calm Little Monkey down. If I mess up just once, and miss a step out, I have to repeat it another thousand times before she does it automatically again.

This could all have been avoided if Little Monkey had been socialised as a puppy.



Eina! Pinkie

Eina! Pinkie

Once again I am reduced to tears by Little Monkey on our walk. I’m sorry – but the photo just does not do justice to how sore my finger is!!

A few weeks ago, Little Monkey nearly detached my left pinkie, when out of the blue she decided to lunge at a motor bike passing our house at the start of our walk. She has never reacted to any bikes before, in the 7 years I’ve had her, so I was totally unprepared. Instinctively, I tried to restrain her – when she darted into the road after the bike, and my poor little finger on my left hand paid the price. It was  purple and swollen for days. It had still not returned to normal when the Idiot damaged it again today.

Firstly, it is winter here, and a massive storm (stretching from Cape Town to Johannesburg – 1400km)  is passing over the country, bringing cold temperatures, heavy rains, and gale force winds in its wake. Still, I walk my dogs.

Whilst getting ready at the front door, Little Monkey does her usual leaping in the air, all four feet off the ground. She is more rambunctious than usual – and Eina! my poor pinkie pays the ultimate price. Eish – it is sore neh?

Well, a few expletives later and I am on the walk with the Idiot and Mr Spaghetti Legs (what did you get yourself into, my boy, when you came to us??) Just round the corner of the block, Little Monkey takes that huge intake of breath – you know – when you hear that blood curdling “ghghghghgghgg” before she lets go with a whooo-ooo-ooo wuff wuff wuff! And lunges at a gate. Again with the pinkie!! This hurt so much I did actually shed a few tears!

What was going on? Well, there, behind the railings, where usually there is nothing – was a dog! What was it doing? Absolutely Nothing! It just normally wasn’t there. Little Monkey was isolated and unsocialised for the first 18 months of her life – until I adopted her. This is what she does. This is what she will always do.

So yeah, I shed a few tears, as I controlled Little Monkey, reeled her back in, calmed her. My finger really hurts. I will tape it to the next finger – again – for a few days.

In the meantime, there is always wine!!!!! Cheers 😉

post script: What does Eina mean? It is Afrikaans for “ouch” – but actually conveys a lot more meaning!

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:




The Idiot by any other name

Little Monkey - Always ready for Mischief

Little Monkey – Always ready for Mischief

Why the Idiot? You decide.

Little Monkey’s idea of fun is to race at top speed across the field towards her selected target; some small unsuspecting dog. When she is about ten metres away she swings round in a large arc, going Wuff Wuff Wuff. Passing by the surprised victims with a good five metres to spare, she carries on in her circle, cantering back to me with a self-satisfied swagger, saying, “I’ve seen them off for you!”

I’ve found that bellowing at her as she hares off across the field to mock-charge another little fluff ball has no effect on her what-so-ever. Rather, it unnerves the old guy, already nervous for his dog and himself. My only option is to throw the lead at her. This seldom works; she is so fast, I am so slow, the lead is soft and floppy, and, yes I’ll admit it – I throw like a girl!

My best bet is to call after the rapidly disappearing dog, in a light sing-song voice, “Nobody said you could go play! – It isn’t your ball! – You silly billy!” or words to that effect.

One old man, that Little Monkey had mock-charged, said, “My dog is barely a mouthful!!” indicating his little Maltese.

Having tried various responses such as: “Sorry – Little Monkey doesn’t know how to play – She wasn’t socialised as a puppy – This is how she plays” etc  I’ve found that the best strategy is simply to walk up to the owner and his dog and diffuse the situation by saying with a friendly smile, “Sorry. She’s an Idiot, but she’s harmless.”

To which, the old man replied, “So am I!”

Flight or Freak – or Save us from the Over-Friendly Retrievers

Every one has a personal space; a bubble within which they feel safe. If someone enters their bubble unasked, they feel uncomfortable.

The more anxious a dog, the larger the personal space required for them not to freak out. Little Monkey*  is a very anxious dog when it comes to other dogs, especially those unknown to her. She requires a bubble the size of a football field.

Why is she like this? She was not socialised as a puppy; I adopted her at 18 months. (But that is another story. Suffice it to say here – if there is one thing you do for your puppy; socialise it.) I have taken her to dog social classes at least once every week for the past seven years, and of course walk her every day. She has improved dramatically, but still requires more personal space than the average dog, and also takes much longer to assess the incoming “threat”.

On our walk yesterday, a boy and his very beautiful golden retriever approached from across the road. Normally, if I have the width of the road between the dogs, I can pass by without too much hassle. I just tell my dog to behave and keep walking, making more space by moving up the grass verge. However, on my side of the street the verge had been covered with plants, so there was no leeway. I decided to rather pull in as far as I could before this area, and get the Idiot to lie down, with a loose lead. I don’t have to worry about Mr Spaghetti Legs* as he is socially savvy.

Then I saw that the retriever was pulling the boy across the street. It was out in front of him on the end of its lead, and he was following it. So now there was going to be maybe a metre between the very keen newcomer and my dogs. This is far too close for an anxious dog, even if the oncoming dog is a friendly as they come. He was not invited into her space.

Little Monkey leapt up into the air, barking and lunging for the retriever. To an untrained eye it looks like aggression,  but it is actually fear. She cannot run away as she is on the lead. Flight or fright? Fright – big time. I pulled her back, got her to lie down again and explained to the very surprised boy that my dog is scared of his dog. He walked on down the street with his dog pulling him to the next encounter.

So, the start and end of the exercise saw my dog lying down with a loose lead, minding her own business. The middle bit looked crazy. I am sure the boy has no idea that he caused the whole reaction by crossing the road and approaching my dogs. After all, his dog is so friendly; what is the problem?

Afterwards, I realised I should have reacted quicker when I noticed the boy and his dog crossing the road. I should have tried to cross away from them. I did not because Mr SL is painfully slow and I thought I would end up in the middle of the road with the retriever still pulling the boy towards us. But in the minute I had to decide, I thought it better for them to pass while I had my dog under control and lying down.

To owners of friendly dogs, I ask this; if someone looks like they are trying to avoid contact with your friendly dog, please respect that. If someone tells you their dog is anxious or in training and needs space, please respect that. Don’t always assume that the dog is anxious because the owner is. It is not always that simple.

I have owned  a most remarkable, super friendly dog, so I know both sides of the coin. This dog would want to go and make friends with any dog, even a large dog with a chain round its neck, snarling and spitting and barely being restrained by its owner. I gave them space!

*names have been changed