Thursday, December 4, 2014

Remember When?

I am buried in dogs. Not just the four we live with, but books, trainer brain picking, videos, FB pages and websites.

My hyper-focus (some call it OCD, but hey, shut up) is in high drive, much as it was aimed at horses during my training years. It's a good thing. I have something to think about, a puzzle to piece together, a place for my mind to explore that takes me away from the tough stuff.

The information makes my head spin. Positive training, clickers, shock collars, treats, rally, good citizens, red zones, and breed bans. I'm researching and studying ALL of it. Concepts, tools and definitions I had never considered before I jumped into this morass of education, tradition and opinion.

When it comes to opinions, I spook like Madonna at a loose hay tarp blowing across the pasture. My time training horses taught me to watch, listen and keep my yap shut. I know for a fact that opinions shift as education progresses, and it's best to keep mine to myself for now. If I don't shout, write or assert myself publicly, I don't end up clinging to a wheelbarrow full of shit, just because I thought it was gold a month ago.

Horses still swirl through every step I take in my canine education. They have to, my moral code, thought process, and ability to learn and teach all come from horses. Even my personal relationships are based on what horses have taught me. Treat me fair, make things clear, be consistent, and I'll stick with you. If not, well, I'll buck you off, kick you in the face and trot off with my nose in the air.

I've been remembering back when I was a kid. I pay attention when these thoughts surface, because I learned through the horses, as a kid, some of my basic instincts were spot on. After I started to understand all the training folderol I realized I had some solid natural instincts, and some good basics pounded into me by the old-timers who helped me with Mort, my first horse. Same with the dogs.

So here we go. These aren't opinions... just thoughts.

I was a kid, oh, 47 years ago...yes, that would be the  1960's.

Dogs were dogs, not fur-kids, not "people too," and definitely not allowed on the furniture.
As a child, I was allowed to think our Samoyed, Linus, was my brother or my best friend, but that was kid stuff.

Children were not supposed to be bitten by dogs. If they were bitten once, they knew to stay away from that dog. If they didn't, and were bitten again, they were stupid and apt to get in trouble.

Owners with mean dogs kept them chained or behind fences. They were honest about the dog being mean. A BEWARE of DOG sign meant what it said. That way, everybody but the stupid kids, stayed away from them.

If we drove up to a property that had loose dogs, we waited in the car until someone called them. Not only was it polite to wait until invited out of our car, we knew that loose dogs would guard their property and we might get bit.

Dogs got in fights sometimes. If they did, the kids backed up and let them fight, because they knew that they could get bit and there was that "get in trouble for being stupid" deal. There were some horrific fights, but nobody died.

There were no dog parks.There were no leash laws, but dogs were all on leashes, because it kept them safe. If a dog was the kind who could be let loose to join in a game of kickball (we didn't play soccer) then it was, if it would wander or fight, it was tied to a tree. The tied dogs just sat there and hung out, because nobody cared if they barked or cried. They were dogs.

When a person got a dog, they got the breed of dog that would do the job they needed done. Because dogs weren't children, they were dogs. If you got the right kind of dog, it would do the job you needed. Dogs were way better than kids.

Setters, Pointers and Spaniels were used to field hunt. Retrievers went to water. Some breeds crossed over to both. Setters, Spaniels, Labs and Goldens were known to be good with kids. Pointers were high strung and could be iffy. Chesapeakes and Weimeraners were not good with kids. Nobody called them mean, but they were called tough, or all business.

Many hunters believed kids shouldn't play with their hunting dogs. Specific breeds could survive a crossover, but Cocker Spaniels and Irish Setters were held up as an example of a good dog ruined by becoming popular family dogs. My Dad go a Golden Retriever for that very reason. They were excellent family dogs, but could still be counted on in the field. He would, however, point out the ruined mess that is the modern Golden to back up the old-timers wisdom.

If you lived in an apartment you got a little dog. You still walked them.

I had a friend, Mary, who lived with her mom. They moved a lot and rented, so she had a Japanese Chin. It was my first intro to a small dog. She was sweet and loving and slept with Mary in her bed. I made fun of her dogs flat face because I was jealous. Sorry Mary, I was such a punk.

Dobermans and GSD were guard dogs. If you needed guarding you got one. Old people had Pugs, Bulldogs and Pekingese because they walked slow. Non-hunting families had poodles, cock-a-poos (they were a new thing), mutts, the occasional Dalmation and Dachshunds. There were huskies. They belonged to families with lots of kids who spent lots of time outside. They were yard dogs, not farm dogs, because they were runners and ate stuff.

Most families had one dog. Hunters often had multiples.

I never saw a Pitt Bull and rarely saw a hound. There was a cool Boxer, Rocky, on our street. When I asked my Dad if Boxers were good dogs, he said, "They're the gentlest of the bull dog kind of dogs. If you play with him he'll be rough, but he won't hurt you."

Dad was right, Rocky was fun, but I came home covered with red lines all over me, his frigging claws were like rakes.

It was pretty simple. People got the dog they thought they needed. Most of the time it worked out. I knew a lot of old dogs. I knew good ones and bad ones. People didn't automatically get "rid of," the bad ones. They did however hold themselves personally responsible for their dogs behavior. People didn't get turned into the police or the humane society unless a dog was truly a danger and was never contained. People didn't sue and paid for their own stitches.

We didn't understand how dogs thought, we didn't use clickers, we spanked them when they were bad. Of course children were spanked too.

Dad trained his dogs to hunt with hand signals and his voice. He didn't use shock collars or treats. He didn't want to make his dogs afraid of him, but he didn't want a dog to associate ducks with food either.

I'm not saying any of this is right or wrong, it's just how it was. I still think about it though.


  1. "They were yard dogs, not farm dogs, because they were runners and ate stuff."

    HAHA! Yes. This describes my huskies perfectly. They will run off. They will eat your barn cats. I love them dearly, and they are exactly the kind of dog I wanted.

  2. " If I don't shout, write or assert myself publicly, I don't end up clinging to a wheelbarrow full of shit, just because I thought it was gold a month ago."

    This, right here, is why I haven't been blogging much for the last few months. I'm on this crazy horse journey and I realize that as I learn, I am letting go of some things and hanging on to others. I'm not at a place where I want to put all that out on the internet

    Also, it's interesting to watch the dog ownership change and compare it to horse ownership and even raising children. So much information out there, it makes it easy to get clogged up into doing nothing because you're afraid of doing it wrong. Better to just keep trying things, making mistakes and moving forward in life.

  3. "Because they ate stuff." This is why we NEVER kiss our dogs on the nose/mouth and NEVER let them kiss us (although they are fast with those tongues! :)). A kiss just isn't that nice when the dog has just been at a pile of afterbirth. We love our dogs, but not that much!

  4. Spot on as always Mugs. I grew up on a diary farm with a father who later left the farm and became a full time pro dog trainer. He's been saying for fifty years "Pick the right dog and the rest gets lots easier. Border Collies are for brave people". He has GSDs who are kennelled outdoors. They LOVE him. I now have a yard full of rescued BCs because I run 4 miles a day and ride horses 20 miles or so on the weekends. The other days they get half an hour at least of doing obedience work. The rest of the time the dogs are in the yard, or on a chain if we're not at home. They are TIRED, happy, and well trained. But apparently I don't love them because they're not in the house, and there's not a rescue society in Australia that would let me take on a dog because we work full time...

  5. How do I get rid of the "Please prove you're not a robot" thing?

  6. Love the language you used to illustrate your thoughts re: processing new information. I can really relate to that. I was POSITIVE I knew everything there was to know about horses as a Teen. Took me years to figure out how ignorant I was.

  7. practiciblodowStrange, we were just having this conversation with a young man t the barn. In the old days, people didn't buy their dog a dog, cause he would be lonesome while they worked. People didn't worry that Hoss (on Bonanza) needed a bigger horse.

  8. I think there's something to be said for dogs in the house and having more than one dog. Because dogs are pack animals. Same as horses = herd animals.

  9. I thank God we grew up in the 60's and 70's. We were the last generation to truly experience freedom and responsibility in equal measurement. No intrusive digital devices, no helicoptering, and we learned early that life could hurt if we were stupid. Imagine that!

    Amy in Ohio

  10. We played with our dogs. Pack of kids with all their dogs. We played hard and came home with scratches, bites and the od broken bone. We skated on ponds and ditches, climbed cliffs at the quarry and jumped into the water at the bottom. All this time our dogs were with us. We knew them very well. Spike barked at birds so don't take him with you when you were playing hide and seek. He was on the seek team. Bruits was the best at finding snakes and we all cried when we buried Bullet after he chocked on a chicken bone. I look at todays dogs and kids and my heart aches for them all.

  11. I'm just going to say it. Many older people think they grew up in the last best childhood. No matter what era that was. My kids are doing what I did as a kid. They have computers, yes, but that doesn't mean they don't play. It's very easy to make negative blanket statements about 'today's youth', but honestly, we aren't the first or last generation to think it. WyoFaith

  12. Anon - Not sure what your point is. Saying it was better in the old days certainly wasn't mine.

  13. Wyo Faith back in- My point was clear- it was not in reference to your post, it was in reference to the comments that resulted.

  14. I have a husky mix who has ended up in the pound twice because he is a runner. Then he was tried as a ranch dog but, once again, a runner. I took him because I have a fenced yard. He gets two walks a day and sleeps on the bed the rest of the time. I love him to death but all the training in the world won't overcome his instinct to run and run for miles. I would NEVER suggest anyone get a husky unless they are fully prepared for the consequences.

  15. Mugs, this is off the topic of this post, but i am very interested in your thoughts on reactiveness in dogs. I have a 1 year old male collie (who I could write pages about his behaviors and my screw ups thus far in dealing with him....think Brockle Lite) and I am struggling to know how to handle what I think is his highly reactive nature. It's like a doggie version of Sonita. I'm clueless in how to channel his energy and mold it into something more productive or at least manageable.

    I suspect it is based in his herding wired brain + limitless energy being misdirected toward every little sound and movement in our household. He freaks out, barking and carrying on when I open the drawer with the aluminum foil (total meltdown when I tear it) get out the cooking spray (meltdown when spraying), when my husband opens the drawer with his deodorant (no clue, deodorant application is not upsetting) and the list goes on and on. I swear he can hear a pin drop anywhere in the house. Right now I'm trying to maintain some semblance of control by downing him when he comes flying into the room barking and give him the command to be quiet. He will obey that without issue but it hasn't stopped the initial behavior at all. He gets a minimum of an hour of exercise a day and is in intermediate obedience and enjoys that. Any suggestions from you or anyone else with ideas? Sorry if this isn't very clear, or is lacking in information.


  16. Hey Mugs, have a great Christmas and hope 2015 is a great one for you with minimal new health issues.

  17. The holidays are a reflective time of year. Only natural to think about the changes that time has rolled our way, personally, socially, and globally. At least my dogs knows they're dogs, my horses are fat, happy, and underworked - which is, like, the modern American Dream - and my husband knows he's my world. None of us dresses up the animals, and the animals have yet to dress us. But outside our house, the changes are....amazing. And here's one that is going to rock the horse world. As if the "hobby" wasn't expensive enough-

    Mugs, have a wonder-filled, Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year. Amy in Ohio