Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dexter: The World's Real Worst Dog

Crazy. Cute.
I thought Marley and Me will be a perfect book for me as a dog lover, but I couldn't read past the first few chapters, so maybe I missed some fantastic anecdotes later in the book. I did watch the movie and while it was too long, badly paced and boring in bits, it did make me laugh in places and I was moved by the ending (even though it was mostly because it reminded me of the dogs I have lost over the years rather than because it was well made drama). Regardless, I am yet to see what made Marley the "world's worst dog".

"I'm really a good puppy."
I suppose a real contender for the title would be a really mean dog. It'll go around eating human babies. Lots and lots of human babies, leaving a bloody trail of grief and terror in its wake while cunningly evading capture. Not only that, the evil dog will eat your baby, digest it and poop it right there in the middle of the room for you to clean up. Or maybe the world's worst dog will be a super genius mutant dog with the ability to create and deploy nuclear bombs.

I bet Dexter isn't the worst dog in the world, but I would like to nominate him anyway.

I have already written in the past about his fights with other dogs. Dexter doesn't like other dogs. I don't know if it's something he acquired when he was attacked first, or if it was something that was always in him. Calling him Dexter after TV's most famous serial killer might have not been the brightest idea. My Dexter also has his own dark passenger.

Emo dogs
Preparing them for the trip to Canada, I took both dogs to the vet this week, separately. I am done deluding myself that I can handle two adult Great Danes at once. Leo was marvellous. So polite and calm, even when a rude Jack Russell was barking and growling at him endlessly. To balance things out when it was Dexter's turn to visit he flew into a rage when a dog came out of the vet's office. He jumped, twisted and tried to escape from the lead to get at the other dog. Fortunately Dexter is a weakling compared to the iron dog Leo, so I could restrain him physically quite easily, especially since he was neutered. Regardless, it was quite an embarrassing scene.

Like most Great Danes Dexter isn't very bright. I suspect his aggression towards other dogs stems partly from fear. He's afraid of them so he thinks the best approach is to kill them first. Yeah, it sounds stupid, but so is Dex. 

Dexter is a coward, but it's getting better with age. He used to be afraid of many random things: falling broomsticks, big snowballs and even houses. He would jump and go crazy every time we went past a specific house for absolutely no reason. But more than anything else Dexter is afraid of me punishing him.

You'd think that I branded him with hot iron or shattered his bones when you see the terror in his eyes. It's not a big deal indoors, but outdoors, especially when I let him off the lead, it's a huge problem.

I used to take my dogs at night to the park and release them to run around knowing that the chances of running into other dogs were very very low. I say used to in past term since last night is going to be the last time I did it. For the time being, anyway. Instead I will let them out in a small corner of the park where I know there are no hedgehogs and no open areas to get lost in. Might still be a mistake, but we'll see how it'll work out.

You see, last summer Dexter developed a new hobby. He would locate hedgehogs, grab them in his mouth and run around with them. He would occasionally put down the hedgehog and bark at it angrily for a while before picking it up again to run with it some more. You'd think it would get old eventually, but no such luck. During the winter we had a break as it was too cold for the hedgehogs to come out, but since spring it started all over again. Poor hedgehogs. 

I felt bad for the hedgehogs, especially the one time I actually heard one of them scream continuously throughout the ordeal. I made the mistake of running after Dexter and shouting at him. Big mistake, as I could not outrun him and I only made him fear me which resulted in him keeping his distance from me for a long long time.

I attempted changing my strategy and recently I would praise him when he got a hedgehog and be all casual about it in the hope that he would get bored and come back. But it was too late. He can't resist hunting hedgehogs and once he starts his routine he already decides that he is now in trouble and keeps his distance from me even when he is done playing.

Last night I spent 90 minutes outside. When the hedgehog shenanigans started I took Leo home and Dexter followed us a few steps behind, but he wouldn't come home. Instead he would run into the road several times and nearly got ran over three times. So I chased him back to the park where there were no cars to flatten him and worked hard trying to seduce him to come to me. When he eventually got near enough I got him by the collar, and the collar is all I had in my hands as soon as he slipped his neck out.

Then he found the hedgehog again and the games started anew.

I tried lying on the ground and whimper, pretend to play with him, lie that I have a treat, ask him to jump up for a hug... It took forever. Dexter was exhausted and thirsty and eventually came to me. Much as I was frustrated and angry there was no point in punishing him. He wasn't a bad boy, he was just scared of being punished, so punishing him will be counter-productive. Instead I had to praise him and play with him to calm him down when all I really wanted to do was throttle him Homer Simpson style.

"Why you little...!"
When I calmed down I realized that it was all my fault. My dogs weren't super trained which was fine. It just meant that I can't take them both together, which I learnt last year. Fine. Now I know I can't let Dexter off the lead in an area with small animals he would like to snack on (unsuccessfully).  My first ever dog, Bobby, was a very naughty dog and he was always on the lead. Dexter will just have to settle for running in the back yard or maybe I can sometimes run with him on the lead to blow some steam. I will also try drilling him when he gets to the new neighbourhood in Winnipeg to instil new habits in the new place. Growing older will also have a calming effect on him as it did on Leo.

Over the last year we seriously considered giving Dexter up, a very painful idea. I have my red lines - if he was aggressive to humans or if his reckless behaviour endangered Blake he would have been out like lightning, maybe even put down if it seemed unlikely he could be re-homed. But Dexter is a good boy. He is perfect with people, especially children. He just needs some work and restrains.

Dexter will annoy and embarrass me again, I'm sure, but he is family and that is exactly what family does.

Sleep easy, North London hedgehogs. Your nightmare is soon to be over and across the pond.



Louisette said...

Nice blog and videos,best regard from Belgium

Mickey said...

Thanks Louisette! I'm glad you like it.

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