Friday, December 03, 2010

My dog's going alpha

... and I'm not happy.

When my pooches were pups, they would happily wag their tails and approach all other dogs playfully. Mojo was always a bit skeptical but would want to jump on other dogs to test their willingness to play. Phoebe has never known fear (apart from the fear of mine or her dada's wrath). She's delighted to see any dog irrespective of size, shape, color, and smell, and wants to play with whoever it is. She approaches other dogs from below, showing that she intends to play and not harm. She's known to lie on the ground and sniff a pug's face. She looks downright silly--a 2.5-foot dog sucking up to a 0.5-foot one. Lately, however, Mojo has taken to approaching every other dog like a hunter. The moment he sees one in the distance, he slows his pace, changes his stance, and gets into his best crouching position, ready to be launched like a torpedo. I coolly watch him do all of this (it's mighty amusing!) and usually distract him at the right moment, enough to save my arm from being yanked off along with the leash.

I digress. Now to the main story.

I was walking ze canines last night, and we happened to cross another pair of familiar dogs--Max (playful and alert) and Bruno (shy, doesn't like himself or his partner touched). Mojo was ready for a go at any of them, and Phoebe was too, each with their own different intentions. I held Mojo back and loosened Phoebe's leash so that she could go ahead and play. Max was happy to sniff and let sniff. Bruno was cautious as always.

Hubby happened to cross us on his way home right then and as I got distracted for a second, Mojo slipped and went straight for Max. Max being the hunky Doberman, I was scared for Mojo initially, but within the few seconds that they were at each other, I began fearing for Max! My husband intervened and took Phoebe away while trying to hit Mojo so as to control him. In the next few seconds I somehow got hold of Mojo's mouth--he'd caught Max's ear firmly and wouldn't let go. I pried his jaws open, yelled at him, and pulled at his ear to control him.

While hubby held our goons, I apologized to the other pet owner and checked Max's ears for cuts. There were nothing except a bit of Mojo's saliva on his skin. Thankfully, his ears had been trimmed a few months ago (although I'm not in favor of that kind of vanity). I was so embarrassed, I wanted to disown Mojo right then. If Max had longer ears, Mojo would have yanked one off. I was pleasantly surprised and extremely angry at the same time.

Because they've been so protected, I always fear that Mojo wouldn't last a minute if he were out on the streets by himself. Phoebe would last for about 5 minutes at least, given how she protects herself against Mojo's attacks and advances. (Yep, we get to watch a lot of canine drama.) Street dogs are much more aggressive and vicious, which is necessary for their own survival. After this incident, I have a feeling that Mojo is much more vicious than he appears to be. He could, after all, learn to survive--with a lot of battle scars to show for it.

However, all of these thoughts came to me much later when we were all home and about to sleep. My first reaction was anger. Mojo has be been brought up playing with Phoebe and quite a few neighborhood dogs. None of them ever tried to attack Mojo. Where did he get that instinct from? Why does he take that offensive stance when he sees other dogs, especially males? I've noticed this change in him since he reached adulthood--his second heat earlier this year. It's a hormone-induced personality change, I think. He's even been jumping at Simba in offense. Simba is the dangerous-looking-but-the-sweetest-and-most-unharmful dog I've ever seen. My pooches have grown up with Simba--he's their favorite! And yet Mojo crouches when he sees Simba from afar. Although, he backs off in a couple of seconds once he realizes that Simba isn't attacking back. Then they both play a game of who marks the most number of shrubs or who marks the best. But I still hate it that Mojo isn't playful any more. He's going alpha.

It's not that Phoebe is an angel with other dogs. She barks back when another barks menacingly at her. But that's defense. She still tugs at the leash at the risk of cutting her throat, and rolls happily on the ground at the sight of another dog. She won't eat for days, but the moment she knows we have some free time, she plonks her toy at our feet and demands a game of fetch.

Mojo on the other hand uses attention-grabbing techniques like peeing on the floor without asking to be taken out--he used to do that earlier! He scratches walls, eats the paint off them, and begs for food even when he has just had his meal. I was so angry with him after the incident with Max, that I hit him all the way home. I didn't feed him and threatened to make him sleep alone his cage all night. I knew I'd cool down and bring him into the bedroom with us in the middle of the night, but right then I was ashamed of him for being mean to another dog. My softie husband melted and tempted me to relieve him from the cage sooner than I had planned.

I'm not proud of punishing him, but I doubt whether loving words or other actions would have stopped him from attacking the other dog. Given some time and space to play and know each other, I'm sure he'd even befriend Max, but I'm mighty pissed at the attack-for-no-reason. And now, I don't think Max's owner would trust me enough to attempt to get them to play.

I sometimes wonder whether Mojo feels like the less favorite one, and needs more love to prove otherwise. I hope I can find out and make him my gentle, sweet puppy again. Maybe the hormones will do that trick as he grows older and stabilizes. Fingers crossed.

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