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Friday, November 18, 2016

IT'S ALL ABOUT SAM ..... socializing a six year old dog


On the beautiful sunny afternoon of July 31st, 2016, rescue worker, Jennifer, arrived at our Elliot Lake home with Samson and Princess Delilah; two adorable, little, six-year-old chihuahuas.

For me, it was love at first sight.   I was still grieving the loss of our beautiful ten-year-old German Shepherd/Mastiff boy, Ki, on this day, while my love and happy memories of  sixteen-year-old, Jack Russell, Dudley, had become an integral part of who I am. 

Both Ki and Dudley were always the most affectionate, lovable, pets.  They hogged the bed at night, they walked happily on their leads and loved the attention of all they met on their walks.  They each got along well with people and with other dogs.  Pure delight, Ki and Dudley are my only experience with dog ownership.

Upon the arrival of these playful chihuahuas, I watched with fascination and amusement as the two little ones romped around my backyard seemingly making themselves right at home.

We received no warning.  Totally unprepared for a dog that growls, snaps, and bites, I was shocked the first time it happened.  My first bite from Samson was on my nose as I bent down to pick him up.   It was such a fast event that I had no time to move away and protect myself. 

Future growls and bites have been on my hands and just above my wrist.

I haven't been bitten by Sam for several weeks now.   His behavior is improving for sure.  But, also, I have adopted little tricks to keep myself bite-free.   I don't believe I've been successful in teaching Sam anything.  I've just sort of learned how to protect myself.   I keep hoping that love will conquer all.

Yes, the name Samson has been shortened to Sam, and Princess Delilah is now our little Lila.

Our understanding is that prior to coming to our home, these soon to be seven-year-olds lived with a lady who loved them.  However, this lady, I am told, did not entertain anyone in her home nor did she take her little dogs for walks.  These little Chihuahuas never met or interacted with anyone but this lady.   They knew only her home and her backyard.

Consequently Sam and Lila never saw other people and certainly never saw other dogs.

Knowing that they have never been socialized, I am doing my best to learn how to best bring harmony into their lives as well as  into my own.

Of the two, only Sam is a biter.  Lila, well, Lila is the barker.  Yes, they both bark but Lila is most often the instigator when it comes to barking.   And her bark is a high pitched yippy kind of bark that is known to grate on the nerves of people.  Sam's bark is a sincere, loud, pay-attention-to-me kind of a bark.   Lila is very affectionate.  Sam is very jealous if I give my affection to Lila.   Sam is also very affectionate when he wants to be.  They both love belly-rubs.   For the first few weeks they were both little poop-factories.   As much as I love them, between the two of them, I sometimes think I am going to go crazy.   Fortunately for several weeks now they have made no deposits in the house.

We want to socialize Sam and Lila.  And for this reason we take them for short walks in order for them to learn that, yes, there are other people and other dogs in this wonderful world.

If a person approaches when we are walking the dogs, Lila starts with her barking accompanied by Sam who expresses his barks and growls in a don't-mess-with-me kind of way.  We know that if we tighten their leads to keep them away from people it makes both dogs more determined to bark.    But we also know that if we don't tighten their leads someone could be bitten.   Oh, not by Lila.  Lila is not a biter.  But, by Sam, it is quite possible.  Therefore we feel we have no choice but to tighten their lead in order that no one be injured. 

Surprisingly we have had no problems with close family members coming into our home.  Oh, yes, Sam tries to be the bully but he soon settles down and behaves himself in their company.

Again we face a dilemma.  We want people to come to our home.  We love our friends.   Also, we know that unless people come into our home, Sam and Lila will never become socialized and welcoming to people.

Ninety-five percent of the time Sam is now very well behaved and respectful of me.  But still there are moments when I know he would rather bite me than do as he is told.

I have a friend.  Her name is Tammy.   I am so very grateful to have her in my life.  She is a fearless lover of animals.   And although Sam has been doing his best to bully her, Tammy stands firm earning Sam's respect.      She understands the situation and she knows how very much we want to teach Sam to get along with others.

I understand why most people don't want to come into our home.   At the same time, how can we socialize Sam and teach him to get along with people if he does not have people around him?  It is a conundrum.

We have been told that the lady who loved Sam and Lila for six years did not socialize; did not entertain in her home; did not take the dogs for walks.

Now, the question is this:  Did she not do these things because of Sam's behavior?  Or is Sam's behavior the result of her decisions?

This we don't know and, this, we will never know because the lady, sadly, has died.

I love Sam and Lila.   Most of the time in our home they are well-behaved, affectionate, and loving little pups.   We hope and pray that, in time, we will be able to say that they are this way all the time.  After all, they have been with us for just a little more than three months.

Life is good and life goes on.  But the truth is that for the past three months in our household it is all about Sam.  

We are grateful to our closest neighbours who have not yet complained to us about the yapping pups out on the verandah as the children walk by on their way home from school.   I don't put them out there every day as the kids go by, but I do on occasion because I am hoping that Sam and Lila will one day finally accept that there are children in this world and, hey, we don't own the sidewalks.

How do we socialize dogs unless we take them out into the world to see other people and dogs; unless we have people visiting in our home?     

We are in love with Sam and Lila.   And Lila, apart from her barking, is a delight.  She is not a growler or a biter; just a little yapper.   

If you have ever experienced anything similar in your own experience with your pet, I will be most grateful if you are willing to share what steps you took to socialize your dog.   I've been googling constantly and, yes, gaining some good advice in this way. 

Your positive thoughts are ever welcome.      Here's a photo of Sam and Lila. 



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