Monday, February 6, 2017

Damn it, Bruce

I often lament about Bruce. Perhaps lament is not the right word. I often bitch about Bruce. And until you have experienced him first hand, or a dog like him, you cannot judge me.

But he's so handsome!

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Bruce. I have to, or why else would I have put up with him for nearly six years?

His issues go beyond reactivity and fear.  He is unpredictable and can be aggressive. I get judged for some of my methods with him, but I'm ok with that. I have to be able to control my dog. I refuse to allow him to live a life confined to the yard, so I take him on walks in safe areas. And I use a prong collar on him when doing so. Bruce has worked with three different trainers, two of them strictly positive reinforcement, and one of the "balanced" (whatever that means), and none could fully control him. He did pass a very basic obedience class, because he is very obedient when he chooses to be. He only chooses to be if there are no other stimuli present.

I have written multiple times about him and his antics. See here and here, for a couple of examples. Though tongue in cheek, this post highlights several of Bruce's less than desirable behaviors.

Just how bad is he, you ask?

I posted this video on Facebook and Instagram, but not here. Prior to this, Bruce had never demonstrated an interest in electronics. That has changed. At the end, you can see his reaction to me touching his back. Fortunately that caused him to drop my phone, which I then covered with my foot.

In some ways he is so much better than he was nearly six years ago. He no longer feels the need to guard space from me, or try to steal things directly from me. In some ways he is worse. If he decides he wants something, game over. He will make every attempt to get it, and nothing can distract him. Very rarely does he give anything up. This dog is lucky he hasn't had a bowel obstruction, with the number of socks he has eaten.

I dare you to try to take the Jolly Ball away from him.
I haven't taken a vacation in a while. Bruce is 100% unboardable. If he were smaller, and easy to physically control, it wouldn't be such a big issue. But he 95 lbs of muscle, fear, and attitude.

There are exactly four people I would trust to stay with Bruce. Not that I don't trust people, I mostly don't trust Bruce. One of them recently moved to California. Two of them are my old neighbors, and they have busy lives, three dogs and a cat of their own. The other is my twin sister, and her work is an hour away from me, and she has a family of her own plus two dogs. But she recently agreed to stay at my house if I ever need her to, after I offered her $100 per day to do so. I feel it's a bargain. But...she would have to come beforehand and learn the mealtime routines.

Ah mealtimes. My dogs eat twice daily. They don't need two meals, but I don't think Bruce could emotionally handle only eating once a day. Mealtimes are a circus, a process. It's a good thing I live rural. My house sounds like a kennel, or a dog fighting ring, at mealtimes.

I call him names. Most not appropriate for mixed company. He's an asshole. A douchebag. A jerk. I say "damn it, Bruce" at least three times daily. One thing I don't do with him is raise my voice in a true angry tone. That gets him grumbly, defensive, fearful and ready to react. Even when his behavior is wretched, I try and speak to him in a sweet, soothing voice. He loves praise, and sing-song voices. If he has the slightest inkling that you don't want him to do or have something, he is going to try his damnedest to do it or get it.

But I love him. I love how excited he is to see me, the way he sings at me. I love the way he dances. I love how intensely he stares when I tell him to "watch me." He is easily the most affectionate of my crew, and usually the most obedient.

He is handsome, sweet and funny. He is also fearful, reactive, aggressive and labile. Its a difficult combination. I don't trust him, but I love him.


  1. Such a great post. It must be so hard at times and stressful and scary. It must also feel like no one understands what it's like. Because how could anyone know unless their dog has similar issues, size and personality? You do a great job with him and he's so lucky to have you.

  2. Personally, I see no issues with a prong in your all's case. I would much rather someone have control over their dog than a dog be out of control. There'll be no judgement from me.

    I applaud you for how you handle him!

  3. I love this post! Bruce has all the 'problems' of all of my big Terriers combined! I never judge other dog owners ~ and I hate when others do too. (unless of course it is true abuse or neglect, well you know what I mean.) Ruby doesn't like other dogs. mostly. She was charged a couple of times by dogs when she was a pup, and no trainers have ever had success changing that. When I have to take her to the vet, we have to make 'special arrangements' so she can avoid other dogs or it's ugly. never any fights, butt the barking and lunging is scary for those who don't know her. Do I care if the vet peeps talk behind my back...NO! I don't give a rats ass! As long as they make her feel comfortable, I don't care what they think about me. If I see another dog owner who I can tell is embarrassed by their dogs behavior, I will do all I can to let them know...there is NO judgement here. I think as dog owners, we do all we can to keep or dogs safe and happy, as well as others. Oh, and I often ask Ruby..'what is wrong with you?' she's gonna answer me....☺
    Sometime I'll let you know all of her 'nicknames'
    Ruby ♥ (aka: Judi)

  4. Kudos to you for posting the video of Bruce getting your phone! I feel like everyone needs to judge a lot less and deal with their very own problems, in my very honest opinion :) I don't have a problem using prong collars either. They're one of several options I own and actively use. It all comes down to knowing our individual dogs and being able to handle them, just like you said.

  5. I appreciate your openness and honesty. While I might choose only "positive reinforcement" methods for myself and my dogs, I try not to judge what anyone else does. Because Luke's reactivity is a constant trial and I know many don't understand it. I also know I wouldn't rule anything out that we might need in order for him to stay with us. Right now, we're not at the point, but who knows what the future might bring? There are days he drives me to tears, and I wish he was more "normal", but I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets


Thanks for the howls!!