Day 3

With Boyfriend in India, I’ve decided to change things up a bit around here from my standard “here’s some stuff I want to buy!” and do a sort of personal, day-in-review each day. I’ll include tid-bits about my day, things I would normally have told him over dinner together, and some photos (mostly of Fitz). I’ll post about the day prior every morning for the next 2 weeks.

Yesterday was thankfully a busy day at work, so I didn’t have a ton of time to mope or read any more about the scare that Pakistan allegedly gave to migrant workers and students in Bangalore (let me tell you how many knots that put in my stomach). I rewarded myself last night with yet another Sex and the City marathon and a nice stiff drink (gin, St. Germain, and ginger ale) which meant by 8pm I was half asleep on the couch. I was surprisingly domestic and actually cooked myself dinner rather than reheating leftovers; I made grilled eggplant with spaghetti and ricotta. Tonight I’m probably looking at mac n cheese and hotdogs or cereal, so don’t get too excited.

I walk by this building, The Royal, everyday on the way to the subway, and it kills me that it’s just sitting there abandoned. The front is covered in these beautiful murals highlighting the glory days of the theater but the owners keep refusing any development. The street itself is having a revival, with a ton of restaurants and bars opening up, and it’s sad that this takes up half the block, bookended with two vacant lots. It does photograph well, though.

I feel like I’ve been dishonest about Fitz, only showing you adorable pictures of him when he’s super docile and sleepy and relaxed. Comme ça:

Belly rubs, please!

In truth, the dog is a hyperactive lunatic who will chew anything he can get his teeth on when you’re not looking (trash, recycling, rugs, bugs, and many other things that remain unidentified because he doesn’t respond to “Drop it!” and will keep eating), and who becomes a screaming banshee when he’s outside and sees another dog. He’s sweet as sugar and a total cuddlebug with us, but he’s still very much a puppy, and a rescue puppy at that. He’s got some (okay, a lot) issues. He’ll gladly choke himself out pulling so hard against his collar when a dog passes, barking and screeching at him as if his life is threatened. We stopped being able to take him to the dog park because one time he was completely playful and amazing with a little puppy, and the next time he straight up attacked three dogs in rapid succession for no reason at all. We finally hired a dog trainer to come work with us and I feel like it made him progressively worse, because while he was great during our training sessions, he would lash out for days after (he shredded the bath mat, peed all over the rug for 3 nights straight when he’d never had an accident in the house before, and ended up going after another dog one night). Walking him became something we absolutely dreaded because he was totally unmanageable on the leash. It’s marginally better if we walk him individually, but if we try to walk him together? Forget it. His crazy puppy brain short circuits and he feels like he’s the “pack leader” as Cesar Milan would say, and there’s no calming him down. Literally our lives were like an episode of “The Dog Whisperer.” (Rooth, you’re right, how good is that show??)

Last week we stopped into the pet store and the guy who was working the night we adopted him last year was there. He usually works at a different location so we hadn’t seen him in a while. As is customary, he asked us all about Fitz, and after hearing our tales of woe he gave us the best recommendation of all time.

You may be wondering what that duct-taped can of baby corn nuggets has to do with it. It’s filled with a handful of coins and the sound it makes when you shake it is horrible. Fitz is simultaneously terrified of it and hates it and wants it to stop. Thus, it’s the only thing that gets his attention when we’re outside and he starts to whine and get over-anxious about a dog he senses coming 11 blocks away, and he’s learned that I’m not going to stop until he changes his behavior. I shake it once, he steps back, stops whining, sits down and waits for me to give him instructions on what to do next. You guys. It completely breaks his hyperactive/aggressive train of thought and refocuses his attention on me, where it never ever was before on a walk. His internal monologue on walks before was something like, “SQUIRREL! WIND! I HEAR JINGLING! WHAT IF IT’S A DOG? TRASH! CAR! I NEED TO PEE ON THIS NOW. I HEAR THAT JINGLING AGAIN WHAT IS THE JINGLING.” Now, thanks to a can of baby corn nuggets, it’s more like, “I’m walking. Whoa, Mom said stop. I’m sitting. I’m cute. And we’re walking again.”

We passed the family that lives a few houses up from us as they were walking their little white Maltese Roxy the other night, and instead of screaming and barking and straining against the leash at her as has been standard for the past year, Fitz sat next to me silent as a mouse while they walked by. The husband actually said, “Oh wow, he’s being so good!” “COINS IN A CAN!” I said proudly. It’s like snakes on a plane, but better.

And I don’t want to tell you what the dog trainer was costing us because it was an embarrassing amount (okay, it was $100 an hour, shut up, don’t judge me, we didn’t know what else to do), so it’s crazy to think that Fitz is phenomenally better thanks to like, 48 cents and an empty can. He’s far from perfect but we’re getting there. He’s only 18 months old, and he spent the first 6 months of his life in a shelter, who knows what kind of dog issues he has from that experience. But let me tell you, being able to walk him and have him actually walk calmly next to me? It’s magical.

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August 22, 2012 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 19

19 comments

  • What??!! I can’t wait to come across a hyper dog now so that I can make this reco. Dude at the pet store knows his stuff! On a side note, old abandoned buildings break my heart too.

    • He really did know his stuff! I just hope I’m not shaking a can at Fitz for the rest of his life. Hopefully he’ll figure it out!

  • Really? The dog trainer used a technique that escalated his behaviors? Who would have thought…she said sarcastically.

    • Sarcasm not appreciated! Boo.

  • sorry to report…it never worked for Bosco, but then again……

    • Remember what Stacy said? Bosco is half-dumb.

  • Okay, here’s my advice: Do not, I repeat, do not watch the news. They exaggerate and sensationalize everything for their own amusement.
    I’m sure BF will be sensible and stay safe – he’s got you and Fitz to come home to, after all! :)
    Unfortunately, the Pakistanis’ beef seems to be with the Indians (and no-one else) and vice versa.

    Dog trainers should come with a money-back guarantee. Does this person know that her techniques made him worse?
    I’m glad you found a simple, effective solution, though! :D x

    • I’m better off sticking to my trashy reality tv! A lot less to be scared of there, believe it or not. Though I do end up fearing for humanity when I watch either. Hmm..

      Unfortunately there wasn’t a money back guarantee. Bummer! But I’ve heard from other people that used her that she worked for them. Fitz just doesn’t respond well to positive training, he really needs someone to be firm and tough with him it seems. Gotta pull on my big girl undies and get to it! The can is definitely helping. What a cheap and easy solution!

  • Well. We may have to try this. Heartbreakingly, Thea and Lucy can get into the worst scraps, really nasty scary stuff. I kind of have PTSD from it because when there are certain “fighty” noises on TV, I can’t handle it. We’ve been trying to figure out what to do, and have the name of a “behaviorist,” but I like your method!

    And poor Fitz! He just has a lot to work through! Patience, grasshopper(s).

    • Oh no! Thea and Lucy! That’s my biggest fear about potentially getting another dog (though honestly, I’d have to be on drugs to even consider the idea). It can’t hurt to try the can method! It’s certainly cheaper than a behaviorist, no doubt. I hope the fights are too frequent? They always look so sweet and chummy in all the pictures. What a bummer.

  • So happy you found such an inexpensive yet effective way of disciplining Fitz! It reminds me of the way we discipline our cat – coins in a plastic water bottle and a spray bottle filled with water. Gosh, that sounds so inhumane. :) Anyway, it worked. I can’t imagine the issues Fitz must be working through as a rescue; Poor thing.
    Yes, I think it’s best if you don’t watch the news (or at least world news) while BF is away. I mean, why add worry on top of missing him.

    • That’s so funny! Not inhumane in the slightest, believe me, I’ve thought about using the spray bottle technique on Fitz, too. I think that only works on cats though. Whatever works! If you think about it, even though cats and dogs are “domesticated” there’s still a ton of training that has to go into making them decent living companions. Some take (a lot) more work than others!

      You’re definitely right. I’m sticking to Gossip Girl from now til September 1st. :)

  • Can filled with coins. Who would have thought about that? It’s so great that you have found something that Fitz responds to. I used to dogsit for my boss back in LA occasionally. One of their dogs had serious issues, she was afraid of being abandoned and would not even let you pee by yourself. If I closed the door she’d scratch on it like a maniac. And she peed and pooped everywhere around the house. From what I heard it didn’t get better over time, they just got her when I dogsitted the first time and not even doggy boot camp helped. So sad because she was such a lovable and intelligent dog…

    I would have needed a stiff drink after seeing these headlines too. I am sure BF will return safe and sound!

    • Oh that’s so sad! Thankfully Fitz came with awesome bladder control and has never done more than pee a few times. I can’t even imagine all of the issues he has now compounded with having to housebreak him! Gosh that poor puppy and her separation anxiety. Fitz has something similar, though not to as bad a degree. He needs to be wherever you are at all times, including the bathroom. But he’s not hyper about it, thankfully.

      Stiff drink indeed! Unfortunately there is not enough gin in my house to calm me down, haha.

  • Hah! That is awesome – you’re the dog whisperer! Maybe you should have a show… hrmmm

    • Hahah girl, I wish! Though I’d make a pretty bad dog whisperer. I have one method and one method only, haha.

  • You always make me laugh! I don’t believe you that Fitz is anything but a golden dog. Only last week someone was recounting a tale to me that they met a ‘dog ‘whisperer’ (yes, I know) who lightly bit his dog’s ear to show him who the boss was. I remember thinking that I was a) nquite pleased i don’t have a dog after that…and b) that I don’t have a job as a dog whisperer for that matter….but seriously, do people do that?!!

    • Haha I’d prefer it if everyone kept thinking Fitz was perfect, actually. That would make me feel like less of a horrible parent. I actually would love to munch on his ears, not as a dominance thing but because his ears are so floppy and adorable and I just can’t stop playing with them. That’s gross, I know. But yeah I’ve seen a lot of different ways to assert dominance over your dog! It’s all one big power struggle when it comes down to it.

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