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Crowd Control

September 16, 2010

My son, the Boy, is five and a half, he weighs about 45 lbs. soaking wet, and he’s used to being bossed around because, well, we all do it.  Our new dog  — we named her Stella, so that Chris can stand outside in his undershirt calling her “Stella!  STELLA!” — weighs about 65 lbs. dry, and I’m not thinking about her soaking wet if I can help it, but that reminds me to pick up a bottle of Retsina.

The Boy needs to learn to display dominance over the dog.  This does not come naturally to him.  His usual response to a conflict of wills is to lie on his bed and cry in frustration.  Things came to a head with the dog early on — he was running, and she was excited, and snapped at his ankles.

She is a shepherd, so ankle snapping is part of her genetically-motivated behavior.  However, we can’t have her snapping at the kids.  Period.

The Boy, of course, burst into tears.  “Mommy, why is she biting me?”

“Well, she is a shepherd,  That means she was bred to herd sheep, and she is treating you like a sheep.”

“Why does she want to hurt the sheep.”

“Not hurt, h-u-r-t, but herd, h-e-r-d.  You know, like in Babe when the dogs make the sheep all move together in a group by biting at their ankles.  She is a shepherd — a sheep herder.”

“Why is she sheeping me?”

I kept a straight face.  “She thinks she is in charge of you.  It’s what she does.  You HAVE to be in charge of her instead.”

The Boy looked at the dog in terror.  During our family dog discussions, he’s always expressed a preference for a “small running around dog” like a Bichon Frise, a Havanese, or a Toy Poodle.

“How do I do that.”

“You stand up straight and look her in the face and you tell her who is in charge, and then you hug her hard around her shoulders.

It’s working.  When he feels scared, or she gets too rowdy, he stands at attention and says “I’m a man and you’re a dog!” and dominance is established.

I wish all of our fears could be confronted and vanquished in such a straightforward manner.  I also wish I could get the dog to herd the kids into the car at 7:50 every morning.

From → Dog

  1. Mary Knapp permalink

    A valuable verb added to our language….”sheeping”/

  2. Maureen Basedow permalink

    Dogs do this often with the smallest/youngest one in the family. Penny did this with Tess – only with Tess. It has improved (try having him put her dinner out a couple of nights), but funny how they do that.

  3. Cindy Thornton permalink

    We had an australian shepherd named “Vizzini Axel McSwiggin” in college. Let’s just say that the shepherding instinct was strong with “Vinni”. He would literally, open the front door and start herding children that were playing in the park in front of our house. Strangely, the mommies weren’t too interested in the instinctual nature of shepherds. Now that I think about it, neither was animal control.

  4. Amrita permalink

    Bear used to give Zendar a hot dog each day after school. That set up the relationship pretty well, with Bear dominating through reward.

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