The first time I heard people announce the reproductive status of their dogs, I thought, “Who cares?” It sounded to me like Gomer in that episode of The Andy Griffith Show, where he makes a citizen’s arrest. When people come in repeating, “Intact male,” all I hear is Gomer saying, “Citizen’s arrest.”
After spending a few weeks at rally obedience classes, however, I realized just what a big deal that can be. These dogs present with a certain attitide, a certain presence, a certain I don’t know what. It’s no wonder Lilly responded … in this case, negatively.
You see, most of my friends live with rescued dogs who are altered. Lilly never had a problem with them. But, we already know that she’s super sensitive, super soft, bordering on autistic when it comes to noise and motion and high-strung energy.
In early 2007, after more than a year of shutting down at agility, she began snarking at any dog in the building at rally.
Along with rally, there were CGC classes, conformation classes, and competitive obedience classes, so the whole place was brimming with intact dogs who were trained to carry themselves in a way Lilly found intimidating. She even told our animal communicator that she felt the dogs “mocked” her.
Sadly, even though I pulled her after just a few weeks, she transferred her new fear of other dogs to all other training venues — even her favorite work-and-play class with Gigi Moss (our big-picture trainer). I was crushed. It had always been the one place Lilly showed continued progress. It was the one place she seemed like her real self (the confident, smart, most excellent girl I know and love).
It’s taken me 5+ months to unravel the behavior pattern that started at rally, which we tried as a way to build ring confidence. The goal was succeed there in hopes it would carry over into agility. Instead, it added to our training challenges in a most unwelcome way.
I’m not necessarily saying there is a cause-and-effect relationship here. In my quest to solve the mysteries of Lilly, I simply spend a lot of time looking for correlations, for changes that match our timeline of behavioral reactions. And, the pattern of fear-aggression toward other dogs started at rally, where there were a whole lot of intact dogs.