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My wild ones.

Judah adores people and other dogs. She pays attention to and acts on other dog's body language. If they don't want to play, she won't bother them. But if they do want to play, bring it on! Strangers are met with a wagging tail and a lowered head, showing her eagerness to be petted and loved by everyone. She NEVER barks out of turn. The only time she barks is when she's playing with Israel, Ruger or Arai, if I tell her "speak" (or sign it) or if she hears something untoward in the backyard at night.

I've heard Israel's playful bark ONCE about a week ago when Judah was playing with a knuckle bone. She stretched out on her side when he walked up and he wanted the knuckle bone--she offered it by backing off. He then yapped at her and I nearly jumped out of my skin at the high pitched bark that came out of him. He did it only one more time and then took the knuckle bone. If someone comes to the door or comes home (except for me) he'll growl and let out a very low, scary rumbling bark (like Judah's protective bark). Otherwise he's a very silent dog.

 

Israel, as we know, is an American Pit Bull Terrier. He now weighs 53lbs, up 17lbs since I first got him. He's not very tall, but APBT's usually aren't. I think he will reach 60lbs full grown and I have no intention of neutering him before July, when he should turn 1. Before I was terrified of ever owning an unaltered MALE dog, especially a pit bull. But he's no more vicious or aggressive than other dogs I've seen, including those that are altered.

 

From the moment Judah and Israel met they got along. Judah has amazing energy and is a very balanced, calm dog. Like I said, she reads other dogs and actually pays attention to the signals--whereas most dogs don't know what's going on OR how to react. Israel doesn't feel threatened by Judah and vice versa. If Israel gets out of hand, Judah knows how to make him submit. If Israel is feeling frisky, he can make Judah submit as well. Interestingly enough, neither dog has humped the other.

 

Together they weigh 126lbs and I had to control both of them while out today in the stores. Other people let their little raggedy dogs go free on RETRACTABLE leashes. I didn't let them get to the end of the 6-ft leashes except when there weren't other people or dogs around. Even then I could reel them in to 3-ft within a second. My hands are raw from them pulling in opposite directions and wanting to smell all of the other dog piss in the stores. Seriously, neither of my dogs have ever pee'd anywhere but in the backyard (or with Israel on the back porch a few times). Judah has gone to the bathroom ONCE on a walk--she almost always waits to get home in her environment.

Anyway. My point is that other people couldn't care less if their dog is running all around and harassing other dogs. But if my dogs even LOOK at other people they are terrified. They're both commanding individuals. Judah is a decent size--73lbs--and tall enough, but nothing extreme. If she isn't wagging her tail, she's smiling at people. She has NEVER growled, snapped, or lunged at any dog or person and I doubt she has it in her.

 

Today there was a small victory with Israel. He went up to a PetsMart employee and actually sought out to be petted--and leaned against her and wagged his tail. She couldn't believe that he used to hide behind me and avoid people like the plague. To see him then I wouldn't have believed it either.

Now he knows that if he sits and is polite, that usually means he gets a treat--from a person. Food is a big motivator for this dog.

 

In training class he is the best behaved, hands down. The other dogs bark at each other, at their owners, and have a very hard time paying attention to their owners. Israel rarely gets distracted and focuses entirely on me. I love the recall exercise because he's held back by the trainer and I walk to the end of a long line and then call him to me. He RACES at me and then sits as soon as he gets in front of me, body tense with excitement at being reunited. But he isn't at the end of the line whining or barking. He's just watching and waiting for his cue.

 

While the other dogs strain at their leashes and bark madly at each other, Israel lays or sits at my feet, waiting for his next task. Annie, the worst of the group, desperately tries to get Israel riled up. Straining, two feet away from him, eyes bulging, barking in his face as aggressively as her spaniel throat can manage. And Israel just lays there, head turned the other way, leash loose so that he could easily get up and attack her if he wanted to--but he doesn't.

 

There's no getting around that he's an APBT and they were bred to fight other dogs. I won't ever force him to play with strange dogs or even like them. My goal is to get him to ignore them from the start and he does that very well on his own. Our only issue arises when *I* move toward that dog and Israel decides that if I'm going at the dog, then he should, too. So he lunges and it's never with wild, maniacal barking. It's always lunge-snarl-snap. It's controlled, it's an instinctive REACTION, but it is NOT his default behavior and I'm sure very few people would know the difference or even care. All they see is a pit bull acting out aggressively. No one would think that it's the 20lb spaniel starting it, or the 12lb Schnauzer mix instigating. It's unfair to expect Israel to not defend himself and react, but at the same time in this society with people having dogs they shouldn't regardless of size because they have no clue when it comes to what makes a dog tick, all they see is a vicious beast who wants to kill, kill, kill. They would never think that dear Fluffy or Trixie is the one starting the whole thing to begin with. You don't see Israel spoiling for a fight, egging the other dogs on. EVER.

 

The trainer is all about positive reinforcement. My method of controlling my dog involves very firm verbal commands usually followed with equally firm physical reprimands. I don't hit my dogs. I don't need to. With just a change of tone I can have Israel crawling on the ground and hiding behind Judah if he's done something wrong. I fight the knee-jerk reaction to make him come to me and then punish him, but so far I've been successful because I want a reliable recall. So even when he's been bad and I need him to come over to me, I'll praise him for coming to me. And oooh is that hard. And, too, my dogs know I am their source of food and shelter. If I want their food, they have to give it back to me.

I'm tempted to get a leather prong collar--the spikes on the inside--for Israel in class because choke and pinch collars are not allowed. But if I'm going to properly correct him for attacking another dog I need more than a stupid nylon buckle collar to do that.

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Taken on March 28, 2007