Bravo? Charlie?

Hero is a lovely puppy - he adores people, children, other dogs. He's white and fluffy and full of cuteness. So what could possibly go wrong?

I'll tell you what. Hero is the most stubborn, willful, pissy dog on the planet. Don't get me wrong here, he's definitely squirmed his way into my heart. I love him. But he's got some serious behavioral issues.

I know, I know. You can't see it. It doesn't add up. He's a cockapoo. Can you really be all that willful when your breed name ends in "poo"?

The thing about Hero is that Hero bites. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Hero, the cockapoo, bites. Elle Charlie, self proclaimed (but proclaimed nonetheless) bad ass extraordinaire, is afraid of her cockapoo. I can not say that enough. He's a cockapoo.

I really don't know where he gets this aggression from. He's neutered, and although I joke around about it, we don't yell at or get physical with Hero. We're both therapists by training. We talk, we soothe, and when push comes to shove we usually just give in. Hero isn't ever in any kind of threatening situation. He's never at risk for being harmed. We're not aggressive people, and we don't have an aggressive household.

I talked with Mookie about this the other day, because Mookie is something of an expert on canines. He's a wonderful owner to two dogs, and is endlessly fascinated by the entire species. I daresay he likes dogs better than people.

I told Mookie about an incident we had the other night, where Hero stole a dvd and then hid behind the couch. When I went to get him out, GENTLY, he growled and snapped at me. And then he bit Hubs (Hubs - gentle, patient, therapist Hubs!) twice. Hubs never loses his temper, he was merely talking calmly to Hero and trying to lure him into giving up the dvd.

When I presented this case study to Mookie, he said that Hero doesn't see us as alpha. He doesn't believe that anyone has control of the situation. Which only makes Hero more aggressive and unsure. Maybe because he can sense our anxiety (I'm sure I reek of anxiety - the moment he growls I freak out), maybe because we try to soothe him instead of taking charge. Maybe because he's just an ├╝ber willful pooch. But regardless of why, Mookie felt that we need to reclaim control of the household, for the good of Hero. He believes in pack mentality - that Hero will be happier, calmer, and more at ease if we establish a pecking order (and he is not at the top of it).

Mookie suggested we do an exercise that a pet expert told him to do on his dog Sadie when she was puppy. It establishes dominance. We're supposed to put Hero on his back between our legs and hold him there until he stops struggling against us. We're not supposed to yell at him or be angry, just restrain him. And then be really nice to him, pet him and soothe him and tell him he's a good boy.

At the end of my conversation with Mookie I was very quiet. "What're you thinking?" he asked me.

"I can't believe he doesn't think I'm alpha," I replied, dumbfounded. "Me!"

"I know," Mookie commiserated, "It's a bit of a blow to the ol' self esteem, isn't it?"

So when Hubs came home that night I told him what Mookie had said. I then vented to him, "Can you believe he doesn't think I'm alpha? Me? Me!? I do everything for him!"

Hubs merely shrugged. "Maybe he thinks you're his servant," he joked.

"Well," I rounded on him, "Do you think he thinks you're alpha?"

I expected Hubs to say that of course not, he doesn't think anyone's alpha. He's an insubordinate little poocher.

Instead, Hubs shrugged again. "Yes."

I balked. "Yes!? You think he thinks you're alpha?"

"Yes," Hubs repeated. "He doesn't fight me when I have him in the submissive position. I put him on his back between my legs when I wipe his paws off and he just rests."

Now I was really getting upset. Why is Hubs alpha and not me? I would say between me and Hubs I'm far more alpha-like.

Later that night, my ego still wounded, Hero stole a tissue from the bathroom. I calmly got a hold of him and gently flipped him onto his back between my legs. He bit me twice and fought me for ages. Finally, he relaxed. But only as a tactical maneuver to gather more strength. Then there'd be another onslaught of his wrestling to get free. I talked to him calmly, but I didn't let go.

When I finally did release him I wasn't sure anything had been established. Mookie said we should do this several times a day, and then of course also when he steals things and we need to get them back.

A little later that night, Hubs let Hero outside. When Hero was ready to come back in, Hubs picked him up, placed him on his back, and began to wipe his paws. Hero was dead dog. He lay between Hubs' legs with his head on Hubs' thigh and just rested, breathing contentedly.

I stared at them. "Whttttttttttt?"

Hubs looked over at me. "He's always calm for me."

"Whttttttttt? You're alpha? And not ME? You and not me?" The proof is in the pudding. "WHY???"

Hubs shrugged again. Hey, when you got it, no need to flaunt it. Which made me even more angry.

"I can't believe this! I can't believe he doesn't think I'm in charge. I can't believe it!"

Again, with the shrugging.

"This is total crap!"

More shrugging.

"I'm not alpha, and I'm the only one who doesn't know it?"

Finally, a laugh. Ah ha. I'm funny, am I? Alpha this, boys. Just you wait! I'm in charge and while apparently that's not clear to anyone right now, just you wait. I'll show you alpha...

"Alpha's not something you do, it's something you are," Hubs told me in a very zen like voice.

Just you wait, gentleman.



mommy2twinkies-Deb said...

Oh, Elle, as far as I can tell, you will show them soon enough!!! :-)

3:46 PM
HeatherPride said...

Poor girl! I can tell you from working in insurance and getting a ton of dog bite claims across my desk, cocker spaniels are some of the bitiest (a real word. probably.) dogs out there. And my parents had a high strung terrier they did the flip-over trick with, and it totally worked! So keep flipping that pooch over!

3:49 PM
Anonymous said...

Someday Elle you will have a child, and that child will be two years old and decide that you are not Alpha then either. Blah. Get used to it ;).

4:09 PM
Jenny said...

Oh dear! We had a cockapoo and that dog was the craziest dog we have ever had... we never saw him sleep (outside of his crate at night) ever. We would take him to the tennis court and throw him a ball for 2 hours and it wouldn't tire him out.. it would spur him on. He freaked out one night and bit my husband when I was about 6 months pregnant.. that was the end of Shammer... he got a great new home though. I feel your pain.

5:23 PM
momofonefornow said...

Can I just interject one thought here, it might even help your bruised ego a bit. He used to belong to someone else, right? If the female in that situation didn't establish her alphaness (so a word) originally, he may be carrying that over to you. It may not be about anything that you have or haven't done.

Also, I am thinking that the biting thing would really piss me off. It won't kill your dog to hear a raised voice every now and then. We had a really obstinate dog a few years ago and our vet explained it like this, within their pack the one that growls the loudest and is the toughest is the alpha. They see it the same way within your home. If he growls the loudest or lands a bite then he is the leader. The vet told us to growl, loudly at the dog. It was really strange at first but it worked and in just a few weeks all I had to when she was doing something wrong was to look at her sideways and she'd roll over.

Just my 2 cents worth.

5:34 PM
~Jennifer~ said...

Mookie is right dear Elle. sucks to hear it I know. Watch the Dog Whisperer for an hour and you'll see what I mean. In the meantime, a previous commenter about another female not having been the alpha could be correct. Try this:

5:46 PM
DeeMarie said...

You are totally the Alpha. They just weren't informted yet. I think you should flip Hubs over and pin him down till he relents!! ;)

5:47 PM
Casey said...

Heh, sorry to hear about your dog woes, we've been there, believe me. One of our dogs (the sweet one I blogged about today) is terrible and when my son started crawling he went straight towards HER every time. She snapped at him a few times (never bit). It was scary and we even sent her away to a boot camp for a week to help work on her training. They get along great now but we all had to step it up a notch and establish her dominance. If you haven't seen the Dog Whisperer, watch it. It sounds cheesy but it's not and it works. Good luck!

6:41 PM
Bob said...

Yep.. I agree with momofonefornow totally... we had a little jack russell and he'd growl and snap at anyone he decided to. So I decided one day to growl louder at him and stand up and show my teeth (you know, like big dogs do)...and his beady little eyes widened and he totally backed off. Every time he'd growl at someone, I'd growl at him and stand if I already wasn't. Finally, he realized he wasn't the alpha male and straightened out. Didn't take more than a couple of weeks. And I didn't care who I growled in front of, I was teaching my dog to be nice to my kids or he'd answer to me. I didn't have to raise my voice either. Just growl louder. It was fun.

7:39 PM
Steph at Problem Solvin' Mom said...

Hee Hee, eventually they will realize who is really in charge! ;)

We did the submissive thing a lot laying our dog on his side or back until he relaxed, and eventually it should work for you.

7:48 PM
Road Blocks and Roller Coasters said...

Why do I get the feeling both Hubs and Hero will regret thinking of you as anything less than Alpha? I can't wait for the follow up! :)

7:59 PM
steenky bee said...

I bet you're the Alpha with hubby and he doesn't even know it. :)

We have two labs and my husband is definitely the alpha. It was hard for me to get any respect while they were little. Now, the black lab is my buddy and he prefers me more. Plus, I keep bacon in my pocket. It helps.

8:20 PM
Swishy said...

You will always be alpha to me!!!

11:56 PM
Grad3 said...

Like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding... "the woman is the neck and turn the head any way she wants!"

You go girl!!! ~Hugs~

8:44 AM
Anonymous said...

This made me giggle. We fight with Zoe on this ALL.THE.TIME. He's by far the most stubborn dog on the planet. It's not that he's even agressive, just painfully stubborn. He was a biter when he was a puppy though, and he had the sharpest teeth EVER (once those fell out and he got his big-dog teeth, he's gentler, ironically). It took a looooonnnngggg time to get him to stop biting anytime your hand was near his nose. We found that if we grabbed his snout to hold his jaw shut and stared into his eyes and gave him a "look" and firmly (but gently) said "NO!", he finally got it. Lots of luck on the alpha-mom thing. He'll get it. :)

9:50 AM
Ali-Pants said...

UGH. I feel for you, girl. My parents had a nasty little miniature poodle that thought he was king of the world. Of course, he had his moments of pure adorability but he eventually bit the hell out of my little brothers hand and they gave him away. I think he probably could have been rehabilitated if my parents would have put in the time and money. Maybe you can get Ceasar Milan to come and help! Or that British chick from Animal Planet. She works miracles, I tell you! MIRACLES!

8:25 PM
Bina said...

Every cocker I have ever ran across bit and pissed on their owner's floors. I'm just saying.

But my God he is so freaking cute!

1:59 PM