Dogs Behaving Badly
True tales from the doghouse
Let’s face it being every biped’s best friend gets boring.
When I joined the group at Bay Weekly, I tried, but there’s only so much sit and stay a dog can do. There are too many carpets to mark, ankles to nip and visitors to bark at for me to worry about good behavior. Besides, the best dog stories involve bad behavior. In other words, I had to leave a mark to leave my mark.
Between wild romps through the office leaving a tangle of limbs and computer cords in my furry wake I’ve gathered these tales of dogs behaving badly for your reading pleasure during the Dog Days of summer.
Many dogs love to ride in cars. They are thrilled to be chauffeured. This is why my German shepherd, Star, rides with me to such exotic locations as the hardware store and the dump.
On one such trip, a driver whose dog also liked to ride stopped next to us.
Star saw this dog as an imminent threat to me. She launched into protect mode, barking and snarling like a rabid wolf as she attempted to charge through the driver-side window.
Dogs are not concerned where they place their feet. When my shepherd lunged toward the dog next to us, she placed her foot, with all those pounds per square inch, in a highly vulnerable area and I don’t mean the gearshift.
So if you were wondering what caused the traffic delay along Route 231 in Prince Frederick a few Saturdays ago, now you know: It was Star.
Peaches didn’t look like a scary beast. The two-foot-tall mop was an elderly terrier, gray around the muzzle barely able to see from underneath a shelf of black fur. A sniff and a scratch behind the ear would make us fast friends, or so I thought.
As if he read my mind, Peaches growled.
“Stop that you silly boy,” my friend Rosalind purred. “He’s a big baby. He won’t hurt you,” she assured me.
From behind Rosalind’s legs, Peaches snarled at me with dull, yellow teeth. Then he lunged for my leg, grabbing a mouthful of jeans.
“No!” Rosalind rushed to my aid, putting her cheek against his. “Peaches, you are such the bad boy. Don’t do that, baby.”
The dog didn’t speak English. A big German shepherd, I thought it was named Max. It was Macht.
Macht was let out of his chain-link pen only when Mr. Stahl was home. He hardly spoke except to the dog, giving commands in harsh tones that my friend Ilona said was German. She told me that her parents had both been in the army. She was born, she said, in a foxhole.
After my family moved away, we once visited the old neighborhood. I rounded the corner toward the side door to Ilona’s house.
Suddenly I was on the ground with Macht’s breath on my face. Ilona’s screams were followed by Mr. Stahl’s guttural voice. I learned my first German words that day. Auf! Sitz! Am boden! Off. Sit. On the ground. Ilona translated after I had been pulled to my feet and scolded for arriving unannounced. I didn’t see much of Ilona, or Macht, after that.
It was a moonless night, and the shadow of the old schoolhouse cast a pall on the street below, where Mom hurried to her PTA meeting. The neighborhood was peaceful without Blacky’s cavernous barking. He was a great Dane-Lab mix who terrified every passer-by and was rumored to be dangerous. His owners denied the rumor.
Mom hummed in time with her footsteps as she click-clacked past Blacky’s silent house … unaware that he was following her.
When his giant paws landed square on her shoulders, she turned to see a snarling face. When he lunged for her throat, the fight reflex kicked in. She stomped hard, driving her spiked heel into his paw.
He yelped a pathetic retreat. As mom ran screaming the other way, she heard the dog’s owner call Blacky, are you okay?
Leaving Our Mark
Wait. Steady. Door opening, opening NOW!
Mike, our neighbor’s beagle, roars out of the house, five minutes before owner Chip is due at an appointment. Houdini hound escapes again.
Whoa what’s that smell? Hmm. A little motor oil mixed with dead fish? YES!
Zeroing in on the effluence from the neighbors’ jet skis, Mike rolls with doggy glee.
Squish into the back, rub behind the ears … yes, yes … Uh-oh here he comes!
Like a jet, Mike launches past Chip’s outstretched hands, but not before the reeking rocket transfers a dose of ripeness to Chip’s pants.
Not from the dog, but from the two kids, waiting to go with Dad to his interview.
Whoa, they think. That’s the first time we’ve ever heard Dad say THAT.
Dotty Holcomb Doherty
I held Soze all the way home from the Pennsylvania kennel. As scenery zipped by the car window, I snuggled with my very own first puppy. I held him up, scratching his ears and cooing as he rocked placidly in my hands.
My mother, who drove while rolling her eyes, pulled into a local PetSmart so I could buy some essentials. My father offered to hold Soze, but I refused. Our bond was already too strong to sever.
I bounced down the aisles of the store, preening with my calm little puppy, my parents trailing behind me. When a woman stopped to coo with me, I held my boy high for the world to see.
I looked up in time to see Soze’s eyes cross.
As sweet-smelling puppy vomit rained down on me, I handed my now-hyper and wiggling dog to my laughing parents.
Clean up on aisle two.
Two years ago, my husband and I adopted our second pound puppy, a stray more dog than puppy we named Alta. He is a real momma’s boy, my shadow wherever I go.
Unless the front door is open. Then he becomes man of the world, off to make the neighborhood bushes and low-lying objects his own with a lift of his leg. The first time, I went into a panic, calling his name, whistling. I was about to set off to look for him as a flash of brown came from around the house. His spree spent, he had come home.
With the hope of curbing this urge, we walk the neighborhood parks where he is permitted to have controlled pee sprees a few times a week.
Now and again when the gate is not closed properly, he sets forth to reclaim his territory solo. The boy just cannot resist the forbidden fruit of the neighbor’s azaleas.
Daughter Kate, husband Charlie and I selected Cassie at the pound. We suspect she was raised in a kennel because she lacks certain social skills. Maybe a hunter tried to mix breeds to get a smart hound. I’m not sure it worked.
The nadir of Cassie’s etiquette came at Kate’s 15th birthday party. Her basketball team had all their sleeping bags laid out on the family room floor when I heard, Mom! Girls were clambering up the stairs, looking grim.
There in the middle of the rug, Cassie had left a big, fat poop pile full of pieces of dog toys she’d eaten.
I discretely placed a paper napkin over the crime scene while I went back for proper materials.
After I cleaned it up, I asked Kate why she didn’t. Her reply: “I don’t do poop at my own parties.”
Sandra Lee Anderson
A Bit of Bite
Dandy, the son of Andy, a golden retriever, was four months old when he arrived at Upakrik Farm. Dandy made friends with Maine coon cat Pumpkin by gently nibbling at the fur on her back from head to tail. The cat loved it.
Until the age of two, Dandy chewed holes in blankets and quilts, rounded the corners of our wooden picnic benches and seemed to enjoy eating the ends of shoelaces. I don’t believe one shoe in the house did not suffer Dandy damage. He was even caught chewing on shoelace tips while guests were sitting down. When we thought he was on his best behavior snoozing on his favorite couch, we discovered that he had chewed off the leather bindings from the rattan.
Even today, at seven, he chews on sticks, bones and corncobs. He destroys doggie toys almost as soon as he gets them. Even tennis balls have a short life. The only toy that he seems to cherish is his Frisbee, which remains unharmed.
Girl was a rescued dog, with the scars to prove it. She followed me everywhere from Day One.
I noticed the scratches on the apartment wall a week after we moved in. Long walks and workday lunch visits weren’t enough for Girl. My vet suggested puppy Prozac for her anxiety, but, certain that my love would overcome her phobia, I refused.
The hole next to the front door grew larger. I crated her in a small pen during the day with her favorite blankie and rubber Kong filled with peanut butter.
Girl always escaped to wait for me at the front door. The hole grew. I piled Tupperware bins in front of it. Girl shoved them aside to dine on plaster.
On Halloween night, Girl succeeded in her escape, and I got kicked out of my apartment. She waited for me alongside my landlord, who had eviction papers in hand. My Girl had chewed a one-foot-by-two-foot hole through my apartment’s plaster wall.
And I never did get that $300 security deposit back.
Smarter than the Average Dog
Yoder was enthusiastic about everything: Always ready to chase a ball, go for a hike or take a ride to any new adventure. We took him along to visit friends in the country.
Their collie Prince enjoyed Yoder up to a point. When Prince wanted to rest, our young whippersnapper was just getting warmed up. Yoder pestered Prince until they were again chasing each other.
However, Prince was a bit older and wiser, so he hatched a plan to teach our youngster a lesson. We looked up as Prince streaked by us, leading Yoder in a merry chase toward the swimming pool.
At the edge of the pool, Prince put on his brakes and veered off. Not Yoder. He kept going straight ahead at full speed. For a split-second, our dog was suspended in mid-air, with a very surprised look on his face, before he splashed down. I swear that Prince was laughing as he lay down in the shade.
Jim wasn’t a bad dog. He was a good dog. Occasionally, though, instinct overruled affection. Being an Australian shepherd, Jim loved to chase. Three times he leaped out second-story windows after a squirrel, a bird or a barking dog.
Jim and I were walking in the mountains of West Virginia when a deer jolted from the brush. Jim vanished. No dog. No deer. No sound.
I called. I walked. I waited. No Jim.
My wife drove back 30 miles to leave a notice and photograph of Jim at a country store at the base of the mountain.
The next day I searched again. No Jim.
Our friend Vickie meditated to draw Jim from the woods. No luck.
I got a call from the country store. The owner said, “Ask that old man in the trailer. Not much happens on the mountain that he doesn’t know about.”
The old man had hunted ’coon dogs. He said a lost dog would roam at night and hide during the day. Leave some clothes, he suggested.
I left a shirt where I had lost Jim. I left food in his bowl about a mile away.
The next day, I checked the shirt and the food bowl. There stood Jim beside the bowl.
I visited the old man to thank him for his advice. He gave me a leash and suggested I use it. From then on, I did.
Not Barbara’s Best
Famed dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse helped thousands of dog owners but not these with her book No Bad Dogs.
When I graduated from college and found myself alone, I decided to get a basset hound puppy. Having grown up with dogs, I had a good sense of what I was in for.
My father, however, trained my childhood puppies. I needed to purchase a book on how to make Mags a good dog. I picked up the dog training book flavor of the month, No Bad Dogs, by a stern English woman. Then I set to work.
After spending almost every waking (and non-waking) hour with Mags the first week, I needed some time without her. The first night I left Mags alone in the apartment, she managed to get out of her fenced-off space in the kitchen, attacked my bookshelf and chewed up some books. No. 1 on the mangled-to-pieces hit list: No Bad Dogs. So much for that.
The late, great canine trainer Barbara Woodhouse proclaimed “There are no bad dogs, only inexperienced owners.” I tried to follow her advice.
Kenai and Sitka, the dachshund duo in my household for a decade and a half, were the stuff of legends among family, friends and neighborhood kids. They became a pack: ganging up on neighborhood kids to steal cookies and endlessly entertaining all by their sudden dust-ups and food fights in the midst of backyard barbecues or holiday dinners.
With two dogs, of course, you never really know who does what.
One Valentine’s Day my sister sent me a big, heart-shaped box of chocolates, which I left on the dining table to go out to dinner. Back home, what I saw took a little time to register: An upside down box and lots of little brown papers scattered around the tabletop. Chocolate is toxic to dogs. A night vet in Annapolis advised a dose of peroxide. It took a while, but the chocolate did come up, all night long, times two.
Bad dogs? Woodhouse would say no. But two bad dogs? That takes one bad owner.