I don’t know how to say it. I’ve been struggling to tell you. It seems almost impossible.
My dog is perfect!
But still. After few weeks of thinking “Is that it?” and being stuck on no progress it finally happened. He made through another milestone.
Friendship has no size
I think I haven’t written about Hugo’s pal, the Greyhound called Louis. I wanted to write about him for a long time but as usually, I didn’t. So now’s the time to tell a story about one of not so many dog friends of my beloved Hugo or as I sometimes call him, Mr Hugowski.
Louis is in a similar age so now around 3 y.o. but always seemed to be older, more mature and full of dignity. I love to see those two because it’s so funny.
Louie – tall and handsome, a dog you can call “magnificent”. And Hugo – small and dorky. While Louie struts around slowly, Hugo bounces from place to place. While Louie lies down with one paw on the other, Hugo digs another hole. The King and the Jester.
At the beginning I was afraid of the outcome of their relationship. Hugo could’ve reacted in many ways and highly possible was with a growl. But somehow they met and everything went fine. I think that it was mainly Louis who’s rather friendly and neutered. Hugo had a new pal, apparently.
While I was more than happy that there was no growling or any aggressive behaviour at all I was less than happy with the crazy runs they’ve started later on. There’s no fence between us and Louie comes and goes as he pleases. If I wasn’t quick enough and they’ve seen each other the chasing started.
The dynamic dynamics
At first I was curious. I’ve never given Hugo too many possibilities to run freely with other dogs and as somehow I was forced to allow those interactions, I felt “why not give it a chance?”.
The interactions between them seemed surprisingly balanced. Louis was chasing Hugo at first and then they switched. Hugo with his short legs can’t bit a Greyhound in speed so he had to use some of his cleverness and was finding shortcuts. It was usually Louie who stopped. So there were moments of crazy running but also plenty of sniffing and doing nothing. I’ve encouraged them to stop and sniff by giving food (none of them has any issues with resource guarding so it was helpful). I often had one of them on a leash so they can calm down and learn there’s more than chasing.
Hugo’s crazy for running with dogs so I wanted to show him a wide variety of calm activities around dogs. We often met in the summer, which was very hot and it was helpful in that department. Dogs weren’t so eager to run or not so much at least. I was constantly building “let’s do nothing, stay calm” behaviours.
A learning curve
I love how their relationship grew and changed through time. Hugo taught Louie what to do with a stick and how to dig a hole. He also showed him game of tug-of-war using a safe Hol-ee Roller or less safe regular stick. They wait in a cue to drink water or lie down and relax. There’s also great amount of marking (more on Hugo’s account) and exploring. I take them for an on-leash walks to the forest.
I’ve soon realized that both Hugo and Louis don’t posses enough social skills to have the interaction they both feel comfortable in. Many times I’ve seen that Hugo wanted to stop, wanted to come to me but Louis was blocking him (usually by staring). On the other hand, Hugo often started the interactions by nagging his fellow. They both wanted to stop but none was able to give up. Their relationship is full of provocative and competitive behaviours in both of them. I think Hugo can be more insecure (hence the marking) not only because he’s sensitive but also he’s much smaller.
A crucial part of their interactions was the eye contact. It was a trigger. They tried to move each other and often the eye contact was the prelude to the chase.
The change of dynamics
After a while I’ve noticed Hugo stopped more often than he used to. He still couldn’t stop the interaction without my help but I’ve started to see more looks into my direction, more sniffing, searching for an escape and not necessarily in a form of a chase. It lasted less than a second and often they still ended up in a run but I’ve seen a small crack in his mind. Of course, I’ve always tried to help Hugo and stop the dogs. Sometimes with more and sometimes with less success. But I was there.
Louis has a very specific kind of behaviour. I think it’s common and comes with a breed. I believe he wants Hugo to be scared or run faster and treats him like a prey. It happens occasionally. Louie is chasing Hugo, being very close to him, snaps the air near the muzzle and is making a growling-like sound. Hugo’s very agile and though (in a physical way) so he manages to deal with it with quick turns. He also makes a lot of physical contact in interactions so it wasn’t as frightening as it could be for another dog. I hope I don’t have to mention that I stopped it at once (or when it was possible). But lately Louie’s showing more and more of this kind of behaviour.
My theory is that Hugo’s opposing Louie in a different fashion – not the way Louie was used to. He’s less and less inclined to run wildly whenever it pleases Louie. He’s doing more stops and what is more, he’s less provocative. At the beginning he was the one bugging Louie. Now he’s changed. Don’t get me wrong, he wants to do some running, and less doesn’t mean zero, but it is different than before. Hugo’s more aware of his own needs and that need is staying calm(er).
It also has to do with my training, I’m sure of that. Hugo started to realize he cannot mess with me all the time. That I’m serious. So more often I see his struggle and his head almost blowing out and the steam coming out of his ears: “Focus! You have to control yourself, man. There are consequences. You’re not a free agent! Control yourself!“. When I see this struggle I’m so happy that I’m afraid my head’s gonna explode. So I cry: “You can do it! Who’s the good boy?! BRAVO!“. And I know it helps him. Sometimes he’s still not so sure what to do, what to listen to but more often he listens to me.
Back to the story. One day and it happened 2 weeks ago we went to the neighbours and dogs were there. Hugo went far away to explore and Louis stayed with us, the people. But suddenly, he noticed Hugo and maybe wasn’t pleased with the fact he’s exploring his yard and went fast as a well… a greyhound. He tried to move Hugo, did this prey-like thing of his and I’ve seen Hugo avoiding him. First of all, he didn’t run! Louis didn’t want to give up and was presenting aggressive behaviours (not fight like but I didn’t like it). Fortunately, Hugo when dealing with familiar dogs never responds with aggresion. He just avoids being bitten. I know that at some point I want to stop that. I don’t want for him to be a punchbag but for now I’m happy that he’s not fighting back.
I started moving into their direction – not going in a straight line towards them but more to show Hugo where he can run away and join me. But I’ve stopped.
Not so awkward?
I’ve stopped in amazement because my socially-awkward dog, my little Mr lost in conversation, peed.
He lifted his paw and peed. And he did it twice.
It was the most beautiful form of dog communication he presented in his whole life. I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud! I actually stopped for a while in shock and amazement. After a second I moved because I wasn’t sure if Louie apprieciated this conversation as much as I did. It ended pleasantly. I took Hugo closer to me, yelled at Louie and we went.
Of course, I don’t blame Louie for anything. He’s a great dog, I really like him. I think his more aggresive behaviour comes from frustration that he cannot influence Hugo as much as he did but also out of problems with understanding what the hell is happening.
I see that I have to be more carefull with Louie now. He has to be given time to understand new dynamics and also learn. And as usual, with Hugo it’s still so much to do but let me savour this moment. Those few seconds (which I’m quite sure most people wouldn’t even notice) made me think that it’s really working. That the work I’ve put into Hugo, choosing methods for him and balancing them so it really fits our relationship – it’s all working out and at last Hugo started giving back.