Woke the dog
Why saving a juvenile criminal dog in a city like Berlin can lead to serious harassment, threats and social cancellation.
Möritz was sold to me as an Australian Shepherd. I never believed that for a second and I really don’t care. I got him out of a complicated situation with ten month of age. He was constantly over-excited and subsequently disrespectful and violent. I got some bites for trying to break his bad habits and not all of them where playful ones. He growled at neighbors and guests and had tons of neurotic anxieties. The dog was seriously off. He couldn’t focus for a second and was trapped in an endless stream of events. He slept terrible, controlled me inside and ignored me on walks and dragged be around like whatnot.
But he is a diamond inside. I am pretty sure, this dog has it all. And more.
I had dogs that reacted on first call. Most of the time. I did circus tricks and parkour-ish tricks in the urban environment. These dogs knew where to shit and where not, how to behave off-leash in public transport and the city center. I earned me the attribute dog-whisperer without asking for it. My general approach is, that you should not have a dog, if you cannot walk it off-leash.
I hate violence and are very empathic. I put myself in the dogs place all the time. I am thus an absolute fan of treat-based training and use that whenever possible. That does not mean, that I am only bound to treats.
While my past two dogs did not need massive corrections at all, Möritz was constantly asking for it. I was honestly surprised on how little he gave on treats outside and how impossible it was to get him out of his excitement. Walking him was a menace and dangerous. I had to introduce corrections.
If I would have started with a gentle leader, Möritz would have snapped his neck. He constantly and randomly started to run full-speed towards new points of interest. So I had to correct him with a leash at first. It took me a while to realize that the leash must not have any flex to make the corrections work at all and had to learn very quick, how and when to correct and stop certain behavior. During that time, it became really frosty. On one of our walks, Möritz made me fall. I realized, that I need to get even more control, to not be in danger when walking this dog. The corrections looked awful sometimes and I did a ton of mistakes before refining the process and getting all pieces together.
First time on TV
One of these early days, I passed by a lady with her dog. Möritz wanted to play with the other dog, but I had other plans for the situation. I got advice from a trainer to not let him play too much with other dogs and keep him under relatively strict regime while still de-sensitizing him against passing dogs and other influences.
I put Möritz in heel command, fighting his will to break out of the situation and run towards the other dog. I had a hard time doing that. I continued my way and since Möritz was constantly looking back, I realized that the lady now followed me with her dog. The situation allowed me to use a different sidewalk, so I changed the sidewalk. The lady still followed me. My dog was constantly stressed out by the presence of her dog relatively close.
Since the dispute between Möritz and me only heated up because of this stalking, I had to be even more enforcing. At one point the conflict between Möritz and me escalated and I had to make my point. I was loud, I grabbed the dog, I pulled the leash. I made him sit and wait to calm down. Things started to calm down. I was breathing heavily. The stalking lady chose exactly that moment to approach me an accuse me of animal abuse while filming me with her mobile. This was so hilariously unprofessional and childish, that I shrug her off with very clear wording. And since she screamed, I screamed louder. You have no idea! Go away! Don’t berate me! It worked the same as with dogs. She gave in and went. No insults required.
As the dust settled, I was quite surprised that Möritz did not go after her. I feel that backing off would have sent a very negative signal to Möritz, leaving him with the impression that I can not handle the situation. Möritz is protective and not old enough to get the situation sorted out reliably. He still sees me as his savior. A situation like this can lead to leash aggression and bites with an insecure dog in his puberty. All this danger and stress for a lady to get her steam out. I was puzzled and mildly shaken.
Second time on TV
One day later, I played with Möritz at another spot. He was on a long leash and we played with a rope. A lady passed by and I didn’t think much of it. A few steps after she passed, I happened to look back and realized that I was filmed again. A that moment I realized, that the lady passing by was the same than yesterday and she turned around walking backwards to film me. I felt stalked, but did not approach her.
I began to realize that there is a potential danger looming. Dogs get stolen by entitled people all the time. And what if she organizes a Facebook mob to make my live hell or burn down my car? I was somewhat scared of the arbitrariness and power of a mob. I was hunted by entitled people a few times in my life and make no difference between those who want to gas me - as they did with the Jews - and those who are calling me a dog abuser for giving my dog the exercise it needs to get along in society. I was scared. But still convinced that I did the right thing, since I constantly grew into the matter and even consulted a trainer before getting the dog.
Criminal offenses in the name of animal loving
Some weeks later, I was in the park. Möritz approached another dog. The owner signaled me with his body language, thaty something was wrong. I approached and ask, if it is okay for the dogs to play. The owner of the other dog told me, that his dog has problems with the hips and Möritz’ playful mounts are too much. I called my dog and he ignored me. I grabbed him, leashed him and got some distance. We approached another group of dogs and I unleashed him again, to allow him to play. After a short play, he again went after the dog with the hip problem to mount him. I called him off again and he did not respond. I ran about fourty meters to collect and leash him again. The other dog and his owner where about to leave the park.
I went back to the group of dogs, we met before. I waited, until the other dog left the park and unleashed Möritz again to let him play. He again, fooled me and ran away towards the dog with the hip problems and began to mount him. I ran about hundret meters to reach him and told him a lesson. Since he is very vocal, he sounded like a pig getting killed. I put him on the ground and took some deep breathes.
Exactly at that two moment people - again with dogs - approached me and yelled at me for disciplining Möritz, which is coercion. I told them, that I dont’t want to talk and are not interested in their opinions. They didn’t care and approached me. Which is stalking. I leashed my dog again, but since he wa still hyper and the correction not successful, I put him on the ground again. It was snowy, slippery and I was sitting. A matter of getting him by the feet and turn him around. The approaching dogs where clearly not helpful, as on my first time on TV, and I communicated that crisp clear to the approaching offenders. Since a messed up correction can harm the dog, the unprofessional interruption of a correction can result in material damage.
I left the situation and went in a different direction. After a while I realized, that I lost my shitbags and toy. I went back, just to bump into the offenders again. This time, I got threatened with violence by the freaky lady, in case she observes me disciplining Möritz again. I asked, if she wants to threaten me and she said: “Yes”. I could only state how dumb she behaves and leave.
Coercion, stalking, material damage and the threat of violence are criminal offenses in Germany. Diciplining your dog isn’t.
Apart from that, a vocal minority of opinionated people screamed at me for correcting the dog in public. I usually shrug it off, but it did not leave me cold at all. I love my dog. I have a clear goal. I actually practice two plus hours per day with him and usually we get along very quite and smooth.
A substantial part of those vocal critiques had dogs on a tensioned leash, a flexible leash or not listening at all. One of those owners allowed his unleashed dog to approach my leashed dog in heel command and berated me to let the dog free and sniff the other dog. As if it was his decision to make. I was puzzled, but too overwhelmed to react at all. I took Möritz and went. The other dog was a bully and Möritz instantly disliked him. Another perfect start for leash aggression.
Someone I met, added me to a social media chat group that was about sharing dog accessories and information regarding missing animals. After about two days, the admin of the group revoked my permission to post something - rendering the chat group useless for me. I did not post anything. I checked back with the person that invited me to confirm that it is not a bug or error in the app. Turns out, I was deliberately muted. No explanation given.
Some entitled dog owners do not greet or even look at me and from some talks with others I could extract, that I made headlines in various small talks in my district. I could not believe that people have reserves for topics like my dog while the world has much more pressing problems.
Möritz is my first more complicated dog. The age, the mental state, the power, the sex, the demand for exercise and his odd neurotic anxieties are a different animal than the dogs, I had before. Did I anything correct from the beginning? No! Did it look ugly sometimes? Yes! Is that a problem? No! I tried to improve what I did with every iteration and began to suck up information about specific topics. And I did tons of mistakes. Yes. But Möritz too and we get smarter every day together.
Since I didn’t knew the Möritz in depth and he was hyper as hell, I could not fully determine his character and skills when I got him. I knew he is smart and I knew that he wants to have no trouble and is not bound to aggression to solve problems. These constants where the only thing, I relied on. Everything else developed as we went. Although I intended to always target behavior and not hold a grudge, I got frustrated a few times and subsequently held a grudge.
After about three weeks the dog substantially calmed down and the first compliments rolled in. Away from the area I live, people reacting overly excited to him. In the bouldering gym, I got approached by people with similar dogs, asking how old he is and how I managed to calm him down. Theirs are so hyper. Möritz mostly chills out on my pullover while I boulder. People that knew him from the early days reflected to me that Möritz is another dog now and that they see him thriving. I started clicker training and he smashed it. He is very smart.
After about three weeks, I also started off-leash training. In the center of Berlin. This is especially delicate, with a dog that tends to be forgetful about his owner on walks. This could never have worked without complementary indoor training to slowly shift his behavior from controlling me inside and forgetting about me outside into the opposite. I started off-leash rounds in known areas and regularly hid to make him look after me more frequently. We constantly improve that.
After about eight weeks, We got the basics. Puberty playes him badly. He has obviously a very high sex-drive and his dominance needs a lot of attention. He constantly tries to dominate other male dogs, neutered or not and I constantly need to interveen to stop him from bullying other dogs. He
Love & Hate
Some people hate me in my quarter for being consequent with Möritz, but first and foremost for the results, we achieved together. Especially people with very rude and disrespectful dogs seem to have a habit of schooling everyone on how it’s been done. While their results speak for themselves, they constantly plot and try to create a front against me, fantasizing animal abuse where none can be found. Responsible dog training results in a chilled dog that knows the socials rules and does not
The most telling part of all this is, that the people pretending to be nice to dogs, are jerks themselves. What else than to be a jerk can a dog learn from a person that acts aggressive and jerky whenever he/she thinks it is appropriate. These people are not aware how they torture their dogs with humanization. A dog is not a person, although he has a personality. Leading your pack in an antisocial and aggressive way will certainly have an impact on the animal.
Some people really sympathize and offer high quality small talk about their own experiences, mistakes and conclusions. This is great and helpful. For me and Möritz. Because as I initially said: I made a ton of mistakes and had to learn how to correct my dog efficiently and long-term. I appreciate these talks and myself try to be helpful without being invasive. Honoring the dog walk rules, as for example to not let your unleashed dog approach a leashed one, is more