Spike's choice, on Spike's schedule.
Raise your hand if you have never heard this phrase applied to a dog.
(Scans silent room with no hands up.)
Cesar Millan's mantra when he's dealing with a new person and a pack of dogs, or a single unsocialized, fearful, or aggressive dog, has pretty well permeated the popular culture.
I had no idea how thoroughly, or how fortuitously, until Spike came to foster here.
Spike's genetic temperament is bold and pushy. His total lack of socialization as a puppy did not support those genetics. He came here shy and somewhat reactive, with a desire to approach people overlaid with terror at the prospect. He was especially reactive to men.
In other words, a pup who could easily be pushed into the world of fear-biting.
So off we went to Tractor Supply. All the damned time.
At first, I'd hook him to Rosie with a coupler. Rosie always wants to whore it for strangers; Spike would get dragged up to people whether he wanted to go or not.
Most people would ask what was up with him. I developed a really brief little patter for them:
Spike was born in a puppymill that was raided in a cruelty investigation.
He was probably not touched for the first eight weeks of his life, and certainly never met any new people.
He's here to learn how to be confident.
It works best if you just fuss over Rosie and pretend he isn't even there.
If he approaches you, just put your hand down low and let him investigate it, and pet his chest and chin if he leans into you.
And at least half the people would come back with "Oh, I get it. No talk, no touch, no eye contact." And without any further coaching, or with very little, they'd carry on allowing Spike to progress at his own pace. They'd turn sideways to him, avert their eyes, continue the conversation with me some of the time, and let Spike get comfortable and approach them without getting excited and lunging for him as soon as he made the slightest overture. No hovering, no cooing, no "Oh, it's okay, dogs love me!"
Scores of total strangers who are presumably not all dog trainers did this in the months we worked with Spike. (The one place I did not take Spike was the local PetsMart, where the "trainers" will not leave customers' dogs alone, and insist on using junk food to condition jab 'n' grab precursor-to-biting habits in shy dogs.)
Once, and once only, when I asked a strange man to stop approaching a barking, growling, skittering Spike in the store, the man tried to argue with me -- "How else is he going to get friendly?!"
Tried to argue, because I no longer argue with intrusive idiots -- I stepped between them and claimed space from the cynological expert -- and with me, because a lady who was looking at the baby chicks nearby spontaneously took up verbal advocacy for Spike for me. She told the guy that Spike was not his dog, and that he didn't know what he was doing and had no business screwing up his training.
Imagine that. For my N=1 of morons who are dead-set to press their pig-ignorance on my dog, I got an N=1 of genuinely helpful bystanders.
There couldn't be a starker contrast than to the last time I had an unsocialized, terrified hoarder refugee -- two of them, actually.
When I fostered Zoom and Boink for Animal Friends of Pittsburgh (I think it was about 2001), the two little beaglish mutts may have never been touched by human hands. It took weeks to gain their trust, and a couple months to get them socialized enough to consider placing them for adoption. And it was a daily trial to get people to give them some goddamn space. I had to use clients and friends, and provide pre-contact coaching and simulations using my own dogs, in order to get people to behave appropriately around the adorable, and mortified, little dogs. Taking them out into public simply invited assaults that they were simply not equipped to tolerate for several months.
There are other true and useful memes that have drifted out into the generally dog-ignorant popular culture from Cesar Millan's cable television show: the importance of exercise, the fact that dogs are animals, not human children in hairy jumpsuits, the owners' role in most "dog behavior problems."
But if the popularity of this cable television show had done nothing else, Spike and countless other dogs -- dogs whose tolerance for simian vulgarity is not the bottomless well that rude, thoughtless humans presume from the mostly endlessly forebearing canines who abide them -- say Thank You.