Raising a Puppy: The Second Week in his New Home—Spencer the Blue-Nose Brindle Pit Bull
A day in the life with Spencer the American Pit Bull Terrier. 2 years old, 79 pounds, 22 1/2 inches from the ground to the highest point of the shoulders (the withers).
2 years old.
Happy Birthday, Spencer-Puppy!
Happy second Birthday, Spencer-Puppy! Sara made you a doggie cake. "Happy Birthday to you!! Happy Birthday to you!! Happy Birthday dear Spencer... Happy Birthday to you!"
Lucky Bruno. Sara made you a cake, too. Good boys. It's not time to eat yet.
Spencer thinks the doggie cake smells awfully good. It smells like peanut butter, ham and carrots. What good willpower you have there, pup.
Bruno waits nicely as well. Just a few more pictures, Bruno. Good boy.
OK, boys—get it! Spencer is very gentle. He licks the doggie cake carefully, almost daintily. Sorry pup, I know you are a boy; daintily is not the right word. You are just so polite around food.
Very carefully he eats his cake, taking his time to really taste it.
On the other hand...Bruno, oh Bruno. Bruno is gentle but put food down for him and there's no licking it carefully. If it fits in the mouth why waste any time getting it to the belly??
Sweet as Ever!
Spencer is now 2 years old and as sweet as ever. If you hand him food he takes it from you as gentle as can be.
When I go to leash him up he lowers his head and "helps" me put the leash or collar on.
When we come home after being gone he always goes and gets a toy and slowly walks over, tail wagging, and presents us with his gift. He keeps his head low and slowly walks around from person to person, wagging his tail showing them his prize.
He is a very good boy on walks, heeling nicely. When he sees a squirrel or rabbit he sometimes does a walking prance as he perks up and watches it, but he knows better than to pull on the leash.
He waits at doors on his own before walking through them until someone gives him a command or all humans have passed. This is sometimes funny when a visitor comes to the house, as the visitor will be waiting for him to go, but he is standing there waiting for them. I have to tell the human that he is waiting for them and to go ahead in. When they do, Spencer happily follows.
Sit Pretty for a Picture
Hey there, Spencer. Let’s get a picture of you with the ponies in the background. Come here, buddy. Sit. Good boy. Look over here at mom for a quick picture.
Um mom, here comes Bud, that ornery stud pony who often forgets his manners!
Spencer, look here. Hurry up...
Bud is getting closer! He's coming right for me! Two seconds later Spencer was wisely out of there. Oh well. We will work on getting another picture later on.
Spencer keeps his eye on Bud, the young stud pony who often entertains himself by chasing dogs. I step in and wave my arms at Bud. Not today, Bud. You will have to go and play your dominance games with someone else. The stud pony walks off to eat grass and we finish our walk without him tagging along. Budweiser grew up with Bruno and the two of them get along fine. Bud leaves Bruno alone for the most part. He mostly leaves Spencer alone as well, but the few times the pony decided to chase Spencer taught Spencer to keep his distance.
Another Baby Test
We don't have any babies living in the house so Spencer and Bruno do not get to hang out with the little ones too often. We had some friends over who brought a 1-and-a-half-year-old baby with them. Spencer was once again put to the baby test. I have to admit I am one proud puppy-mamma. Spencer and Bruno passed with flying colors. They were calm and respectful.
The baby loved the dogs. She patted Spencer's back and talked baby-talk to him. "Daug! Daug!" Spencer wagged his tail and remained calm.
He was careful not to knock her down. He snuck in a couple of kisses. The baby just laughed at him. All we had to do to remind Spencer not to go too far with the kisses was make a sound and he remembered his manners once again. Bruno was also excellent. He too snuck in a few kisses with his huge tongue. We reminded him not to go overboard and he happily listened. The baby played all night on the floor with her toys and other various objects she gathered. The dogs calmly hung out in the same room. Both dogs weigh more than the baby and are almost as tall. They could have easily knocked her down or overpowered her, but they didn't. The little girl ran all around the house, inside and out, with the dogs happily respecting her space.
People have asked how Spencer was around the very first baby he ever came into close contact with.
Spencer is excellent. When the little boy comes over to visit he plays side-by-side with him. Here is a picture of Spencer walking by. Notice Spencer's body posture. His head and tail are even with his back; very submissive and respectful. Later the same day Spencer was playing in a baby pool bobbing for toys with the little boy. He plays next to him, but minds his space all the same. Good boy, Spencer.
Passing a Dominant Dog
While out on a walk we passed another Pitbull that was chained up in its yard. When the dog saw Bruno and Spencer, it growled, barked and ran back and forth. It was in a very dominant frame of mind. The tail was up, the head was high and its body was puffed. Chaining a dog tends to make a dog more territorial and this dog was definitely feeling those effects. My guess is it also did not get a daily chance to release its energy on a pack type walk (where the dog heels on a leash).
There was no fence between the dogs. We were considerably close to it, although it could not reach us while on the chain. I looked down at Spencer and the first thing I noticed was his tail—it was down and relaxed. His head was held relaxed and even. He had looked over at the dog and simply kept walking. His mouth was open and relaxed. Spencer had no desire for a confrontation and he had enough confidence in me to not worry about the dog that was making all that noise just a few feet away.
When the dog first appeared from its spot in the yard and started barking and growling, Bruno was on the side of me that was furthest from the dog. Bruno had peered around me to get a better look. He started to get a little excited, raised his head a bit, peered further around to get an even better look and let out a little whine. Bruno was telling me there was a dog over there. I tapped Bruno on the head with my fingers, "Hey, leave it!" Oh OK, mom, I was just letting you know about that dog. Bruno fell back into place beside me and ignored the dog just like Spencer. We walked to the end of the lane and turned to go back, passing the dog once again. This time Bruno ignored the dog completely. His head was down, his nub of a tail was relaxed and his mouth open. I only had to remind Bruno one time on our first pass that I did not agree with his initial reaction and he was fine with my decision.
A lot of being able to "Speak Dog" is reading body language. As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words. Compare the picture of the dog on the chain to the pictures of Bruno and Spencer. These pictures were taken while we were passing one another. When a dog is in a dominant state of mind it holds itself high and proud, puffs itself out and raises its tail rigidly. A dog that is in a submissive state of mind holds its head and tail lower and more even with the body. When it is really relaxed, it may loosely part its mouth and allow its tongue to hang, something it would not do had it been nervous, scared or unsure.
The Case of the Missing Eggs
All I know is about 10:00 a.m. seven eggs were placed in that metal bowl. No one was home except me, the guy who put the eggs in the bowl, Bruno and Spencer. I didn't touch the eggs. In fact, I didn't even know they were out there. Bob, the guy who collected the eggs, told me where he put the eggs. When I went to gather them they were gone. Bruno and Spencer had been out all morning so no chance of it being a raccoon or an opossum. Those facts now narrow it down to two culprits, Bruno and Spencer. Let’s first assess Bruno. When I picture Bruno taking the eggs I think of him clumsily knocking the entire bowl off that green bucket as he dropped some of the eggs to the ground and ate them right in that very spot. In Bruno's mind, why waste time walking off with your food when you can eat it right now in this very spot, this very second? Chances are there would not only be a mess out there, but I would have heard him as he used his body to reach what he wanted. There were no remnants of any eggs on the ground or in the bowl. The bowl was dry. That leaves Spencer. When I picture Spencer taking an egg I picture him very gently and ever-so-carefully taking an egg into his mouth and walking off far into the corner of the yard to eat it. He would finish the entire thing and come back to very carefully pick out another. I can also see him very carefully taking an egg into his mouth, carrying it off to a secret part of the yard, very carefully setting it in his chosen spot and returning for another egg until the bowl was empty and he had a pile of eggs to eat. Maybe, just maybe that is what he did, but as he went back for more of the eggs, Bruno was at his secret spot eating the eggs as he gathered them! Yes, that is very possible that Spencer only ate one egg because Bruno was there at the other end eating them as Spencer stole them.
My curiosity was up so I decided to set up a test. I put four eggs into the bowl to see which dog had the art of “taking an egg out of the bowl” down. I should have known better then to blame it on the Pitbull when we have a Bruno the Boxer here on the premises. Watch what happens when I tell them to get the eggs from the bowl. Spencer does not want to take an egg, even when I tell him to. Bruno, on the other hand, has no problem taking an egg when I tell him to get one. He not only successfully got the egg out of the bowl but he walked off with it! Sorry, little buddy, mommy was mentally blaming the wrong dog! Bruno, I do believe you stole and ate seven eggs this morning!
Update: Bruno has been passing more gas than normal. I bet it is from the eggs!
Bruno the Bully
I had been giving the dogs bully sticks to chew on during times when we were leaving Spencer and Bruno at home alone for a few hours. I later realized this was a mistake. I had been doing it for quite some time and all had been fine. However, one day I came home and things seemed off. Spencer was being very cautious about where he walked, where he lay and how close he got to Bruno. He refused to get into his dog bed if Bruno was there. Hmmm, what was going on? It did not take long for me to figure it out. I walked into the kitchen and Spencer was standing in the corner with his head facing the wall, his back legs were shaking. Bruno was behind him; he had him cornered. "Atttt!!!" I put a stop to that! "Bruno, just what the heck do you think you are doing? No way are you going to bully your kid brother around. In this house, all dogs are equal. You will not be boss of Spencer." While we were gone Bruno must have tried getting Spencer's bone and succeeded. He rather enjoyed his step-up in power and decided to establish his role above Spencer. Now our job as the human pack leaders is to tell Bruno in doggie language that he is not Spencer's boss. Spencer has always been the insecure type. It was apparent from the day we brought him home because he would not walk on the hardwood floors. Bruno, being as strong-minded as he is, is taking advantage of Spencer's weakness. Dogs read insecurity as a weakness and Bruno started zoning in on that and feeling pretty powerful about it. Having Spencer has really taught me what it is like to live with an insecure type and what it takes to keep them balanced.
I spread the word to all family members: Bruno is bullying Spencer. Everyone knew what this meant but I confirmed it with them anyway just for my own peace of mind. For now, Bruno is to be last with everything. When we let the dogs out humans go, Spencer goes and then Bruno may go. When we feed the dogs, we set Spencer’s food down first. When the dogs get into the van to go on an outing, Spencer jumps in before Bruno. When we get to our destination, Spencer gets out of the van before Bruno. When we are going through gates, we invite Spencer to go before Bruno. Whenever we see Bruno being a bully, we tell him "No." When you have a pack of dogs all dogs must be on equal ground. However when you have one dog that is boss over another, in order to equal out the power the bossy dog must be last.
The language of the dog is tricky because while dogs bark, most of their communication is subtle looks, body language and energy (reading emotions). Bruno will shoot Spencer a look and I just don't notice all of the time. What I do notice is Spencer's reaction. While I am getting better at noticing the "looks" I have been confirming what I see by the way Spencer is acting. If Spencer is tip-toeing around Bruno, if he refuses to pass him or refuses to get into the dog bed with Bruno, I know Bruno is in bully mode. Bruno's tail is just a nub so I do not always notice what position his tail is in. The position of a dog's tail can tell you a lot about how a dog is feeling and what it is saying.
This issue first became apparent only a few days ago and already things have improved tremendously, although Bruno still attempts to keep his position above Spencer from time to time. For example, just now: Spencer walked over and stepped onto the dog bed. Suddenly he jumped back off as if something just bit him in the butt. I watched because I really was not sure if something had bitten him. I told Spencer to go to bed and saw the look on his face when I asked him to get on the bed. I noticed his tail; it was not relaxed and was partway under him. Then I saw the look on Bruno's face. The dogs were talking to one another in their own language. Bruno was telling Spencer that he was not allowed on HIS bed. Oh no, dear Bruno boy. You see, that is not YOUR dog bed. That is MY dog bed and I am letting you use it. I snapped a leash on Spencer and walked over to my bed. I sat right next to Bruno so we were touching. Bruno is extremely submissive with humans and I am clearly his boss and he knows it. Not an ounce of doubt about that. Therefore I knew I was safe and did not have to worry about getting bitten by Bruno. He is my dog and I know and understand him very well. Now it was time to tell Bruno in his own language just who owned that dog bed. I led Spencer up onto the bed, positioning him on the other side of me. I was in the middle, Bruno was on one side and Spencer was on the other. I told Spencer to lie down and I moved closer to Bruno. Very slowly I took over the bed. I kept moving closer and closer to Bruno, pushing him off the bed. He tried to look around me to Spencer and I moved into him with my chest and blocked him. Nope, you are not going to make eye contact with Spencer. You are going to get off MY bed, Bruno. I kept moving in slowly, giving Bruno less and less room. Bruno yawned, a sign that he was unsure. Finally, Bruno got up off of the bed. I spread myself out to cover the spot where Bruno had just been. Bruno licked my face with his huge tongue, turned his body sideways and gave me his back. I should not have, but I laughed just a little to myself when I thought about his submissive lick and the way he was standing right in front of me curled up in a half circle, his head low and his back to me. As soon as I laughed, Bruno wagged his nub of a tail, still twisted in a circle with his head low showing me his back. He is such a goofball. He just stood there holding his position. Bruno was saying, "Dude, I am not going to challenge you. Fine, it is your bed. I give up."
I waited a little bit and invited Bruno back onto the dog bed. He lay down next to Spencer and went to sleep. From now on anything Bruno thinks is his I will just let him know is really mine. He cannot claim something from Spencer that he does not own and Bruno, my boy, you don't own anything.
Update: Bruno the Bully
Ever since I took over the dog bed and communicated to Bruno that I "owned" it, he has not tried to claim the bed away from Spencer. The entire issue just disappeared and Spencer is back to his old self again. That was a short-lived issue. Yep, Bruno-boy, that is what I thought.
Spencer the Bed Hog
It was late at night and I noticed Bruno was doing a lot of standing around and moving from place to place on the hard floor. Very unlike him this time a night, especially since he had a six mile walk earlier in the day. Bruno kept looking at me as he stood in the middle of the room. Buddy what's the matter? You are always crashed out on your bed this time of night. That is when I noticed what was up.
Spencer was being a total bed hog. He unknowingly was sprawed across both dog beds leaving no room for his brother Bruno. Oh poor Bruno, no wonder you are so restless. Someone is taking up your spot on the bed. Good boy for not asking Spencer to move. I had Sara go over and slide Spencer to the side so there would be room for Bruno. Bruno happily crawed up into his bed. They are now sleeping side by side.
What's that Dog Saying?
We were at a park on a Sunday morning, walking our dogs. As the morning went on more dogs were showing up. Some of the dogs we passed were barking and growling without a correction from their owners and it got me wondering. What is it like to be a dog and fully understand what the other dog is saying? Picture this: you are walking down the street passing other people and they are yelling things at you like "Yo, you want to fight me?! Oh yeah, I didn't think so. Yeah, ‘cause I'm the one. I'll mess you up if you even think about challenging me. That's right, keep on walking ‘cause I'm ready for you!" Or you are walking through a neighborhood where people are sitting on their porch and as you walk down the sidewalk a person jumps off their porch and runs over to the fence, yelling in your face "Don't even THINK about stepping in my yard! I dare you! I dare you! Go ahead and see what I do if you even try it!" As you continue walking the person follows you along the fence-line right up into your face, continuing to yell. As you get to the end of the fence the person yells at you "I thought so, now don't come back!"
I wonder if the guy at the park with the barking, growling Chihuahua would have told his dog to hush had he known what his dog was saying to my dog? Perhaps. But maybe his own human kids are bullies as well.
Too Smart for his Own Good
We taught Spencer to keep the groundhog out of the horse and goat fields. If a horse breaks its leg in a groundhog hole it can kill the horse. Horses cannot lie down for long periods of time and cannot stand on three legs for the amount of time it takes for a break to heal. Spencer finds a groundhog hole. Time to work his mind. I put some sticks in the hole and asked Spencer to "find it". He does not let the sticks get in his way. He moves them out of his way before going back to stick his head down the hole. Smart pup!
Spencer will often dig a groundhog hole out. He has dug a few holes of his own as well. This seemed harmless until...
...he decided to dig up the dirt under the newly planted apple tree and carefully set the tree to the side. The tree was in the way of his new hole. Oh Spencer, that is NOT a good boy. There is a difference between digging at a groundhog hole and moving any debris in your way and digging up the apple tree and moving the tree (stick) out of your way!
Oh the poor apple tree. We re-planted it and put some picnic benches around it. However that did not stop him. He dug under the bench. He was not after the tree; he just wanted to dig a hole in the soft dirt.
Now to try and come up with a plan to stop the dog and save the tree…
We put a little fence around the tree, which I am sure would not have stopped him, and put one of the barrier rocks that we used to stop Spencer from trotting up the driveway to the busy road inside the fence. Now all we had to do was put Spencer’s collar on for a week. This did the trick. He stopped going near the tree. I am happy to report that so far the tree is still alive.
Spencer and Sylvester the Cat
Remember Sylvester the mentally challenged cat who Spencer would be pushy with? Now they are friends. The cat rubs all over Spencer and they will sleep together. When I was taking these pictures the cat was purring so loud I could hear it from a distance. The cat decided to rub his head all over Spencer's face, then settled down to sleep.
Spencer takes a nap with Sylvester.
Spencer Meets a New Friend
Spencer meets Eli the 4 month old German Shepherd puppy. Eli is just learning to heel on a leash and Spencer went out for a pack walk with him. Afterwards Eli lay down and proceeded to lick and chew on Spencer's face. Spencer sat there wagging his tail.
Spencer smelling Eli
Spencer letting Eli chew on his face
Spencer and the Toddler
This is a clip of Spencer with the same child as the controversial video posted when Spencer and the baby were both 14 months old. This video is of Spencer and the same child at 2 and a half years old. Spencer is extremely gentle with the little boy, very careful not to knock him down as the little boy runs around the yard playing. The child can do anything to him and Spencer just does not care. These clips are examples of how the Pitbull earned the name Nanny Dog.
Spencer and the same baby at 14 months old—I describe this video as controversial based on the comment section. Those people who cannot read a dog's body language and are used to hyper dogs sometimes mistake Spencer's calm as not happy, or the baby's swing of his hand as the baby being allowed to beat on animals. It was the first time Spencer had been close and personal with a baby. Not just that baby but any baby. A lot of people do not understand that in the dog world space is respect. Spencer gives the baby his space and is happy to do so.