Notes From Hairenik
May 5, 2011

Chi Chi has never been properly socialized. Although she naturally gravitates towards people, even those she has never met, she is repulsed by other canines, no matter the size or shape. Her repulsion can be mistaken for fear. The more I think about it, it's not about being afraid with her, it's more about wanting to be with her own kind. When she is in the presence of another dog, be it tame or a stray, she wants to flee, but not necessarily run for her life. She simply wants to avoid contact.

This behavior may be the result of trauma. About a year ago she was attacked by a street dog while my wife was taking her for a stroll. Somehow she broke away from her leash and ran all the way to the entrance of the apartment building where my my mother-in-law lives (about a 100 meter sprint down Tumanyan Street). When my wife found her she was trying to conceal herself, shaking like an oak branch during a hurricane, afraid to approach even her. After some coaxing she finally went over to my wife, who has protected Chi Chi as an infant ever since.

Now I want Chi Chi to run with the big dogs and behave like a member of her own species. That's proven to be extremely difficult at this stage due to her fragile nervous condition and neurotic nature, which shows clear signs of passive aggressiveness and obsessive compulsive behavior. Sometimes it's nearly impossible to walk her because she can get spooked by an old Volga with a faulty exhaust system driving by or a woman sweeping sunflower seed shells from the sidewalk. Once she is fearful of anything -- it could be a shriveled blossom falling from a cherry tree in the courtyard -- she starts pulling to run for home.

About four months ago my wife at my insistence found a dog trainer, named Leonid, who I refer to as the Armenian Dog Whisperer. Leonid, a tall, lanky man who is very personable and polite, has a magical way with dogs. When we first met, Chi Chi, who is lovable but notoriously obstinate, was obeying his commands within a few minutes. He was coming by two or three times a week for a month, then we took some time off and asked him over on an as-needed basis. At first he was essentially dispelling Chi Chi's bad habits, like entering the bedroom on a whim and jumping up our legs while barking whenever my wife and I hugged each other. Chi Chi also had issues with being dressed and having a collar tied around her neck, where she would bite playfully, but would instantly be overly aggressive, as if it wasn't a game any longer. The power of kibble as a reward completely turned that problem around. Now we're left with the timidity, the fear associated with hearing strange foreign sounds, the paranoia she's about to be snuck up upon.

Last week we met Gucci the Chow Chow and Max the German Shepherd, who Chi Chi seemed drawn to, but was timorous nevertheless. After a while the two of them started walking side by side, which encouraged Leonid as it's definitely a step in the right direction. Seems Chi Chi's pack bound instincts are intact.

In this photo above are Max, Bella the Boxer, who apparently is in heat as Max couldn't stop mounting her, and Gucci the Chow Chow, with owners Armen and Aram, two great guys. Chi Chi is hiding, barely visible (see if you can spot her). Leonid is wearing the red and blue jacket.

Starting today we are moving forward with an intensive, proactive socialization regimen that will last for one week. Leonid is skeptical that we'll see huge improvement in a week's time, but we won't know unless an effort is made. It's all up to Chi Chi now.

Labels: ,