Home Magazine

The Adventures of Weimaraner Alice

By David13676 @dogspired

The Adventures of Weimaraner AliceAs a professional dog trainer and behavioral consultant, I often see the best, and unfortunately at times, the worst of human owner’s attitude toward the wonderful and intelligent animal we call the dog.  This story is of the latter.

From a breeder’s perspective, the family that arrived to buy a Weimaraner puppy this particular day probably would have been like a ray of sunshine. They had owned a Weimaraner before, lived on a small acreage, money wasn’t an issue, and they presented themselves as reliable, compassionate, and caring — what more could a young puppy want?

The pups were 3-months-old and, before being offered for sale, had undergone a final vet check, as well as their shots. The family chose a female puppy from the litter on offer. On the way home, they decided on the name “Alice” for their new family member.

On that first day, back home at “the farm,” Alice was left outside to explore her new surroundings whilst the family partook of afternoon tea, accompanied by a football show on the television, and the children had an afternoon nap. Just before dark, the whole family brought out a bowl of dry food, called Alice, and offered her the food. They played with her for a couple of minutes, and then went back into the house, leaving the young pup alone.

This was to be the pattern of behavior that the family adhered to throughout Alice’s time with them. She was outside, and the family was indoors, ensconced in their own little world. Alice found human company only when the children played in the garden, or the mother did some gardening. The only other companionship for the pup was two young lambs, and an assortment of chicks, ducks, and their juvenile offspring.

Sometimes on the weekends, the husband would play rough and tumble games around the yard with Alice, which she loved. Alice was anxious to play boisterously, and he complied, until Alice would start nipping and tearing at his clothes and skin. Then, he would become annoyed with her, berate her both physically and verbally, and go and do whatever husbands do, and leave her to amuse herself.

Over the next few months, Alice lived without any discipline, training, love, or respect. She was isolated from her family/pack, and her prey drive and survival skills began to dominate. In her state of boredom, she had taken to playing both roughly and enthusiastically with the family’s livestock, and in time, killed them all.

The family was devastated and took to tying Alice up on a thick rope through the day under a tree, and at night, in a shed.  This did not deter the young Alice because up in the tree there were birds, and she would climb the tree and with speed and dexterity, kill these as well.  At night, alone in the shed, she had enough rope to almost hang herself, but it didn’t stop her from killing rats and mice.  When Alice was loose around the property and the children were in the garden, Alice would try to play rough games with them as well, but after much ripping of clothes — and when the nipping became more serious biting — the children avoided her and returned to the safety of their house.

Killing became Alice’s only form of a balanced diet, exercise, and amusement.  She was a totally feral Weimaraner.

During the day, the mother would sometimes sneak Alice into the house, and Alice would get a taste of what life could be like, with company, food, and contentment. But when the husband was due home from work, Alice would be put back outside, either on the rope or locked up in the fenced area around the swimming pool, where she was slowly but surely digging her way out.

Alice also became aware of cars traveling up and down the lane bordering the property. When she was loose, Alice took to chasing them up and down, often ending up in other people’s yards. This led her to discover sheep and other animals — a new game, more food. She would chew through her rope and take in the sights of the area, selecting the slowest of the sheep for lunch.

When Alice was 15-months-old, her future was bleak. The farmers in the area were threatening to shoot her, and the children wanted to come out of the house to play. You could say life “down on the farm” was far from idyllic.  This led to the mother ringing me and asking for advice 10 months after Alice’s first kill.  I was a little dumbstruck, first by the woman’s lack of concern for Alice’s well-being over that period of time, and second, that they now expected someone to fix their problem, and pick up the pieces of Alice’s life – or find her another home.

After many phone calls, I eventually weakened. Against my better judgment, I offered to take Alice to see what I could do with her, and then hopefully re-house her.  Under the circumstances, it was the best I could do.  I didn’t need another dog, and I didn’t want another dog, but I felt for Alice. She never had a chance at life and deserved a great deal better.

Alice day arrived. The car pulled up, and Alice was hauled from the back on a piece of thick cattle rope.  On arrival inside the house, she proceeded to chew on the rope, pee on the floor, and grab at everything within her reach.  She was still in season — which I hadn’t been told about – and was filthy, her coat shaggy, coarse, and smelly.

I was bought up with manners and all that, but that day, I just couldn’t be gracious or polite to this woman. I shuffed her out of my home and away from Alice as soon as the paperwork was complete. After seeing Alice’s condition, and bearing in mind our recent conversations, I was more than irritated and upset with her. I was pissed off.

Over the next few days, I observed that Alice had no doggy or people social skills whatsoever. I caught her dragging my dog, Molly, by the throat across the backyard.  Molly and my other dog, Skye, were also in shock at this dog’s inability to understand that she was the lowest member of the pack/family, instead carrying on as though she ruled the roost.

Poor Alice was in for a few shocks.  She was an impressive dog, and apart from wanting to kill everything in sight, had a sweet nature.  She was affectionate and willing to please when asked the right way, but she was also exceptionally pushy, a bit like a bulldozer — really over the top. This came from an upbringing, or lack of, where she was deprived of pack leadership, respect, education, and compassion.  Now, for the first time, she had to learn some manners, find out how to play sociably and amicably, and respect Molly and Skye, my pack leaders.

Unfortunately for Alice, it was necessary that she wore a basket-type muzzle for the first couple of weeks when all three dogs were out in the yard together.  She was intent on killing poor Molly. Skye wasn’t as dominant, so Alice just took to intimidating Skye at every opportunity, ambushing her in corners of the yard, and causing her to head for the safety of the house, instead of relaxing and enjoying her normal daily routine. Splitting them all up was the only answer for times when I couldn’t keep an eye on Alice’s intimidating behavior, and a large crate, lent to me, was the ideal place for a Alice when we all wanted “Alice free time”.

I introduced Alice to obedience training at doggy school, which she took to like a duck to water. Although she made it to grade five, I never would have trusted her in that environment to do off-lead work. She was not an aggressive, barky, growling predator; she was quiet, quick, and efficient. There was never any warning as to what she was going to do, only subtle body language — and her history. I also introduced her to agility and scent training, which she greatly enjoyed. Her play drive, enthusiasm, and eagerness to work was extraordinary, and a real pleasure to work with and observe.

Because she is still bird/prey driven, Alice’s off-lead exercise is limited to isolated areas where there is no wildlife, birds, or humans. Swimming in the river is one of her favorite pastimes.  She still attempts to “pull pigeons from the sky” in the backyard, and I have even observed her lining up a plane as it flew overhead.  Nothing fazes her; there is nothing that she sees as impossible.  I think if I asked her to stand on her head in a corner and whistle Dixie, she would at least have a try. I admire her intensely for that willingness to please me, and to participate in our games.  She is a wonderful kid — well, to a point.  Molly and Skye probably wouldn’t agree with me there, although there are some days when I look out to the backyard, and there the three of them are, flat out like lizards drinking, soaking up the sun, together. Oh, for it to be like that all the time.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog