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Chet Baker, Alpha Dog

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Homecoming night for Phoebe. Chet Baker's 12th birfday, December 12, 2016.  She puts him through his tricks. Or tries to. Prepare to be amazed!  For me, the highlight of this video is not Chet's prowess at tricks.

 It's the oinking. Turn your volume up. He oinks when he sits up (0:17) and again when he flops down to play dead (0:45).

The dog whisperers among you will note that Chet is not the most deferential of dogs. He was the dominant pup in a two-pup litter, nearly twice the size of his sibling.

photo by Jane Streett, Boston Terrer Breeder Emeritus Extraordinaire
Hard to believe our little chunker ever fit in someone's palm but there you have it: newborn Bacon!

 And a bit later, when he was coming into his Bakertude:

photo by Jane Streett, Boston Terrer Breeder Emeritus Extraordinaire

When a pup starts out life as the dominant one in the litter, he can be expected to cop an attitude with people, too. The point being, Chet has been a bossy guy from the get-go. On the day we went to pick him up, he stood down Liam, just five years old, barking and even growling at him. Even at 9 weeks of age, he took a look at our little family, figured I was Alpha, Phoebe, 9 years old, was #2 in line; and Liam was destined only for domination. Chet wanted Liam's place. He wanted to be #3, and while I was at her kitchen table, still going over care instructions with his breeder, Jane Streett, Chet was already working on that hierarchy. We piled in the car, kept him in his pet carrier for about one mile, and then he came out to sleep on a delighted Phoebe's lap for the duration of the trip. "I was the happiest person in the world," Phoebe remembers. When he'd wake up, his little flop ears would prick, and he'd bark and growl in his ridiculous puppeh voice at Liam!! The audacity of that babydog!

 I chuckle to think of it now, but I remember wondering what we'd signed onto. I'm sure Liam did too!  Jane told me to teach Liam how to roll Chet over on his back and hold him down "until he goes limp as spaghetti." With some strong correction, the barking and growling stopped, but Chet freely engaged in dominance mounting of his blonde brother until he had an attitudectomy (highly recommended for bossy boy dogs).  Oh this photo. See how Liam's protecting his wee little hands? :) Just good practice around puppies, but especially around tiny sock-sweatered Baker.

It got better. Chet quickly became Liam's living teddeh bear. 

 Even now, though, I see traces of that #1 Puppy. He does things with the kids he'd never try with me. H can be seen dissing Phoebe throughout this video: lunging for the treat, storming the castle in the rudest way, and even giving her a little snarly-poo at the very end (1:27), when she reaches to grab hold of him. He's a naughty boy, copping the same attitude as a grampa as he did as a pup. 

He's not perfect, never has been, because I'm far from a perfect dog trainer. But we love him, warts, oinks, emanations, snarls and all. He's 99.9% wonderful. 

Also a major babe magnet.


He is adorable. We had a BC once that thought he should be second dog....well, actually he thought he should be alpha but after a while he let me be the boss of cow and sheep moving. However, he would always work with us not for us, an important distinction.

You do know the so-called alpha roll has been completely debunked by all reputable dog behaviorists? It's a shame to implicitly endorse this archaic action.

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Posted by Anonymous December 21, 2016 at 1:40 AM

Oh, tiny Chet and tiny Liam! So cute!!!

He looks perfect to me.

Well, hello @Leslie. I checked your blogs for information but found no posts. No, I don't know this. What do you recommend rather than the "so-called alpha roll", being hooked into the knowledge of all reputable dog behavior(al)ists?

PS It worked for us.
Also, please try to be polite here. There's no reason to snarl.

I "snarled" because I'm so tired of seeing these out-dated and frankly cruel techniques perpetuated by people who have an audience that believes everything they say. I read your blog because I admire you and the work you do. But you have to admit you didn't come to dog guardianship with much research into what dogs need, from what I've read. You have said yourself you didn't even socialize Chet with other dogs, which is pretty basic. My late Boston Pippa behaved beautifully toward every dog she met. Respected dog behaviorists include Patricia McConnell, Phd; Ian Dunbar, DVM; Karen Pryor; Victoria Stilwell et al. I highly recommend reading their work. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior have come out against such dominance techniques. Here are just a few links that explain the problem with alpha rolls and other aggressive methods of training. I've spent years reading about how to communicate effectively with dogs, as well as about nutrition, health, just anything that would make me a better guardian to these darling creatures who never asked to spend their days with us. We owe them that. I'm sorry if I offended you, but I just wish people would do some reading, instead of simply listening to someone like your breeder who does not have years of training and actual scientific research in the field of dog behavior behind them.

Thanks, Leslie, that's helpful. I'll check out those links. I think it's easy to forget that this is a personal blog, covering a wide variety of topics. It's one person's public journal. It's not a dog-training blog, and I don't pretend to be a dog trainer. I even identify myself in the post as a highly imperfect dog trainer. I'm pointing out places in the video where Chet misbehaves. Anyone can infer from his behavior and my disclaimers that I'm no expert at this. I write this blog knowing that there's always going to be a reader out there who knows more about a subject than I do. I sincerely appreciate corrections from people with greater knowledge than I possess. But I am sensitive to the mode of delivery. To insinuate that I am mistreating Chet, who "never asked to spend (his) days with (me)", or that I'm knowingly endorsing something you view as "outdated and frankly cruel" with a wink and a nod is a projection on your part, born of annoyance at my ignorance. To assume that Chet's breeder lacks knowledge in the field of dog behavior is also unfair. Backing your assertions with links and information is helpful, however. Thank you! I'll read the information you provided. I feel a great kinship with and respect for the readers of my blog. I don't expect or want everyone to rah-rah me, but I do expect to be treated with respect, as I treat my readers. I've been putting out an entertaining, educational, and thought-provoking product here since 2005 for anyone to consume for free. It's easy to take potshots from the sidelines when, in reading my product, you find something that ticks you off, but if you bite, I'm going to bite right back. Thanks again for the additional information. Love Karen Pryor's work, and I look forward to delving into this subject more deeply.

Wow, some hackles got raised on this post. Good for all of us to think a little deeper, a little longer, be open to different ideas. My only comment is that Mr. Chet Baker had to work way too hard for that biscuit. I'd have turned tail and left the room after about 30 seconds of this teasing. I'm not into using dogs for my entertainment. At least not for that long of a time. Please don't get me wrong--I'm a big fan of yours and Chet's, Miss Julie!

Thanks for all you do Julie. It is much appreciated!
Merry Christmas to you and your family and best wishes for a happy, healthy new year.

Please don't let the trolling get you down or god forbid - make you change the way you do business.

For Leslie: I find it helpful to proceed under the assumption that people are mature and reasonable and capable of making the best decisions for themselves and the ones they love - even if they aren't my decisions. To proceed otherwise seems arrogant and actually doesn't convince anyone of anything. Been there - done that - and it's a long fall from the top - I have the bruises to prove it! I can assure you that most of us are NOT the 'audience that believes everything they say'. Have faith! Blessings.

Wow. To my mind Chet Baker is one of the luckiest, happiest, dogs that I follow on the Internet. What more could a dog ask for in a family and what more could a family ask for in a dog than the joyous, wonderful relationship you all share? Just wow.

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