Yesterday on my way to work, I was driving behind a seemingly normal line of cars. I have about two miles of neighborhood driving, and two miles of country road driving.
The car immediately in front of me started to hit the brakes at any smidgen over the speed limit. OK, I can go with that, I’ve received a speeding ticket in the last year, good reminder to be a polite driver. But then it really started to set in that something was a bit hinky. This car would start to slow down at the sight of a cross walk, even when no person or bike rider was present, and then come to an almost full stop to double check. If there was a person within a half of a block, this car would stop, turn on emergency flashers, and wait for the person to come and cross. Really? People using the cross walks were giving looks and I am sure thinking the same things I was, or maybe a bit more polite?
This happened at six cross walks. It took almost fifteen minutes to go a bit over a mile. When the driver finally pulled over to park, every single car honked as they passed, and there was a long line of us. It wasn’t a hi neighbor thanks for being nice honking line either.
Nice is nice within context, its enjoyable, agreeable, pleasant, and good. But when nice is taken out of context and put into overdrive, it becomes unwarranted attention, and it’s simply annoying, and it can cause conflict.
While I finished my drive to work, following regular joe drivers the rest of the way, it made me think about some dogs I have worked with over the years and a recent conversation I had with a friend.
I have worked with three dogs over the past ten years that had this nice to annoying temperament. It is so distinct when they are puppies. Now that these dogs are all adults it’s interesting to see the similarities in their less than stable personalities.
When a puppy class meets on the first night, I call it the discovery night. These little fur balls all come in, some walking some running, and lightly greet each other. Then they form little friendships, maybe investigate the room, or maybe romp a bit harder. It’s all new for all of them, so pretty equal playing field. Some are tender, some are bold, every once in a while a Tarzan type of player, a few have been anti social, and just three have been annoying to the point of conflict to the other puppies.
This behavior is so distinct that I remember them clearly. The first puppy I saw do this was about seven years ago. She would come into class, wagging, swaying, and seemingly sweet as pie! She would roll herself over in front of the first puppy she saw. It looked like smell me smell me here’s my belly. Her puppy friend/s would oblige and smell her and then go on their way, or at least try. But she would get up quickly and roll herself over in front of her playmate again, smell me smell me here’s my belly! This would continue for a bit, and you could start to noticeably see her puppy playmates getting annoyed and trying to avoid her all together. She was effectively blocking space, and she was in all effect isolating the puppy that she was demanding to SMELL ME SMELL ME HERE IS MY FREAKING BELLY!
During the six week puppy class she never engaged in active mouth to mouth play, sharing of toys, running around with the other puppies, or nose to nose interactions. By the end of class, all of the other puppies avoided her like the plague, they wanted no interactions with her, and if she started to roll over they would run the other way, they wouldn’t even stop to smell.
When she entered adolescent class and tried this with a new adolescent dog, it didn’t go well at all. As she was seemingly being nice, here’s my belly I mean no harm, the new adolescent was like cool nice to meet you. But then she went into her unwarranted niceness, that became annoying, and then started a huge conflict. The new adolescent dog was trying to hold it together, and then he had it. His screaming at her was almost like what the hell is wrong with you, pull yourself together!
And it was really baffling for the handler. What looked like a sweet and polite gesture, was actually very assertive, manipulative, and annoying.
This female dog is now seven plus years old, she will lightly say hello to other dogs, but has still never engaged in play. She will start conflicts with other household dogs, the triggers vary. She will be laying down sleeping and then pop up and run into another room as if ghosts were chasing her. Some days easy going, other days triggered by sound into mild panic attacks. And the list goes on. This is not a stable temperament. The owner has done medical checks, blood work, diet overhaul, etc. This is temperament at ground zero.
All three dogs, varying breeds, have had the same unstable, unreliable quirks.
I went east this spring to attend a workshop. My friend who is a brilliant trainer and breeder, was telling me about one of her breeding females and her daughter. Both it turns out have this temperament, unstable, unreliable, and quirky. And I believe they both started as puppies with the over the top annoying belly roll greeting too. I believe she said if there is conflict it comes from those two, and they are often separated from the other females. It was refreshing in a way to know it wasn’t just a Montana thing!
If you have a dog with this temperament it would be great to hear from you.
Have a nice and annoying free day! Nancy