I suppose there are hundreds of articles out there about the “best” way to live with your pets. They cover just about everything from food, feedings and dishes, barf, pee, poop, mats, cat boxes, litters and potty training, shipboard security officers, pet security underway, beds, hair management, fleas, shots, passports, PFDs, dinghy do and don’ts, to leashes and sunscreen. But I have never read an article about teaching your dog to speak a foreign dog language, or learning foreign dog customs.
Gracie is my Border Collie mix rescue dog. Her hair is a bit shorter that a pure bred, she is about the same size at 40 pounds or so. She’s very devoted, quite smart, not too hyper, tolerates the cat but hates big trucks. The vet’s guess was that she was about three years old when we brought her aboard. The whole boat thing was new to her and it took a few days to get the hang of it, but she settled in pretty quickly. She only walked off the dock once.
Then we went to Mexico. Just for the record, the cat never noticed. The first time we went ashore for a potty run, was in Turtle Bay, which is about half way down the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula. It is a small town as opposed to a village, with dirt streets and lots of seemingly stray dogs. Big dogs. With scars on their heads. Running loose along the beach and very interested in the new girl in town. Sheesh! Poor Gracie had her tail clamped down tight – which is tough when you REALLY have to go potty on dirt, after three days at sea. We finally found an appropriate place to get her business done, and then had to deal with the other dogs.
They don’t have and never have had leashes. It made Gracie look like the dorky kid on the playground, except it made her feel a bit more secure. There was a mad rush for the sniffing of everyone’s goods. Maybe frenzy is a better word. Then, the play posture by the locals. Did we dare? Would she be mauled as soon as she was off the leash? Somebody threw a stick toward the water and off they went. The next time she flew by, I took off the leash and she joined the pack. Some kids showed up and chased the dogs and the dogs chased them, laughing and rolling in the sand. Life off the lease is grand!! They finally exhausted themselves and trotted back to the shade of the palapa where the humans were visiting and enjoying a Pacifico or two. Big happy dog grins. Oops, no water anywhere – note to human for the next shore trip. The kids couldn’t pronounce Gracie, so called her Crazy instead. This happened everywhere.
It turns out that the local dogs guard their houses/territories without visible fences. Each dog is resting but also keeping watch in the front yard, and has decided where the boundries of their yard stop. They just watch as long as you don’t cross their ‘line’. If you get too close, they stand up, and if you enter their territory they bark or come to ask you to leave. They possibly rip your leg off if you don’t listen, but we’re pretty sharp like that. Of course, this was all news to Gracie, who didn’t speak dog OR people Spanish, and didn’t know the customs. We had a few minor mishaps till we caught on. Very few dogs just wander around, most are guarding something and stay close by.
There are a few exceptions however. Now and then, some big scary looking dog decides to follow you. Or maybe lots of little ones. You quickly leave his territory but he continues to follow, maybe even with his hackles up. Your mouth starts to go dry and your heart speeds up a bit. Your dog looks at you for advice. Now what? Here is how the locals advised us.
All Mexican dogs are scared of being hit by a thrown rock. All you have to do is fake them out. Here are the steps to be used – in order. Work through the steps only until you get the proper results. There is no need to actually throw a rock or proceed to any unnecessary steps except in cases of extreme emergency.
- Stop walking, turn and face the dog – it’s all about posture. Make eye contact and look like you are in charge. Possible “Git!” in a deep forceful voice if needed.
- Bend over as if picking up a rock. Maintain eye contact.
- Cock your throwing arm back and take a step forward as if you are about to let that rock fly. More meaningful words to the dog – English is fine.
- Go ahead and ‘throw’ your imagined rock, by making a throwing motion. Scan the area for a real rock.
- Quickly grab a real rock or two and repeat the above steps. Assure the bad dog that you are serious – perhaps some cuss words in English. Avoid the F bomb. (Ugly Americans etc.)
- Throw the real rock in the general direction of the big scary dog. Make some noise!!!
- Grab a big fat rock, take aim and throw it right at the devil who is about to attack you and your dear dog. Scream/yell for help in any language you want. The locals will know how to deal with that dog. Really bad dogs don’t last long in a town full of kids and nice dogs.
We never had to go past step 6, but it can happen. The really bad dogs go to the big yard in the sky as most towns don’t have shelters or pounds. They either catch on and learn some manners or disappear.
Once you get back to the boat, grab a wet rag and clean your dog’s feet. The dirt and sand will get everywhere if you don’t!
Yes, they sell dry dog food in Mexico. Canned too. Fish and rice work fine between shopping trips.
Gracie says “Come on down!”