If you have been following my “Merlot Sunday’s” you have probably figured out that he was a pretty interesting dog. I would never say Merlot was easy to live with and I bless the day his breeder hung on to him looking for a working home. I am not sure how well Merlot would have done with your average owner. He was the hardest Poodle I ever raised and not because he was my first Standard. No, it was because he was so determined that all the other dogs understand he was the boss.
There was never a dog who took him down once he was an adult. He was quick and 100% sure he could handle another dog. Merlot had zero fear and he never did more than accidentally punch a hole or two while trying to make a point. Dogs use their teeth as their hands. I don’t care how careful a dog is, if they get fired up in a scuffle, a few holes are expected. Ripping the skin in a line, meaning the dog grabbed hard and then shook, IS NOT the same. Clamping on and shaking is attacking!! Merlot never once did this to any dog. He was not a killer, he was simply a dictator with a firm paw.
The only ‘free pass’ he gave a dog was when they were baby pups. Young pups could do anything to Merlot. Climb on him, pull his ears and tail, all he would do is grumble and walk off once he tired of so many puppies. In each litter he would pick out a puppy, usually the shyest pup, and roll them. It was always the same pup and I could tell exactly which pup would be selected by body language. If a puppy came up to Merlot confident and not obnoxiously, he would give them the “I’m the boss” look and if they were smart they would go “yes sir” but not grovel. If, however, they tossed themselves at his feet, whining, crying, begging him to love them, he would roll them. These were the only pups he ever ‘terrorized’. I would have to take that pup up because Merlot would attempt to whip them into shape over and over. I could see him saying “GET UP, DEVELOP A BACKBONE YOU WEAKLING!”. He would have made an excellent drill sergeant. He never hurt them, but at the same time, I didn’t let him. His size alone was a danger to a 5-10 lb puppy. He would also roll the very pushy puppies, but those pups would get up and go “Oh, I guess I shouldn’t do that” and move on. It was simply a learning experience for the puppy.
Merlot with 5 week old pups
Young pups could do just about anything.
They are right in his face, no danger from this intact male dog!
I remember Stacey and Craig Kishbaugh coming to visit with Merlot’s daughter, Rain. I think Rain was about 2-3 years old. I was watching her interact with my other dogs, all but Merlot who was still upstairs in my bedroom. Stacey said she was always pushy with other dogs and in their face. I tell them I bet we can fix this by letting Merlot out. Rain was putting her paws on all my dogs backs, especially Ruffy who was very sweet and gentle. I put up the other dogs (Flash, Ruffy, Cami, and Major at that time), and bring Merlot down ON LEASH. I have him under pretty firm verbal control because new dogs always make him extremely excited. Rain almost immediately attempted to put her paws on his back. In a split second he had her on her back. He didn’t have to put a tooth on her, he simply acted, turned on her in a totally serious and confident manner and said in doggy language “YOU WILL NOT DO THAT IN MY HOUSE”. She crumbled instantly. Stacey and Craig were shocked at how quickly she stopped her obnoxious behavior. I was surprised he didn’t have to force her down, that she simply gave up as soon as he turned on her. She was such a smart girl, thank goodness.
Merlot was a full time job, but one I feel empty not having in my life. Every single one of his pups have more than a few of his traits. None, thankfully, were as dominant as he with other dogs. Rain was one of the worst and she was much kinder and gentler than her dad. I believe Merlot’s attitude was shaped by having many dogs come and go for many years. I did rescue, plus had my own crew, so for long periods of time the household dog population changed on a monthly basis. I had a pack, not just 2-3 dogs living in a stable environment. It makes a big difference and shaped one amazing dogs attitude.
I want everyone to understand, Merlot was fine with my dogs once they understood his personal space bubble, and yes it was a pretty darn big bubble! Next week I will relate a few Stories about Flash and Merlot. Flash had a hard time with the bubble concept because he doesn’t have one. I believe Flash was Merlot’s greatest challenge, and I know Flash was Merlot’s BIGGEST fan. Their relationship would make me laugh all the time.