A Lethal Combination of Cattle Dog, German Shepherd and Satan


Cori Getzendanner, Writer, Reporter, Cesar Millan-Wannabe

When in the market for a puppy, everybody always paints a rosy picture of a little kid running around the backyard and playing with a cute golden retriever, like something out of a Hallmark movie. The reality is far from that. 

Almost exactly a year ago, my parents decided we could start looking for another dog. We already had one, a 10-year-old Australian Cattle Dog named Cooper. Cooper is a very sweet boy, but he never was very playful and always wanted to do his own thing, which wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for in my eight-year-old mind. We were hoping the new puppy would imprint on me and I could fulfill my Hallmark-esque dog-best friend dreams. We searched far and wide for a perfect dog that fit our criteria (house trained, less than 50 pounds, gets along well with other dogs) and eventually we came across MJ, an Australian Cattle Dog- German Shepherd mix. 

The very short description the foster home gave us was as follows: great with people and other dogs, cuddly, calm, house trained, loves to walk and run. We met MJ at a dog park and brought Cooper to see how they got along, because he isn’t a big fan of other dogs. She was exactly like her description, except a bit shy. The foster didn’t ask us if we wanted a two-week trial like most adoption centers offer; they just gave us all of MJ’s toys and belongings and sent us on our way with our new, amazing dog. She was perfect…

…Until the drugs wore off and we realized why we were newly-dubbed Scarlet’s fifth home. Before heading to our house we stopped by PetSmart and bought her a crate, bed and some treats. The second we got home she went nuts. She jumped around, scratched wildly, bit, barked, did her business on the carpet, and messed with Cooper. I tried to play it off as excitement and a sudden arrival at a brand-new place, but the very first day my mom almost called the foster to give Scarlet–more commonly called Spaz due to her spastic tendencies–back. 

Every time someone came over Spaz would fly off the rails in a frenzy of barking. We couldn’t take her on walks because she would bark aggressively and try to attack every other person she saw, no matter the distance away. She wouldn’t leave Cooper alone, was constantly biting, and peed every time she saw me (which honestly made me feel loved because she was so excited, but was soon forgotten because I had to clean it up.) Within three days we had to hire a trainer. She taught us some exercises to fix some of Scarlet’s bad behaviors, such as not listening to instructions and heeling, along with what to do when a new person comes over and how to effectively discipline her when she bites. 

Over time Scarlet started improving, little by little. My mom and I taught her to sit, shake and lay down on command. The biting got a little better and she basically crate-trained herself; all we have to say is “crate” and she’ll go right in. However, the new people, biting, and attacking neighbors while walking didn’t get better. A couple weeks after the improvement began, she started reverting to how she was on the first few days. She started going to the bathroom in the house again and biting our ankles quite hard. I constantly had fresh scratches and tooth marks on my arms from her nails when she jumps, and on the common occasion she gets a good bite in. I couldn’t have friends she didn’t already know over because she barked and attacked. I couldn’t eat at the kitchen table because she can literally jump up and snatch my food. I couldn’t let her up on the couch because she thinks she’s alpha and spazzes out even worse than usual. I couldn’t even wear shorts because she would tear huge cuts into my skin with her nails. 

If my mom had her way, Scarlet would have been gone the day we got her. Lucky for her, I like her a lot despite all her (numerous) faults. She somewhat imprinted on me, but she sees me more of a puppy than an owner. She’s scared of my mom and stepdad because they discipline her, although I do too, just not as harshly. I let her on my bed, walk her, play with her, do exercises with her, all the things that should make a dog like you. But she doesn’t listen. Her days seemed to be numbered with us if she continued her reversion.

Thankfully, over the course of the year we’ve had her, Scarlet is basically a different dog. She still has most of her old tendencies, but leveled down a bit. She still bites ankles as you go down the stairs and jumps up to the counter to steal food, but there have been more improvements than reversions. She’s somewhat learned what “no” means, and she’s working on knowing when playtime is over and the biting needs to stop. She plays fetch and tug-of-war and is starting to figure out what I mean when I say “drop.” 

Recently I took her to the dog park for the first time and while she started off shy and only followed me around, she eventually let loose and played. For a while there she almost seemed like a normal dog. 

The moral of this story is to do your research. Don’t let the foster home lie to you about the puppy’s behavior or drug it during the meet-and-greet. If you already have a perfect dog, don’t try to make it better: you’ll end up with a puppy that teaches the angelic one to nip when he wants something. Therefore, as my mom once wisely said: “She’s a mix of cattle dog, German Shepherd and Satan.”