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When you have a dog-reactive dog, you spend a whole lot of time avoiding other people.
I don’t want to brag, but over the years, I have become a dog walking ninja. I have an excessive amount of practice darting around corners, criss crossing the street, and walking faster or slower to avoid crossing other dogs on the street. If you’re like me and you also happen to suffer from Bitchy Resting Face this can lead to a whole lot of people thinking that you are deliberately avoiding them just to be rude. This is my cross to bear.
The weird thing about Felix is he wants to meet those other dogs, he just lacks the necessary social skills to do so appropriately.
We’ve been working on Dr. Sophia Yin’s foundation exercises for leash-reactive dogs since September and I’m pleased to say we’ve made a lot of progress.
Not enough that we’re ready to try on leash greetings with other dogs though.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I consider it a pretty woofing amazing day when we see a dog across the street and Felix keeps his cool. Getting within a half-block of a dog on the same side of the street is a great day and when a dog popped around a corner, out of nowhere, last week and all Fe did was one indignant bark it was cause for excessive and over-the-top celebration. I may or may not have danced in the streets.
I wish things were different and that my dog was ready for normal social interaction, but he’s not.
He’s the strange kid on the playground eating paste. He’s the awkward teenager, creeping in the dark corners at the dance. He’s the adult making weird jokes because he’s nervous. He’s a good dog who was never taught the skills to excel at on leash interaction. His humans failed him once. I won’t fail him again and so, we walk, keeping our distance. Slowly, gently creeping towards the ultimate goal of a day when I don’t have to practice constant vigilance, scanning the horizon for real or perceived canine threats.
Until that fine day, if I pass you in the street, look a bit panicked and dart in the other direction as fast as I can, take pity on me. I’m not a bitch; I’m just looking out for my dog.
To the women and the cute pit bull that live at the other end of our street, I totally hear you when you shout that your dog is friendly. I know you think I’m scared of her. I’m not. She’s beautiful.
To the elderly lady who walks her chihuahua with her walker, I see that look in your eyes when we cross the street to avoid you. I would love to chat and hear all about your dog. I love love love that her leash matches your coat and that the flower on her collar matches the one on your walker.
To the cute guy and the Shiva-look-a-like that waved from across the field last week, oh man, I really wanted to come talk to you. How you doin’? Would it be weird to hand around the dog field without my dog, hoping he comes back? (Probably, right??)
And yet, I’m not alone.
Last night on our walk, we suddenly found ourself barely 20 paces from a woman in blue and a little grey terrier. For a split second, the owner and I locked eyes, both a little panicked. As quickly as it happened, we both snapped out of it. She did a 180. I crossed the street. We headed in opposite directions, breathing a sigh of relief that no chaos had ensued. I glanced back over my shoulder, one time and she was looking back to. She smiled and nodded. I waved. It was a moment of shared understanding between two dog owners that are used to being looked down on and feeling like we haven’t done enough to correct the behaviour of our “poorly trained” dog. That may be as close as we ever get to one another, but last night I made a friend.
I feel you lady in blue. Our dogs may not have social skills, but they are good dogs and we’re trying to get better.
That’s what it’s all about folks. Trying to get better. It may be slow. It may not be easy, but it’s progress and that’s all I can hope for.
Does your dog need a little WOOF Support in dealing with their fears and phobia like my Felix? Check out Oz the Terrier’s post today and all the great posts linked up to the WOOF blog hop. Each one has wisdom, knowledge and most of all, understanding in dealing with fearful and reactive dogs.