With a few days distance, I want to write a real post on some of the very real issues we’ve faced in the last few days with a reactive dog. The three following events happened in the course of four days. We always have a top on each stating that our dog needs space, MiMi has a lead cover on also stating it and Laufey has DO NOT DISTURB patches on his harness.
Saturday evening we went to a huge public field which attaches to woodland waking routes from our home town to neighbouring towns. We stuck to the field area as it’s harder for people to sneak up on us. When we first arrived, around the centre of the field was a man with two beagles on long lines and he was fabulous, the dogs happily sniffed around doing their own thing until they spotted us and he did a brilliant job regaining their attention and getting them to move back away from us. We were enjoying ourselves and had moved passed him at a safe distance with MiMi snuffling around in the grass and Laufey playing ball happily until a loose german shepherd came around the corner of the trees and made a beeline for us with owner in the distance. Mum instantly retreated with a barking and lunging MiMi as I put Laufey and myself between the dog whilst shouting a very firm no in an attempt to stop the dog and get the attention of the owner. I get the usual “oh he’s friendly” response which is not at all helpful and Laufey drops his ball for me to throw again. At this point, it’s worth noting that Laufey is brilliant at being a distraction these days as his focus has really come on wonderfully – he’ll say hi to the dog but be willing to come away and is much more engaged with myself and his ball then other dogs. So, Laufey drops his ball and the loose shepherd steals it. We’re stuck in limbo for the next ten minutes as this dog won’t drop the ball and won’t swap treats for the ball – “he’s not stupid he knows I’ll take it off him” from the owner (had it not been his brand new ball on its maiden outing I’d have left it but dammit they’re expensive!) and said owner tried to feed whatever crap kibble he was using to Laufey with a very stern warning not to from me (why the hell would you think it acceptable to feed a stranger’s dog who is clearly already annoyed at you??). Meanwhile, MiMi and mum are stranded in the middle of the field without us there as a buffer and whilst seeing all of this unfold, another person with a loose dog thought it a good idea to sneak up behind them and make MiMi even worse. Unfortunately, she ended up in such a state she’s ended up redirecting onto mum’s leg and whilst skin wasn’t broken there is a very large bruise. Needless to say we headed for home ASAP but a person with a dog who joined the offending shepherd obviously completely missed the exchange (how I ask) and that dog comes tearing over at full speed as we were making a hasty retreat.
Sunday we hired a private field and has an absolutely amazing time letting MiMi do as she pleased with absolutely no fear of out of control dogs.
Monday saw a non-dog incident. We’re walking down the road when a man comes out of the park with a leg brace and hence walking oddly. We know MiMi will react so duck out of the way so she can see him pass but not be so close as to react but the man goes out of his way to make stupid noises at them. This is Laufey’s one weakness as he loves to say hi to people talking to him. I had turned my back then he could clearly see the message on my top but from the reaction I felt through the lead I knew he had ignored it and turned swiftly around with a very stern “don’t” to which we were asked if they were aggressive. Clearly, you’ve just wound one dog right up so he’s too excited to think whilst the other is absolutely terrified. No, they’re not aggressive but we absolutely do not appreciate people forcing themselves upon our dogs without so much as a word to us, let alone asking permission.
Tuesday we are happily enjoying ourselves in a quiet corner of the park when two women with a dog start approaching. We’d seen this dog wander quite far from its owners on the other side of the park but seemed generally to keep to itself so I put myself and Laufey between us as a precaution, fully expecting the dog to ignore us, with my back to it to make extra sure they keep the dog away. No. It comes hurtling at us and I give a very loud and firm no at the dog as Laufey does very well blocking it. We then have abuse hurled at us for wearing something like that and it giving me the right to shout at her dog. What I was actually doing when shouting at her dog was protecting it. Protecting it from attack, from injury, from a vet visit with serious wounds but possibly most importantly, from the very real prospect of that dog ending up terrified of other dogs too. Of becoming just another reactive dog with an owner to clueless to notice and too selfish to help. Had I not intercepted that dog, it would have ended badly, there’s no question about that. But yet, the law would have been on our side. We had taken reasonable precaution and made it very clear that her dog could not approach. We specifically told her in response to her comment that our dog was terrified and would bite hers and all we got is that she needs “better training”. Meanwhile, her dog was out of control. It was not restrained and completely ignored her commands, repeatedly. The law is on our side. When we ask for space, we’re not being selfish and antisocial, we’re trying to protect you and yours.
Relatively, we don’t even have it that badly. The support group on facebook Reactive Dogs (UK) has thousands more horror stories of incidents like this. In many cases, their incidents are worse even but still people don’t understand. Still basic dog etiquette is a complete mystery to the general public. Still, there is no scheme set up to educate people, to help prevent dog bites. Children are a big problem for wanting to interact with the cute dog but how can we expect them to do better when grown adults feel entitled to harass dogs in the street. How can we expect the next generation to be better when those teaching them can’t see the huge problem?
Dogs shouldn’t be harassing any random stranger they see – whether they’re adult, child or canine. Reactive dogs have as much right to mental and physical stimulation as your friendly one. Owning a reactive dog will teach you so much more about dog ownership than anything else in the world. it will bring you great joy and satisfaction but on days like the above, with incidents like the above, you feel such guilt and despair, like you’re failing your dog. That sheer blinding terror you see your dog experience is heartbreaking, all you want to do – all you feel like you can do – is shelter your dog from the outside world and cry. Those of us with reactive dogs aren’t asking for the world. All we’re asking is that people can have some consideration for other users of public spaces.
If you need help or support with your reactive dog, and are in the UK, the facebook group is brilliant and there’s more information and warning products to buy at Yellow Dog UK. If you are elsewhere in the world, I'm sure there are some wonderful support networks out there for your area too and the Yellow Dog campaign is global. Please remember you are not alone and there are people out there who can help.
Article originally posted as a blog here and been reproduced (with addition) here by myself, the original author. It is worth noting it is never advisable to tell people that your dog will bite and, in an ideal world MiMi would have been muzzled; unfortunately she is a pekingese and finding a muzzle to fit has been a challenge.
Valuable training articles posted by Victoria and other Positively members.
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