At the beginning of the month Kristine over at Rescued Insanity had a post How to Broach the Subject of Reactivity Without Demonizing Your Dog.
My heart ached for her as she described how she reacted to a situation and how her reaction could have possibly affected a friendship Shiva had with a couple of park dogs.
In the post, Kristine explained that Shiva reacted sometimes on leash and Kristine saw a situation brewing, sped into management mode and felt like she had maybe scared someone into thinking her dog was a monster.
I could totally relate as Delilah at times can be reactive to other dogs, especially on leash.
After her first few reactions I began to wonder if she was a fearful dog. But everything about Delilah screams confident, bold, and secure, she reacts for a different reason.
Like her human companion, she has the need to be in control. I know where my issues come from and I’m working on them. I have no idea what the first 18 month’s of Delilah’s life were like. Delilah can’t tell me and unlike us humans who strive to be perfect and have a tendency to over-analyze everything.
Dogs simply accept themselves flaws and all.
Since we’ve been taking all these training classes, I’ve really begun to notice what sets Delilah off 1) she does not like a dog rushing up to her from behind and shoving their nose in her butt. She’s not that kind of girl. She’d like a little romance first before someone goes for the gold. Thank you very much.
The other thing she’s not fond of is a dog that is lunging, barking, posturing or behaving a little too enthusiastically. In our Intermediate dog handler class there was a dog named Duchess that pranced into the room. Delilah was itching to teach Duchess a lesson.
We really learned the “look” command in that class.
I’ve gotten much better at reading Delilah’s body language, which also means I’ve gotten a lot better at managing her.
In dog training, management can be your life line. If I see a situation brewing, I remove her from it.
If I can’t remove her, I will distract her, usually with treats or the look command. But whenever possible I redirect her away from the situation.
However when push comes to shove and a dog is in her face I simply drop the leash. The leash tends to be the real reason she is reacting anyway and I’m certain she can feel my tension through the leash, so I drop it.
When I have to explain it I usually say something like, “She can sometimes be snarky on a leash.”
I’ve never noticed anyone looking at me differently or reacting like my dog is something nasty they need to scrape off their shoe.
In retrospect, this is probably because in a tense situation, my whole focus is on Delilah and making sure she always succeeds. In other words, I’m too busy taking care of my dog to notice what someone else is doing.
Until this past Tuesday.
We were in our last Rally class and there were only three of us. Oakley a HUGE Rhodesian Ridgeback, Misty a little American Eskimo dog and Delilah. Oh and their human counter parts of course.
Both of these other dogs make me a bit nervous. Oakley because he’s lunged a couple of times at Delilah, (although his mom is right on top of it) and Misty because she’s a little bit yippy. Just the kind of dog Delilah reacts too.
Misty is about two, and she’s a little fresh. While Misty’s mom was working her in the Rally course, Misty decided she’d rather hump her mom’s leg.
Ariane went over and stood on Misty’s leash and said to Misty’s mom, “Okay, now she’s going to stay here and you’re going to do something fun…..like go over and pet Delilah.”
I’m really very sweet, I just don’t care for surprises.
And Misty’s mom, eyes wide, a look of horror on her face looked at me and said, “Is it alright?”
I wanted to cry. All this time I’ve been trying to protect my dog from getting a reputation and I’ve gone and given her one myself!
I nodded my head and said, “Yes of course.” And as she walked towards us, she asked questions and I answered and by the time she was done petting Delilah (who behaved perfectly) she had confessed that sometimes her dog reacted too.
But I’ve given a lot of thought to Shiva and Delilah this week and I think, there has to be a way to protect our dogs without making people afraid of them.