Rally Reactions

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.”

  IMG_4118 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.

Any thoughts?

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Comments

  1. Laura Horn says

    Don and I wonder all the time what our dogs lives were like before they found us. It breaks our hearts to think about them out in the wild fending for themselves . . . especially Ginger. We wonder what happened to her puppies. I hope they’re as happy they found us as I am that I found you!!!! You ROCK Jodi and you are truly our Doggy Guru!!!!

  2. Laura Horn says

    hahaha – just re-read that and realized it reads somewhat wonky. What I meant was I hope our three dogs are as happy they found us as I am that I found you. And, I don’t mean that in a “creepy” way . . . :D

  3. says

    Good piece Jodi. I sometimes worry about me doing the same with Jasper. He’s not reactive on leash, but he does hate rude dogs (which are the very two you described above – butt sniffers who come up from behind and the over-enthusiastic dog).

    I love that you are learning so much and enjoying your time with Delilah. It sounds like Delilah is more leash reactive or leash frustrated and that’s why dropping the leash is a good idea. You are so smart to do that.

    Jasper has no leash issues. He just hates really rude dogs and male puppies who won’t leave him alone. Do I have a way not to make people look at him with fear? No. But I do try to explain he doesn’t like puppies in his face and they tend to herd their puppies away from him.

  4. says

    First of all, you resolved the issue with Misty’s person. She got to see for herself that Delilah is a lovely, friendly girl. And she learned something new.

    Second, your primary responsibility is to your dog. Not the rest of the world. Yeah, I know, I haven’t learned that lesson myself.

    But you are so good at looking out for your dog’s first. You’re doing exactly what you need to do.

    And Delilah is right that a dog who comes right up and sniffs her butt is rude. An appropriate dog would approach her obliquely before getting into her face or her nether regions.

    Have you read this article by Suzanne Clothier? http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

    It rocked my world and did more to change my thinking about dog behavior than anything else.

    Finally, if you want people who admire a reactive dog, move into the inner city. The drug dealers in my Philadelphia neighborhood thought I was a whole lot cooler when they saw Agatha and Christie lunging and growling at the end of their leash. Sad, but true.

    • says

      So true. We had a repair person who thought Silas was *amazing* for barking his fool head off the whole time the repair was going on. “That’s a good dog! Nobody will ever sneak up on you!” I’m putting two and two together and thinking he was from one of the rockier parts of our town.

  5. says

    It is a hard topic but apart from usually naughty or just snappy dogs the problem ones here are the not so very nice types who do not get walked regularly and whose owners don’t care. They are never leashed and there have been some awful incidents. Unfortunately the law here says a dog is property so won’t do anything and where we live there is not even a leash law. Training is the right thing to do. Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

  6. says

    I do not think Deliah’s behavior is all that strange. I guess having an intact female makes me think differently. Nature has given females the ability to say whether they want to accept another dog’s attention or not. It is instinct and it is not a bad thing.

    You are in training and not there to work on dog socialization. Yes it may happen, but it is the other owner’s responsibility to keep their own dog’s under control and appropriate. I think if you just work your program the rest will fall into place. I’m not saying that you should not remove Delilah from a bad situation, just don’t look for them. If that makes sense.

    But I don’t know if I would worry about Misty’s mom’s reaction too much. Her dog is 2 and still humping her leg? Tells me she is a dominant dog and I suspect the dominance is more the reason Delilah would react to her. Instinct.

  7. says

    I’m sorry you had to see that look on the other handler’s face. I know that look. It makes me feel ill inside. It’s the look that precedes questions like “Are you sure you can handle her?” or “Should you put a muzzle on her?” It sucks.

    I know I shouldn’t be concerned with what others think, and neither should you. You are an excellent trainer and your priorities are perfect, you need to watch for Delilah’s best interests first. But knowing that doesn’t always help when someone is glaring at you or looking at your dog like she is dangerous. I worry one day Shiva will bark at the wrong person and we’ll have animal services knocking on our door.

    I guess all we can do is what we are doing. Misty’s human’s mind was changed and now everyone in your class sees Delilah for her true, sweet self. You changed one mind, maybe more, and that’s no small thing.

  8. says

    The phrase that comes to mind is “Lost in Translation” Our dogs are doing their best to communicate but sadly their meaning gets lost in translation…we put our own spin on their “words” and often get it wrong, resulting in inappropriate actions on our part…We think “just saying hi” when in fact there’s a challenge going on…we think “aggression” when in fact it’s appropriate self-expression…Don’t you wish there was a translation app that we could use?

  9. says

    Hmm… This makes me think of our Morgan situation. She is reactive, and we know this, but we try to set her up for success. The truth, though, is that I’d prefer that people have a little fear of her because I’d rather they give her distance. If she’s with my husband, he can manage her and her behavior most of the time, but if I’m alone with her, she’s going to protect me, regardless of what I tell her. I don’t mean to imply that she is a raging beast, but she has the potential to really hurt someone if they make a wrong move. I’m not afraid of her myself at all, and she makes me feel safer when I’m home alone and my husband is gone. None of our other dogs would protect me and I don’t worry a bit about people approaching them, but Mo is wired differently, and some of the things that make me cautious about her interactions with other people are some of the things that make me love her deeply, too. If that makes sense. She will always be a work in progress, and because of that, I’d prefer that people give her space, at least until we feel like we’re in a different place with her.

  10. says

    Since Cupcake is not encouraged to play with the therapy dogs that we work with, I keep her visits with neighborhood dogs brief, too. I just make it clear that she can “say hi” for a minute, but then she’s finished and we’re on our way. She has an air of mystery around town. That’s fine with me!

  11. Sue @ The Golden Life says

    Definitely your first priority is to protect/handle your own dog.

    My problem with Ducky is not so much other dogs, but other humans. She seems to think other humans are a threat to me, to her, or to both of us. And now she gets “snarky” when one of the girls at daycare is taking her out to me if another human is nearby. Am I over-analyzing when I wonder why? She loves the whole staff at daycare, so why would she be reactive when only one of them is bringing her out to the car? Weird.

    Meanwhile, I think you’re doing a great job with Delilah — and Sampson — and that you you have a great relationship with both pups. You know how to manage them in potentially tense situations, which is more than a lot of people bother to learn about their own dogs. (That little Eskimo pup sounds like a spoiled “brat” to me.) Ducky is a mystery to me at times….she’s so sweet to us, but so “snarky” with other humans when we’re around. I wasn’t sure how she would be with the pet sitter last month, so I was relieved when Andrea said she behaved for her.

    I’m going to have to check out that article Pamela was talking about. And the DINOS website (I “liked” their FB page a while back, before we even adopted Ducky).

  12. says

    Gretel is very reactive too. With other Doxies at our house she is a dominant little thing but the rest of the time she is scardey. I am sure out in the real world that is why she does it. I took a dog body language class and trying to learn her warning signs better and give her the space she wants when she is asking for it. That doesn’t work in a class setting though :)

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