Sometimes things combine in just the right way to create havoc in your day.
Risa and I were on our daily walk and we saw plenty of dogs. Since our recent move, I’ve been working a bit more on her reactivity. So I have been carrying treats in my pocket and giving her a couple each time we pass a dog. She happily took treats as we passed our fellow walkers and she didn’t even start to get revved up about the other dogs. Even one who tried to get pretty close!
Near the midway point of our walk, we passed a fellow reactive dog. He started barking almost as soon as he saw us. I pulled Risa off onto the grass to give us all some needed distance and kept giving her treats. Large, barking dogs tend to set her off still and she did react back. Only two separate moments where she bounced and barked once each time. Totally acceptable considering how bad she used to be. 😉
As we looped back, I knew we’d likely pass this dog again. When I saw him, I moved far off the path to give him as much space as possible. I gave Ris treats as we passed again. No reaction from her this time though I could tell she was a little upset.
Almost immediately after we got by the reactive dog, we had to pass the dog who wanted to meet Risa again. No reaction from Risa who got a couple more treats as we walked on by him.
I noticed another dog seated off the path with his people and gave Risa some length of leash again. I wasn’t too concerned about the dog as I figured Ris would ignore him since he was so far away. I never took my eyes off of him, however, and it’s a good thing I didn’t. He got loose and came running for Ris. It was a friendly dog, but that doesn’t matter. Walking past other dogs and working in close proximity with other dogs Risa can do. Meeting random dogs on the street she does NOT do well. Not to mention she was still a bit frazzled from the last dogs we’d passed.
Risa was quite clear she did not want to be approached but the dog still came. I tried to get between them but I failed. The dog’s owners were right there to try and get him back, apologizing profusely. Risa was upset. I was upset. It was over in a matter of seconds and no one was hurt. I had no idea what to say or do so I just walked on.
Fortunately, Risa has had mostly good experiences passing dogs on walks and was non-reactive with the other dogs we saw as we finished our walk. Testament to the hard work we’ve put in and the mostly good experiences we have had together!
This event has made me think, however. I have always read that reactive dogs are not thinking when they’re reacting. That they cannot think–only react. I felt that myself today. When the dog’s owners apologized, I could think of nothing to say. (I used to say “It’s okay” when people apologized but I can’t bring myself to say that anymore.) I know it was an accident. Both Risa and I were clearly upset about the situation but I was not angry at them. Had I been able to form words in the heat of the moment, I might not have said anything nice anyway and these people certainly didn’t deserve that.
It wasn’t until I’d had a moment or two to calm down that I regained my head and was able to think clearly about what had transpired. In the moment, however, all I was thinking about was getting Risa away from that dog. (Which is practically impossible sometimes!!!) So it is true. One cannot think when they are reacting!
The second thing about this incident I noted is that I still really dislike Flexi-leads. They can be a wonderful tool when used correctly. However, I think they are terrible for day-to-day use.
Today is a perfect example. It is extremely difficult to regain control of your dog if he gets away from you while on a Flexi. If the Flexi isn’t locked, your dog can have 20 or so feet of running room if you manage to grab the handle. You can’t really grab the leash part as it leaves you open to some nasty leash burns. Anyone tangled in the leash during the incident also runs the risk of getting a leash burn. And a Flexi’s thin line is more likely to cause one than a regular nylon or leather lead.
Accidents happen no matter how cautious one is. I am just thankful nothing bad happened.