While Risa clearly has issues dealing with other dogs, she’s actually a pretty good communicator. As a general rule, she offers plenty of calming signals before launching into a barking/lunge fest. Her reactivity has been improving immensely over the last several months and she’s no longer going off at the sight of another dog. She’s even been calm and ignored several dogs showing extreme interest in her. Including an Aussie who was squealing with glee at the sight of her. Risa didn’t react at all.
She’s still having issues with overly excited dogs, barking dogs, playing dogs, or dogs flying at her. But I couldn’t be prouder of her.
The weather today was beautiful. Sunny and in the 30s. As is to be expected, there were plenty of people and their dogs out enjoying it. We were finishing up our walk when an off-leash dog and her handler started running up behind us. This dog was very excited, happy, and couldn’t wait to play with Risa. Ris knew the dog was coming and I clicked/treated her for any calming signals she offered. The dog was barking, advancing on us, and totally ignoring her handler. Bless her heart, Risa kept her head. She was clearly uncomfortable but still operant. I got eye contact and Risa did several look aways and whale eyes. This dog did not take the hint. Risa whipped around with one swift lunge/bark and then continued to come with me (with encouragement). The dog backed away for a moment and then started barking and trying to play again. Fortunately, Risa kept with me and only offered one more small lunge before the dog finally passed us.
While I would prefer Risa ignore other dogs and NOT snark at them, I feel that dog deserved it. Risa was very clear that she did not want to interact with that dog. The dog just ignored her completely. Even though she reacted, it was a controlled reaction. She did not overreact at all which is HUGE for her.
I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for Risa to be ignored. This is not the first dog we’ve encountered that was illiterate in the finer points of canine communication. I’m sure it won’t be the last. But that makes it harder for Risa. She would have been saved from many of her bad experiences with other dogs if those dogs were better communicators. If they’d just backed off when she asked them to.
And that’s why socialization is so important. So few dogs ever learn how to appropriately communicate with their own kind. While most of these dogs are friendly and just want to play, it is still potentially dangerous to let them rush any dog they meet. If they can’t determine whether or not another dog is friendly, their interactions could end badly!
I think that’s one of the reasons why Risa enjoys the company of her best friend, Rio. He listens. He accepts her rules, even if they’re stupid. I remember one of the first times he and Risa played together off leash. Risa decided he could not be within 6 feet of me (Risa, lacking confidence, does not share anything with other dogs). She told him to stay back a few times. After a couple ball tosses and returns, Rio stopped coming in close. I felt bad that the poor lil guy had to range on the outskirts. But it helped Risa be comfortable. She laid out rules, communicated them, and Rio heeded them. No need for further confrontation.
So while Risa does have issues with other dogs, confrontations are not totally her fault. If more dogs knew how to communicate with each other, our lives would be a lot easier!