There are times when I should roll up a newspaper and swat myself with it…more than just once. I’m positive I am 99% of the problem when it come to Pongo’s leash reactivity. My anxiety of us crossing paths with another dog on a walk impedes my ability to relax, walk with confidence, and just enjoy our walk. And when we do pass another dog on the trail, Pongo never fails to react with his lunging and barking. Although, he is able to calm himself down more quickly now which is some progress.
But unlike Pongo who lives in the moment and is done with the drama of passing a dog 10 steps down the trail, I tend to hold onto the negative feelings the encounter created for hours. I ruminate on how I could have handled the situation differently: I should have done this or I should have done that. I think this ruminating frustrates me even more than his reactions. Steve doesn’t have problems walking Pongo to the degree I do. He’s definitely more in control and is able to let things go; he embraces Pongo’s live-in-the-moment mentality. I know it all comes down to me needing to woman it up and get over it!
This afternoon Steve and I took Pongo on a walk. We chose a trail that has low foot traffic. We want walks to be positive practice for both Pongo and myself. Unfortunately, we had two incidences with dogs on the trail. The first one, we pulled way off the trail into a parking lot to let a family and their off-leash dog (ARG!!!) go by. Low and behold, we were standing roughly 25 feet from their car. Pongo did OK until the dog invaded his very large space bubble. Steve was able to step in between and we were able to calm Pongo down quickly and get on our way. The second dog encounter we saw coming: a woman handling 3 large dogs, all on leash (bless you, stranger lady). We tried to make a plan, which was difficult as we were stuck between the fences that parallel the trail and had no real way to pull off the trail. I had Pongo and was going to hug the trail snow berm and attempt to quickly walk by. Unfortunately, Pongo didn’t get the memo that we were going to quickly walk on by and decided he was going to go absolutely berserk because there was not just one but three dogs. This time it took him a lot longer to calm down but he did, and we were able to finish our walk in peace. It appears Pongo was able to shake it off no problem. Me, on the other hand popped two Cortisol Managers and a Longboard Lager when we got home. I know I’ll get there…it’s just going to take time, practice, and a lot of patience.
Here’s Pongo practicing recalls between Steve and myself, leash on but loose.
Pongo’s just being a dog. My dog Buffy goes nuts around squirrels. Try deep breathes— Out with the bad and In with the good. 🙂 Great Pics.
Jen, I know how frustrating on leash aggression is! I had a Chessie mix who was just awful that way and I am sure I contributed as well. I know you are very proactive in training but wondered if you ever tried this to make his “space” smaller. Does he like balls? Or whatever toy..is he so in love with an object it would be hard for him to decide which to pay attention to? If so you are in luck. When you see that dog approaching and start to feel anxious yourself just pull out that ball and start tossing it in the air. It will calm you both down. It’s more complicated then that and I know you have the timing. The same thing can be done with food. It really worked for my chessie…he started to connect the whole dog approaching thing with food or a toy. Wierd but it worked…took some time but it gave me something to do to.
Anne-Thanks for the great suggestions. I never thought about a toy. Unfortunately, his favorite toy is a tug toy so I don’t know if that would be counter-productive as that seems more like an “aggressive” toy. It does distract him though…so I just may have to try that. :+)
Doug-I definitely need to remember to breathe. I’m constantly teaching my students to take deep breaths to calm down–I just need to take my own advice!