…if you have a dog that you can walk any time of the day, anywhere, and your walks are actually pleasant.
…if you have a dog that calmly exists around other dogs without going absolutely berserk if one looks at him funny.
…if you don’t have to do U-turns when you’re out walking your dog because another dog is coming toward you.
…if you don’t give a sigh of relief when you pull into an empty daycare parking lot.
Which is what I did when I pulled into daycare today–gave a sigh of relief because the lot was empty. I was going to get Pongo into daycare and off to my early morning meeting stress-free. But, we all know things don’t necessarily go the way we expect them to. As I was unloading Pongo, I realized someone had pulled in to our right. The driver and I made eye contact and gave me a little nod, which I read as: go ahead and finish unloading your dog; I’ll wait. I unloaded Pongo, walked up to the door and all of sudden Pongo was going nuts. I thought he had noticed the dog getting out of the car that had pulled in. I think I’m pretty good at reading non-verbals but I guess I was way off today because when I turned around, the dog and owner were less than 2 feet from us waiting for us to go in the door. There was NO way Pongo was going to make it in the door calmly so I walked down the sidewalk, telling the owner and dog to go ahead. While Pongo continued to flip-out, a car pulls into the parking lot with two big dogs barking at him through open windows. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was no reeling Pongo in; no getting his attention in attempts to calm him down. So I awkwardly scooped Pongo up, got him into his kennel, and told him, as I backed out of daycare and drove to work, he could spend the next couple of hours in the car thinking about his poor behavior.
Living with a reactive dog is frustrating and exhausting at times. What is most frustrating is not knowing what’s going to set him off and then not being prepared for the reaction you get. It is very apparent Pongo chooses when to be leash reactive and when not to. If he’s working (i.e. Nose Work) or has other distractions, he is 95% OK with being on a leash around other dogs given he has enough distance between him and the other dog. If we are just walking or he sees another dog out the window, he immediately amps up and is out of control. It’s embarrassing and I’m more than sure pretty scary for others to watch. He spins, he lunges, he growls, he barks all out of pure frustration. But, less than 20 seconds after he’s had his blow-out, he’s fine. I, on the other hand, have to deal with the residual feelings of my own frustration and anger. The self-doubting and ruminating of what I could have done differently, and the constant questioning of WHY? WHY such a sweet, tail-wagging, kiss giving little guy can be hell on wheels when he’s around other dogs?
Just an FYI: Pongo did make it to daycare today and had a good day. I do believe he was somewhat remorseful about this morning’s outburst…or at least it makes me feel better thinking he felt just a little bit guilty.