DINOS

Ever feel like you are the only one in the whole wide world who is experiencing what you are experiencing, even though you logically know you aren’t/can’t be the only one experiencing this?  That’s what it often feels like dealing and working with a reactive dog: everybody else’s dog is well-behaved and can handle being around other dogs.

But maybe that’s because all of us with reactive dogs are doing the late night walks, the walks on the most deserted trails we can find, sticking to playing with the dog out in the backyard because you aren’t in the mood to deal with his/her reactivity, avoiding any situation where you might encounter a dog.  All of this is so very limiting, exhausting, emotionally draining.  It’s frustrating that 99.9% of the people we encounter don’t get to experience the sweetness, the goofiness, the fun-loving dog we get to experience when we are tucked away in his/her safe place: home.  Instead, they get the barking, lunging, Tasmanian Devil on the other end of the leash.

Dog Tired Doggie Daycare sent out an email on Friday about a movement that blossomed from a blog posted on Notes From A Dog Walker.  The writer, Jessica Dolce has hit the nail on the head when she describes in her post My Dog is Friendly! A Public Service Announcement the stress that is caused when people allow their dogs to approach, run up, try to meet a Dog In Need Of Space (DINOS).  She terms these sometimes well-meaning but oblivious dog owners My Dog Is Friendly (MDIF).

We have run into many a MDIF out on the trails or even walking in the neighborhood.  And, what astounds me is when people just don’t get that my dog, Pongo does not want to meet, need to meet, or even like (GASP!) your dog. We try to make it as clear as possible by turning and walking the other direction, and if that doesn’t work we resort to verbal attempts (“Please put your dog on a leash!”); that’s when the judgements come flying and now we’re the bad guys.  It’s not a good feeling.

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Created by artist Lili Chan www.doggiedrawings.net

We were at Denali Park Strip on Saturday to try out Pongo’s new Freedom No-Pull Harness.  As we were getting out of the car, a woman came running up the road with a dog.  Pongo reacted.  She turned around and went down another street.  My first thought was, “Does she know about DINOS?”  Then I wondered, if she was avoiding us because Pongo can look pretty scary when he reacts.  As we walked around the Park Strip, we could catch glimpses of her and her dog running down different streets to avoid us.  It makes me feel better if I make the assumption that she was thankfully giving us space because she knows about DINOS, and not that we were scary.

I am super excited to know that there are others out there.  We can support one another, empathize, and share our stories and tactics for working with a DINOS.  I think what is most important though is Pongo has helped us realized what it is like to own and to love a DINOS.  It’s not an easy job at times but he is so worth it!

Walking Reflections

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.