Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It's Always Good to Learn from your Mistakes

When we first got Lainey she was such an easy dog to take on walks, take hiking through the trails, or even to public events.  She loved everyone and was never reactive towards any humans or other dogs.

Hiking through one of our State Parks with Lainey's boyfriend Kappy

Doing a very good Sit-Stay for mommy

After Lainey's first ACL surgery last fall, our trips around the city came to a halt.  She could no longer hike through the woods, walk on the trails or even attend doggy daycamp.

The most we could do with all of her surgical complications, was to walk up and down the street we live on.  Or on a good day, make it around one block in our subdivision.

I began to notice during this time, that I was having to pay special attention to her body language while we were walking.  She would become very stiff and inattentive whenever anyone approached our direction.  She wouldn't bark or get loud....her tactic was more of a stare-down.

One evening early this winter, it was just getting dark and I had decided that once we got to the end of our street we would turn the corner and head to the next side street before turning around to head back.  Just as we turned the corner, a very tall man dressed in a lot of heavy clothing (it was cold) with a big furry hat on, was about 30 feet away and running straight towards us.  I pulled Lainey into the grass and away from the sidewalk and put her in a sitting position.  I assumed that once the man saw us, he would transfer to the road or at least pick up the pace and run right by us.  He did not!!!

The closer he got to us the more agitated Lainey became.  She was barking, lunging, growling....I had never seen this side of her.  I used my body as a blocker between her and her site line to the man, kept a loose leash and tried "leave it" and "look", but nothing worked.  I just needed him to get by us and keep moving on. 

Instead, he stopped literally 2 feet away from us and asked me if I needed any help.  I explained to him that I would just appreciate it if he could move along due to the reactivity from my dog.  By this time, I am walking away from him through someones yard, just trying to put some distance between us.  Instead of getting the hint, the man just simply stood there trying to talk to Lainey.  This of course, was causing more harm than good.

After a good few minutes, the man finally continued on his way and Lainey and I headed back home.  I was exhausted, nervous and of course scared of what had just happened.  The next morning I called our dog trainers.  They seemed to think that since Lainey and I had been walking the same street over and over the past several weeks that she had grown to think that she "owned" them.  That this was an extension of her property.  They also stated that due to her medical issues and surgical complications that she was probably feeling a bit nervous that she could not protect herself (or me) if anything was to happen.  Her barking at the man, was her way of "protecting" and giving the man a warning.

This was the only time this has happened and I am much more aware of our surroundings whenever we walk.  At each corner I stop and look to see if there is anything that might make her uncomfortable (people, dogs, bikes, etc).

Unfortunately, months later and two more surgeries later, we are still only able to walk up and down our street or our block.  I have made some changes in our routine that I think have helped.  We don't walk the same "direction" every time.  We also change it up between walking on the sidewalk and walking in the road.  We also switch up on which sides of the street/sidewalk we walk on.  And most importantly....we have been working on loose leash walking along with a solid "look" command. 

I think that all of these changes has helped.  She is much more relaxed and our walks are very enjoyable.  We have come in contact with multiple people, dogs, bicicyles, etc. and she has not reacted at all.

I can only hope that a year from now when she is all healed with 100% mobility, we will be able to get back into hiking, walking the trails and enjoying nature as much as we both want to.  I think we are both ready for some new scenery!


Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

Big changes are always so hard on pooches! Keep up the good work - this will all be a memory soon!

Non Sequitur Chica said...

I think you are doing a great job! Buster is a reactive dog and even after our reactive/aggressive dog class, he still reacts to dogs and sometimes people. I think it will be an ongoing thing with him unfortunately...moving to a new place did not help.

Anonymous said...

They are such interesting creatures! If only they could speak or understand us so that we could explain change to them. I know that when Melvin has issues on leash, say after dark if we hear/see something, part of his reaction has to do with my heartbeat/trepidation. If I stop and take a moment to stay calm, he tends to follow suit. If I'm genuinely panicked, Melvin will go into Secret Service mode!