Be Your Dog’s Advocate

Stand up for your scared pooch!

Yesterday my husband and I took a lovely, long walk. Even though the air was cold and crisp, we enjoyed a walk around the neighborhood. We encountered a few dogs in yards. Luckily enough they stayed in their yards. We decided to keep our distance and I grasped my treats to give to Oreo as we walked by. I was also holding onto those treats tightly incase I needed to launch them into an approaching dogs face.

We must stand up for our dogs. If your dog is scared of another dog, don’t let the dog come up to it. We had a close call on the way home when someone was greeting relatives. The man opened his door and started walking across the roach when his little poodle came running out after him. I’m sure the dog was nice, as everyone reassured us. However, I place myself in between my dog and the white poodle looking to say hello. Luckily I was with my husband, who picked up Oreo (she is not light anymore, around 45 lbs.). I yelled for the people to get their dog. I told them my dog will attack their dog (seemed like a good thing to say to get them moving, they were moving sloooww). “Oh, she’s nice, don’t worry about it,” they replied. I don’t think so….I called back to them telling them she WILL bite their dog, they need to call it back.

You know that awkward moment when someone tries to walk by you, you move out of the way, but you actually move in their way. Then they move to the right, and you move to the right, and you both are gridlocked like you are playing a blocking game. Well, that’s what we were doing. The poodle moved to the right I moved in front of it and said “No!” The people might have taken offense, but too bad…MOVE YOUR DOG, it’s like 2 feet away from being attacked or who knows! They called their poodle, yet it didn’t listen. Luckily I kept blocking the dog long enough for the owner to scoop it up when if finally swerved to the side and started peeing. Unbelievable.

We live in a condo area, so it’s the law to keep your dog on a leash at all times. There are many condos tightly packed together, with many people around. The man let his dog follow him and run around right in the middle of the street. It horrified me even more that the dog seemed to have no recall skills. If I didn’t stick up for Oreo I don’t know what would have happened. Maybe she would have been nice to the dog, but more likely she would have been scared and lashed out. I didn’t want her training to regress, but I also didn’t want her to have to experience that fear of being attacked or having to attack herself to protect herself. I had to show her that I would protect her. She could trust me, and I wouldn’t let her be attacked again.

It’s important to protect your dog from major triggers and fears. For example, if your dog is afraid of small children, don’t let children pet your dog. Tell them your dog is scared, sick, or training, or the truth-that it would bite them. Do what you need to do to protect your dog. They can’t talk the same way we can, so talk for them. Be your dog’s advocate.

Where to go?

I remember when I first started my journey with my reactive dog. We are still living in the same place, but she is much more confident now. If you haven’t read before-we live in high density condos. It’s VERY hard to avoid people and dogs on walks. In fact, it’s EXTREMELY difficult to avoid people and dogs just going out the front or back door!

All reactive dogs need at least 2 weeks of calm. This should be a time before training starts, ensuring the dog’s levels of stress have deflated. Getting your dog’s stress down can be challenging. When we were trying to maintain an environment of calm we did many things.

  • If your dog barks at people or other dogs outside-close the shades and doors. I have even seen people put special window peels so it make it more difficult for the dog to see outside.
  • Put on a radio or tv so your dog does not hear people or dogs outside. This will also help to drown out the noise of doors slamming.
  • Take your dog to other places. I avoided walking my dog around the neighborhood. Not only because she was attacked there, but because of all the people and dogs. Take your dog to the park, one that is VERY open and not crowded. If a park is not available find an empty parking lot after hours. You could also walk your dog early in the morning or late at night. Find school parking lots or playgrounds that are empty (after school is out). Walk your dog on unused soccer fields. Always take treats with you just in case you run into any trouble.
  • If your dog is reactive while in the car keep him or her in a crate. Otherwise make it so they can’t see out.
  • Play games and have fun with your dog.
  • Do not invite people over that your dog is not comfortable with. Basically, don’t put your dog in situations where they will be stressed.
  • Avoid bringing your dog to parties or crowded areas.

If you don’t give your dog days, or at least 2 weeks to calm down, it will be difficult for your dog’s stress level to return to normal. Therefore, it will be difficult to train them. It seems like a lot of work, and it is, but it is definitely worth it. You WILL see a positive difference if you are using positive training!