I had a wake-up call the other day. Phoebe and I were out for a walk, and she had her nose to the ground sniffing the entire time. The net result was a lot of tugging forward or dragging behind. She simply refused to walk alongside me. I was getting frustrated, and it must have been equally frustrating for Phoebe. She wanted to stop and smell the roses; I wanted her to heel.
We reached the end of the walk, across the street from our house, just waiting for the street light to change. It seemed to take forever, so I started looking around – my mind just wandering. I saw a woman and her bulldog coming up behind us. They were nearly a block away and the woman slowed her pace as she got closer.
At one point Phoebe got tired of watching cars go by and started looking around too. I am guessing that Phoebe was oblivious to the other dog until she turned her head and saw it heading directly towards her. I am not a doggie mind reader, but I am thinking it must have startled her to some extent.
Phoebe honed in on the bulldog and started whining. She tried to rush over to it, but reached the end of her leash. The next thing I know Phoebe is lunging in the direction of the other dog – hackles raised – and barking like crazy. I did not know what do, I just reacted and handled the situation completely wrong.
As soon as the light changed I basically dragged Phoebe across the street as she continued to lunge. I really don’t know where the other woman and her dog were. Safe to say, they were not following closely behind. Once we got across the street, we entered our yard and Phoebe calmed down, though I was still pretty darn stressed.
I am convinced that the whole scenario would have been different if I had been educated on leash reactivity (a term I learned after-the-fact). In retrospect, it seems as if it was the culmination of several things: frustration, fear, and lack of proper interaction with dogs while on-leash.
There was definitely frustration during the walk. To Phoebe, the dog seemingly appeared out of nowhere and may have caused a little fear (just a guess). Socialization has been less than optimal considering that Phoebe’s papilloma issue made us avert other dogs, rather than socialize. Combine that with negative events like our walk at the park, where other dogs were allowed to run up and invade Phoebe’s space, and you can see how she has been stifled in the socialization department.
During my search for information, I found a really good paper. It helped me put everything in perspective (I have tagged on to the end of this post).
I was not going to let that one event hold me back, so made sure to take Phoebe for a walk the following day. She did all right, but still wanted to do her own thing. For the past few months she has been doing very well with loose leash walking. This past week she seems to have tossed the concept out the window. I hope it is short-lived rebellion.
Today, I took some hints from some of the articles I read and used what I call the ‘walk-for-treats program.’ Phoebe was much happier walking by my side; tugging and sniffing was minimal.
Now that I know she loves treats more than sniffing, I am going to take her past the “mean dog house” on our next walk. Supposedly, if I give her treats like a candy dispenser, it will take her mind off the other dog and put her focus on the treat machine (me).
We will see how it goes.