Last night, on our last walk before going to bed, we met a black Lab and her running owner. Luna was outside of her ‘safe’ circle, I wasn’t paying attention & reacted with way too little energy and bad timing. The result; Luna charged at the dog with a - for Luna rather modest - bark-growl thrown in the mix. Oops.
Then she sniffed the friendly Lab tentatively and luckily I could call her off quite quickly with a ‘Luna, COME.’ I think her touching the other dog lasted maybe 5 seconds.
Why did this happen?
- Luna was outside of the circle around me in which she feels safe, in which she feels I’ll take care of her and thus she needn’t do anything with whatever we encounter.
- Outside of that safe dinstance, Luna feels she is on her own and HAS to DO SOMETHING with - usually - this strange, unwanted invading dog.
- I was not paying attention and way slow in my reaction speed, so I could not prevent Luna from ‘doing something’ about the situation.
- Why was I not paying attention? Because I underestimated Luna’s interest in this dog. They did not just come walking toward us, they came running toward us. That’s different and more threatening to Luna. AND it was a black dog, which is already more exciting to Luna. I responded with something that may have been appropriate in a less exciting situation, but certainly not in this one.
What could I do to prevent these ‘surprises’ & thus having a reactive dog?
- CLICK as soon as we see an unexpected dog, cheer Luna on as she comes to me, feed her a good handful of treats & then possibly have her Sit and play ‘Look At That’ with the strange dog. Then, if it is a friendly off-leash dog that wants to say hi!, I could let her do that while keeping physical contact with her & CLICKING for soft, relaxed, confident behaviour.
- Enthusiastically say KABOOM! (modified idea from Helix Fairweather) as soon as we see an unexpected dog, run a few steps away from Luna & drop a good handful of treats on the ground, preferably in grass or something, so she really has to use her nose to find the treats. This is an approach I can only use with dogs that are on leash, so they do not come in and steal Luna’s treats.
- Make sure I have a Really Reliable Recall & REMEMBER to use it when we encounter something unexpected!
- Overall, in her interactions with other dogs, CLICK & FEED for good behaviour; soft, relaxed & confident. Do make sure the other dog cannot get the treats as I feed them to Luna, to prevent resource guarding.
The picture shows Luna investigating interesting smells on our morning walk today.