Dog’s Eye View: In a split second

Sandra Kruczek/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Has it happened to you? You’re putting your dog in your car. You think he’s committed to being inside. You remember that you need to stop at the grocery store and you look away for a split second and zoom, he’s gone. Unbeknownst to you, he’s been watching a dog across the park.

In the past year I have been on the receiving end of just such a scenario. My little terrier mix, Lawrence, was attacked by two dogs that were just put into their owner’s car. While she was putting the leashes away, they jumped out and made a bee line for Lawrence. They grabbed him. The owner didn’t even know what happened until she turned around and saw them.

Another time, my husband and I were driving through South Dakota with a friend and our dogs. Our dog, a Siberian husky, was sitting in the back seat. We stopped for a few minutes, had the car door open and assuming the dogs would stay inside, chatted for a moment. In an instant, our dog bolted out of the car. We had only had her for about a month and feared we could not find her in the darkening evening. We found her. We were lucky.

At a recent sporting event where dogs are managed out of the owners’ car, a friend was walking her dog past one of the competitors’ vehicles. Without warning, the unconfined dog bolted and attacked our friends’ dog. A dog fight ensued. They managed to get the dogs separated.

I could tell numerous stories that have the same beginning and end. Dog owners are usually so busy in their daily life that we just put it on auto pilot and start making assumptions about our dogs’ behavior. They’re not robots, programmed to behave in a certain way.

In the scenarios mentioned above, there is a common denominator. First of all, these dogs were riding loose in the car. Yes, even our own dog was not contained in a kennel crate. This happened about 30 years ago and we learned from this incident. Our dogs travel in kennel crates in the car now. The second and most important aspect is that we get distracted and stop really paying attention to what we are doing.

A long time ago I drove through a stop sign near our veterinary clinic. I was stopped by a police officer. I was flabbergasted. I said that I drive through there every day, twice a day. This kind officer smiled and said that it’s not unusual for that to happen. He said we just put it on auto pilot and stop thinking about what we’re doing. He gave me a warning.

Our dogs are living in the moment and even though we assume they will always do the same thing, their keen noses, eyes and ears can change the situation in a split second.

Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with over 30 years of experience.

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