Dog’s Eye View: The other side of the story
This happened to me and my bull terrier, Stuart, this past weekend.
My husband and I had been walking our two dogs on an entrance road to a golf course. He walked longer than I did, so I took the opportunity to relax and enjoy the moment.
It was early afternoon on this sunny Sunday. I was sitting in the front passenger seat of my car. I had the car door propped open and had placed a soft mat on the asphalt for Stuart to lie on while I read the newspaper. He was on his leash and was lying on his side, sleeping.
A large pickup pulled up next to us on the driver’s side of our car and parked. The two people could not have seen Stuart from where they parked. I noticed that the couple in the truck had a very large herding type dog in the back seat. He was bouncing back and forth with excitement in anticipation of a walk. His owners were looking around and talking. It seemed like they were assessing whether it might be okay to walk their dog there.
This is where I began to get a bit concerned. I’ve seen this too many times. Both people got out of their vehicle and opened the door for the dog to come out. The dog bolted from the truck. He was not put on leash, nor did the owners have one with them as a safety precaution. Apparently, they assumed there were no other dogs around.
I began to call out, “stop, stop” and motion with my hands to get back. The woman and her dog were now in front of my car heading toward Stuart. She called to me those familiar words, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly.” The man walked behind my car and saw Stuart. He quickly yelled to his partner to grab their dog and put him back in their truck.
Through all of this, Stuart only lifted his head and looked around. He never left his mat. All the time spent reinforcing his “on your mat” skills really paid off for us. Additionally, when he was younger, he could be very reactive to the presence of other dogs. I still practice and highly reinforce his “reactive dog” skills any time I am out with him. Now, when he sees another dog, he turns and looks at me rather than lunging and barking at the oncoming dog. And, yes, he’s always on leash when we’re out.
As dog owners, the important thing to learn from this incident is that we tend to think only from our own perspective when we are out with our dog. Yes, he may be friendly, but the dogs he meets may not be. Many reactive dog owners dread hearing those four words, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly.” It usually means that an off-leash dog is racing toward your dog. Often, the owner of the loose dog has very little control over the dog and is only hoping that the encounter will go well.
Remember too that our “friendly” dog doesn’t always act in a friendly manner toward every dog he meets. Like us, he’s reading the body language and reaction of the “target” dog. If that dog is bracing himself to be pounced on by a loose dog, the whole interaction could end up in a fight.
After calling out a weak “sorry,” the couple drove off. My heart was still racing. It was a close call.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC, with more than 25 years experience. She can be reached at totalteamworktraining.com.
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