I was at the supermarket the other day, doing the things ‘normal’ people do, like buying chia seeds and oat milk for my vegan baby.. when I saw this couple in one of the aisle. They seemed busy looking at the shelves for something, totally oblivious to me. I really wanted to say hi to them, I just couldn’t help myself… so i just ran over and stuck my nose up the lady’s skirt…. the guy went mad! Not sure what his problem was, I was only being friendly…. geez some people. Total over reaction!
I thought it best to leave them for the moment although I will probably go back later to say hi again, and definitely if I see them again, I’ll definitely say hi!
So I just continued minding my business and I saw an older lady doing her groceries, she looked kinda frail… and clearly from the way she was scrutinising the wording on the packaging, her eyesight wasn’t the best. But you know what, I just had to say hi! I rushed over to her, and just jumped on her. She toppled over, but hey ho, thats life. And I just couldn’t help myself, I started dry humping her in the 6th aisle of the supermarket, right next to the tin beans and tomato ketchup! For some reason, she didn’t appreciate my greeting and started using the most obscene language I think I’ve ever heard! Geez some people!
Ok… you get where I am going with this? I’m not writing this blog for the inside of a police cell, after being arrested and probably sectioned!
But substitute this scenario, for a park… or field and the person rushing up to someone and over zealously greeting them isnt a ‘person’, its a dog… perhaps even your dog. Or someone else’s.
This an all too common scenario that plays out on a daily basis for most of people, unless like myself you are blessed to be able to walk in a location where you can largely avoid people and dogs for an entire walk, which can be hours! And before you assume this was always the case, it most definitely was not. I used to live in the middle of London and walk my dogs in local parks, woods or fields where it would be more like a scene from ‘Blade Runner’ rather then a peaceful walk. And I had a dog that really didn’t like other dogs in his space at all. So I can definitely relate. And even now, I attend parks and fields to train my dogs, and don’t always have the option to avoid people.
Here is a video showing a prime example of exactly this, not once but twice
in the space of 15mins. Watch the video and note, What would your dog do? What would you do?
Its super frustrating, right? When all you want to do is enjoy your peaceful walk or train your dogs, leaving with the number of dogs you set out with, not any additional extra who decide to join you!
Or worse still, you have put months and months of work with your dog that is ‘reactive’ or aggressive, or nervous only to have one unplanned interaction that could potentially put you back months, if not further.
So what can you do about it?
Here’s the answer. Not a dam thing. Sorry people, but there’s nothing you can do about it….well certainly not the other dog or person. But you can do things to help yourself and your dog. The chances are that its probably going to happen. So welcome it, plan for it and expect it.
The reality is, you are unlikely to be able to control every single scenario your dog will encounter in the ‘real world’. I wish that we could, it would make training SO much easier. But for most of us, we have to take our dogs to public locations to train or exercise them. You could invest countless hours into counter conditioning, exposing your dog to other dogs strategically and systematically, and yet when you take your dog for a morning walk, they get rushed by that over zealous cockerpoo that notoriously frequents your local park, and sets you back another 6months.
So what can you do? When I say, not a dam thing… thats a broad statement, but you can’t concern yourself with the dogs and people that are going to approach your dog, because you can’t control them.
You can’t control the millions of un-trained dogs with poor social skills, and owners who genuinely don’t see it as a problem… you can try and educate them, but dog ownership is a bit like telling people how to parent their kids. Is a sensitive subject. People get defensive. However, you can demonstrate to them what a well behaved dog looks like and set an example they may then wish to follow.
In most instances, its not malicious, its just people being ignorant of the greater picture. They probably go through their entire dogs life without having any awareness of the affects of their dogs behaviour. Those oh so familiar phrases of ‘oh thats ok, he’s only being friendly….’ or ‘ its ok, he could do with a telling off’…. or ‘if your dog doesn’t like dogs, it shouldn’t be in public’…. the list goes on.
Now we could stand their and give them a crash course in canine communication, discuss serotonin levels in dogs when under stress, appropriate social etiquette etc but in reality, in the mindset you are in, are you going to want to stand and discuss calming signals with someone who’s labrador has just molested your geriatric old toy poodle, whilst the last thing you are displaying is anything but calmness!
What you can do is focus on your dog. You can create a dog that has so much value for the appropriate responses and behaviour, that they are almost bullet proof, or at least have so much ‘bubble wrap’ via training that they learn how to deal in those situations you can’t plan for. You can create a dog who’s sole focus is you. You can build so much desire to remain with you and attentive, that your dog isn’t interested in anything else. If it it is, the interest is minimal and brief.
Having a few simple skills, behaviours, and practical management techniques can help even the most stressful situation, pass with ease.
- Build focus for you. A dog that is engaged and focused, is less likely to want to focus or redirect its energy. Build value for you. All good things come from you.
- Teach your dog to love their collar being grabbed. This is a basic and simple go to skill in a situation that could be volatile. If a dog approaches your dog unexpectedly, you want to be able to grab their collar and not trigger a explosion or potentially make your dog even more ‘reactive’.
- Teach a solid and stable control position, sit or down. This needs to be well proofed so that the dog will cope with any distraction you can create, and eventually any distraction from the outside world.
- Invest daily in your recall, so that you can always get your dog back irrespective of the distraction.
- take high level reinforcement with you, so that you can always distract your dog away if need be. This is about making the best of a situation and getting out of it unscathed.
- Rather then telling people your dog doesn’t like other dogs, tell them your dog has an eye infection, which is highly contagious to close contact… you’ll be amazed how quickly they’ll come and ‘retrieve’ their dog!
- Stay calm. Getting irate only adds fuel to the fire, breath….think clearly and don’t panic.
- Create distance if possible, remedy the situation as best you can and calmly move away from the issue. This is not the time nor place to have a stand off about who’s right of way it is. Walking away unscathed and unharmed is a win!
- Being proactive. Don’t avoid opportunities to improve your dogs confidence, even if its a good distance away. Be patient and keep working.
A set back isn’t the end of the road, just a detour.
Dust yourself off, rant to a friend, let it go and keep moving forward.