Thursday, April 9, 2015

It's Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies - Reactive Dog


If you have a reactive dog, you know that sometimes life with them can be complicated. Dogs can be unpredictable at times and occasionally they just do dumb stuff. I know that I usually write about the good stuff that happens with Phoenix and I don't like to focus on the bad. Just like any other dog,  Phee has her good and bad days. Sometimes she has a great day with a bad moment. This past Tuesday was one of those days. 

It started off as usual, super early. We only have one car and if I want to go somewhere I have to drop my husband off at work first. So we got up and did that. As we were getting ready to leave, it started raining. I generally don't take them out in the rain very much because Zoe hates it. She will whine and complain the whole time, usually with trying to make a break for the car. She can be a pain to deal with an it's not fun. That morning I decided to go ahead and go for it and since it was raining there probably wouldn't be too many people at the park.

I put our rain coats on and we get out to the park and there's only a few cars in the lot. I was pretty happy with that and we made our way to the trails. Surprisingly, Zoe was okay with the rain. It wasn't horrible and she was off exploring as usual. When you first get to this particular park, you can either take the meadow trail or one of the trails into the forest. I usually start at the meadow. There was an older gentlemen with his lab who we see all the time and the girls ignored his dog. Then there was a couple coming down the trail with two big Treeing Walker Coon hounds. The girls also ignored these dogs, too. I was thinking, "Perfect! This is exactly what I want them to do!" We don't see anyone else for 2 miles and it's completely quiet, except the rain and birds. It was actually pretty peaceful.

The Meadow

So at this point in our walk, I start to let my guard down and let the girls wander a bit more than usual. I always just let Zoe wander but I keep Phee closer to me and call her back more frequently. I figured since it was raining, we wouldn't be seeing anyone else. I was totally wrong. We were coming down one of the forest trails where it opens to another meadow and here comes a guy with a Great Dane. I've seen this guy and the dog before a few times, the girls know the dog.

Zoe and Phoenix both saw the dog and they stand still and are looking at him. This particular Great Dane is a bit of a weirdo/goofball. He is a bit socially awkward, just like Phoenix. The dog lays down in a "stalking" position and is staring right back. He's maybe 1000 feet down the trail. Both girls shot off like bullets towards him and Phoenix ignores my recall. I honestly don't think she heard me because this is the dog I can recall off of anything. Usually her recall is right around 95%. Sometimes Phoenix does this thing where she gets triggered to fence fight (Fence fighting is exactly what it sounds like. Generally she will race off after a moving dog, barking like mad even if there's no fence. I'm so glad her previous owners let that happen.. sigh.. I do everything I can to prevent her from practicing this and we work on it all the time). I'm pretty sure this time the behavior was a rude greeting. Anyways, it looked like she went in for a body slam and the great dane pops up and bumps her right back. She pretty much bounced right off him and I don't think it felt good because she ran away from him and was yelping.

All of this happened in about 5-10 seconds. So I jog down the trail and I apologized profusely to the owner. He said something like, "Well that was a high speed greeting!" The owner looks on pretty amused, his dog looks slightly confused at what had just happened and everything was fine. I don't know what it is about Phoenix but that's the general reaction I get from people when she's naughty. They think she's cute and it's funny. I don't. I was horrified, especially since she has been doing so well these past few months. The dogs were all fine with each other immediately after it happened.  The owner and I talked for a few minutes while the girls munched on grass in the meadow. I pet the great dane and told him I was sorry for my dog being such a brat. Then we parted ways.

On our way back to the car (another mile worth of walking) we only came across one other person and he had a black lab. The girls were fine. Zoe greeted the dog and Phoenix completely ignored him. At least we ended on a good note, I guess!

Time to go home!!!

Great day, dumb moment. Ugh.. I hate it when this kind of thing happens and it was so embarrassing. I know it was totally my fault for not keeping her closer. I really wish I knew what was going on in her silly little head. How sometimes she's completely fine, greeting other dogs properly or ignoring them and other times she spazzes out. I kind of wonder if maybe she did recognize him and just wanted to play and it ended up being rough and rude but I just can't be sure. She didn't nip him or get snarky. Snarky is her usual thing when she's pissed or triggered. Charging off after him is completely unacceptable and I'm glad that everything was okay and both dogs were fine. I'm hoping that maybe she learned that body slamming is not such a great idea but she's Phoenix so probably not. She's always been a rough player. I know for next time that regardless of the weather, I have to keep her close to me and keep her in check.

That evening when we went to pick up my husband, I took the girls for a quick potty run and the neighbor was out walking her reactive jack russell. That dog ended up slipping his collar and pretty much doing the same thing to us. Charging off after us. This time I picked up Phoenix and we ran away from him and I ended up shoving them into the car and slamming the door before the dog could get any closer.

Fun times.

When these things happen it can be pretty discouraging but I'm trying to take my own previous advice to "shake it off" and I know tomorrow is a new day. We just have to try harder and keep training. We did end up taking a break from the park. I didn't go yesterday, for one my husband needed the car after work and I didn't feel like tagging along and two I think a cortisol break can be really useful for reactive dogs. Today we are going hiking at a different park that is strictly on leash so that we can practice walking past other dogs and ignoring in a more controlled setting. Then tomorrow we will be back out at the off leash park to practice and do more counter conditioning.

Have you ever had a great day but dumb moment with your dog? Or just a really discouraging day? You are not alone, I promise.


33 comments:

  1. Jimmy is my 50/50 dog. I never know which way he will react when meeting a dog, ignore or snark. So I am always on guard. I've had him since a pup and socialized him endlessly, but I think it is just in his nature. Unfortunately, when Jim was a pup, John used to let him fence fight on walks. He thought it was funny, great. I think that is where some of it comes from.

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    1. Awe, I'm sorry about Jimmy. I know what you mean about being on guard all the time, too. I never should of let my guard down with Phee. I just honestly didn't think anyone would be out there in the downpour. Everyone was leaving as we were getting there.

      We've accidentally encouraged naughty behaviors, too. Like Phoenix will bark at my husband for showering. We used to laugh about it and then it got way worse.

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  2. All you can do is keep working at it. The only thing she knows is how to be a dog.

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

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  3. at least the great dane's owner was a good sport about it. my country dogs charge out after other dogs that come onto the property or next door, too. but i don't socialize them off property, either.

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    1. Yeah, I'm really glad the great dane's owner was nice about it. I felt really bad!

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  4. It's tough when something like this happens, I know the feeling all too well. Good thing it was just a goofy Great Dane rather than a dog that wouldn't have been to happy being body slammed. I just can't stop picturing her doing that - I don't think I would have seen it coming. You're doing excellent - I know it's hard not to beat yourself up anytime something unexpected happens.

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  5. That really was an unusual greeting, wasn't it? Those kinds of things can happen so fast, but luckily they are also over with pretty fast and usually everyone is okay. I'm glad Phoenix was all right and I have to laugh at what the Great Dane probably was thinking, lol!

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  6. As someone who has had reactive dogs approach Blueberry aggressively - if everything ends up without anyone being injured (mainly, B, since she is a pacifist 99% of the time) I usually laugh it off. It's not that I think it is okay for dogs to approach her that way - it's just mostly just an expression of relief. I figure it's better to do that than to holler at the owner! ;)

    Don't beat yourself up over it - stuff happens and in the end, no one was injured or traumatized. Just like our dogs can't be perfect 100% of the time, we aren't perfect trainers or perfectly alert 100% of the time either. Cut yourself some slack. :)

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    1. Thanks so much! I also appreciate that you don't holler at the owner. I've had dogs come after us, too and I try not to take it out on the person because you just never know if they've been working with their dogs really hard on the behavior and just messed up this one time or their dog is just being dumb right then.

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  7. Oh yes we have our moments..you're doing great though and we're in the same boat as you!

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  8. I really don't think that was terrible. It sounds more like she wanted to play and was just being rough probably because the other dog was larger. Now the recall is another matter in my mind. There is always the time when recall fails and that is when bad things can happen (and why our dogs are on ecollar). You might want to refresh that. Just like Freighter being steady in many situations and then the duck call comes out and he just forgets. Oops. In hunt test there is a saying. There are dogs that have already broken and those that will. We work on steadiness all.the.time. Thanks so much for joining the hop.

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    1. Thanks! We work on recall every day. I've been able to call her off of other dogs many times before. I'm just not sure what happened this time. I'm just glad everyone was okay.

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    2. They are dogs. :) All you can do is train...lol.

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  9. I am glad the Great Dane's owner was super casual about it because some owners could've reacted totally different. Kobe tends to get really aggressive around dogs that are much bigger than him, and like you said, it's a work in progress!

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    1. Yeah, me too! We've come across him a few times and he seems like a sensible guy. Phoenix can be the same way with bigger dogs, just like Kobe. Most of the time she will try to avoid them, though.

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  10. I think it's great you had a bad MOMENT instead of a bad DAY! That's huge progress!

    I don't understand either people thinking a reactive/rude greeting dog is cute or funny. I totally get people working with their dogs and having a slip up, but I still wouldn't be laughing or amused. You did the right thing apologizing! I hate when people say shit like "s/he's friendly/harmless/just wants to say hi!".

    Pike is my iffy dog. Some times he's great, but sometimes he spooks and hides or runs. He can't be off leash due to that, but he can still be a douche on lead. Sometimes he'll snap at a bigger dog if it gets too near him when he's in a funny mood, where other times (with the same dog, even!) he'll shrink behind me, or be completely fine.

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    1. Yeah, for sure! I always apologize, every time we've screwed up. I've come across so many rude people who just don't care that their dogs are being naughty that I decided that I will always apologize and try to make nice. It's just the polite thing to do. It's so weird because the past two days she's been perfect, able to pass other dogs without being pissy and ignoring them. She's so weird and I wish I could predict her moods better.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have been in those dumb, embarrassing moments more times then I can count with Hailey and there is some comfort in knowing we are not alone!

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    1. Yeah, I agree. It's so nice to know you're not alone!

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  12. I felt pretty dumb yesterday when a skater came through a parking lot and I tried to run away. It didn't work and Leo barked. The guy actually slowed down and asked if I wanted him to get off his skateboard. Quite nice of him actually. I shrugged like an idiot, and he did. But Leo was already barking, so he kept on. As soon as the guy got far enough away for Leo to calm down, he got back on the skateboard and Leo barked again.

    I think I could have handled this better.

    I'm sorry you had a frustrating day, but the good days add up and make up for the bad ones!

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    1. That was nice of the skater guy! I am usually at a loss of what to say, too. These things can be so awkward and embarrassing.

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  13. Im not kidding you...Tuesday I was in tears with Charlie. We had a run in, with a Great Dane! He is a little obsessive compulsive about his frisbee and we went to our favorite off leash area and there were like 4 other dogs there (3 Danes and a black lab) so he had to wait to get off leash and chase it. He jumped on me 1000 times, I felt so helpless. We have been training him for a year and reduced the jumping so much and its like all was forgotten.Another one of those, WHY DID HIS PREVIOUS OWNERS LET HIM DO IT moments. Ahhh...was it a full moon because next day he was back to normal!

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    1. Oh no! I'm so sorry! I totally get that. I've been there, too. :( Zoe can be possessive sometimes, too.

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  14. I don't know what a reactive dog is - not stupid or ignorant just the first time ever hearing that term used with an animal.

    But, my dog Leonard, who is a Min Pin, has severe separation anxiety since birth. Anyway, we see a behaviorist and do these training things to teach Little Man Leonard to be more confident with himself.
    I would say 50/50 is what we are ranging these days for the training and meds are actually doing something and working.
    The other days, well those end up like today.

    Little Man hasn't run from going in his crate like he did today in soo long. OMG it was horrible to the point he tried to bite me when I went to calm him down.

    Well I live in an apartment, and on the second floor. The apartment below me is a short term lease apartment, so people usually are only there a couple to a few months or weeks at a time and then it stays empty for a while and then they will occupy it again.

    Well just my luck a new person moved in below me I think last week and I had to go down mind you I was embarrassed to all heck and apologize to this strange man for the noise my dog is making above him.

    Yeah I finally got him in the crate and when he is in this mode it sounds like someone is abusing the crap out of him from the way he cries like a child, to howling, digging, etc.

    So when I have days like today and actually the past week he has been acting up a little more each day, It frustrates, embarrasses and saddens me that I cannot fix it.

    Well thanks for letting me share.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Reactive just means any time they act out and it can be range of things, like some dogs don't like other dogs and bark at them or barking at people, growling snarling.. any of those things can be considered reactivity.

      I'm sorry about your dog! That's awesome you're working with a professional! My other dog has a lot of anxiety, too so I totally understand! We also live on the second story at an apartment complex.

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  15. Oh man. I'm sorry. This is exactly what I wrote about today, too! Our moment was actually last Tuesday, but it took me this long to really start processing the excitement. I totally understand the emotional roller coaster of having a dog that decides to be rude: it's scary, it's embarrassing, it's maddening, and it's sad. I read something a few years ago that said something like when things go wrong in life, just yell "Plot Twist!" and move on--I try to embrace that idea, but it's often easier said than done. Hope you've recovered from the experience!

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    1. I completely agree! These things can be so stressful and I just wish I knew what was going on in her head. Today she did great at the park, she ignored every one.

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  16. Aw wow. Yea this happens, and the worst part is, is how are we suppose to know it's about to happen? My one husky is reactive. Some days she is fine! People with dogs come up to us, the dogs sniff each other, I talk to the humans......but then on a random day someone will try to come up to us, and Mika gets all growly. I have no idea why :/
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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    1. Oh no! I didn't know Mika was reactive! Phoenix does it at random, too and it's very hard to predict. When she's snarky, generally she's silent about it. The only warning I get is that she will stiffen up and her eyes go hard. Usually I get about 2 seconds of that and then it's a full blown snark fit.

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  17. Too. Many. To. Count. My dogs are A-holes when they see another dog, especially off leash. They will both run for the dog instead of greeting nicely. Most of the dogs in my general area are the same way. I'm working with their reactions while on leash. Delilah has mostly gotten to the point where she can walk past because she knows she's getting a treat, but Sampson will take the treat, then turn around, stop and look at the other dog, whine a little...etc. If he loses his stuff you can be pretty sure Delilah will lose hers too. It can make for some pretty frustrating walks.

    I'm glad the other owner wasn't upset and things turned out well for you. As for the reactive terrier, it sounds like you handled it well. Pat yourself on the back and let it go, you're doing a great job.

    Thanks for joining the blog hop!

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  18. Yes, yes and yes. I know how you feel, so totally. But, I must say that there was some good in the Dane interaction - in that Phoenix didn't become snarky even after the yelp (of pain or surprise, I assume?).

    It's a lesson that I have to remember over and over and over with Shyla. One setback doesn't mean that all our work was for naught. It just means that she had a bad day or a bad moment. Shake it off and go on (that's what I tell myself). Last weekend, we went to a dog training class in a city park, where Shyla did really well even though I wasn't on top of my game in terms of protecting her from all the scary stuff in a park on a weekend. So, after class, I decided that she could probably handle a quick trip into the hardware store with me (it was too hot to leave her in the car). Wrong, wrong, wrong. She had a huge meltdown when a kid carried a skateboard into the store. She was frozen in place in total fear, and I pretty much dragged her out of the store (her legs wouldn't work). It was embarrassing and it broke my heart to see her so scared. I always feel like I should know when a meltdown is about to happen but often I don't (just like you).

    Many of us can relate, and I bet that lots of people in the parks where you go can relate too. Those of us with "special needs" dogs need to be kind to ourselves! You included!

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