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.
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.
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.