As many of you know, I recently came out as a Whirling Dervish of a Barker while on leash (read the full story of my Leash Reactivity HERE). You could say I am (a bit) leash reactive.
When I was a young pup, and even a teenage dog, I never had any problems meeting other dogs while on leash. I was a well-socialized, friendly guy. But all that changed when two incidents occurred:
1) a neighbor dog, who I knew, came running out of its house unsupervised, greeted me and then turned on me for no apparent reason. It tried to bite me and that scared me a bit. And,
2) another neighbor dog, a large Boxer, came strolling onto my property off-leash without its human after the first incident. I barked my head off and scared the Boxer away but angered the neighbor who yelled at Ma to "control" me.
Since those two incidents, walking in my paws has not been the same. I bark like an angry, crazy maniac at most dogs that are walking by while spinning like a whirling dervish at the end of my leash. This happens mostly with big dogs but little dogs can be subjected to my wrath as well. You just never know.
|I met Bentley while on leash only months ago and was fine.|
What It's Like for Me
Scary. I am afraid the other dog will want to hurt me. I know if I react like this the other dogs will leave me alone.
Frustrating. For Ma. I bet she wishes she had an angel walking at the other end of the leash.
Exhausting. I expend so much energy when I react, I am THAT crazy. It makes going for long walks difficult, especially in the warmer weather, because I just flat out wear myself out.
Embarrassing. Let's face it, the reactivity can be embarrassing for me and for Ma. People think I am unsocialized, untrained and mean, which is not true at all. I am trained and in other circumstances, I follow commands very well. They may think Ma is an uneducated pet parent...and she is not. But try telling that to someone when I am kicking up such a fuss.
A New Way to Walk
Since my January post, we have been doing some training while walking on leash. My friends at 2Brown Dawgs gave us a good idea that worked for Storm; focusing on heeling.
We started reinforcing the "Heel" command and added the command "Look". Together, these are helping me focus more on Ma than on what is around me. It is working well when walking alone (no distractions) or with my friend Bentley (who now also does "Look" when Ma says it - he is a smart puppy). It is hit-or-miss when we start approaching other dogs.
We have also taken a few cues from Dr. Sophia Yin, who Ma wishes she could channel for a day because Dr. Yin seems to work miracles with leash reactive dogs! The first thing Dr. Yin says is that you MUST provide a treat immediately (like within 2 seconds) of a followed command. Easier said than done when the dog is small like me, but Ma is getting better - quicker - every day.
The second is her zig-zag walking; making 90 degree turns while a dog is heeling. This is supposed to help by keeping the dog completely focused on the handler. Dr. Yin says it is good for approaching and passing another dog because I would have to keep my focus on Ma.
There are other training techniques used by Dr. Yin that we would like to add but for right now, Ma thinks it's best to focus on just a few so we do not get overloaded.
What It's Like Walking in My Paws NOW
Sometimes it is MORE Frustrating! I have been able to ignore the smaller dogs in the neighborhood most of the time but the big dogs still make me into a whirling dervish. Ma says it is frustrating to make 2 steps forward and then 1 step back. The training process is slow which can be frustrating too. We try to celebrate the little successes as much as we can.
Still Embarrassing, Scary and Exhausting. You know, when I react like a mad dog. Ma has given up trying to explain to other owners because most just don't want to hear it; they think it is just an excuse for poor behavior.
But, we will soldier on! One of these days, that whirling dervish will be just a memory. I just know it!
This is the WOOF Support Blog Hop, where reactive dogs and their owners can come together to share similar experiences. Are you a reactive/fearful dog or its owner? Then please join us and share your story. The Blog Hop is open through Sunday, February 16th on my blog as well as on my co-hosts Roxy The Traveling Dog and Wag 'n Woof Pets blogs.