Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meeting the Friendly Neighbour – What Not to Do with a Good Dog

Today's Post is guest written by one of my Good Dog Clients.  Good Dogs are well loved dogs who have big problems, and are working on them in my Good Dog program.  In this case, the dog is a young spayed female rescue who came from the shelter with very serious reactivity.  Her family has worked long and hard with her, and she is just coming to the point of meeting new dogs on leash in her very quiet neighbourhood.  I enjoyed this email this morning so much that I asked I could share:

I remember someone once mentioning that dogs were interested in food, sleep, play and meeting other dogs -- not necessarily in that order.  

So after walking by the same house every day for a few months and seeing a friendly St. Bernard standing on the porch,
wagging its tail (with the rest of the body language consistent), I thought that perhaps a meet and greet might be useful – and fun. 

Plus, the neighbour with the St. Bernard had often waved. 

Once I had even met her at the store and she had sensibly inquired whether my dog was friendly,
And shared that hers was…. we had ended up in a pleasant “chin wag” about my own dog…
her acquisition from the shelter, challenges, and how she was improving.

When I paused to consider whether heading over for an introduction that morning was a good idea,
I remember feeling a happy “all signals go” anticipation as she waved and beckoned to me come up to her lawn.

So, OK, then.  Calm and relaxed, leash loose, I began to cross the street, ready to do penalty yards, manage barking and back off if needed. 

No worries, within a few more steps I stood on the front lawn, the happy St. Bernard alert and clearly comfortable ambling toward us.

“Good”, I remember thinking, “she’s coming in on an angle, body curved, not tense and is clearly doing a friendly approach. 

Nice….this should work out…”

And that’s when things got a bit sticky. 

From behind the neighbour’s porch outdoor armchair I heard a snarl, and in microseconds (it seemed)
a young but full-size St. Bernard I had never seen before fairly flew to the end of its long tether into the yard, growling, tail low and ears back.

Startled, at the loud thump as he hit the end of the rope (anchored to the concrete porch pole) and was thrown off his feet to the ground,

I jumped and slipped on the morning’s combination of dew and wet leaves,
falling onto my right side and directly onto the fallen youngster’s tether.

Once on the ground, I noticed my hip was resting against the slavering head of a dog
whose lips were pulled back over perhaps the largest set of teeth I had ever seen that weren’t in an equine…
or maybe a dinosaur…

Thankfully - and dangerously - with so much weight on his rope, he was unable to move his head.

Also thankfully, I had managed to keep hold of my own dog’s leash when falling, so no worries there.

Stunned and afraid to move/release the minimal control I had,
I began to prop myself on my elbow – scary dog’s rope still pinned under my right hip – to consider my options
(none of which seemed particularly good). 

At that same moment, the front door of the house opened, ejecting at a run a large man
and a small, angry, Chihuahua (who began furiously barking),
both of whom reached my side before I could rise to my feet.

The gentleman grabbed my arm, pulled me upright and – as I started to back away –
began smacking the young St. Bernard in the face with the end of a leash he had in his hand. 

The St. Bernard retreated a couple of inches, head down and growling. 

Meanwhile, my own dog, happily off to my left and quite calmly sniffing both
the original friendly St. Bernard I had intended to make an introduction to
and the new but noisy Chihuahua, turned at the sound of leather slapping
fur to investigate the commotion.

Only to have the gentleman beside me lunge forward, grab her collar
and begin to drag her toward the growling St. Bernard saying “he’s really quite friendly”. 

I think that’s when I snapped, “yeah but mine is not so much in a group yet”,
moving between the man and my dog to break his hold
and retreating forthwith down the street toward the safety of home base…

I suspect that everyone involved was stunned with the speed at which things had unravelled. 

In addition to spending the day trying to calm my worked nerves from being grabbed by the guy and almost being bitten by my neighbour’s dog,
apparently my own pup was shaken up enough to snarl at a friendly handler later that day who grabbed her collar.

Needless to say, from now on my neighbours – friendly or not -- are just getting a smile and wave as I boogie on by…

Great job by my client who kept her head in the face of a lot of difficulty and who took the appropriate steps to prevent this incident from getting worse.  And well done by her dog in a very difficult situation; it is lovely to see a dog progress from unmanagable, untouchable and erratic to calm and sensible and able to cope.

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