“No. NO!” I WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE!”
Wow – what was that?? Kali and I walked on in relative peace having done a very good job of avoiding what could have been a confrontation.
Kali and I love our walking trail. The trailhead is within a stones throw from our front door. It winds around with the neighborhood, intersects at points with a municipal golf course, and has a creek that runs throughout. Kali and I have become intimately familiar with the trail having walked it almost every day for the past six months. We’ve also become familiar with many of the faces – both human and canine – that we see often. We’re blessed to have the time, the area, and health to be out and about in such a beautiful environment.
The single blemish on this otherwise perfect picture is that Kali has leash aggression. I’ve come to grips with that. I’ve done a fair amount of reading and research and it is clear that this behavior will take us a long time to work through. Maybe she’ll never get past it. But I’m committed to partner with Kali in the most positive way possible so that one day she will be able to meet another dog without lunging or barking and instead simply sniffing, playing, and enjoying their company.
Kali and Smokey bonded very quickly. They are wonderful to watch. So I know Kali can be a loving and enjoyable companion for another dog. She’s spent extended face to face time with just one other dog – a close friend’s dog – and after the usual barking and anxiety she settled down and got along just fine. In fact they were in the back of our SUV for an extended drive laying next to one another and Kali was very calm and comfortable.
Kali is very eager to engage with me. The first thing I taught her was to “watch” me and then I would immediately reward the eye contact with high value treats. This fundamental discipline and foundation for effective training has been invaluable. I say “watch” or just stand in front of her and she’ll gaze into my eyes and wait for me to tell her what to do next. All it takes is the word “watch” and more lately just the click of my tongue. On our walks I am proactive when we approach another dog. I’ve learned to make sure that Kali is more interested in me than the oncoming dog. We take care not to walk a direct path into the dog, we’ll take a wide berth when there is room on the trail, or simply pull over to the side with Kali’s back to the dog and attention on me as the dog and owner pass by. A couple of “watches” and a “let’s go” and more often than not there is no barking or lunging and we continue to move along our way thankful for the aforementioned blessings. Sometimes I’ll stop and turn around after we’ve gone a short distance and have her sit facing the other dog who is now walking away. “See Kali, no danger. I kept you protected. I’ve got your back. It’s ok to relax. Let’s go”.
For Kali and I it’s all about the positive. Praise when she get’s it right. Understanding when she doesn’t and self-evaluation to see what I could have done different to make her successful it the particular situation. It’s helping and I’m optimistic that over time – probably a long time – we will overcome this behavior and Kali will be able to enjoy being around other dogs.
So did someone get punched in the face? The short answer is I don’t know.
On an otherwise non-eventful walk yesterday I saw an owner with her dog come around the bend about 150 feet ahead of us. As we approached each other Kali and I used our techniques for keeping her calm. I moved to the edge of the path, “Kali. Watch.” She does. “Good. Watch.” Kali takes a quick look over her shoulder at the dog and then back at me.; loose leash no barking. “Good girl! Let’s go.” Kali is relatively calm and we peacefully move along our way. BUT, as we pass by I get a closer look at an uncomfortable owner and a fearsome looking dog. This dog could eat Kali for lunch if it wanted. It probably didn’t want to but that’s the look the dog had. The owner had a very tight leash on this dog with her fist about 12 inches from the dog’s neck jerking up with all her might, and the dog choking from a now very tight collar. The dog was very mad and upset. Who could blame him?
To be fair maybe this dog has serious aggression issues and would actually have eaten Kali for lunch if the owner had not restrained him. Or, maybe it’s the owner who has serious aggression issues and needs a punching bag other than her dog (the Blogger says judgementally). I look back over my shoulder as we move on and I hear the owner say as she pulls up on the leash, “No. NO! I will punch you in the face”.
I wanted to go back and give the dog a hug. I didn’t. I wanted to go back and punch the owner in the face. No, of course I didn’t. Kali just wanted to continue walking home and of course, we did.
So did someone or something get punched in the face?. I guess I’ll never know.