We are so excited to be co-hosting this brand new blog hop along with Oz the Terrier and Roxy the Traveling Dog. WOOF (Working Out Our Fears) Support is where reactive dogs and their owners can come together to share similar experiences. Are you a reactive and/or fearful dog or its owner? Then please join us and share your story. The Blog Hop is open through Sunday.
Our beagle Cricket is our reactive dog. I wrote about two different episodes we had with her in my posts “Walk Your Dog Hop – Facing Challenges” (Nov 2013) and “Walking the Other Beagle” (March 2013).
We live in a quiet area and we can often walk places and never see other people or dogs. Cricket loves to play fetch and that is her main form of exercise, and walks don’t happen as often. Her brother Kobi needed to be walked more, since that was all the exercise he got, and the two of them walk at different paces so it was difficult to walk them together. Cricket’s golden retriever sister is a power walker just like Cricket, so they are difficult to walk together also! So having to walk each separately means less frequent walks. The first time we ran into off leash dogs I was rather taken aback when Cricket went into defensive mode, barking, snarling, and carrying on.
In part I blame others for having their dogs off leash in the first place, or at least not having them under control. But I still always feel guilty and embarrassed when she acts this way. I apologize to the other people. I blame myself for not walking and socializing her more. Worst of all, I am afraid that she could get into a serious fight with another dog, or that she might get loose. The last time it happened she wriggled right out of her harness and I was lucky that I was holding onto her so that she did not run away.
I believe that some of this just stems from her naturally shy personality, as well as her bossiness and need to be in control. But the bottom line is that if I want to walk her and keep her safe then I need to stop making excuses and placing blame, and I need to try to change her behavior if I can.
Because of the bitter cold weather and a new puppy in the house, again we haven’t been walking a lot but I have come up with a plan of action for her. Cricket is intense when she walks, just as she is intense when she plays fetch. She is totally focused on whatever activity she is involved in. When we walk she is full steam ahead, and barely even stops to pee. What I need to do is to get her to relax a little and be able to focus on me instead. We have started with training sessions using the command “watch me”. She gets a treat if she makes eye contact with me when I say her name and then I say “watch me” when I have her attention. So far she is responding very well to this and learning quickly.
Also, on the walks we do take, we stop every so often, I say her name and I call her to me. She gets praised and a treat (if I remember to bring them with me) if she pays attention to me and relaxes for a minute. The next step will be to add the “watch me” command when we are walking. We may just start in our driveway with her on the leash and progress from there.
That is where we are at right now, and I hope we are on the right track. I look forward to reading the posts from the other blog hop participants in the hopes of learning more about how I can possibly help her in other ways. Someday I hope to be able to take her for walks or hikes anywhere without worrying about who we might run into.
If you have a reactive or fearful dog, please feel free to join our hop this time or in the future! It will be held the 2nd Thursday of every month. You don’t have to be a blogger to benefit from this; we also have a Facebook support page which anyone can ask to join. There we also share tips and stories to help and support each other.