Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Agility video & post-snark followup

Here's our best run from the weekend. The boy does love his JWW courses - no stinkin' contacts or tables to make a fellow stop.

Referencing one of the comments on yesterday's post, someone asked what I do with Phoenix after he's blown up because someone's dog got in his face.

The first, and possibly most important thing is that I don't scold him for it. His reactivity includes a lot of sound and fury with gnashing teeth. It sounds and looks horrible but it's just a warning. If I punish him for giving that warning, pretty soon he's going to skip the warning and cut straight to the chase, which would probably be a full-fledged bite of the offending dog. Phoenix is big, strong and fast. If he meant to chomp another dog, he would do it.

I'm fine with him warning other dogs away. He's sending a message that says "I do not like you, your behavior is inappropriate, I'm very uncomfortable, go away now."

Beyond that, the first thing I do is to get Phoenix safely out of the area and away from the other dog who has probably either realized the error of his ways and run screaming or decided to bring it on. That dog is not my problem. Let the owner deal with him.

Then I focus on getting Phoenix calmed down. He usually settles pretty quickly with quiet words and stroking. I'll give cookies if I have them. Even though I probably have a tug leash or a toy with me, I'd prefer not to use them because that's just amping up his adrenaline level, which is not what I want after an altercation.

Then it's back to business ASAP. I don't want to stay focused on the incident and I want to get his brain back in a happy place where he's thinking about me and what our job is at the time - practicing obedience, getting ready to run agility, continuing our walk, whatever.

Thanks to everyone who left comments yesterday. I think we've become a society where any canine behavior that deviates from obviously (and frequently obnoxiously) "friendly" is immediately labeled "aggressive" and many folks truly do not understand how dogs relate and react to one another.

The journey continues. Hugs to everyone making that journey with a dog who isn't afraid to speak his mind.