Monday, January 30, 2012

Watch your manners - and your dog

Can I fly around on my broomstick for a couple of minutes? I really debated about writing this post but it's something that needs saying and it applies to every single person who does dog sports, no matter the breed, the venue or your level of experience.

When I started training dogs through the local 4-H program about a hundred years ago, the very first thing the instructor told us on the first night of class was “Watch your dog.” Pretty sound advice for a bunch of teenagers with a bunch of barely socialized farm dogs.

Such a simple lesson.

So why don’t we — as adults — do it?

In the last two weekends, I’ve had three separate incidences of dogs getting in Phoenix’s face. None of these dogs were being aggressive but Phoenix didn’t know that. Each time he was on leash, under control, minding his own business and all of a sudden - WHAM! There’s a dog invading his personal space! One was loose (approached straight on at a dead run), one (on lead) buried its nose under his tail and another dog (also on lead) leaped up to put his paws on Phoenix’s head.

His reaction was predictable and it wasn’t pretty. Instant fangs and snarls. Whirling and snapping. The kind of noise that has everyone around stopping to stare to see who’s getting killed. The kind that has me elevating his head and hauling him away on his back legs and body blocking the damn dog who came out of nowhere because its owner wasn’t paying any attention and is now wondering why the malinois wants to kill it.

Only it never comes to that because A) I AM watching my dog and B) Phoenix doesn’t really want to kill the offending dog, he just wants it to GO AWAY.

Unlike my previous dogs, who all came with varying degrees of doggie diplomacy, Phoenix has zero tolerance for strange dogs who get in his face. I’m not talking about dogs who approach him quietly and calmly when I’ve given him permission to go sniff. He’ll happily wag his tail and make nice for a brief greeting (he doesn’t need to develop lasting relationships). I’m talking about the SURPRISE IN YOUR FACE dog who comes out of nowhere because its owner has no idea what’s happening on the other end of the leash. I have a reactive dog and I know he’s not the only one. There were a number of dust-ups at a very crowded trial site this weekend and I know one handler got bitten.

In all three of our instances over the last two weekends, Phoenix was engaged and working with me when it happened. In two of them, we were waiting in line for an agility run, practicing attention and tricks. By their very nature, agility trials are crowded and congested. Basic courtesy dictates keeping your dog's nose to himself.

One lady’s dog was walking at the end of a 6-foot leash at the end of her outstretched arm. All was fine and good until the dog (8 feet away from its owner) decided to sniff Phoenix’s butt. While he was sitting at heel. Watching me. With his back turned to the offending dog. Until a nose rooted under his tail. To say that didn’t go over well would be an understatement. I remember the look of irritation on the woman’s face when I whirled around with my dog and saw her dog at the end of its leash, still trying to sniff Phoenix who was going off like a Roman candle.

The second agility incident happened, again, while we were in line for a run, minding our own business. A fellow stopped to visit some friends crated nearby. Pretty soon his dog wandered over and got in Phoenix’s face. Fireworks ensued.

I’ve quit apologizing for my dog roaring like a demon from hell when he’s taken unawares. Should I apologize because someone else wasn’t paying attention to what his or her dog was doing? Yes, my dog is reactive and yes, I am sorry this happened. But know what? He’s not going to bother your dog if you keep your dog out of his face. It’s that simple.

It scares the crap out of me every time it happens. Then I always feel guilty, like I should have seen the offending dog coming and done something to prevent the snarkiness. (Actually, I spend quite a bit of time watching over my shoulder and have, upon occasion, yelled at people to please keep their dog way. Then I feel guilty for being such a crab. But I’d rather be crabby than break up a dog fight.)

Lots of people believe in a Walt Disney-esque vision of performance events where all dogs love one another and frolic happily together through the day. Of course this is unrealistic. Tension, stress and adrenaline levels can turn a simple sniff into a outright challenge.

Please. Watch your dog. It doesn’t matter how friendly it is. Or that it just wants to say hi. I don’t want anyone to get hurt - my dog, your dog, me or you.

Okay, parking my broomstick now.

45 comments:

  1. Honestly, this is one of the main reasons why I have done so little agility. It's like being in a dog park somewhere, and all the owners get upset if you or your dog don't want their dog molesting you or him. When we do attend a trial, I don't spend a lot of time around the rings, unlike at an obedience trial or hunt test where I sit and watch most of the runs. I guess too many agility people just aren't dog savvy?

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    1. I agree with you totally. Also, I have to say, its not much of a fun outing for my dog when he gets strung up two or three times each time he goes to an event where other dogs won't leave him alone. I don't like it either.

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  2. I completely agree with you! Unfortunately, I think that until you have a reactive dog, you just don't get it. I'm guessing I probably didn't. My first dog was a saint. The next two were extremely reactive. That's not to say that I didn't pay attention to my first dog. I was fairly aware and definitely paid more attention than your average pet owner with their dog two aisles away at the end of the Flexi in Petsmart. But it seems you just don't have that extra level of awareness until it's your dog that's going to do the flipping out.

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  3. On a Side Note....Seeker and Phoenix walked the pavement together just fine....no dirty looks, nothing! Both minded their own beeswax. Phoenix put foreign golden hairs on Seeker's 'Back On Track' coat, but they were both gentlemen. I don't think it's an agility thing.

    I think it's more from people that have never had a 'reactive' dog, although I'm not sure I would call it that?

    Unfortunately the people that really need to read this post, either won't....or they won't think the post is about them! G

    Good try Martha!!

    PS - Yes, I know...her name is Melinda. VBG

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  4. Ohhh HELLS YES!! Yeah you should see how well that goes over when your 160lb dog reacts because he doesn't like other dogs running up into his face. Ughhh.

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  5. Phoenix is my first reactive dog and he's definitely come with a learning curve. I wouldn't wish a dog like him on everyone, but it does make you hyper aware of every dog around you and what's going on with body language. Until you live with that, you can't truly appreciate it. I can read subtle ear flicks and facial tension much clearer than I could 5 years ago!

    Tammy: Ha-ha, Phoenix's goal in life is to shed on as many things and places as he can - shedding on another dog's coat was a highlight of his weekend.

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    1. It's not just for you folks that have reactive dogs. I have goofy hounds that love to meet other dogs. And they too, would be offended by what happened to Phoenix. Their reactions might not be as vivid, but they would react. And if we were waiting out turn, it would affect their performance. This is about respecting each other as handlers and remembering that in high energy settings, like an agility trial, dogs are amped up and may not react in the way you expect.

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  6. I couldn't agree more!

    Layla isn't reactive the point of Roman Candle reaction, but she is dominant and doesn't like uninvited dogs invading her space. I wouldn't either. I don't like people invading my space either. So, if a dog is being rude, she'll express her dissatisfaction.

    My question to you though: what do you say to Phoenix when it happens? I always wonder about Layla. I hate telling her to "leave it" when she WAS leaving it and it isn't her fault at all. I don't want it to seem like I'm upset with her, but I also don't want it to seem (to her) like I'd let something happen to her.

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  7. well said ... thank you - I watch all dogs carefully now since Sally was attacked out of the blue while waiting patiently to enter the ring ... I am not sure I'll ever "be over" it :(

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  8. @Amy, I have a human reactive dog, and I have found it greatly helps her feelings of anxiety if I make a big deal out of "protecting her". I will stride right out in front of her, stand really tall, and talk really low and growly at the person "bothering her" (even if the poor sap is just walking by). Honestly I could care less what strangers think Im doing or if Im some crazy lady or not, whats important is that my dog puts her faith in me. So I will growl "dont pet my dog" and get into a strangers space to make them back up or go wide around us. Being a 4' tall female helps me get away with this for sure rofl

    as for people I know, family and friends, I just tell them to ignore my dog completely, and if they dont, I yell at them, thereby protecting her again, this time in a way that makes sense to my friends (and not "wtf crazy lady")

    As it could apply to other dogs, do the same thing. Body language getting in the dogs space, while yelling at the owner. Nevermind its the other owner thats pulling their idiot dog away, all YOUR dog sees is her wonderful human coming to her rescue. She may even end up getting in the habit of not reacting back, and just immediately looking to you to "save her"... you know, like you always do.

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    1. I call that being the Mama Bear. My Shiba is my Cub and you don't get between Mama Bear and her Cub, unless you don't mind losing an arm XD

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  9. I agree as well. Someone should make a commercial about this.

    My Shiba Inu, while only 24 pounds, is very tenacious and once a fight is started the only way to get him to stop trying to attack the other dog is to completely remove it from sight. He gets very riled up and is hard to calm down after a fight. I almost think he enjoys them.
    He's certainly not "friendly" but about 70% of the time he won't react badly to another dog, he tolerates them. But that other 30% is too big to ignore so I've got to keep an eye out for loose or unruly/rude/bounding/whatever dogs. He is okay with polite dogs, both leashed and unleashed, but if he's leashed and an rude dog comes bouncing up, fur will fly.
    Butt sniffing is also off-limits.

    I've not just got him to worry about. One of my bigger dogs (Border Collie/Labrador Retriever mix) is also reactive. She gets very focused on the other dog and I can't get her to stop staring, and that never helps. If it's a small dog, toy-sized, she sometimes gets that predatory drift thing so I have to be really cautious around them.
    She is like my Shiba Inu, where if she's leashed and the rude dog is not, a fight is going to happen. Also like the Shiba, she is almost always fine if she's not leashed. I guess that's barrier frustration/leash reactivity?

    Anyways, people get miffed when I don't correct my "mean" dogs for telling that other dog to bug off. They also don't like it when I lecture them about their dog being the rude one who needs to be corrected.
    And to top all that, my Shiba is scared of strangers, so he acts very huffy and beats his chest around them on hiking trails, especially if they have a dog.

    It's not fun when I've got 74 pounds of angry dog going in two directions while the third, the bigger dog's sister, trots up to the rude dog's people for lovings. (She could care less about other dogs and is not one of those "friendly" dogs who causes problems, she'll completely ignore their dog and head straight for them.) All three of them need some work but the fault is almost never mine or my dog's.

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  10. I know that my dog was one of those although I don't think lately. A good long time ago now - I am trainable. I never thought it was OK for my dog to bound up or stick his nose in other dogs' faces. I just had trouble controlling him. I am getting better all the time and I am much more aware. Sadly - my big white fluffy upright ears and tails dogs have targets painted on them. They are often the focus of some other dog's rage without doing anything to provoke it. I have learned to watch for that also. I totally agree that there are lots of people out there - at dog trials of all kinds as well as elsewhere - that think their dog is so sweet that everyone must want it on their lap, in their treat bag, knocking stuff over, nose poking my dog.... Even more fun are the goofy people in a crowded venue with a six foot Flexi lead all the way out. I am terrified of them, their dogs and most specially - I am certain that stinking lead is going to chop somebody's leg, finger whatever right off! I apologize for the times that Jazz got in Phoenix face and I thank you for still being willing to talk to me :) I did learn how to control him and when. At least I think I did. Thanks for giving all of us a chance to vent. I don't think it's just a matter of disturbing reactive dogs. It's really about good people manners and common sense. Lot's of people are lacking those things.

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  11. My Canaan Dog was reactive. But after years of work and training (for BOTH of us!!!) he learned that when working he would ignore provocations. When not working, a rude dog getting in his face got lots of nasty faces and noises.

    The critical part of the training was me: I had to be aware of all things at all times. I ran interference, and strange dogs got to him through me. This has been quite useful training with my papillons. We were out hiking a few months ago and some 80-lb dog came barreling towards us. off leash and barking. The owners were hollering "he's harmless!". Yeah, right. I kicked at the dogs face. I didn't connect because he dodged it and decided that maybe barreling into the two small dogs with the body guard wasn't such a great idea. I was wearing hiking boots so I figured the chance for injury for me was low.

    Then there was the time two off lead rotties and their owner surprised me and my canaan on the nearby school fields. I kept calling the owner to get his dogs, and he didn't. They were trying to tag team my canaan dog. I screamed at them (NO is quite effective for most dogs), threw hats, gloves, leads, full poo bag on the ground in front of their faces. Anything to break off their eye contact. I also dropped Tycho's lead. He stayed behind me. I managed to keep the rotties off balance and the guy finally got them. And yelled at me for being a crazy ....

    Why ready to drop his lead? After one instance of him being attacked by an off lead dog, I was always ready to drop his lead and give him his head if the other owner did not listen to me.
    I figured in court, I would always win. And in a fight? Sorry -- my money is on the canaan dog. My dog was on lead. I asked the other people to get their dog. My dog has MULTIPLE titles proving his training and reliability and temperament. But he would be able to defend himself or be free to run away. Never again would I trap him to be attacked and unable to defend himself or flee.

    People and dogs get at my dogs only through me. Once my canaan realized this, he was much more secure and easier to handle. Is it work? Yeah!

    My younger pap, Tip, is a handful. He likes to stare at dogs, uses bossy body postures, and thinks he is the king of everyone. People think its funny when I correct the 7 pound dog for his rude behavior -- but I know what it is, even when its coming from a tiny dog.

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  12. Based upon the situations you describe...I would not describe Phoenix's reactions as "reactive". Imagine you were sitting on the bus and a guy came up to you and smelled your hair or grossly invaded your personal space. You might say loudly "BACK OFF BUDDY!!!" No one would call that a reactive response but an appropriate response to unruly rude behavior. A reactive response would have been if he went in with teeth to kill. Instead he raised a ruckus to protect his personal space. Not reactive at all but an appropriate canine response to the other dog (and other handler for not controlling the situation) for bad behavior.

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  13. I took my 4-month old puppy to a facility for classes. It was our first time there. While waiting for the class to begin, all the other owners were allowing their dogs to 'meet and greet' - sometimes across the ring on 16ft flexis. When one boxer-mix came to investigate and greet Callen, she felt like she was being cornered and she tried to hide under my chair. At the same time, I was getting in between my puppy and this very large dog who was terrorizing her.
    I asked the owner to please contain her dog and she said (drum roll please), "he just wants to say hi to the puppy." Gr-r-r-r.
    I told her that I didn't allow my dogs to socialize while we are training since she is a competition dog and must know when it is time to work. The lady just sighed (a long-suffering sigh) and said, "oh your poor dog isn't allowed to play. That's too bad." (the last was said very snottily.) She still didn't reel in her dog.
    So I picked up my puppy and tried to walk away but she let the dog follow, sniffing both my puppy and MY butt. Other dogs joined in the 'greeting.' I can see the pack-mentality in the dogs' behavior but cannot for the life of me figure out why the owners allowed it!
    I walked out of the training area, found both the teacher and the facility owner and told them that I wouldn't be staying for class, nor would I be returning, and the reason why. They didn't understand as the offending owners were products of their training! SO it is being taught in pet classes. Sigh.
    Didn't get my money back either.

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  14. Sweep away with that broom! This is a very FABULOUS post and you just wrote what most of us think. Agility trials (as far as dog shows go) seem to find the most offenders and that number is just short of the public areas with clueless owners. The ones that drive me NUTS are the ones that have a dog doing such nonesense to others and when you or your dog gives them the evil eye (or you say to them keep your dog away) they go "Why? Isn't your dog friendly?" My good friend gave me the perfect response..."My dog is friendly but *I* am not!"

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  15. Agility trials are the worst! I think it's because agility is pretty easy to compete in (say, compared to obedience, hunt trials, protection sports, etc which require much more training and dedication to be trial-worthy).
    So, agility trials are packed with average Joe's that don't really take training seriously, are clueless about dog behaviour, and it sucks. My last dog was dog reactive, and he ended up loving agility when we did it alone, but hated classes and trials, after getting repeatedly assaulted by random dogs.
    My current dog is a very small Malinois, so thankfully I'll have the option of carrying her if need be, :)

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    1. wow... this seems pretty biased. Honestly I see many more problems with conformation dogs. We attend agility trials several times a month, and while we see problems, it is with the same, very small number of people over and over. The vast majority do very well. I wonder if it is a regional thing. Or perhaps because we don't spend any time around the Novice ring any more- we never run into what you call the "average Joe's". To be competitive at the excellent level, you have to put in some serious training.
      I cannot agree with you when you say that agility trial are "packed with average Joe's that don't take training seriously" Maybe you are hanging out with the wrong bunch?

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    2. I actually don't get your comment. Maybe it is regional, or some loosely run agility venue -- maybe some neighbor's recreational "fun" match that you are referring to. The agility trials I compete at are attended by people who have put years into the training of their dogs, including training with top-notch, world class instructors (i.e, Daisy Peel, Susan Garrett, Linda Mecklenburg, Sylvia Trkman, Greg Derrett, Elicia Calhoun, etc.). The sport of agility requires highly specific, detailed training and dedication. It is possible that you may have witnessed a person at the Novice level (beginning), who has done about 13-24 weeks of training and eagerly jumped into a trial before there dog was properly trained......but those people quickly realize their mistake(i.e. dog with the zoomies in the ring) and get back to training and preparing their dog and themselves for the competition ring and all the skills required by their dog and them to attend an agility trial ....... but that scenario is few and far between. Or, they just quit the sport of agility. Handlers running at the open or excellent level have highly trained dogs and are not average Joes. "Average Joes" are not going to spend the money it takes to do agility. It takse a bare minimum of 3 years to train a dog for agility competition and then begin competing at a novice level.

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    3. By the way, my dog is a rescue and when I first adopted her, she was reactive (putting on a show to keep strange dogs at the appropriate distance); very effective bluffer. She is a herding breed and is sound and motion sensitive. When we initially started agility competition, I took an active "management role" in assuring that she was safe and had a positive experience.....and I still do; just the same as when we are out in the public, going for a walk, walking at the state park and hiking; or at agility class and agility competition and when she took the CGC exam.

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  16. great post! I would love to print it and hang it at the next agility trial I attend. It drives me bonkers when people do not pay attention to their dog. My dog is leash reactive and does not like other dog's in her face. I do the best to control the situation and keep her calm but I can't control another person's dog nor should I have to. So frustrating when people do not pay attention to their dog.

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  17. Here, here Melinda! I was lucky enough to have a dog & people reactive dog for my very first dog. I had the ideal dream of the dog that I could have off leash, chilling, hanging out, being obedient, you know, like Lassie except not as lame! Zoe is 15 now, but taught me so, so, so much. Taking her from the point where I thought I'd have to euthanize her to competing in flyball, agility, herding, and even a bit of frisbee, not to mention dealing with 100+ foster dogs in her home. Because of her, I learned to be as "ever-vigilant" as she was. I couldn't ask for a smarter, more loyal dog, but she had different needs than other dogs. Oddly because I learned to understand her, she became a great initial greeter for foster dogs. She told them exactly who was in charge immediately and to get out of her personal space. By letting her tell them to back off, she established how it was going to be & they pretty much all respected her with little trouble the rest of their stay. That said, we got in trouble in various classes when OTHER dogs caused problems due to their owner's stupidity. She was the bad dog, the one to avoid, which was just fine with me...avoid us PLEASE! That said I taught her coping skills and learned to whip her behind me and block dogs, or just to keep her head glued to me. I've used those skills with my friendly dogs, my hyper dogs, my shy, fearful dog. What I don't understand is why, even if your dog is friendly, you don't want them focused on you in a competition environment or training situation. If they are doodling around, doing whatever they want outside the ring, what do you think they are going to do IN the ring? I see the same dogs who "visit" at the end of their leash, going in the ring & not connecting with their owner. Hum...coincidence. I think not. Not that my dogs are perfect, but it sure makes things a lot easier for me if they are uber focused on me & they know I'll take care of protecting them. In the end I'm glad I've had "bad dogs", they have made me a better owner & handler.
    Melinda, you should check out this blog about DINOS (aka Dogs In Need Of Space). http://notesfromadogwalker.com There is a lot of stuff going on in the pet world about being more respectful. We just need performance people to catch up. Oddly enough, I find flyball folks to be much more aware of this than agility people. Go figure. Then again in spite of it's seeming "chaos" flyball is a seriously controlled sport.

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  18. This happens to us as well. I try SO hard to keep other dogs out of our "space", but some people are so careless. Last summer we came in from going potty as it was starting to rain. Someone behind us was rushing to get in so they wouldn't get wet and their dog ran right into us, in the doorway. Our dog snapped air and sounded horrible and they acted like it was our fault. I think that is what bothers me the most is that other people think they their dog has the right to sniff, bump, jump on, crash into.... whatever, to your dog. I think next time I'm going to walk over and stick my face 1 inch from theirs and say "so... how do YOU like it?"
    On a related note, I think Flexileads add to the problem and I'm glad to see some shows starting to ban them.

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  19. Well said, Melinda.
    Also a central reason why I don't do agility.

    That, and the barking.....

    And the excuses made for both.

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  20. great post and I too have worked very hard with my Mali and she can quietly stand in line waiting her turn but I am constantly watching for those that are not paying attention to their dogs because she does not like dogs she doesn't know in her face actually none of my GSDs do either but people tend to stand a little more clear of them whereas my Malinois is tiny and sweet looking. Funny thing is this is discussed over and over on lists and the solution is so simple Pay attention to your own dog while waiting to go into the ring you are there to compete not doggie play group! I secretly wish a dog reactive dog in that person's future that doesn't get it. :)

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  21. A-freaking-men. My Border Collie learned very young that appropriate "get out of my space" warnings don't work, so now he explodes and will land teeth at times, though he's not broken skin. And you know, I don't feel that bad about it. Well, I kind of do, but those bad feelings get overshadowed by my extreme irritation with people who can't manage to keep their dogs out of my dog's face.

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  22. What you said...Amen! We really need to be re-thinking "puppy socialization play groups" and start encouraging people to actually train "leave it" and "come here", and not rely on "Don't worry, he's friendly!", because it doesn't work if it isn't reciprocated.

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  23. Well, I do sympathise with you, I also had a reactive dog (a Dobe) who was people and dog reactive but I found ways to manage him (primarily through having him carry his toy when we were in crowded situations)and trialed him in agility for 4 years. However, I think it's inevitable that when you have a lot of amped up dogs and people in a crowded space (like aisleways) you're going to have confrontations like you wrote about. Is it possible that agility venues are just too much for your dog to deal with considering the fact that people aren't likely to change anytime soon? Agility traditions don't include the amount of control that you see in the Obedience and Conformation rings and aren't likely to get less crowded (although I disagree that agility people don't know how to train their dogs--we do nothing else but train our dogs). I attended one last August that was so crowded I only had space for a chair and a small crate with crates and people crammed in on either side and there was no way to get to the rings without coming face to face with other dogs. Of course, I would never have chosen to attend that trial except that I have a very extroverted PRT who has never met anyone he didn't like. I would never have entered my current Dobe, for example, who is also very social but would have been stressed by the crowding as she's more of an introvert. I only enter her at outdoor trials where there is plenty of room to crate in my car and take long walks away from the action.
    So, my point is that people aren't going to change, agility is about adrenilin and skill but not so much about walking in heel position and keeping your nose to yourself.

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    1. Maybe for a few people, it is about adrenalin.....but not the majority. The venues and locations I trial at are not attended by adrenaline junkies and their reved up dogs, who don't know how to heel. I have the option to enter my dog in one huge agility trial about 130 miles away.....but I don't. I skip that one -- it is just too big, too crowded. But the rest are well-run with thoughtful competitors. Maybe, you are referring to dock diving? The competitors I associate with have dogs that work off lead beautifully, including heeling. Don't get me wrong, you can come across a few bad apples....in every dog sport....and at the grocery store, driving on the road, walking your dog on lead down the street.

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  24. Sorry Cedarfield going to so disagree with you. Whether it is agility, obedience, conformation the same people that let their dogs get into your dogs face exist in all those venues and I think it is just plain rude. Dog trials of any type are not doggie play groups and people should just pay attention for the few minutes when they are waiting to go into the ring It's not that hard to do!!

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  25. I'm with you 'Tawnyhill'...yes, agility people do rev their dogs up, but I've seen it in all venues as well.

    As I write this, the news on in the background is talking about socialization. YES, it's key in development, especially with companion dog people who don't pursue much in training, but there's so much more.

    People need to be aware of their dogs and where they are at all times. I had a reactive dog early on and got a bit lax with my easy dog till I remembered being in the reactive world. It's not that agility people aren't savvy...problem is everyone crowding at the gate or exit. I know I keep a close watch on my dogs and their proximity to others. I also know when I ran a reactive boy...I ALWAYS kept "vigil" to make sure no one got too close and carried good cookies to keep his attention IF someone foolish wasn't spatially aware! While it's unfortunate that people are clueless or lax from time to time, it's up to us to be our dog's best advocate and stay aware of what's around us to keep them safe too.

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    1. Advocacy for your dog is so important.

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  26. Just shared your great blog on my Facebook page (DINOS: Dogs in Need of Space). We're all tired of dealing with bad manners from other dog owners, like the ones you encountered. Thanks for a great read!

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  27. I have a dog reactive dog. Since she is a Doberman, I frankly cannot *afford* to let her go all hot and Cujo on another dog, because like it or not, Dobermans are held to a higher standard. What is excused in other dogs is not excused in breeds like Dobes and Pits. What may be dismissed in a dog like Phoenix would likely result in an excusal from the show for a Doberman, possibly ending a career.

    I have managed to deal with her dog reactivity by taking responsibility MYSELF for making sure that other dogs are not allowed to spring up on her unawares. I have thus reassured her that I will keep her safe and that she can leave me to deal with offenders at trials, etc.

    I don't mean at all to sound unsympathetic to Phoenix, but you know he's reactive. Why are you allowing these other dogs and owners to get so close? At shows, my head is on a swivel and I keep an eagle eye out for potential offenders and am not at all afraid to bellow "WATCH YOUR DOG PLEASE" when necessary in tone loud and firm enough to be heard by even someone whose head/focus is turned away.

    At most agility trials, there are places where you can wait your turn quietly, out of the way. You can tell the gate steward where you are, know when you're due, and inform the people around you that your dog is not particularly dog friendly.

    Because Cala now knows that I am not going to let rude dogs harass her, she is far more relaxed and comfortable, and her "safe approach" area has tightened considerably, to the point where she's fine now with dogs looking at her from quite close as long as they don't start toward her, and then she feels comfortable enough to just give them a silent toothy warning rather than flying totally to pieces.

    It takes a conscious decision to decide that you, the human, must be pro active rather than reactive and that it's your job to protect your dog. Because honestly, it doesn't matter whether it's an agility trial, the park, a breed show, or the vet's office, other people are going to keep being clueless.

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  28. Amen to that! I'm pretty obnoxious about it and have no problem reaming someone out for being irresponsible. We seem to get a lot of chihuahuas charging through fences (seriously, if you have a 6lb dog and 5 inch gaps between the rails, you can't let your dog run unsupervised in your yard). Luckily, my dog is extremely tolerant of little dogs, even when they're snapping at his heels, but 70lbs of him could have chewed them each in half in two seconds. Bigger dogs are a different matter and I hate it when they're running loose, especially in the park. We have leash laws here so theoretically I should never have to deal with it but too many people seem to have decided those just don't apply to them.

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    Replies
    1. I have two Service Dogs. One is 5 years old, I got her as a 3 month old puppy, and trained her as a medical alert/retrieval dog. She has a very mellow and friendly personality. She's almost "bomb proof". The one thing that really burns her biscuits is a doggy ambush. Mine too. Our entire county has a leash law, and the most dogs I encounter off-leash are small ones, and of those small ones, Chihuahuas. It seems to be the general consensus that since they are small, they don't need shots, county licenses, or any kind of socialization. I used to have to run a gauntlet of the little vermin to get to the bus stop through an alley when I lived on the west side of the valley. Animal Control wouldn't/couldn't do anything about it unless I could tell them who owned the dogs. I had no idea, since they were always running loose. I finally took to flipping my cane over and practicing for the Stanley Cup. At least my dog quit losing chunks of fur off her butt.

      The dog I'm training now is a 4 year old Labrador. I got him at just under a year. Things were going pretty smoothly until last year when my next door neighbor's kid let their known, dog aggressive, pitbull mix out of the apartment when he wasn't paying attention. My dog was just trying to do his business when he got ambushed. His reaction to other dogs previously, had been to get overly excited. His reaction afterwards was to become aggressive or fearful. An entire 18 months of training shot to hell. What did the dog owner get? A $375 fine for a dog at large, and a year of unsupervised probation. When I tried to sue, to help cover the costs of working with a professional trainer (I was a volunteer 4-H dog leader in obedience, and mostly agility for 4 years), because rehab training was definitely not my specialty, it wasn't granted, because I didn't have any kind of "credentials" that could prove my dog's personality had changed after the fight. In other words, because I wasn't a "certified" dog trainer, even though I had started training my first pet dog in 1979, coincidentally in 4-H, I couldn't prove my dog was "damaged". It took 14 months, and there were several times I seriously considered washing him out, but he's managed to come through it enough to still be a safe Service Dog in Training. (continued...)

      Delete
    2. (continuation from previous post...)

      That brings me to my apartment complex. In my courtyard, there are several people with dogs. I have had words with almost ALL of them regarding the leash issue. The family (mom, grown daughter, ?boyfriend) in the building perpendicular to me have three Chihuahuas. The first night I was walking my alert dog the same time they were out, all three of their little s*** monsters came out and immediately surrounded the both of us, pinning us against the concrete trash can. Any move I made, and one of them would dart forward and snap. The daughter was calling them, but none of them were responding. I had my cane out, and my dog was protected behind me. The daughter made it seem like it was a huge inconvenience to have to get the dogs. I accidentally bumped her with my cane (It's aluminum, so very lightweight) thinking she was one of the dogs when I saw sudden movement from the left. The mom finally had to come help because the dogs weren't listening at all. Instead of an apology, I get cussed out and and threatened for "hitting" the daughter. Of course management was informed, but they only put the leashes on for awhile, and then stop doing it again. Next time, I call animal control.

      I went through this in my last apartment complex. People hate me, but my dogs aren't pets. Those little lardballs still have teeth. I'm also sick of the double standard. If my 80lb Labrador can't practice essential off-leash service dog skills in the enclosed tennis court as a reasonable accommodation, then letting your dogs run loose because you're too lazy to clip a dog leash isn't going to fly with me. You can bet that if my two large, black dogs were snarling and barking and pinning her against something with no way to get to her apartment, she'd have called the cops and animal control on me as well as pissing down her leg. Small, snarling dogs are NOT cute.

      Sorry, I apologize for the novel. I realize this blog post is 4 years old, but it just totally fits with what I've been going through.

      I'll leave you with this to think on: https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10207118910384484&id=1033424747&set=o.8103318119
      Dog venues aren't the only place to run into reactive dogs. For all that is holy! If you know any idiots passing their reactive dogs off as Service Dogs, *especially* if they aren't disabled, PLEASE tell them what inconsiderate morons they are! I'm *still* in physical therapy 3½ months later.

      Delete
    3. (continuation from previous post...)

      That brings me to my apartment complex. In my courtyard, there are several people with dogs. I have had words with almost ALL of them regarding the leash issue. The family (mom, grown daughter, ?boyfriend) in the building perpendicular to me have three Chihuahuas. The first night I was walking my alert dog the same time they were out, all three of their little s*** monsters came out and immediately surrounded the both of us, pinning us against the concrete trash can. Any move I made, and one of them would dart forward and snap. The daughter was calling them, but none of them were responding. I had my cane out, and my dog was protected behind me. The daughter made it seem like it was a huge inconvenience to have to get the dogs. I accidentally bumped her with my cane (It's aluminum, so very lightweight) thinking she was one of the dogs when I saw sudden movement from the left. The mom finally had to come help because the dogs weren't listening at all. Instead of an apology, I get cussed out and and threatened for "hitting" the daughter. Of course management was informed, but they only put the leashes on for awhile, and then stop doing it again. Next time, I call animal control.

      I went through this in my last apartment complex. People hate me, but my dogs aren't pets. Those little lardballs still have teeth. I'm also sick of the double standard. If my 80lb Labrador can't practice essential off-leash service dog skills in the enclosed tennis court as a reasonable accommodation, then letting your dogs run loose because you're too lazy to clip a dog leash isn't going to fly with me. You can bet that if my two large, black dogs were snarling and barking and pinning her against something with no way to get to her apartment, she'd have called the cops and animal control on me as well as pissing down her leg. Small, snarling dogs are NOT cute.

      Sorry, I apologize for the novel. I realize this blog post is 4 years old, but it just totally fits with what I've been going through.

      I'll leave you with this to think on: https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10207118910384484&id=1033424747&set=o.8103318119
      Dog venues aren't the only place to run into reactive dogs. For all that is holy! If you know any idiots passing their reactive dogs off as Service Dogs, *especially* if they aren't disabled, PLEASE tell them what inconsiderate morons they are! I'm *still* in physical therapy 3½ months later.

      Delete
    4. I have two Service Dogs. One is 5 years old, I got her as a 3 month old puppy, and trained her as a medical alert/retrieval dog. She has a very mellow and friendly personality. She's almost "bomb proof". The one thing that really burns her biscuits is a doggy ambush. Mine too. Our entire county has a leash law, and the most dogs I encounter off-leash are small ones, and of those small ones, Chihuahuas. It seems to be the general consensus that since they are small, they don't need shots, county licenses, or any kind of socialization. I used to have to run a gauntlet of the little vermin to get to the bus stop through an alley when I lived on the west side of the valley. Animal Control wouldn't/couldn't do anything about it unless I could tell them who owned the dogs. I had no idea, since they were always running loose. I finally took to flipping my cane over and practicing for the Stanley Cup. At least my dog quit losing chunks of fur off her butt.

      The dog I'm training now is a 4 year old Labrador. I got him at just under a year. Things were going pretty smoothly until last year when my next door neighbor's kid let their known, dog aggressive, pitbull mix out of the apartment when he wasn't paying attention. My dog was just trying to do his business when he got ambushed. His reaction to other dogs previously, had been to get overly excited. His reaction afterwards was to become aggressive or fearful. An entire 18 months of training shot to hell. What did the dog owner get? A $375 fine for a dog at large, and a year of unsupervised probation. When I tried to sue, to help cover the costs of working with a professional trainer (I was a volunteer 4-H dog leader in obedience, and mostly agility for 4 years), because rehab training was definitely not my specialty, it wasn't granted, because I didn't have any kind of "credentials" that could prove my dog's personality had changed after the fight. In other words, because I wasn't a "certified" dog trainer, even though I had started training my first pet dog in 1979, coincidentally in 4-H, I couldn't prove my dog was "damaged". It took 14 months, and there were several times I seriously considered washing him out, but he's managed to come through it enough to still be a safe Service Dog in Training. (continued...)

      Delete
  29. Having a reactive dog and a bomb proof dog I feel it is the reactive dogs owners responsability to make sure you do not set your dog up to fail. Do not put him in a situation where he feels he has to react. When I have my reactive dog in public I am on high alert at all times and he is between my legs where other dogs can not get to him. Most people expect if you have your dog at a dog friendly event he should be dog friendly.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I rescue Jack Russells, you know, those crazy dogs? The worst thing I hear at shows is, "Oh, my dog loves everyone; she's OK." Does it never occur to this person that OTHER dogs DO NOT love everyone?' Get a clue, people!! The only way to break up a JRT fight is to throw them in the lake, and even then, it's not a guarantee!! Just stay away! I have ER bills to prove JRT fights are not for sissies!

    ReplyDelete
  31. thank goodness for this post! I thought I was being waaaaay too sensitive; having spent hours, thousands of hours, trying to get a reactive/neo-phobic dog to trial, I still have that HyperVigilance that I thought I could toss once I got a puppy and felt like I could relax.. hee hee, I'm still using my SCRAM cues -- I avoid trials that are too clubby, and wear my citronella sometimes while I'm out warming up before a trial starts-if I see the "Out to Lunchers". I have to admit I kept thinking 'when I get to the bigger/better/more 'professional' levels it will be better.... I'm still hyper-vigilant but not quite as nervous...

    ReplyDelete