by Chloe Anderson
We’ve all been there, our dog is enjoying themselves in the park, chasing a ball and you become a little distracted by a text or conversation with friends. You take you eyes off them for just a second? Only to look up and see them bounding across the park towards an unsuspecting canine victim. This is the moment we all dread, knowing we should have practised their recall a little harder, or had them on a long line, as you shout their name across the park to no avail. Knowing it’s no use, all you can do is bellow to the owner of the other dog ‘HE’S FRIENDLY, I PROMISE’. The problem is, what if they’re not?
The owner your dog is fast approaching will likely be panicking and quickly reeling their own dog in, in the hope your pet decides to listen the sixth time you call out his name. Unfortunately, not all dogs are dog friendly and unsurprisingly a lot of them find it uncomfortable and frightening when an unknown dog moves into their space quickly or unexpectedly. I have brand new experience in this situation now, having worked with a lot of reactive dogs recently: knowing now first hand how frightening it can be when an unknown dog approaches you with no owner to be seen!
Having always owned dogs, it came as a shock to us when our new rescue dog Micky had about as much recall as a rock. Anything that moved was like gold to him, chasing rabbits, birds and realistically anything with a pulse (or sometimes even an enthusiastic looking plastic bag!). So many times Micky would just run up to other dogs on the common and luckily for us we didn’t have any bad experiences of dogs that didn’t want him to say hello.
However after working closely with lots of reactive dogs, I am now fully aware of how detrimental this type of ownership can be to other people’s pets and to the owners themselves. When you’re walking a 60kilo Great Dane that has dog on dog aggression and a tiny terrier comes up to you at the speed of light, it’s all you can do but to cling onto the end of the lead and hope you can steer your dog away as fast as possible. It is all well and good for some owners to say ‘your dog shouldn’t be out if it behaves like that’ or ‘put a muzzle on that thing before it bites someone’ but isn’t it all of our dogs’ right to be exercised in an open space with plenty of room and to feel comfortable doing so? Why should one dog not be allowed to leave their garden because of the ignorance of other owners thinking they can let their dog run up to whoever it pleases. As humans, we wouldn’t be happy if a stranger ran up to us and started touching our face!
Coming from a person who now knows both sides of the story I understand how difficult it can be for both parties! If people could just take a minute to think about the other point of view: please always ask if you or your dog can approach a new dog and reactive dog owners, please be forgiving of our excitable pooches that just want to get to know you, they don’t mean to cause you distress. We all want our dogs to be well socialized and to get along with everyone, for the lucky ones that are, spare a thought to those trying really hard to progress with their reactive dog’s rehabilitation when yours is running free.
Micky has come on leaps and bounds since rescuing him from Dogs Trust Newbury three years ago and reactive dog owners you’ll be pleased to know he wears a long line on his walks now, just in case!
The term reactive can apply to many different things, dogs can be reactive towards people, other dogs and even everyday things such as bicycles! It is not always a sign of aggression, but usually fear with barking and growling being the dogs way of trying the get the person/dog/object to leave!
About the Author
Founder of Paws ’n’ Play Berkshire, Chloe is a recent graduate in Musical Theatre who has changed her career path after working in kennels. Now with pet sitting, training and walking experience behind her she is working hard at developing her own business and finding out some interesting revelations on the way!