I recently met a woman in the park with a very nervous and reactive Collie. As she saw me approaching with my pack of four, she calmly put her dog on a lead and stepped to one side of the path to enable me to pass without putting too much pressure on her dog. My dogs, being very calm and well socialised, passed without any fuss and I asked if her dog had a problem with other dogs, she explained that her rescue dog Meg had been attacked previously and had now become very defensive and had taken to ‘air-snapping’ at other dogs if they got too close. We talked for a while and I suggested that she might like to try ‘parallel walking’ or similar technique to enable Meg to have choices when seeing other dogs and I explained about body-blocking and using naturally occurring objects as ‘blockers’. As she was open to my ideas I suggested that we try a ‘following’ technique as this would provide Meg with the opportunity to sniff where my dogs had been and she would retain the option to follow or distract. I set-off with my four whilst she followed at a distance to suit Meg. After a while Naomi let Meg off the lead and we both observed Meg begin to investigate my dogs at a safe distance, then Meg became confident to approach the tail-end of my little group and retreat back to the safety of Naomi when needed. As the walk progressed Meg became bolder with ever deeper penetration of my group and less need of Naomi’s support. By the end of our short walk of less than a mile Meg seemed quite happy to wander through my group without any sign of distress. Naomi was elated and near tears as her beloved Meg had never been able to do this previously and she had always sought to avoid other dogs.
Just by chance I met Naomi and Meg the next day; Meg appeared to remember my dogs and quickly assimilated into my group of dogs with my Boyz paying very little attention to Meg again. The whole walk was relaxed and Meg just fitted-in and all dogs just calmly went about their business of sniffing and checking-out the ‘newspaper’; wonderful!
I never cease to be amazed at how quickly dogs are able to apparently overcome a trauma and begin to enjoy the company of other calm and respectful dogs. It’s this that gives me the thrill of working with dogs and committed owners.