I’m not saying I’m not a happy dog owner. I just wish my dogs did not have this one very annoying trait that occurs while on lead. Most animal behaviorists would call it “lead (or leash) aggression.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is awful to feel them lunging against the lead and barking their heads off at …. well … stupid stuff. When I only had only one dog, it was manageable and I could stop it very easily. With two dogs, and one very reactive little girl, it’s sometimes beyond difficult. Only one of them needs to start and the other joins in. Usually Izzy is the instigator but Dunkie is her willing partner. I’m too embarrassed to provide a photo of the spectacle itself. It happens on walks around my home and it happens when they are still in crates when I arrive at the off lead dog parks. They bark at strollers, men in hats, children, and other dogs who are not de-sexed or who are not respectful (whatever that means). It is typically Duncan who is the reactive one at off lead dogs parks, but I have learned to lure him back quickly by asking him if he wants to bark and lunge or, instead, have a treat. Being the foodie that he is, he’d much rather have the treat.
I thought I had learned everything I could learn in raising my sons, now 35 and 36 years old. I thought that as a clinical psychologist, I could easily figure out how to raise the perfect dog. Or in my case, dogs. I even waited several years for the second dog in our life, unlike I did with my children. Well, I am completely humbled.
So it was with great relief that I stumbled across a blog several years ago entitled “Notes from a Dog Walker”. It is written by Jessica Dolce and her main focus is that many dogs are in need of space. She calls them “DINOS” (Dogs in Need of Space) and describes what happens when people invade their space without thinking. I’ve read her blog off and on for years and actually subscribe to it because it is both educational and entertaining. Being a professional dog walker, Dolce has accumulated a ton of wisdom which I pick through to see if it applies to my dogs’ reactivity and if some of her information is applicable, I can feel less badly about how Duncan and Izzy behave at times.
I encourage you to click on the link to her September 21, 2012 blog entry above. Many dogs are lead aggressive but there can be many reasons for their reactivity, among them, injury, age, working dogs, contagious dogs, and others. I’m guessing that if the term ‘working’ could apply to my dogs that it could explain, at least in part, their lead reactivity or even their crate-in-the-car reactivity (only when they are at the dog park, tailgate open, waiting for me to open their crates with a ton of other dogs in the parking lot). My dogs are Tibetan Terriers, who are simply bred to bark. It’s annoying but true. And being a ‘mini-pack’ what one dog does, the other dog does twice as much.
Mostly it’s embarrassing. Barking has never led to anything else. Once they’re in the park with leads off, they are fine. But I continue to be vigilant. Because I love these little dogs and they provide much happiness and laughter in my life.