Thoughts of a Canine Therapist – Off Lead Dogs and Recall

Today my temper was really tested 😡😡

It was only because I knew that I had to stay calm for the sake of the dog in my care that I didn’t completely lose my 💩💩💩💩

The last 4-5 weeks I have been walking a gorgeous but reactive German Shepherd. The first time I took her out she reacted to EVERYTHING!!!!! Dogs, other walkers, children, birds, footballs, everything triggered an emotional overload and caused her to bark uncontrollably.

Being a Shepherd she sounds really aggressive and her Mum was sure that she would hurt someone. So she wears a muzzle meaning that most people don’t come too close to her but that didn’t matter she would see them across the field and start barking.

When I connected in with her on that first walk I found that she wasn’t scared and she didn’t hate everyone and everything……. She was just excited to be out and loved her walks so much that she couldn’t control herself. I realised instantly that what we needed to do was work on keeping her calm around these things so that she wasn’t triggered into reacting.

This has been going amazingly, as you can see by the video, she actually chooses to lay down and watch people walk past now and doesn’t even really care about the Husky in the clip ❤️

But today one couples actions could have set her back to the beginning and undone all of the work I’ve been doing and I was SO angry 😡😡😡😡😡😡

We’d had a good walk, we’d seen people (who had been able to walk straight past us) and other dogs (who we’d watch quietly from her comfortable distance). We were just finishing up and walking back to the van when suddenly a little yorkie appeared from nowhere, barking as he charged towards us.

His owners were further back carrying a ball launcher and completely ignoring the fact that their dog was heading towards a muzzled dog in a threatening manner. I shouted to them that she wasn’t friendly (because in that moment I didn’t know what was going to happen) and as I shouted their dog connected with the Shepherd and started nipping at her back legs.

She went crazy!!! She was lunging and barking through the muzzle and the more she did this the worse the Yorkie got. Mum and Dad were heading towards us at this point without any urgency whatsoever and with the most pathetic attempt to call him away that I have ever heard 🤦‍♀️

When they finally reached us and retrieved their dog they just walked off without a backward glance and showed no concern for what their dog had just caused. I so desperately wanted to give them a piece of my mind but I knew that the Shepherd was going to be feeding off of my emotional levels as well and the best thing I could do for her at that moment was to calm myself down as quickly as possible.

I managed this within just a few footsteps with the aid of some breathing exercises and clearing my mind, I sent the Shepherd the feeling of love and told her that none of that was her fault and that she had been an amazing girl on the walk.

I didn’t want to end the walk on such a bad experience because I didn’t want that to be what she remembered next time we went out so we walked a bit further and allowed her to watch another dog from her comfortable distance and praised her for not reacting so that the walk ended on a positive before taking her home but I could tell by her body language that she was still uncomfortable ❤️❤️

This is why I say that there IS still a place for training when it comes to dogs. They still have to have good lead work and recall for their own safety and the safety of others.
What I don’t like is the way we try to fix issues like the shepherds by training it out of them rather than asking them what’s wrong and supporting them through it.

If you have a dog like the Yorkie, who you can’t call back then please don’t let it off of the lead. Not only has that incident probably undone everything I’ve worked on for the last few weeks it also could have ended very differently. If she hadn’t had a muzzle on then that dog could now be dead and we all know the report would read ‘Shepherd killed much loved yorkie at local park’ 💔💔

Obviously I wouldn’t be careless enough not to have a muzzle on a reactive dog but even the most well behaved dog could turn when under attack like that, so please just think about what you could be causing and what the consequences could be when your dog runs up to another 🐾❤️

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