It was the day after my public humiliation. I had been brought to my knees by my nephew's Staffordshire bull terrier, Bruce; in the village street--and in front of a man with a well behaved Scottie dog at that. I realized that drastic action was needed.
I felt a little bit like a Doggie Super Nanny, taking on the delinquent Brucie.
I believe in my heart that people are responsible for how a dog behaves and therefore it was I who needed to make the changes that would tame the wee beastie.
I'm not an expert--obviously :) but I think that dogs really do want to please people. It is our job to teach them how to do that.
I also think that they are happy when they know their proper place in the pecking order--and it's not at the top!
I don't believe that dogs are into democracy--and I'm not into domination by force or shouting, so we needed to come to an understanding.
I had confidence in Bruce's intelligence and he quickly proved it by learning in a flash that when he pulled, a quick yank on the collar occurred and the walk came to an immediate halt. I would not move forward until the all the pull had gone out of his paws. As soon as he stood waiting quietly, we moved forward. A few repeats of this process and he was trotting along like a civilized little dog--with occasional reminders.
Next we worked on the darting and lunging. I realized that at least in part, it was a startle reflex, triggered by fright at big, noisy vehicles passing, or any sudden unexpected sight or sound. I figured that the more he knew I was confidently in charge, the safer he would feel.. It seems funny thinking of this powerfully built dog being frightened, but why not? I remember being scared out of my wits myself when I was little and a big truck drove by. Calming words help him feel safe and the lunging is decreasing.
The third issue was his aggression towards other dogs. Rob's initial warning about this was intimidating. So many dog owners walk their dogs around the village unleashed. The prospect of confronting this situation on a canal tow path or narrow laneway filled me with so much fear that for the first few walks I turned around and avoided the approach of other dogs, especially if they were loose. After a day or two I progressed to backing up grass banks and almost disappearing into hedgerows--not a very satisfactory solution--and I didn't like being stung by the nettles in the hedges.
"Enough of this!" I decided, "I need to take charge."
So I have been keeping Bruce on a tight rein and coaching him as other dogs approach; alternating between a quick, "No!" if he barks, and lavish praise for no barking. Realizing the obvious; that nothing can happen if I maintain control on a short leash; took away my fear.
For most of the time on the walks I am in praise lavishing mode--and I can tell he likes it. He looks like a happy little dog.
On Friday morning Rob came in from his morning walk with Bruce.
"Who was a different dog today at the end of the leash then?" he said as Bruce trotted in.
That made me smile! We're not a perfect pair yet, but we sure love each other and we're having fun getting there.