Tuesday, June 30, 2015

If You Are Walking Your Dog In A Traffic Lane, You Are Doing It Wrong

Walking the dog early is usually the easiest lap around town. 

I wander out to Wilton Drive simply because there is just enough activity at 5AM to keep the dog on his toes.  Being very fearful of loud noises, having silence is not beneficial.  I actually look for a little bit of noise, just the right level, so that he will calm down.

He's getting better, and starting to relax.  It's 5AM, what else is up at that hour?

I was not paying too much attention to my surroundings other than to ask Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) whether he needed to "Go Poop?" over and over in a mantra. 

He didn't.  Instead he gave his tail more than the usual four flips when I talk to him.  When the wagging didn't stop but got more constant and more vigorous, I looked up and noticed about a long block away there was another dog.

Actually there were two little balls of fluff, one white, one black.  They were being walked by someone who was walking this way.

When he spotted me, he walked out into the traffic lane to give me more room than he really needed to.

Basically, if your dog is so untrained that you need to walk into a mostly deserted five lane highway, it is you that need to be trained.

I kept walking toward them.  Rack's tail stopped wagging and dropped some.  He recognized the signs as
well.  Someone needed an education.

We both watched the two dogs and the owner as we got closer.  The owner was head down and picking up the noisier of the two dogs, an unstable little black bedroom slipper of a dog.  He was talking to the dog in low and gentle tones and picking it up.

I could see the other white dog backing away from the drama as if to say "Hey, this isn't me!".  It watched us dispassionately and even sat down.  The white dog was much more balanced, and even calm in this situation.

So what was the owner saying to the little black dog? 

Primarily he was feeding into the misbehavior.  Clearly the owner wanted the barking and the nonsense to stop.  He never hit that dog, and hitting a dog is both cruel and useless behavior, but nonetheless the dog was being mistreated.

Why "Mistreated"?  Because the owner was buying into the unwanted behavior by caressing the dog.  Instead of giving the dog a verbal correction when he saw the behavior start, he was feeding into the circular logic of the situation by picking up the lap dog and "comforting it".  What he was doing to the dog was approving the behavior by giving it the attention it craved since lap dogs want to be handled. 

Different breeds have different personalities.  Certain dogs need to be handled, others to have a job, others to guard.  It's all in understanding that personality and working with it and conversing with the dog in that context to make certain that behaviors are amplified only when they are beneficial to the dog's well being.

Two dogs and a human in a traffic lane at 5:20 in the morning just to quiet a yapper down proves that the owner clearly was not in charge and not leading the pack.

At least the owner was taking the dog out for a walk, and for the size of the dogs it was going to be a significant one.  Little frou-frou yappers out on that particular spot of a commercial street were going to get more than a quarter mile walk even if he turned them around in frustration.

The best thing he could have done was to check himself.  He was clearly tense.  Shoulders were solid, back rigid as he bent down to talk to the dog - pointing himself backwards in an admittedly unused traffic lane. 

We passed.  The little white dog watched us pass but nothing really happened there, it was content.

The black dog was continuing its stamp of disapproval on its owner by growling and barking in mid air.

At that time of the morning the solution in my mind was simply to keep moving.  We never broke stride
even as we both watched the situation closely.  Rack was riveted on it as well.

I can only hope that this is a new dog owner.  I can say that it's clearly too much for the owner.  Then again, some people shouldn't have a picture of a stuffed animal let alone a dog.

So what's wrong here? 

No rules - the dogs were on a 10 foot leash together and allowed to roam without direction or guidance all over the broadest part of the sidewalk. 

No boundaries and limitations - instead of being kept close to the owner where they would not be getting into trouble, they were given the freedom to wander all over the place. 

No, I'm not repeating myself.  The roaming in this case is that instead of merely being at the front of the leash it was in all directions, and the owner was not bringing the dogs back to task.  Ideally the dog should be at your side with a slack leash.  If you are at that point, the leash is merely a legal limitation, it probably can be off leash for a while, but it is best not to do so. 

If the leash is not slack, at least make certain it is not being pulled by an overeager dog.  That takes time, and it also shows how well the conversation between owner and dog is going.  If the leash is directly in front but pulled tight, it shows the dog knows where it is going.  That isn't ideal, but it is markedly better than having a dog weaving all over the place.  A weaver of a dog like that and you are lost.

You really can read the leash of another dog and its owner to know how well trained the dog is.

When you find yourself in that situation where you have multiple dogs with some or all acting up, it's time to reverse and regroup yourself and do something different.  Rehoming one or more is a possibility, but first try to keep the house together and walk the dogs separately.  Work with each.  After all, you have more than one walk a day, so make the quietest dog walk environment the walk where the pack is together, the busier one would be the separate walks.

Don't want to do two walks with two dogs at a time?  Sorry, it's that or find a trainer.   Not for the dogs, but for yourself. 

There's a line that you hear about this sort of thing from time to time:  "Who's walk is it anyway?".

It's not your walk, it's the dog's.  Take the time, calm yourself down, calm the dogs down, and take it one step at a time.  You will have a much better time at it and so will the dog.

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