We only had Maple for about three months, but everything was going well. She hadn’t chewed up anything, she was really calm, and she seemed to like other dogs. We worked hard on socializing her; every night we went to the dog park and on a walk. If the dog’s owner was comfortable, we would let Maple meet other dogs on her walk. And we were working really hard on not pulling.
She was phenomenal.
The car was all packed up and we were ready to go on a long car ride to visit my parents in Cleveland. I was walking Maple out to the car when, all of a sudden, the neighbors’ dog shot out of their door, straight at Maple’s throat. She pulled Maple to the ground, snapping at her in every direction. Luckily, Maple was wearing her harness so Ian could pull her out to scoop her up, as the neighbors’ dog snapped at her heels.
I was stunned. The neighbors just stood by, watching and saying, “Well, she’s never done that before.
Their kids sat on the back of the truck yelling, “Fight, fight, fight!”
Ian turned to the kids, looked them in the eye and said “Don’t you ever say that to a dog again. Ever.” To this day I’m thankful that he said that, and I hope it stuck with them.
We got in the car, and I checked Maple out for any bite marks. She was fine, but obviously uneasy. I felt sick, but I was glad she was okay. It was only a few seconds, maybe a full minute. And she was fine.
It wasn’t long after that was started noticing the changes. When another dog would walk by while Maple was out going potty, she would start growling, and if the dog got too close, she would lunge at them.
Soon, she would start growling and barking when we would pass dogs at walks. If she was allowed to greet them, everything was okay, but if she couldn’t, she would pull and growl.
We tried to look up all different ways to calm herdown. We contacted our trainer, the shelter we adopted her from, and another local shelter for advice on how to deal with it. Nobody had a straight answer. We read articles on how to calm dogs down when they’re suffering from leash reactivity and most of them involve treating to teach them that it’s okay. But unfortunately, Maple is so anxious on walks that she won’t even accept treats, not her regular biscuits, apples (which are her favorite), or the freeze-dried liver treats (which she otherwise would do anything for).
Since then, it’s been rough. Taking her for a walk is difficult, and sometimes embarrassing. We get dirty looks from people as we walk and I just wish I could scream, “She’s a great dog- she’s just been nervous ever since she got attacked. But she deserves to go on a walk, just like your dog.” Someday I hope that she learns that walking is safe again.
That’s why I was excited when I read yesterday’s post over at love and a six-foot leash, where she recommended Dogs in Need of Space. She has some great sources for how to deal with reactivity, but beyond that it’s a great community of people who have dogs who just, need space.
Does anyone else have a reactive dog? How have you dealt with it?