Finally got to meet up with Turing the Aussie cross today, former native reserve dog. She is super reactive, super sensitive, she can get aggressive in protection of self and her pack. Monty was with me the whole time, she didn’t bother with him, he didn’t bother with her – Monty was just being a dog. She was watching him be a dog.
I asked the owners to leave the dog in the truck and step away, I need to interact with her, and be the one to remove her from the vehicle. This is about removing the comfort zone the dog has built, she needs time away from everything she feels the need to protect in order to learn how to just be a dog. Turing was scared when I came to the truck, frantic bark. When I got in the vehicle, I ignored her, she pinned herself against the door. Gave her time to calm, presented the slip lead, slid it over her head and out of the truck she came. No force needed, can’t push yourself on a dog, just lead and they will follow. Walking back trails in the park, structured walk, then let her sniff. Wouldn’t let dogs sniff her bum, tail always between the legs, ears back, reactive to movements – she would snap at dogs, didn’t want anything to do with people. Took her a while to become environmentally aware and do the dogly things of sniffing around. I couldn’t pet her for the first hour, she would snap at me with a growl. I tripped at one point, almost fell on her – she reacted very badly and I nearly got bit. That was the first hour. Every 5 to 10 minutes I would stop, squat down, and just be calm, she if she would come to me.
Then it happened, she came to me and sniffed me, and made the choice to let me pet her. Let’s do this, let’s get it done. Everything changed so quickly at that point. Ears up, tail up, met some dogs, let the dogs sniff her bum. People came up and calmly met, she was doing great. Owners showed up, they were watching this from the parking lot. Brought the dog up, had a talk, lets go for a walk.
First people we met were a lady and a young girl who was nervous around dogs – they didn’t know Turing was reactive. Told the lady to get the young girl to hold her hand out palm up and let the dog come to her. Turing made the choice, she calmly licked the young girls hand – then licked her face. The dog made the right choice to be calm, owners trusted her to do it – dog got affection. Owners had to trust the dog to make that choice. Reading the dog, she was calm on the approach, Turing didn’t hesitate.
The one thing I hoped for but wasn’t sure I would get from her was for her to lay down on her side, expose her belly and throat and go calm. Turing gave it in spades. When you’re in the middle of a dog park with a reactive dog, and a dog gives that to you – it’s a big win, that’s total trust. Told the owners to get down with me and pet the crap out of this dog. Give all the affection you want to a calm dog. Turing has a way to go yet, but today was a huge leap for her and she’s on the path to becoming the dog she is. Owners asked about her other issues, how do we fix them? Told them that this is the start of all her issues going away, her fear and insecurity is the driver for all of her issues. We just “fixed” the underlying problem, watch what happens. Patience.
Typically, once one gains the trust of a dog, it’s baby steps to success – and it has to be on the dogs time. Turning took an hour to trust me, there were no baby steps, she started to gallop. “Woohoo, I’m a dog!”. Such an amazing thing to witness a dog becoming a dog, making the right choices to interact with people and dogs. Ask for trust, show you’re trustworthy. Some dogs come easy, some take time – but it has to be on their time, not the handlers.