Lately I find myself more and more frustrated when dealing with other dog owners in public settings. Maybe it’s the dog park/ doggie daycare culture, but it seems like the new expectation is that all “good” dogs should not only tolerate, but enjoy, absolutely anything any other dog choses to do. Any gathering of dogs is treated as a free for all where the dogs are primarily engaging with each other, rather than the humans, who may not even be paying attention.
I absolutely understand the importance of dog to dog relationships. As pack hounds, I think that PBGVs can sometimes form stronger bonds with each other than the people in their lives, which is something I actively try to avoid with my dogs. They live as a pack and are expected to coexist peacefully, even though some are better friends than others. We are regularly visited by service dogs in training, so my dogs also spend time with socially appropriate large dogs. However, in order to form a working relationship, I need my hounds to be able to tune out other dogs and focus on me. When we are in group training sessions, I don’t allow my dogs to visit with other dogs and ask other dog owners to keep their dogs at a reasonable distance. Not only is this important for training reasons, but it also keeps my dogs from being intimidated by another dog when they are on leash and unable to get away.
Until recently, this policy has never been a problem, as most people came to training to work their own dogs and they wanted to keep their dog’s focus on them as much as I did. Lately it seems like people are equating training time with doggy playtime and they are much less respectful of my wishes. Even worse, many of these less experienced dog owners are oblivious to inappropriate behavior between dogs.
Two situations lately have concerned me to the point where I am considering eliminating activities with the dogs. One is a new dog in our pet therapy group who stares and looms over smaller dogs constantly. Poor Muse spent the last visit to the nursing home crawling on her belly each time this dog looked her way. This wasn’t a good experience for her and distracted her from the people she was supposed to be visiting. I have spoken to the dog’s owner in the past about the fact that dogs actually don’t like it when her dog does this and she seems to finally be getting it, but I’m not sure about bringing my dogs on visits if they are going to be subjected to this type of stress.
The more frustrating dilemma is C.C.’s beginner agility class. My last 2 agility dogs have been home schooled because the class available locally is held outside in an unfenced area complete with rabbits and not ideal for young hounds. C.C. has a lot of handler focus and I’ve done a lot of foundation work with her already, so I decided to take the class to teach her the equipment. She is handling the environment well, but is the smallest dog in class by at least 20 pounds. Most of the dogs and handlers are great, but one handler in particular is completely unable to manage her large breed dog. She seems to find this entertaining, like there’s a prize for having the worst dog in class. (Marley and Me didn’t do the world any favors.) Every week the dog drags her to C.C. and I ask her to remove him. Last night the dog was allowed to chase C.C. through the weave poles. Being jumped by a dog on course like this was exactly what ended Rory’s agility career several years ago. C.C. is fast and has a lot of potential for agility, but she is also an environmentally sensitive dog and I am working hard to keep agility safe and happy for her. Chili and Salsa are both really challenging to manage and shut down easily because of this sensitivity and I really don’t want this to happen to C.C.. I would like to keep her in class, but not if it means risking physical or psychological damage. I’m going to start crating her between exercises, but if a dog comes after her on course again I will probably go back to home schooling. The instructors feel that I am over reacting, but C.C.’s future as an agility dog is more important to me than preserving a pet owners “fun time” with her dog.