“My dog is friendly. My dog is friendly. My dog is friendly.” I hear that EVERY SINGLE DAY. Usually from people whose dogs are off-leash, racing towards mine. I’m happy for them and their dog, but it doesn’t matter. I still don’t want Cooper to say “Hi.”
Why? Why, if Cooper is so friendly, do I have such an aversion to meeting that off-leash dog? Am I just a grouch?
No, that is not it at all! I’m protecting Cooper. That’s why.
If you know me, you know Cooper. You know he is about as well-adjusted, happy and friendly as can be. He has excellent leash manners and knows how to communicate with other dogs, of all types. He is my calm neutral dog in my Rovereactive classes, and a kind puppy teacher in my classes for little ones. He can handle all sorts of interactions. Positive and negative. And guess what?
I WANT TO KEEP IT THAT WAY!
Dogs do not exist in vacuums. They are living, sentient creatures. They have feelings. They change. They grow.
Cooper and I worked really hard to make him who he is today (proper puppy/breeder selection too), and I’m so very proud of him, but I cannot/will not take that for granted. If he has continued negative experiences with dogs, on leash or off, he could change. Is it likely he’ll become a fearful, reactive rascal? Not really, but he could certainly change.
Imagine this, we are walking down the street, minding our own business. Cooper is enjoying his sniffs, I’m dreaming about my fantasy football team. Then “Friendly off-leash Dude” comes racing up to Cooper. Maybe he even crashes into Cooper a bit, who at six, may have a few aches and pains. Cooper turns the other cheek, steps behind me, does his best to avoid the Dude, but Cooper is on his leash, so he cannot move away too much. He cannot run home. The other dog is off-leash, and has full movement. Freedom to harass Cooper, who cannot truly get away from him, no matter how hard he tries.
Finally, the Dude’s human rushes up, yelling, “It’s okay. He’s friendly,” and removes him (only after I prompt him to do so). Cooper and I walk off, no harm no foul, right?
What if this happens EVERY DAY? With all sorts of dogs, to different degrees? Maybe sometimes they barely touch him, but get in his face too much. Maybe other times they are simply rambunctious teens who pull his tail.
After a while, couldn’t Cooper start anticipating it, and going on the offensive? Couldn’t he start growling at dogs as they approach? Then, if they don’t listen, really get peeved? Couldn’t it escalate to barking at them from across the street? “Get away from me, you annoying Dude!”
At the very least, Cooper’s walks could become stressful for him, and his enjoyment could be diminished.
Just because you cannot keep your dog on leash!
Since Cooper has a solid foundation, and is so well-adjusted, it would likely take a lot of negative to turn him into a reactive dog. But you know what, he’s my guy. I don’t want to risk it. I want to keep him safe, keep him secure, and keep him feeling like other dogs are okay…even great.
So, I don’t care if your off-leash dog is friendly.
Cooper is friendly too, and I’m going to keep it that way!