Friday, February 24, 2012

A Rant by the Owner of a Leash-reactive Dog

desmond suffers from leash reactivity, and i know that only we can do anything about that. we're working on it, but it's a very long and slow process.

in the meantime, we are managing it as best we can--primarily by avoiding stimuli on our walks. this includes dogs, cats, squirrels, cyclists, blowing debris, and people innocently going about their daily business.

warm my nose in a pile of dad's clean laundry? don't mind if i do!
i'm aware that my dog's reactivity issues are not anyone else's problem to solve, but it would be great if other dog owners in my neighborhood were aware of what leash reactivity is and what it looks like in action. it would be amazing if these same other dog owners could help me out by not making things worse. 

so many dog bloggers tell tales of off-leash dogs terrorizing their towns. that's a problem we do not have. the problems we do have are ignorance, fear, obliviousness, and lack of compassion from other dog walkers. 

i know firsthand that it's very easy to not know a damn thing about reactivity of any kind, other than maybe dog-dog aggression. i also know firsthand that there are people in my area who find desmond to be somewhat scary, based on his looks more than anything but sometimes also based on seeing him reacting. one man, in fact, who was weeding in his front garden, once told me--while desmond and i were on a very calm and lovely walk--that he would cross the street if he saw us coming. thanks, kind sir!

we get a lot of dirty looks from folks who have one or both of those mindsets. it's frustrating and insulting and makes we want to yell out that i am aware of my situation and am working to correct it (the reactivity, not the fact that des is part pit bull--i don't find that to be something that needs correcting).

i don't mean to be a jerk, mom. i swear. i just get sooooooo excited.
regardless of whatever people's opinions are going to be, i wish that the other dog owners were aware enough for an assist. take yesterday morning's walk, for example.

at 5:30 AM, it's dark, hard to see, and often cold, but this is the best time for me to walk desmond for desmond's sake. normally, things go pretty well, because few people and animals are out at this time, and i have a good sense of how to avoid the ones that are. desmond knows where all the dogs live in our neighborhood, but i know all the blocks that the other dog walkers frequent at that time--and i avoid them. i make it my business to be aware of these things for everyone's best interests.

yesterday, within two minutes, desmond saw a cat. a cat that has not been out for months, due to the cold temperatures. yesterday, it was 50 degrees when i walked out my door, so i should have expected some problems. after he saw the cat, he was wound up, tense, on edge, and very focused on finding any and all moving/living things that might be around.

this brings me to one of my complaints: i am out walking this crazy dog every morning at the same time in all weather. hot, cold, pouring, snowing, windy, whatever. i do not walk my dog only when it's convenient and pleasing for me. i have to walk my dog at 5:30 in the damn morning, because i need to keep him away from shenanigans whenever i can to assist in his progress. and i walk him every day, because that's a big part of responsible dog ownership. your dog needs and wants his walks. the walks benefit your bond with the dog. it's a win-win. WALK YOUR FREAKIN DOGS, PEOPLE!

honestly? with the camera? i'm trying to sleep.
so when i see these people out walking their dogs only when the weather is nice, there's a part of me that wants to tell them off and ask them to go back in their damn houses and continue doing whatever they were doing when they were too lazy to walk their dogs in the crap weather. obviously, these people do not need to be out at 5:30, so why are they then, making my life hell and giving me dirty looks while they're at it?

immature as this may be, i feel like it's not fair that they get to just do whatever they want without any concern for those of us who purposely walk their dogs at less-populated times of day.

what's worse is that these people are most definitely clueless about reactivity or fearful dogs or aggressive dogs or any of that stuff. because when they see me see them and do an about-face and sometimes then run away to create as much space as possible--as in, run two blocks away around a corner because we can't be anywhere near them--they often wind up crossing my path again, and when they see us the second time, they do absolutely nothing to make my life easier (like head in another direction themselves or at the very least cross the street). sometimes, it's fairly obvious where i've gone off to with desmond and these people essentially follow us, and i want to scream. 

OK, well, i'll get up if you have a bone
that's what happened yesterday morning. 

not only did that happen, but it happened after i got to our "safe block" and was then confronted by a second dog & human--so i did another about-face, and then i saw the first dog & human not far behind me. 

frustrating, stressful, and exhausting.

maybe i need to get over myself, but i don't understand why these people don't understand that it would be in everyone's best interest to go in the opposite direction.

in addition to that, i often am faced with the situation in which we come upon a dog and his human, and desmond reacts faster than i can. within seconds, he's in full-blown reactivity mode and i'm trying to drag him away, which is not always easy. i swear to you, 90% of the time, the other dog walker will just stand there and stare at us in disgust/horror/amazement. no joke. they will just stand right the hell in the same damn spot while i struggle and desmond goes more and more nuts.


go away!

why would anyone not immediately vacate the area?? why would they want to stand there and witness that and make things so much worse when they can much more easily than i can, in that moment, just simply make themselves scarce?

don't expect me to put on a happy face about it, though
there are even people who will stick around and continue going about their business and let their dog sniff/pee whatever, all nonchalant. i have more respect for these folks, because they seem less freaked out by desmond's antics, and that leads me to believe they maybe sort of get what i'm dealing with on the other end of my leash. at the same time, i wish they, too, would just move along. their dog may not give a hoot, they may not give a hoot, but leaving the area would be an improvement all around, and i don't comprehend why anyone would not want to do exactly that.

frustrating, stressful, and exhausting.

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