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The fearful dog diary - Part 4 The second interaction that affected Lola more than we realised…

Since her previous incident Lola had been living life quite happily, going on trips to the park, the beach, to family’s houses. She didn’t even seem too put off by what had occurred. We did notice that she had stopped being as submissive when other dogs were around and was instead standing up for herself a little bit more. We, along with everyone else who saw this happen, thought that it was a good thing that she wasn’t getting pushed around anymore. Looking back I see that these were the early signs of a dog that had learned a new way to deal with a situation she was unsure of, but I nor anyone else realised how undesirable this behaviour would become.

We had been regularly taking her to the big dog park at the end of our street, which depending on the time of day can have up to 50 dogs running around off lead. Some being watched and controlled by their owners and some not, but that’s another story. She was interacting with her regular friends there, ones she had met as a young puppy, as well as the newbies and the less regular attendees extremely well. Playing chasey was one her all time favourite activities. There were times when her chasing got a bit extreme and she wouldn’t always listen but she was having fun and the other dogs and owners didn’t mind so we and Lola just kept doing what we were doing.

Quite often on a Saturday or Sunday morning we would come across an adorable blue staffy pup. Lola and this pup got along great, they did a little bit of chasing, a little bit of playing, a little bit of mouthing at each other. They both seemed to thoroughly enjoy the interactions. As the staffy pup started to grow his interactions with other dogs stayed the same. As soon as he would see another dog he would bound straight up to them regardless of what they were doing or whether they seemed interested in him. He would either get the interaction that he wanted or the other dog would tell him to go away, although it sometimes took him a while to get the hint. After being rushed at a few times during the same interaction and just accepting it Lola would then decided to try the second approach. It always began with Lola trying to avoid him, showing appeasing signals, even lying on her back. When this didn’t seem to demonstrate to the dog that she wanted to be left alone we noticed her do a few little growls, showing her teeth and ultimately air snapping. At this stage we obviously realised that she wasn’t happy and moved her along, or if we were sitting down we kept her focused on something else. What we realise now though is that we should have stood up and done something sooner for Lola. She was indicating to us that she wasn’t thrilled with what was happening but instead of interrupting the interaction sooner we were of the mindset that she had to learn to handle things by herself. If only we realised that by letting a fearful and anxious dog get to a point were she had to increase her demonstration of discomfort we weren’t teaching her to handle the situation we were letting her down. She would have been looking to us for assistance in escaping the dog that she felt was bullying her and when she didn’t receive it she resorted to using a different technique to make it all go away.

As time went on we noticed that when his owners brought the blue staffy pup to the park they would always have a ball with them. This would work in keeping him occupied as he was definitely ball focused and when that was an option it would trump barreling up to other dogs. The down side was that he could get a bit possessive over his ball as well as occasionally running straight into other dogs when he was chasing after it! Since we already new that Lola wasn’t his biggest fan and that she loved to partake in chasing we would keep our distance when they were around and if we couldn’t do that then we would bring out her giant tennis ball, which she thought and still does think is the greatest thing in the world. It didn’t matter if other dogs decided to join in her game because that just gave her an opportunity for a chase.

The last interaction that I ever let Lola and the blue staffy pup have happened one weekday evening. It was quite late when we headed to the park and because of that we had missed the crazy dog hour when everyone gets home form work. Regardless there were still a few regulars down there that she was excited to see, owners included. Because it was already quite dark I was planning on just letting Lola say some hellos and then taking her on a walk around the streets. We had only been mingling with the dogs for about a minute (I hadn’t even taken her lead off) when down the embankment came the the blue staffy pup who had been driven down by his pregnant owner. As usual the pup ran right up to all the dogs and jumped in their faces. As there were a few other dogs around he was able to distribute his exuberance between all the dogs so Lola didn’t bare the brunt of it which she seemed grateful for. At this stage his owner started to try and get him under control but he wasn’t ready for that yet and still wanted to have ‘fun’. As we have come to notice, dogs just seem to want Lola, maybe its because she doesn’t give them much, maybe because she can be quite submissive. Whatever the reasoning was the blue staffy pup decided that he wanted to focus all his attention on Lola. He continually ran up, nipping at her, jumping in her face as well as on her. To her credit she only gave a little growl and was trying to listen me as I was telling her to sit and focus on me in the hopes that the pup wouldn’t find her as exciting. But alas, he kept on trying, I even started stepping in between them and moving her away to make it harder for him but of course it didn’t work otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog post!

All the while his owner was trying to call and grab him to put and end to it but as she was quite pregnant she wasn’t having much success in catching him and he was too excited to listen. I was also concerned that if either of them lashed out at each other she could be caught in the middle. After what seemed like an eternity of Lola being ‘bullied’, she finally snapped, literally. While no contact was made she showed that she definitely meant it and the staffy backed off long enough for his owner to put him back on the leash, to give her credit she seemed a bit sheepish about her pup’s behaviour.

After everything I have described you would think that the people at the park would realise who was the problem in the situation. Instead the first thing someone said was “What’s wrong with Lola tonight, she’s a bit grumpy”. I had to literally bite my tongue, take a deep breath and say “I don’t think she appreciated how the pup was behaving” before saying my goodbyes and walking straight out the park. As we continued on our walk I was so angry and upset. How could they not see that Lola was being harassed? How could they not see how tolerant she was? Why is it that Lola was judged as the ‘bad’ dog when all she did was communicate to the other pup to leave her alone? Why was it her fault that the pup didn’t have good self control or understand her body language?

As I said before, that was the last interaction that we ever let Lola have with that particular dog. If they happened to be down at the park when we were then we always made sure there was a big distance between the two. We might have taken longer than we should have to realise this wasn’t a dog for Lola but I’m glad we finally made the right decision.