Lily's a bit reactive when she sees other dogs. Reactive does not mean aggressive – she's just super excited and it can sometimes look a little scary if you're on the receiving end of her reactivity. Her actions, though, can sometimes scare another dog and trigger a "discussion." (All noise, no teeth.)
I'm a trainer – I should be working on helping her learn a new reaction. Say, sitting quietly instead of whining, barking, and pulling on the leash. The former would be so much better than the latter.
As with most professionals, my dogs wind up at the end of the training line. I work all day with other dogs, then work every evening teaching group classes. It's tough to work in training time for my own dogs. Compound that with beautiful weather, and it's hard to leave Tango and Nemo behind - which, if I'm really going to work on Lily's reactivity, they must stay behind. They love going on hikes, too, and the weather just can't be beat.
So, off we go this morning, to a new (to us) hiking trail. Our first encounter was just a few minutes into the hike. A nice Golden retriever and his owner were on the trail. Lily sounds the alarm and acts, well, like a loony-toon. The guy with the Golden asks if they can meet his dog.
I speak up first and say it's probably not a good idea, but before I can get the entire sentence out, my husband (who has Lily and Nemo) walks right on up to the Golden!
I held my breath and waited for the fallout. Of which there was none. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I then let Tango wade into the fray (not really a fray at all, just a butt-sniffing circus) and he did fine, too.
So, all of my dog behavior knowledge and training went out the window. Every now and then, it seems that just a little knowledge isn't a bad thing – because having too much knowledge can sometimes get in the way. If it had been just me, I wouldn't have let them meet. I like all dog-dog greetings to be on a loose leash, with each dog under control. I know the chances of an altercation rise dramatically if leashes are tight and if dogs aren't paying attention to their handlers.
But in this case, all that knowledge got in the way. Lily did fine. And she had a successful dog-dog encounter under her belt. Without a stressed out handler at the other end of the leash. We encountered three other dogs along the trail, and she met each of them just as well as she did the first. Yes, there was pulling. Yes, there was a tight leash. Yes, there was out-of-control behavior. In a perfect world, she would have been a calm and focused dog. But sometimes the perfect world is a long way away and you go with what you've got.
And Lily has four good dog-dog greetings behind her. Four more than if it were me on the other end of the leash. Sometimes a little bit of knowledge is good…