Alternate Title: WHY I HATE UNDERGROUND ELECTRIC FENCES.
We walked every day in Europe. We walked a long time. A long way. It was really fun. I wanted to keep up that habit when I returned home. So this morning, I leashed up the three dogs and we went for a nice neighborhood stroll. As I walked out the door, I dismissed the idea of bringing my cell phone (the battery was really low). And I'd never ever needed the DirectStop. Ever. So it stayed behind, too.
The walk was nice – Lily (the dog who's reactive to other dogs when she's on-leash) did a great job dealing with the maniac dog who rushes his electric fence barking like he's going to kill us if we get close enough. (This alone is enough reason for me to hate underground electric fences. But wait, there's more. Keep reading.) She started to go into her frenzy but then turned and looked at me when I called her name and very quickly was back under conrol. Nice work, Lil!
We continued our walk, loving this beautiful morning. Around the next bend was a 90-pound dog, safely (so I thought) contained by his invisible electric fence. Thing is, he looked WAY too close to the road. Generally, he stays about 30 feet away from the road.
He took a step closer. By this time, my dogs (Lily, especially) noticed this big guy who is very stiffly staring at us. Stiff is never something you want to see in an unfamilar dog – it usually means trouble. I yelled at him (I can sound pretty tough) to get away, but he's laser-locked on my dogs, taking very deliberate and slow steps toward them.
By this time, my guys are pretty fired up. I was unable to get Lily's attention, so she's in full-blown bark mode and now, with Tango (my yellow Lab) and Nemo (the hound/Dane mix) as back-up, she's in rare form. When Tango and Lily are together, even Tango (who ususally uses his brain and is reasonable) gets a little haywire.
The neighbor dog wasn't stopping. I had some decisions to make. And quickly. I wasn't going to get in the way of him. I hoped he'd notice that it was going to be three against one and would reconsider. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, he kept taking those slow, deliberate paces straight toward us.
I decided against trying to pull the dogs away: (a) I'm not strong enough (I was outweighed) and (b) tension on leashes, especially in a situation like this, is never a good idea. My next thought: give my dogs as good a chance as possible if this big dog decided to have a go at them. So I dropped Nemo's leash — he's the least likely to fight and would try to escape if possible.
By this time, the big dog is squarely in the middle of my dogs. I'm still yelling (like an idiot) and thankfully Lily begins to calm down. (I don't think it was because of my yelling – more about that in a minute.) Things are still awfully stiff among the dogs, there's a lot of posturing and I'm still not sure how this whole thing is going to turn out.
I decided to drop Lily's leash as well – she's the smallest and if there was going to be a disagreement, I wanted her to be able to get out of there, too. Finally, I walked between Tango and the big dog, calling my dogs as I did it.
They looked up (!) and I began to walk away. The big guy decided he'd like to follow, so I turned, made myself as large as I could (hard to do for a 5' 1" person) and bellowed "GO HOME." He didn't necessarily listen, but I think the bass of my voice took him by surprise. He looked up at me and at least stopped moving forward.
My dogs got lots, and lots, and lots of food (I always carry food with me) and we extricated ourselves from the situation.
Remember the yelling I was doing as the dog was approaching? If I could do it all over again, I'd try to get myself under control first – yelling was ineffective at best. It could have helped encourage a fight. I was panicked, however, at the thought of a fight, blood, and the fact that I had neither my phone or any way to get an injured dog back to my house.
Things I will never leave behind again: Cell phone and DirectStop.
If you have an underground electric fence: PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COLLARS ON YOUR DOGS ALL THE TIME. The dogs really DO know when the collar isn't on. DON'T leave your dog unattended. And when they start to bark like maniacs at the boundary, call them back! All that frustration is not a good thing for your dog. And having them cross that barrier to get to my dogs isn't good for me. Or my dogs.