First, I want to thank you again for your amazing response to my question yesterday. I knew it would be fascinating and you proved me right. I loved hearing about your unique dogs and your varied approaches to what could have been a dicey situation. As I read through your comments, I learned several things and none were what I expected.
1. I learned that Shiva’s reactivity – or, assholery – has become much less of an issue than it ever was. There is nothing like a sharp blast of reality to give one perspective. I had forgotten what it was like to walk a dog who loses it at the sight of another dog in the same ten-mile radius. You reminded me and made me realize Shiva can almost pass for normal these days. Perhaps this is why other owners are bugging me so much more. They aren’t running away with their dogs clutched in their arms at the sight of my maniac puppy. I kind of miss those days. But only a little.
2. Space is a personal issue. Everything is a personal issue. Reactivity is one name for very different behaviours and causes. I loved finding out your diverse techniques and ways of keeping stress to a minimum. I had to laugh at the commenter who said she would just wait it out and let her dog bark, she was so used to it that it hardly bothered her anymore. Our fears and experiences lead us down assorted paths but we all have the same goals. I got warm fuzzies from all the supportive comments. It’s lovely to commiserate with people who get it, isn’t it?
3. My theory was wrong. Of all the people who shared their thoughts, no one did the same thing I did. It surprised me. I was most interested by the commenter who chose to go toward the off-leash dog with the lawn mower. That would have been my last choice. It shows how individual every dog-human partnership is.
Now I guess I should tell you how I handled the situation.
What I did:
I looked at the large off-leash dog and reckoned he was definitely going to approach if we moved any closer. I then looked back at the two medium-sized dogs who were now drifting down the road, noses to the ground, leash handles dragging, as their human balanced her phone in the crook of her shoulder and fiddled with her keys. It took me a second to decide: I crossed the street and took my chances with the dog walker and her wee crew.
Shiva and I dawdled a decent distance behind the dog walker. I know she saw us and when we crossed she picked up her pace. The dog who had growled looked back at us once but joined his buddies and followed the human’s lead. I made sure to keep enough space between us for Shiva and the other dogs to feel comfortable. At the end of the block, the dog walker turned down another street and we kept going straight. Crisis averted.
Why the dog walker?
Out of all three, the dog walker was the only human paying attention. Shiva’s biggest issues these days are caused by dogs who approach her off-leash when she is on. After she suffered a cut to her eye this year, I won’t put her in a situation in which she feels threatened any more. Not if I can help it anyway. I can’t trust dogs with people who aren’t watching or who are ignorant enough to leave them loose in an unfenced area by a road.
I also had more information than you. The loose dog with the lawn mower was a Doodle we have encountered in the past. I have spoken to his owner and asked him to leash the dog while we passed. He gave me a blank stare.
There is another factor that might apply only to us. Shiva has respect for small dogs. I am not sure why but she will usually back off if a small dog takes umbrage. If a larger dog barks or growls at her, or gets in her space, she will fight back. If a little dog does it, she licks her lips, looks away, and gives any number of other calming signals to show she means no harm. Thus, the Chihuahuas and Manchester Terriers were a safer bet.
All in all, Shiva’s reactivity to other dogs has never been as bad as her reactivity toward strange people. It was an easier thing to work on for us and after a year or two, we could walk down the road several metres behind another dog without too many problems. I would much rather face a pack of off-leash dogs than a crowd of men in hats, or a school bus full of excited children.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I hope you learned something too from all of the incredible ideas in the comments. I really appreciate you humouring me. I may have to try something like this again.