|All photos credit: Meghan Taylor Photography|
As we walk toward the woman, she turns and sees us coming. I'm ahead of Parker and Skye, since they have to sniff every blade of grass upon arrival. After noticing us, the woman tells her dog to sit and stay in the tall grass, and walks about 15 ft up the path away from us. At this point I'm within 10 feet of her dog, when Parker finally notices her sitting in the field and runs over. He stops 5 feet from the dog waiting for her next move, when the dog charges him.
I don't use aggressive terms lightly- I know that play behavior can look scary to the untrained eye. Skye is the queen of it. So when I say that this dog chased Parker, snarling and snapping over his back, I am not exaggerating. I honestly thought I'd be removing Parker from her mouth. So, Momma Bear that I am, I didn't hesitate. Parker was running to me anyway and I marched right into that dog's face with my scariest "uh-uh" that you can hear for miles. At that point the owner called her dog to her as she walked over. Walked. While Parker, who works with aggressive dogs on a regular basis, sat at my side shaking. It was not his proudest moment.
This was about the point I had to catch Skye, who was running full tilt up the path. She is a social dog and I don't have to worry about her causing trouble with other dogs. But if trouble finds Parker, Skye is very quick to defend him. So I stopped her and had both my dogs sitting and focused, waiting for the lady to pick a direction so I can go the opposite way. But instead, she told me in a very knowledgeable voice that I 'don't have to worry. That was all body language and posturing, but her dog doesn't fight or bite. I can trust her.'
Now, I am not a level headed person, but I also don't like confrontation. As a dog trainer, I should be able to educate people in every situation. But all I could think to say was, "I really don't care. You're just lucky she didn't do that to my other dog, because she would not have reacted well."
When I turned to walk away, I saw her following me about 10 feet behind, with her dog in a perfect heel as if to show me how wrong I was. And when that dog broke it's heel to sniff a tree, I saw her shock it.
After our walk (I was convinced I'd run into her again) I saw the woman and dog with another woman. It was her trainer. I couldn't hear them, but the trainer was showing the woman how far to allow the dog before shocking it.
Shock collars are very popular in this area. It is truly sad to see a dog want to run and have fun, but cannot stop worrying about the next shock. It is worse to see an unstable, insecure German Shepherd that has obviously been punished for showing it's insecurity. Now it shows no signs of being uncomfortable, instead it just waits until it can't take it anymore, and shows actual aggression. Soon, it will simply bite with no warning. That owner believes she is controlling her dog. Maybe she is in certain situations, but she isn't teaching her dog anything except that it can't trust it's owner. She isn't addressing the underlying problem and eventually, that dog won't be able to take any more.
I'd rather have dogs that trust me, that I understand, and that use their own brains to make their own decisions. Will they always make the right choice? Maybe not. Who does? At least I know that our relationship is solid and at the end of the day, their lives are better for knowing me.
And mine is better for knowing them.