How do you react when confronted by an off-leash dog? Rico and Roxy dislike any off-leash dogs. Doesn’t matter how sweet the other person insists their dog is. R&R fully buy into stranger-danger.
But a couple of recent encounters with large, free-roaming dogs made me more mindful to my leash reactivity.
On the first occasion, I caught myself mid-panic and calmed down before the dog reached us– a significant first step since, before, I didn’t even realize I panicked. I thought that if I stayed calm, R&R would pick up on my cues and greet the dog with at least reserved politeness.
We still ended up in a maylay of fur and froth that required citronella spray to break apart. In the end, poor Roxy had a little gash above one eye. And I realized managing my own fear wasn’t enough to influence the situation.
More recently, another fluffy dog broke free of her tether.
This time, after recognizing that first pang of dread and calming it, I decided to actually do something. I calmly-but-confidently stepped in between the dogs. Each time the strange dog showed interest in slinking over, I corrected her with my standard “eh-eh,” only delivered from the depth of my belly (like a kiai). And if Rico started any of his trademark squeals, a known battle cry for Roxy, he got a correction, too.
Thankfully, everyone got the message. All three dogs remained calm and in their own corners. Eventually, the other dog slinked away.
Mindfulness, alone, isn’t the answer. But it is an important first step in managing R&R’s leash reactivity.