Lexis has never been overly confident with other dogs. As a puppy she'd hackle from neck to tail, lunge and bark in quick staccato. She was unsure but forward about it. She's not a submissive dog and can be a bully so I have to add that into the equation as well.
I still haven't found the magical formula to deal with this quickly and effectively - if there even is one - so I did what I always do. I made it up as I went, rewarding what I liked, redirecting what I didn't and taking it one day at a time. My goal has been for her to have lots of neutral to positive interactions with dogs and I've been happy with her progress.
It's important to always be aware of what's going on around you.
When I take my two to the trails I'm constantly watching for loose dogs. If I have any concerns at all I will bushwhack to avoid a dog. Most of the time it is sufficient to down mine off the trail until a dog passes. Sometimes a dog will come over to investigate and I'll block their progress. Most people are good about this and call their dog (to the best of their ability). Once they pass I release my dogs and we continue on our way. I expect my dogs to be tolerant of strange dogs but see no need for them to interact with every dog we meet.
Which brings me to Sunday's walk with Lexis.
My free time was over so I was beelining it to my car. Coming around a bend I saw a family playing with a big male Shepherd up ahead. Stopping, I weighed my decision. Circle the pond (longer route) or pass the family? My pause to decide was too long.
The Shepherd turned, saw Lexis who was standing slightly ahead of me, dropped his stick and came at a dead run.
The number one rule in this situation is not to panic. The good news was that it happened so fast I didn't have time to panic. The bad news was that I didn't have time for anything else either. He slammed into Lex and postured over her shoulders, pushing into her with his chest. She tried to bolt and he was on her, biting at her neck and back as she was trying to get away. Those who have dogs will know what I mean when I say it happened fast, and they were moving away from me so I had no chance to dive in. (I know, I know. Reaching into this is a bad idea, but what else can you do???)
The man kept trying to grab his dog. The noise was awful. If I had been closer that dog would have received a few hard kicks from me but unfortunately I was too far away to be of any good. But I wasn't that far away, I should have moved faster.
The owner managed to snag his dog and pull him away and Lex hightailed it to me.
I was livid and told them to leash their dog since they had ZERO control over him. One of the little girls apologized, the man also mumbled an apology, and they leashed their dog... in my sight anyway.
As they walked away I checked Lex over for damage. Bites can be hard to spot under fur and they may not bleed. A dog bite can be like an iceburg, tiny on the surface with huge damage underneath the surface. She was clear, the Shepherd was more noise than bite thankfully.
After that I asked Lexis to find the toy she had dropped when this happened. She ran around, found it and we had a good game of tug. I was really happy with her at that point. I have no intention of holding on to this experience and I expect Lexis will move on quickly as well. We continued on our way.
Ultimately it is my job to keep my dogs safe which I failed at. But sometimes bad things happen. You deal with it and move on. I'm sure all of Lex's positive experiences up to this point will be beneficial, and I'm going to make sure I'm diligent to prevent any back-to-back episodes.
I'm just SO thankful I didn't have Bullet with me. Bullet would never start anything, but I guarantee he wouldn't back down if a dog came at him like that. Lexis didn't fight back. Bullet would have.