Entering the trail for our bike ride tonight, Bullet and I passed a woman with an Airedale. The dog was lunging at us as we went by.
The woman claimed her dog was friendly, but was a rescue that never learned to greet other dogs well. She was pulling her dog back while mixing "no-no-no's" with "tsssss's", pokes and "It's ok's".
I kept going.
On our return I saw the woman ahead with her dog dragging it's leash on the ground. I slowed down and waited for her to notice we were there - we had to pass them to get home.
Finally she noticed me and grabbed her dog. I couldn't help it - I had to stop and talk to her.
Her dog was lunging and barking at Bullet again (who was sitting calmly at my side, the bike and myself between him and the Airedale). The woman's reaction was the same as before, right down to the "oh, she's friendly, but she's a rescue". While she was dealing with her dog I asked a bit about it.
She was a rescue, 1.5 year old female, etc, etc. Did I mention it was a rescue? I swear it was in every one of her sentences. In praise of herself, to excuse behaviour, to elicit an 'oh, poor dog' in me.
Don't get me wrong. I think it's fantastic when someone rescues a dog. There are so many out there that need homes.
The problems start when people cling to the fact they have a rescue, as she was doing. When people don't let it go their entire relationship with the animal is tainted. Our perceptions influence how we handle our dogs and can cause more problems than solve them. Creating sob stories and holding on to what can only be imagined as having happened in that dog's life does nobody any good.
This is a real pet peeve of mine. Because a dog shies away when you reach for it does not mean it's been beaten. After watching this woman, I can say that if she'd had this Airedale since it was a puppy it would probably still lunge at other dogs - it's not doing it because it's a rescue.
Animals live in the moment and adapt quickly. With any dog you need to build a bond, teach it basic obedience, self control and give it exercise. Puppy or adult. Focus on becoming a best friend - not fixing a rescue with problems. This tweak in perception can make a world of difference.
Anyway, back to the Airedale story.
After a minute the dog DID calm down and sit. What did the woman do then? She ignored her dog.
"Do you have any food?" I asked. "If I were you I'd be heavily rewarding that behaviour."
"Oh no. I don't train with food." She claimed. "Training with food causes dogs to steal from children." (I didn't even start in on that one)
"A reward doesn't have to be food, it can be play or praise. Something the dog likes." I replied.
"Well, everyone has their way." She was clearly set in her "way". Whatever way that was.
"Who do you train with?" I asked, curious.
Fair enough. I was just some stranger on the trail and shouldn't have said anything to begin with since it was none of my business. She was following what she had been told to do by people she trusted and I respect that. I only hope that what I saw was a clumsy interpretation of what they suggest, and I wish her success in the future.