Here there be Dragon.

I realise I’ve been unsuccessful in keeping up with blogging in the past few weeks… the occasional post here and there.  Being out on site is one major part of it.  Doodle visiting from University is another!  Have I mentioned lately how much I missed having someone to walk with?  It’s been so nice to have her home, not only for the walk company, but just because of herself.

The last thing I posted was a rather upset diatribe about a certain dog whose actions towards Gwynn were scaring me, making me angry, and proving that I am a coward who couldn’t bear to make a scene, even if that scene would help my own dog.

I got a ton of great feedback from you all, and I appreciate it.  One of the things in particular that got pointed out was that Rex’s owner is probably just as frustrated as me about the situation, and is trying to deal with Rex’s issues.  One of my biggest fears  about raising and training a dog was that I would find myself with a dog-aggressive dog, or a people-aggressive dog.  The kind of dog that makes it hard to really enjoy all the different things you can go out and do with a dog.  So I do completely get that she’s trying to improve his reaction to dogs.  But it’s making my dog spooked and nervous, and that type of class was the wrong fit for solving her dogs issues.

Last weekend, we took Gwynn down to Pawsway (if you’re in Toronto, they’re a great dog resource, and most of their classes are free, or at least inexpensive) to do some running through tunnels and hopefully cure him of his newfound turtle-reflex in coming out of a tunnel.  It worked great, and he ran through the full Agility setup a few times as well.  Great – next to see if he’s willing to go through the tunnel that is at our class, in a room where Rex is (nowhere near us, since Doodle came to be my second set of eyes).

This weeks’ class, we set up yet again, as far away from Rex as possible.  We were practicing eye-contact from sitting position on one side of the room, while Rex and another dog were practicing eye-contact while walking on the other side of the room.  The other dog (whose name I cannot remember) is 13.  And mostly deaf.  And small.  He and his owner got too close (about 10 ft away), and, you guessed it – Rex took the opportunity.  The dog is fine – he got jumped on and had a bit of a fright.  More noise than contact of any kind.  His owner, though – she was more than fine – she was amazing.  This soft-spoken older woman turned into a dragon – a fire-breathing Dragon!  She dragged her dog out from under Rex, while Rex’s owner tried to drag him off and away.

She was ferocious.  She told Rex’s owner flat out that she shouldn’t be in this class and needs to learn to handle her dog (I know, it should have been done earlier, and in nicer terms… but it needed to be done).  She told the instructors, in the most ominous tone ever, “We will not be leaving the class.  We will also not be in this course with that dog.”


Can you think of a better way of putting it?  This is exactly the idea I should have been getting across when Rex went for Gwynn the previous class.  “I’m not going anywhere – they are!  NOW.”

However – I hate that this happened at all.  Like I said, her dog spent the rest of the class completely fine, no harm done.  But if I’d just been a bit more aggressive the previous class – stayed after and said flat out “get that dog out of the damn class!  This is not the right kind of class for him”, then he probably wouldn’t have been there this week to attack the poor deaf dog.

Once things calmed down, Rex and his owner were in the hall, the instructors went to ask a few questions about Rex.  I told the instructor flat out that I wasn’t happy with Rex being in the class ( too little, too late), especially since he’d taken such a continually negative interest in Gwynn.  She seemed surprised, when I said that.  The class in which Rex lunged at us while we were sitting down was the one class the main instructor had missed – and apparently the two of them hadn’t been comparing notes.  She’d thought that the tunnel was the first incident.

Rex is out.  They suggested that obedience type classes might be better, and that he might need one-on-one instruction first.

The rest of the class went amazingly.  Because there were so few dogs in the class, and they all mind quite well, we did a lot of off-leash work, and a lot of distraction-type work in which the dogs passed near each other while at a heel type position.  We ran the tunnel with no issues, and not once did the instructors tell me that I needed to relax or be more up-beat.

Next time I have an issue of this sort, I’ll be a bit more like the Dragon Lady – because Gwynn isn’t particularly ferocious, and I want to keep him that way.

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  1. Stop beating yourself up. It is hard sometimes to stand up for yourself in a nice way; Dragon lady proved that. While she was a bit harsh, it needed to be said. Thankfully her dog wasn’t physically hurt, but being scared can be just as tramautic for a dog; especially a deaf one. Once the plate (so to speak) was on the table you did speak up and backed her up, that counts in my book!

    And yes, it is commendable that Rex’s mom is trying to deal with his issues, but a class full of other dogs may not be the place to start.

    • It seemed like the deaf dog was completely fine afterwards – his usual self, anyways. But yeah, it could have been completely different, so we’re lucky that he’s calm enough that he wasn’t bothered afterwards.

  2. I feel badly for that owner. How embarrassing for them and what an obstacle to overcome…I hope they are able to get that dogs aggressive behavior under control. My friend had a Chow that seemed great, and that thing kept getting out and attacking the neighborhood cats. He seemed so mellow but something about cats drove him crazy. They tried to get a handle on him, but he some how broke out a handful of times while we were at school/work…so they were forced to put the dog to sleep. Meanwhile, the cat owners were free to let their cats roam the neighborhood…antagonizing the dogs in backyards.

    • It would definitely be frustrating to have to deal with your dogs issues, so that he can be around people/dogs/cats without harming or frightening. I know my neighbours’ dog isn’t friendly, and I’ve taken care of him a number of times. It is so different walking him than walking Gwynn. With Bailey, if i see another dog coming, i cross the street, or pick him up (he’s a beagle… picking him up is an option, lol. if Gwynn were reactive, i would have a much harder time of it.), but with Gwynn, i just ask to find out if the other dog is friendly before continuing on my way. far less stressful.

  3. Apparently I missed your earlier post, (don’t know why?). I finally read it and this one. I have to question what type of experience these trainers have in leaving that aggressive dog in a group class. Rex (well his owner really) needs private lessons first. He also needs an evaluation to see if he can be rehabilitated from his dog aggressiveness.

    The place where we did a lot of our obedience training would never allow that kind of aggressive dog in a group class. I have seen aggressive dogs excused from class because all they need is a serious dog fight and then who would take their classes?

    I hope Rex gets some help and I am glad to hear he won’t be a danger to you or Gwynn. And you know what? It should not be up to you or the other lady to point out what should have been obvious to a professional trainer.

    • I think they were hoping to improve his reactiveness – but I also think they werent’ communicating with each other enough to be fully aware of all the issues with him. Each thought there’d only been one incident with Gwynn, where there had actually been two full incidents, and a number of attempts.

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