Gwynn has decided that children are super exciting. I was walking down the sidewalk towards a woman and her son a few days ago. Loose leash, Gwynn is sniffing things and entirely indifferent to them. I moved myself and him onto the road but kept walking, so that I’m probably about 10 ft away from the sidewalk, because not everyone likes dogs and I don’t really like standing on someone’s soggy lawn in the dark while waiting for people to cross my path. Everything’s fine (why wouldn’t it be?) and then they get to be about 20 ft away from us and he lunges towards the pair (to the point that he lifts his upper body up a bit), tail wagging wildly, and woofs. Just once, but it was a big woof, not one of his sissy high-pitched ‘I see a dog’ woofs. And the poor kid bursts into tears.
I apologized and got the hell out of dodge. I bit my tongue on the urge to say “It’s ok, he’s friendly!” or “He’s just really excited about kids!” or some other “I’m sorry, but here’s how we really didn’t do anything worth apologizing for” un-apology.
And then it happened again, but with more barking, at some random person the next morning. And suddenly every non-dog-person absolutely needs to be greeted and he tries to drag me to them. Awesome.
So – Gwynn is overreacting to the stimulus of ‘kids’, and, from what I can tell, sometimes ‘people who don’t have a dog’. And it’s like this issue appeared overnight, though I’m sure I was missing signs of impending doom. The dog didn’t wake up one morning and think to himself, “Gee, those kids… they’re so neat, I should jump at them”.
After that incident, Gwynn and I spent about half an hour practicing some combination of ‘eye contact’ and ‘heel’ going up and down the busiest non-main-road in my neighbourhood. I usually just ask him for loose-leash when walking, but now I have a new goal: I want to say heel, and get him to stick close to me (preferably while giving me pretty consistent attention) when walking past people – all people. And dogs. While we’re at it, let’s add cats to the list too. And the stump in that guy’s yard, because Gwynn acts like it’s secretly a living garden gnome every time.
What I’m doing as a starting point is this: when I see people/dogs/movement on the other side of the road, I stop, get him to sit, and every time he gives me eye-contact, I reward him. I’m doing the same at intersections, and randomly on the walk.
Anyone have any thoughts or opinions about this plan? Suggestions for a better plan?
We had the most perfect training opportunity once this week, when we waited on the driveway for a doggy friend of ours to come up the street. She was with a trainer, and working on basically the exact same thing, so we stood on opposite sides of the street from each other, each practicing rewarding eye-contact for a few minutes. It is unlikely that I’ll find someone with a kid willing to do this, so that’s about as ideal a training situation as I can think of.
Now I just need to go buy a new clicker, since I have lost a second one to the great outdoors, and muttering “YES!” to myself over and over again is making me sound like a crazy person.