I recently discovered through the American Kennel Club’s post here that it is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. I honestly didn’t even know that such a week existed and as someone that was bitten by a dog as a teenager (an Alaskan Malamute that was NOT socialized) quite badly it’s refreshing to see tips on how to prevent these events from occurring. The truth is what happened to me should have never happened. I was taken to a house and purposefully introduced to a dog that had bitten two other people. I still carry several scars, one on my lip and a handful on my arm, but am thankful I don’t have a fear of dogs. In fact, I feel worse for the dog because he lost his life. We as dog owners are responsible for our dogs, to train them and keep them safe.
The aforementioned post had some great tips and information I suggest everyone read over, but the article that stuck out to me was the one about Dogs In Need Of Space (DINOS). I had never heard this term, but it led me to Jessica Dolce’s website, dogsinneedofspace.com and I spent the entire afternoon reading over her articles. They are easy to read, with a pinch of humor about a serious problem – some dogs really do need space for many reasons (injury, old age, training, or simply uncomfortable around other dogs/children/strangers) and we as dog owners sometimes forget that fact – or if you’ve never had a bad dog encounter maybe it’s never occurred to you before.
I will admit, when I was younger I was one of those people that walked my dog without a leash unless I absolutely had to. It was only one dog, but still irresponsible. Miley was tethered to me as if she had a leash and at the time it never felt necessary. She never walked farther than a foot or two and after we had two more dogs her on a leash actually complicated things by making one big tangle. I never thought there could be a danger in doing so and luckily we never had an incident. Knowing what I know now I’d never do that with my own dogs, not only because it isn’t safe for them, but it isn’t safe for those around them.
You see, I found out today that Luna is a DINOS, something we knew but didn’t have a name for and something we are heavily training our way out of but a problem that still exists. Her main trigger is larger dogs she doesn’t know and if one comes bounding toward her, either aggressively or in play her teeth and hackles rise. She’s never bit (or even attempted to bite) another dog, but honestly I’m not willing to take that chance. I’m lucky in the fact that we can pass another dog walking appropriately on lead in class without incident, but not so lucky in the fact that I have more than once had someone tell me how friendly their dog is I want them to “meet”.
Your dog may be the happiest, most playful, energetic puppy in the world, but those are Luna’s triggers. I use many of the tips mentioned on the DINOS website even in class, such as distracting her with treats and body blocking. We had a young German Shepherd Dog slip its collar last week and as it playfully went from dog to dog I could only pray that someone caught it before it pounced Luna. Luckily the two people nearest me also knew of Luna’s triggers and while I distracted her they were watching the other dog to let me know if it got too close and a third managed to catch the escapee.
It was comforting to know I’m not the only DINOS owner out there, and that someone had coined a name for it. I already knew the best you can do is train past these issues, prepare for them, and above all KNOW your dog. Knowing her is one of the main reasons I’m glad we started taking classes, without them I don’t think we would be nearly as in sync with each other.
Time often creeps up on us, years pass before we realize they are gone. That was the case at our house earlier this month when I was startled with the memory that Luna has been with us for a year. The time has flown, it feels like she has been a part of our family forever – and yet it also feels as if only yesterday we lost Ari. There will always be this gut wrenching twist when the anniversary of her arrival rolls around, but that stab is dulled with the ‘looniness’.
Luna has come a long way, not just in her training, but also in her confidence. It’s hard to believe that this is the same poor dog that was scared to death when we meet her, teeth bared as she crouched in the back of her kennel. I have come to accept that someone in her past not only treated her poorly, but likely chose to reprehend her physically when she misbehaved, or simply did not understand what it was they wanted from her.
She is in fact quick to learn and eager to please. There is still nothing she seems to enjoy doing more than going to class and I’ve recently been taking her to two, rather than one, class once a week. We start out our evening with rally and then move into her intermediate obedience class. She’s taken intermediate repeatedly for the last eight months or so, not because she couldn’t learn, but because she still was fighting to obtain her Canine Good Citizen.
That all changed three days before her anniversary in our home. On a whim I decided to test her again with the graduating intermediate class we had been crashing. I had planned on skipping the test, knowing she could not stand for three minutes in my absence. The only reason we didn’t leave was Ella was performing her STAR puppy at the same time with my daughter and since we were in the building I decided I might as well use the time for more training.
We got lucky. Our examiner was Luna’s original trainer from our beginning class, someone she had no trouble letting approach her. We passed each step with flying colors, and when it came time to have a stranger hold her I handed her off to someone from our rally class. We listened to a few whines out in the hall, three minutes feeling like three hours, and I was certain it was Luna I could hear whining.
To my surprise I returned and was notified she passed. It turned out when she started to whine the person holding her would just ask her to sit. Torn between her need to be with me and her need to obey she sat, and finally, we passed.
It may seem like a little thing to some, but I could hardly sleep afterward, I was so happy and proud of this little girl that had been so afraid when we took her home. The future already looked bright, but now it feels as if Luna can accomplish just about anything.
We’re still taking two classes though, this time around so Luna can attend with Ella (who passed her STAR) so that the younger pup can learn to work even if her big sis is around. Just last week Ella pounced Luna during a stay exercise to which Luna remained transfixed in her sitting position, looking up at me.
I was almost as proud of her in that moment as hearing the words, “She passed”.
Lisa (and Luna)