I’ve been called many names in my life, but my favourite is crazy dog lady. It is a title I have happily claimed over the years as it has only become truer. I grew up with tons of animals: sheep, horses, chickens, dogs, guinea pigs, bunnies, even pet rats! I have always been known as a bit of an animal whisperer; nothing phases me (except spiders). It’s the dogs, however, that are my thing.
I moved to the Okanagan a few years ago, and my SPCA rescue dog, Hudson, wasn’t far behind. Last year, we added a rehome German Shepherd, Lucy, to our crew; two big dogs, one little me. The Okanagan is the perfect place to have pups, and there are lots of them around. However, it was as I encountered more of our four-legged friends that I started to notice a need for some “human training.”
I’ll give you my go-to example, as it has happened on multiple occasions: people allowing their dogs to run free where other dogs are leashed.
My dogs are incredibly friendly 90% of the time, but they are protective of me when they’re on leash. I know this is an issue a lot of dog owners struggle with. When my dogs see a fellow canine, their flight or fight instinct kicks in, and they’re attached to me so fight wins. We are leaps and bounds ahead of where we started in their leash training, but if another dog comes barreling towards them while they’re leashed? Watch out. It leaves me with a split second decision to either drop the leashes and pray no one runs or fights, or battle for control against two big dogs that outweigh me by about 30 lbs and keep a third at bay.
I praise every dog owner who looks at me with understanding eyes and passes calmly with their perfectly behaved pup. I will always tell people Hudson and Lucy are dog aggressive, we are training, apologize for the noise, and thank them over and over for continuing past us like nothing is happening. However, a few times there are owners who have paid no attention to my cautions.
Walking down the side of the road one evening, an off-leash dog began running towards us. I crossed the road and walked behind a row of parked cars while informing the other owner of my training issues. His response? “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. The problem here is that it doesn’t matter. Your dog is about to cause a fight, no matter how blissfully unaware either of you are. I don’t want my dogs to attack your dog! It’s the point of training.
This was a launching point for The Okanagan Pet Project. It’s hard to stop a circus on the sidewalk to educate and explain to a fellow dog owner the ins and outs of why this is all happening. I want dog owners to understand the reasoning behind training obstacles and behaviours instead of growing increasingly frustrated with each other over similar issues.