Today I need help from my reader hive mind, because y’all are smarter than me on almost every topic. See, I have a problem with my best girl, Pascale.
Ever since moving to California, I’ve had to adjust the dog’s schedule completely. Pascale is the one who’s taken this adjustment the hardest. Previously, she was used to a big backyard that she spent about 1 hour in in the morning unsupervised and another hour or so in the evening when I was home. In addition to this free time (which she would often spend running laps for the happiness of running), I took her to the barn 2-4 days a week where she was never on leash and constantly running/sniffing/interacting with other dogs and people.
At the barn, she would happily greet the dogs she knew. With strange dogs, she often would put her hackles up and greet them with a snap or some kind of defensive aggression. I reprimanded her for this, and my approach when a new dog was around the barn was to pet that dog super enthusiastically and literally say out loud to Pascale, Wow! What a nice dog this is! Look at how nice!
Okay that’s the background — now here’s my problem in California.
Now the dogs’ primary exercise is walking. I walk them 2-3 miles a day, and whenever my schedule allows take Pascale to the athletic field by my apartment to let her run around off leash. I have not taken them to a dog park, because Eliot is flat out dog aggressive and with Pascale’s weird introductions I just described… I’m not sure a crowded dog park with not-so-attentive owners is the best place to set her up for success.
Pascale is a good girl and lets me know when she hasn’t gotten enough energy out (like today when I am sick with a cold and haven’t walked her much), but she’s developed a habit on our walks that I’m not happy about. Whenever she sees another dog, she gets super defensive/aggressive on the leash. The problem is worse in our neighborhood than it is when we’re exploring somewhere new, but if a dog on a leash so much as looks at her she will bark aggressively and lunge forward at them with her hackles all the way up. Remember that Pascale is actually really friendly and loves playing with other dogs (once she gets to meet them). Eliot, my truly aggressive dog, happily keeps walking and ignores every dog he sees. He could care less, even though he’s the one who’s going to bite them if they got close and stayed a long time.
When Pascale does this, I reprimand her with a “No!” and a jerk on the leash. To try and avoid it when I see a dog coming, I shorten her leash to a proper heel length and continue to try to get her attention on me versus the other dog. It’s rarely successful. She will still get her hackles up, still growl and half the time will bark/lunge at the other dog anyway.
This lovely habit also creeps up with bicycles and skateboards passing us. She doesn’t react aggressively to those, but she does lunge/bark at them in some kind of excitement.
Her behavior is better towards the end of a long walk when she’s hot & tired, so I’m sure pent-up energy is a bit part of the problem here. But the reality is that I’m doing the best I can. I won’t be able to bring her to the new barn (no barns here seem to allow dogs off leash), and I’m worried about off leash dog parks especially since I can’t even consider bringing Eliot.
I know there are a lot of dog folks out there who have extensive training and canine behavior knowledge, and I appreciate any 2 cents y’all can share! I’d hate for this life change and my routines to turn her into a truly dog aggressive dog. Right now, I fear we’re heading that direction.