Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Training the Dog in Front of You

German Shepards scare the ever-lovin' hell out of me.

This is stupid. I know this is stupid. German Shepards are no more dangerous than Rottweilers or labs or chihuahuas. In fact, the American Temperament Test Society gives German Shepards as a breed an 86% pass rate - the same pass rate as the American Pit Bull Terrier. I've tried hard to change my attitude, and I now have a pretty good working relationship with the breed. I can teach or take a class with a GSD in it and not get a sweaty palmed and nervous. I can even touch one, as long as it doesn't make any sudden moves.

But when the shit hits the fan, my viscera go right ahead and give my brain the finger.

So when the girls and I were aggressively charged by an off-leash German Shepard on a walk a few days ago, I just about had to go home and change my underwear. Rubi was all ready to kick some ass, and Piper believes that anyone who messes with her family deserves to have their face ripped off, so things could have gotten really bloody really fast. Luckily, GSDs are not stupid, and when it realized that we were not going to turn around and flee for our lives, the GSD retreated to its owner. (Who waved and said sorry. Someone once asked me why I don't carry anti-dog spray on our walks. It's because I'm worried I'll end up using it on the stupid end of the not-leash.)

The girls were physically unharmed and I was preoccupied with restarting my heart, so I tried my best to put the incident out of my head. Shit happens. I'm not going to stop walking my dogs because other people suck.

Denial was working pretty well for me until the day after. That is the day when Rubi and I went on our walk (sans Piper), and she had a complete meltdown at a dog a street and a half away. It's been a while since I've heard that banshee scream out of my little blonde bitch. That right there is about six months of training lost.

Surprisingly, I'm not angry. Don't get me wrong, I was annoyed when we went home from the meltdown and Rubi proceeded to scream at dogs walking by our house. And then decided to bark at the dogs she could hear barking outside our house from inside her timeout room. I also still wish I could go back and mace that idiot who let their dog off leash. But I'm not really mad at Rubi.

Rubi can't help who she is anymore than I can help being afraid of German Shepards. We are who we are and because of who we are, we will sometimes have to go back and retrain things. Sometimes, we will have to go back and retrain a lot of things. I went over both incidents in my head at least a million times - as we reactive dog owners are wont to do - and I can't think of anything I would have changed about either one. Rubi and Piper have been walking well together, and I had no reason to suspect that they wouldn't be able to handle any average incident that might occur. I also had no reason to expect that Rubi would still be feeling the effects the next day; she's rarely taken more than a few hours to recover from anything.

I can't change the past, and I can't see the future. And wishing won't fix the flaws in either of us. Maybe tomorrow Rubi will be better. Maybe not. Either way, I'll work with whoever she is at whatever level she's capable of with whatever curve balls get thrown our way.

Lesson Learned: Que sera, sera, c'est la vie, and love the one you're with.

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