I am fuming right now. I need to vent, this post will get long.
Background on Zoey: Zoey has been bothered, intimidated and even attacked by dozens of dogs in the three years we have had her. Most were larger dogs, namely Huskies, Golden Retrievers and Labradors.
We socialised Zoey with other dogs well as a pup, and she used to love greeting and playing with dogs…but obviously all these bad experiences affected her.
About a 18 months ago we began trying to build Zoey’s confidence. We only let her meet dogs she would feel comfortable with (generally smaller, friendly yet calm dogs) and with ‘scarier’ dogs we would play Look At That.
Then, in quick succession, she was hounded by four off lead and out of control Golden Retrievers and not long after a Border Terrier latched onto her face.
After that we didn’t let Zoey meet dogs as it made her nervous; she wanted to say hello but she was (understandably) scared. With smaller dogs she could recover, but with bigger dogs she would show her belly.
We did lots of Look At That whenever we saw a dog, and we stuck to areas where dogs shouldn’t be walked off lead.
We’ve been doing this for over a year and a half and, although we have seen slight progress, it has been slow.
Within the past six months Zoey has successfully said hello to a JRT and a Pug puppy…then we had more bad experiences. An off lead American Bulldog charged at her, thoroughly scaring her, then an off lead Lab pestered her and refused to leave her alone.
Zoey was still doing well though, and realistically we *should* be able to easily cope with avoiding other dogs. I should say I do not blame Zoey at all for being fearful. It is 100% not her fault and she has never put a foot wrong.
Today we headed out just after 7am to walk Zoey, it was still dark out.
We came off a busy road and started walking down a narrow lane; bushes on one side of the dirt track and a very small wooded area on the other, right beside a train track.
We’d been walking down the path for a few minutes with Zoey on a 4ft lead when a very large black Labrador came sprinting at us out of the gloom.
This Labrador was huge, and one of those obnoxious Labs that have no manners and are incredible pushy, yet their owners still let them off lead to scare less confident dogs.
To begin with Zoey actually went to greet the dog; she had a loose waggy tail and she even tried to initiate play.
The dog ran straight up to her head first, and stuck his face right into Zoey’s. It proceeded to circle her and obsessively sniff her crotch. Zoey was quickly becoming uncomfortable.
We tried to walk Zoey away from the Lab, but he wouldn’t let her. The Lab was now bouncing about putting its paws on Zoey’s back, and again sticking his face into hers.
I tried to get the Labs’ attention by distracting him with ham, both waving it at the dog and throwing it on the floor. When that didn’t work I grabbed the dogs’ collar. Not a wise decision but Zoey was beginning to get very stressed.
I got the dog by the collar and held onto it. The Lab was lunging towards Zoey and whining; my partner picked Zoey up. I am aware this isn’t a great idea, especially when the other dog is large, but what else could we have done? There was no way in hell this obnoxious dog was leaving us alone, and no owner to help.
I let go of the Labs’ collar and of course the dog ran over to my partner and started jumping to see Zoey. My partner kept turning, with Zoey in his arms, to keep her out of the dogs’ vision, and I managed to shove the dog out the way and body block it.
I made myself big, spreading out my arms and towering over the Lab. I pushed into the dogs’ space using my body language & forced it back. After 30ish seconds of this the Lab left us, and went dashing off down the path.
It was at this point we heard the dog’s absolute prat of an owner stood off in the distance somewhere, ineffectually blowing on a whistle.
We turned and headed for the road, there was no way we were continuing down the path. After carrying Zoey for roughly a minute, with the road not too far away and having not seen the dog again, we put Zoey back down to walk.
Zoey to her credit seemed okay; she immediately accepted some ham and just seemed happy to be walking again.
Almost as soon as we put Zoey down the stupid fucking Lab crashed back through the trees and reappeared. The dog barged into Zoey’s face, jumped on her, followed her as she tried to create space from it and was just fucking horrible.
At this point I wanted to cry. I didn’t know whether to drop the lead (would Zoey race off into the distance and get trapped by the Lab too far from us to help? Would she run to the road?) or kick the Lab or what??
Zoey was trying so hard to be good as well; she kept trying to pay me attention because she knew that when she focused on me around other dogs she got treats. It broke my heart 😥
She was trying to tell this horrible Labrador that she wasn’t happy. She was moving away, she had whale eyes, she was licking her lips and her tail was tucked. A dog should have seen these calming signals and listened to her.
This Lab did not.
There was no way we could pick Zoey up with this dog following and jumping on her, and the Lab was moving too quickly for me to get his collar. It went on and on. I was so desperate I grabbed a handful of the dogs’ side, latched on and dragged him back with all my might.
If I could have kicked the dog without any chance of the dog reacting aggressively to Zoey I would have done, with no hesitation.
We had the dog separated again. My partner scrabbled to pick Zoey up and I made threatening body language towards the Lab.
The Lab was nervy with me, which was a relief, but it still kept trying to get past to Zoey. In the end I made a lunge towards the dog whilst also saying “Oi!”, and I kept forcing it away from Zoey until it left us again.
We could still hear the dick of an owner blowing the whistle, but doing nothing else to get their dog back.
We carried Zoey again and continuously fed her ham. She was stressed and wriggly but still doing okay. Once we got onto the pavement by the side of the road we again put Zoey on the ground. Guess what?
THE LAB CAME BACK!
I saw the dog coming and ran forwards to block his exit off the lane. I managed to side step and block the dog several times but it eventually got past me.
Now Zoey was very scared and stressed. The Lab was chasing after her; there was no way we could grab it, kick it or anything.
It culminated with Zoey having to snarl to get the dog away from her and leave her alone. The Lab had ignored all her ‘please go away’ signals and I’d failed to keep her safe, she had nothing left she could do 😦
Zoey’s snarl made the Lab back up a little, and I seized my chance and leapt towards it, chasing it back towards the lane.
We immediately crossed the road, which was already busy despite it not being 7.30am yet, and both hoped the Lab would come back and get hit by a car. Maybe then the dog’s stupid owner would learn an important lesson.
You might read this essay and think ‘well what is she whinging about? Her dog wasn’t attacked and the Lab was only being friendly – it was her dog that was aggressive to the Lab!’
You could not have misunderstood the situation more.
1) This Lab was off lead and clearly out of control – we heard its owner blowing the whistle for over 5 minutes for the dog to come and it didn’t
2) The dog was rude, pushy, and intimidating. Zoey first tried to play, but the dog was so full-on it scared her and she tried to ask it to go away. It ignored her.
3) We have been trying to build Zoey’s confidence with dogs for a year and a half, we have put so much effort in…and now it has most likely all been completely wrecked
4) Dogs that are scared of, or don’t like, other dogs have just as much of a right to go on walks as ‘friendly’ dogs do. Don’t forget, we had Zoey on a lead and under close control!
5) If Zoey had attacked the dog, she would have been automatically to blame because she is a bull breed. Never mind that she has never acted aggressively to a dog before.
6) When Zoey told the dog to back off the dog could easily have retaliated, leaving Zoey badly injured. Likewise when I was forced to move the dog away it could have bitten me.
7) The Lab was off lead and blowing off recall right by a busy road. It could easily have caused an accident.
8) Finally this was a big, big dog – male Labs weigh around 36kg at the higher end. It was jumping all over 15kg Zoey. If the Lab had behaved the way it did with Zoey to Raiden (who weighs 6kg) our dog could have been seriously hurt.
I’m sad that this was the best outcome for the encounter.
Zoey will now feel much more fearful around other dogs, and will most likely be more inclined to snarl at dogs in future. She was well within her right to snarl at this dog, but I am sad she had to resort to that.
I am SICK of moronic owners letting their dogs off lead…I am sick and tired of people thinking their dog can act however it wants because s/he’s “just being friendly.” An out of control dog is an out of control dog, and it’s against the law.
If your dog doesn’t have good recall, special measures need to be taken. Walk them on a longline or, if you are going to walk them off lead, do so in an area where you can clearly see what’s coming.
We only let Raiden off lead in places where we have a clear view. Rey is 5 months old, his recall is obviously not perfect around distractions…but where we walk him we can easily see distractions coming and get him back on lead in time.
I’m glad Zoey wasn’t hurt, and she bounced back quickly…she enjoyed the rest of her walk. She didn’t seem too upset.
But *I* am upset, and I will be much more anxious about my partner walking our dogs on his own in future…if I hadn’t been with him today it would have gone much, much worse.
Thank you for letting me rant and I am sorry for going on – I feel much better now.