This is not at all the post I was planning to write tonight. For one thing, I have several more Suzanne Clothier seminar recaps left to go, and for another, I had already started drafting one about the importance of routines for our reactive dogs. However, life has intervened, and I simply must talk about it.
When I got home from work today, I took Maisy for our usual afternoon walk. We generally follow the same path, and today was no exception. I headed up the same street we always take. The only real difference is that today I didn't have my iPod on. (Is it geeky to listen to dog training podcasts while I'm walking the dog?) I'm glad, too, because as we began to walk by a particular house, a large, dark grey dog came out of nowhere and bowled Maisy over. I didn't even see the dog coming- it was just all of a sudden there.
So, Maisy's on the ground, yelping, I'm holding on to her leash, which is inadvertantly jerking her around as she tries to escape, and there's this huge dog trying to do who-knows-what to her. I've got about a million thoughts running through my head: Should I drop the leash? How do I get this dog off? Is Maisy okay? How can I keep her safe? Does she know I'm trying to protect her?
In the end, I held on to the leash, though after an emergency call to one of my trainers, I decided that next time I'll drop the leash. She probably could have gotten away, and she has a darn decent recall; she would have come back. Getting jerked around on the leash only prevented her from protecting herself, probably hurt and/or scared her, and was probably not very helpful.
I also did something I feel awful about: I kicked the other dog. Hard. I'm really not one to use punishment, and I was pretty angry at the presumed owner for doing so just moments later... But it was a knee-jerk reaction, and it worked; the kick stunned the dog long enough that Maisy and I were able to get away. The probable owner then grabbed the other dog by its choke chain and briefly hung it off the ground. I wanted to tell him that wasn't going to help, but what could I say? I had just kicked his dog.
Did that help the situation? Or was I at risk of redirected aggression? Will that make the other dog worse in the future? What could I have done instead? Why haven't I bought that citronella spray yet, and even if I had it, would it have helped, or would it have stressed Maisy out even more? Did Maisy see my action as protecting or defending her, or did she see it as evidence that I might be a wee bit unstable? And, what else could I have done to help her feel like I had her back?
So far as the most important question, that of "Is Maisy okay?", well, only time will tell. She seems physically okay. She was limping slightly on her left rear, but she had a chiro visit yesterday with orders to take it easy for a week due to some issues we found, which means that that slight limp could have been unrelated to this incident. But I have no idea how she is emotionally. Her immediate response was pretty good; she bounced back quickly, and we walked away eating treats without too much stress. However, later in the walk, she froze and looked worried when she heard another dog bark. What kind of fall out will I see, and when?
And... was it really an attack at all? I'm not sure. It all happened so fast, and I'm just not that good at reading dog body language. Was it simply a very over-enthusiastic greeter? I suspect so, because if the dog had really wanted to do damage, he could have.
So, if it was just a dog being a dog, albeit a poorly mannered one, should I report this to animal control? The dog was off leash, and my city has pretty strict leash laws, at least on the books. But was he dangerous? If I report this, will his owners punish him again, or worse? Will they retaliate at me because I kicked their dog? At least they live several blocks away... I'll have to see if I can report anonymously, or at least have my name withheld.
As you can see, I have many, many questions, and very few answers.