Boomer made a year in October & he’s a big, exuberant 90ish lbs now. I haven’t taken him walking for several months, although the last few times we walked he was quite relaxed on the leash & after a bit of drilling (we walked back & forth in front of a barking dog until he stopped paying attention to it), comfortably ambivalent to the barking dogs in the neighborhood.
Since he had his big growth spurt in July, I haven’t taken him out much, largely because that’s when he & Madeline had their spat & so I’ve been focusing on obedience/confidence training with Madeline, because she’s an anxious, fearful girl & their big blow up was a symptom of that. I’ve walked Boomer around the yard on a leash & he’s pulled me off my feet when someone jogged by with a basketball, but I’d hoped his lunging tendencies were limited to his territory.
Still, I’m a believer in being safe, so I asked one of my guy friends who adores Boomer if he’d be able to walk with us.
My neighborhood has a lot of dogs. Most of these dogs bark at you from some point several feet from the sidewalk, but there are a few yards where the dogs are able to come right up to the fence. The first small, squeaky dog got Boomer’s attention but I was able to pull him past. The 2nd dog (a standard poodle?) was larger & I had difficulty getting past its yard once it charged the fence. A little while later, we got caught at a property where 2 small dogs charged the fence, & then, rather frighteningly, a gorgeous, muscular rednosed pit came bounding out, & then it was just on between him & Boomer through the fence. As soon as I saw the pit show up & said to my friend “I might need some help here” & he got ready to grab Boomer’s back legs (I’d explained about this at the beginning of the walk) just in case.
I do wish to report that the Vibram FiveFingers have awesome traction. Better traction than my Nikes, & because of their flexibility I was able to much more effectively brace my feet against, say, the edge of the curb to pull Boomer away from the fence. What needs work is my… well, my everything. lol
The rest of the walk was fairly uneventful; I was familiar with the dog population on the final stretch of walk so knew when to switch sides of the street. However, my anxiety level was uncomfortably high & I can’t be that way around my dogs, so I needed to get home & take a Xanax.
I have PTSD from past events involving dog aggression. I’m generally a pretty cool, calm person who can handle crises logically, but the slightest hint of violence involving my dogs & my body shifts into Freaking Out Mode & no amount of reason or logic can fix it. Sometimes my anxiety will cause me to perceive problems where there might not be one, & that’s no way for me to be with my dogs, so I medicate. It’s the only thing I medicate (besides my useless fertility, but that’s just being responsible).
What was scary about the incidents with the poodle & the pit was that their fences were totally insufficient. The only thing keeping Boomer from going into their yard was me holding on to his leash. The poodle’s fence had a few inches of space in between it & the sidewalk concrete, & there was no reinforcement – not even a tension bar – along the bottom. Boomer could just slide right through there; Madeline has bent back the chain link fence to get at my neighbor’s dog with zero space between it & the hollow tile wall plus a tension wire. I’ve had to attach metal poles along the bottom of the fence to make it impassable.
The pit’s fence was only 4 feet high. That’s just ridiculous. Boomer can get his elbows over a 6′ wall. Boomer’s sister, who is half his size, could easily clear 4 feet. Thank God the pit was only keeping close to the ground while attacking the fence; if the fight had gone higher Boomer might have just hopped right over. And that pit looked formidable; we would have had a hell of a time pulling them apart.
I can’t describe how relieved I felt at getting Boomer home. Boomer’s hind toes were bleeding because he had managed to scrape his nails down to the quick while fighting me to get at the fences. He was more than willing to lie down for us & I held his paws in a towel while we chatted. They took a long time to stop bleeding.
I’m not sure how I should approach this problem. Next walk I intend to avoid those houses; I can also try putting Madeline’s training collar on him; we did put a collar on Boomer at a joint training session with Sit Means Sit & the trainer was very happy with his response to it. I’m not sure how I would implement it though; I think actually we would start with “ignore that dog” drills with slightly less intimidating circumstances.
Part of me just doesn’t want to walk Boomer. It only takes one loss of control for irreversible damage to be done. I’m torn because I don’t want to short change Boomer on walks & I want this to be something that we can do together, yet I don’t want, some time down the line, to regret that I took chances.