Jekyll and Hyde
April 9, 2012 § 23 Comments
A curious thing is happening to our Lil’ Miss Maple. The shy, timid, and inquisitive furball who used to make morning and evening walks an amusing delight has transformed into a rambunctious, stubborn, and… well, rude, canine citizen. Miss Maple’s personality began to gradually split into two opposing extremes shortly after her 1st birthday.
At home, Miss Maple is the most mild-mannered, docile, and easy-going pup a dog owner could ever wish for. The only time the little tyke will ever let out a sound is when her ears perk up upon hearing a stranger approaching or the doorbell ringing. On those occasions, her low-pitched growls and high-pitched barks are, for the most part, controllable depending on her assessment of the “threat”—the further the distance of the “threat”, the more subdued her warnings. When off-leash, say, at the dog park, Miss Maple would often scurry with her butt tucked in from the inquisitive noses of other canines. It takes a while for her to warm up, which she does eventually with certain dogs. Once the meet-and-greet is over, she will happily go about playing fetch on the same field as her fellow four-leggers.
Now, the other side of Miss Maple (the hostile side that has us very confused and perplexed) surfaces whenever she is walking on-leash. Once she catches sight of a dog that is about to cross our path, this seemingly sweet-faced Poodle puts on a demonstration of her Cujo-esque prowess. Don’t be fooled by her small package. Miss Maple has a “no-holds-barred” approach and will lunge and bark at most dogs, both big and small (even the most aloof and non-provoking types who are just minding their own business).
It took us a while to figure out what was happening. After following a trail of clues from various searches on the Internet, we came across the term that precisely describes Miss Maple’s on-leash outbursts: “leash reactivity”. [Note: Some informative articles on this topic can be found here and here and here.] *sigh* At least we now know what we’re dealing with.
First things first, we have to re-examine the way that we’re walking Maple—or, rather, the way that she’s walking us! Our munchkin takes control of the leash about 95% of the time. The other 5% is when we find ourselves temporarily in the lead while she lags behind sniffing something wonderful on the ground. Second, we’re going to apply Dr Patricia McConnell’s (author of Feisty Fido) techniques for helping dogs to overcome leash reactivity. Third, I’ve registered myself and the Lil’ Miss for an 8-week Good Canine Citizen Course facilitated by the Singapore Kennel Club. The first class starts this weekend. While I’m a little nervous about the program, I’m also really hoping for positive results.
If anyone has had a similar experience with a leash-reactive dog and managed to troubleshoot the challenges of this problem behaviour, please do share your success story. The more insights we gain, the better equipped we’ll be in our endeavour to help Miss Maple!