"Earth to Space... Earth to Space... Come In Space"

Photo of hands holding the Earth

As a diehard dog trainer, I've found that more often than not I'm inhabiting my own planet when it comes to understanding dog and human interactions, interpreting behavior on both ends of the leash and avoiding dangerous doggie situations whenever possible. Thankfully I share this planet with many brave souls like you who speak the same language.

Today's episode occurred at a large, popular park with a two-mile-long, extra-wide cement path hopping with walkers, joggers, bicyclists, strollers, and leashed dogs of all shapes and sizes. While working with a dog-aggressive Boxer we came upon a giant man dressed in black with a delicate Chihuahua on leash and a busy Pug off leash, both dogs swirling around in a sniffing frenzy. This guy had to be at least 6' 7", 270 pounds and was far more into his iPod than his dogs. He was even starting to groove to the music, oblivious to the freight train of a Boxer-Trainer team bearing down on them. (Insert scratchy record sound here.)

In an effort to get his attention and to protect his busy Pug, I began shouting and waving my arms, "Excuse me Sir! Can you leash your dog?" "Hello?!" He finally turned to look at me, and I pointed to the Pug and the Boxer, all of which happened at a distance I was marginally uncomfortable with for the Boxer's reactivity threshold. He seemed to understand, but then much to my surprise he began loudly and harshly shouting at the Pug and sounded really mad. "Get over here, NOW!" "Come Here!" "Get OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!" Silent me was thinking, "Great job breaking recall rule #1, big guy (Make it Fun). As you may have guessed by now, the Pug had zero motivation to go anywhere near his owner and proceeded to evade capture. Apparently this embarrassed or frustrated the giant man in black, who then got off the path and gestured for us to go ahead. Part of me didn't really want to do that, as it would ruin my chances of using his dogs for covert proximity training trials around the loop, at a distance I could manage from behind.

Nevertheless, we passed them without incident, and about 6 feet ahead of them the Boxer decided to offer me a "Sit" + "Watch" just like we had been working on for weeks. Awesome job, I thought! Good Dog! Progress, love the auto-watch, thank you! However, as I'm standing there in dog trainer nirvana, clicking and treating the attentive Boxer, giant man in black launches a verbal nuke at my planet. "Are you stupid, making your dog sit right in front of us like that, are you an idiot, what are you thinking?" Silent me was thinking, "I didn't make him, he offered it and you're the one with the off leash dog who's afraid of you." Outloud me tried to explain that we are "in training" and the Boxer had 2 choices: attack your Pug or sit calmly and watch me. It all fell on deaf ears, so I figured a more in-depth explanation of sub-threshold reactivity conditioning for a dog-aggressive dog would probably be lost on him too...Poor little Pug and Chihuahua...

I'll just be over here, on our planet, rewarding calm behavior, let me know if you need anything...