I know you don’t mean any harm.
I know you don’t think it’s a big deal that when you let your dog outside, she doesn’t always stay in your yard. You live on a quiet street. And besides, your girl is friendly. Wouldn’t hurt a fly.
I get it.
What you don’t get is my girl Kenzy.
Kenzy in a rare still moment
Kenzy is a 12-year-old Kerry Blue Terrier who came into our lives two-and-a-half years ago in a stroke of fate.
We were a couple of dog-lovers, whose newfound homeownership had finally given us the stability to attain our dream of having a dog. She was living a few neighbourhoods over with an owner who was preparing for a move across the country that wouldn’t include her.
My husband spotted Kenzy in the passenger seat of her owner’s car at a gas station between our two neighbourhoods. My husband struck up a conversation with her owner and, after a few trial visitations, he was ready to hand over her leash and we were ready to welcome Kenzy to her new home.
Kenzy is a sweet, well-behaved girl. She bounds after sticks like a pup, but the grey in her beard and, more recently, over her eye give away her advanced age. Cataracts means she’s a little slower at fetch, having to sniff out her toys instead of spotting them, but she’s still just as enthusiastic as ever about her favourite things: barking, removing squeakers from dog toys with surgical precision, and, come bedtime, curling up in the spot of the person who is slowest coming to bed .
We love her to bits, spend far too much money on her and are thankful each day that she’s part of our lives. But, much like her owners, Kenzy is not perfect…
Unfortunately for Kenzy, she didn’t have the opportunity to socialize with other dogs when she was younger. As she grew up, that manifested in dog reactivity. She doesn’t know how to say hello to other dogs properly, doesn’t understand proper canine social etiquette. She’ll often cry when she sees dogs from a distance and, if they get too close too fast, she’ll progress to barking, growling, and rearing up on her leash.
We work hard to correct these behaviours. We walk her twice a day, every day, to make sure she has no excess energy to turn into aggression. When we take her out on crowded pathways, we use a gentle leader to help direct her attention and carry an arsenal of treats and squeakers to keep her focused and content. We practice commands with her daily, giving her rules, boundaries and structure.
And through these actions, we’ve seen Kenzy progress. She’s a calmer girl overall. She cries less, cuddles more and seems happier. After many private lessons with an amazing trainer, we were even able to enrol her in a weekly obedience class last fall, where she spent an hour sharing a classroom with three other dogs.
But when your dog sprints across the street at us and chases us down the block as we’re out on our walk? Well, that’s dangerous: for my dog, for your dog, and for me.
I try to tell your dog to stay. I try to keep mine walking away. I try to position myself between the two of them, and when all else fails, I sometimes hoist my 30-pound girl into my arms to give her some physical distance from your dog.
Sure, your girl is friendly. Mine… well, mine is trying. She’s come a long way, but she’s got a long way to go. She can handle being in close proximity to other dogs when she’s calm, they’re calm and she’s not startled. As you can imagine, when your dog runs out at us, none of the above criteria are met.
I don’t mean to single you out. Your dog certainly isn’t the only one. We have an encounter like this every other month or so, sometimes in our neighbourhood, sometimes in a park, sometimes on those very busy walking trails we take Kenzy on with our aresenal of treats and squeaky toys.
And always, the owner gives a half-apology with the excuse: “She’s friendly.”
She’s friendly? Well, let’s keep her that way. Ensure her encounters with other dogs are uniformly positive by following three simple rules:
- If your dog won’t stay in her yard, keep her tied.
- If you’re on a walk with your dog, keep her on a leash.
- If you want to introduce your dog to another dog, ask the owner first.
And for my part, I promise to keep working with Kenzy, to keep trying to teach her manners, to overcome 10 years of bad habits, and to assure her that she is safe and protected.
For the sake of my dog and yours.
Just a girl and her dog