Oh man. Those dogs better be glad I love them so much or they would have been toast after last night's walk! Of course, nothing that happened was the result of malicious intent on their parts, but it was just the perfect storm of bad dog behavior. By the time we got home and the dogs went running to DH who'd just gotten home from work, I told him, "I don't want to talk to, about, or near those dogs!" And after all the work I've been doing with Conrad, I felt really demoralized.
Let's chronicle the mistakes made.
First of all, I got home a tad later than normal and decided I'd "save time" by letting the dogs out of their areas and suiting them up and taking them directly on their walk. Our normal routine is they get to run around in the yard and blow off steam for a few minutes before our walk. You know how they say that a stitch in time saves nine? They ain't lying. These dogs were immediately from the word go hyped up and insane. I think I could have helped them work that off except for the second mishap of the evening.
Our neighbors have a large, leash aggressive, reactive as all get-out dog. Needless to say, Conrad and this dog are not friends, though they really don't see each other much at all. But it just so happens that the exact moment we were leaving our house, they were also on their porch with the dog, their dog starts flipping out, Conrad goes into alert and while I was able to regain his focus well enough to keep him from having a meltdown, I've really begun to notice that his recovery from such events is not as fast as I'd like it to be. If something bad happens on a walk, even if the way he reacts to it is controlled and not a problem, for the rest of the walk he is nervous and seems to loose half his brain. If the walk starts out well, he keeps his confidence and his confidence seems to grow as the walk goes on. But the opposite is also the case.
And because of that incident my plan to just let them have their first pees of the evening on our front lawn went out the window, and I don't let them pee on anyone else's lawn, so now we're in a race down the block to a patch of grass that does not belong to any house (it actually belongs to the organic urban farm in our neighborhood, but is outside their fenceline) and the dogs are pulling and I can't really blame them. They gotta go. Conrad is still freaked out about the neighbor dog incident and Marlowe has begun to feed off that nervous energy and they both just behaved atrociously throughout the rest of the walk. I was constantly having to stop walking because they were pulling. Marlowe does not pull. He just doesn't. Yet here he was, pulling like a freight train. Conrad was stopping to sniff every 2 feet as his nervous displacement behavior and digging in and refusing to move.
We were almost home when the most dispiriting incident occurred. There's this one corner in our neighborhood, very close to our house, that I call the Corner of Horrors. Things are always happening on that block that freak Conrad out. There are a couple big cats that aren't afraid of dogs that live in the first couple houses on the block. There are frequently kids running around. There's a tiny little pom that gets tied out in a front yard that's the size of a postage stamp (the yard, not the pom) and has no fence so it can come right up to the sidewalk and my dogs can go right up to it. There's a couple dogs that very noisily charge their fences when we walk by. There's just a lot of nutty stuff that seems to happen there. Enough that Conrad remembers it and tends to go into alert mode when we approach the area.
So as we approached last night I heard voices, a kid among the voices, so I stopped right on the corner and had both dogs sit for treats. A woman comes out of one of the houses and walks right by us and gets in her car. The dogs remain sitting, neither even look at her, I'm happy, treats are dispensed. We continue our walk but just seconds later a little kid comes shooting out of that same house and goes running (across a street unaccompanied I'd like to add) to the car the woman just got in to, which makes it appear to the dogs as if he is running right at them. Meltdown. Conrad does not like sudden movements and he does not like people running near him, at him, or next to him. It's not something that happens that often, so I haven't had much chance to work with him on the issue yet.
Needless to say a 90 lb. dog lunging and jumping around and snarling at a young child is not really a great image. Marlowe, who doesn't actually care about kids running, jumping up and down, or pulling on his ears for that matter, started to feed off Conrad's meltdown and began barking. So now we've got one huge dog lunging and snarling and the other one barking his fool head off. The child of course, while still a good 20 feet from us, freezes. As would I. His mom prompts him (calmly which I was really impressed with) to just keep on moving, but don't run near dogs. I finally get Conrad back to planet Earth and we move on. After that, his nervous sniffing is just in high gear and now Marlowe has joined him in that endeavor. We only had two blocks to go to get home and by the end of those two blocks I'd pretty much had it with the both of them.
I felt really discouraged and demoralized. We haven't had an incident like that with Conrad in well over a month and i felt like I'd made such good progress with him. I know it's just one incident with a lot of unusual factors contributing to it, but I was pretty down about it.
Fortunately, this morning's walk went just fine. We didn't see anything strange, not even another dog. Just a herd of deer. Both dogs were well behaved and seemed to be remembering their leash manners.